Summary:With the recent release of "Schindler's lists" various rescue efforts during the holocaust received world wide attention. Yet, all those efforts pale in magnitude and imagination to the rescue efforts of the Bratislava (Slovakia) "working-group". The working-group negotiated with, and bribed the Germans and Slovaks in order to defer and cancel deportations of Jews from Slovakia. Later on from all of Europe. The techniques that they used are of covert operation, smuggling and bribes.
During the spring of 1942, the Slovak government deported approximately 60,000 of Slovakia's 90,000 Jews. Officialy, they called these deportations "resettlement in the east". Within a few months, the working group received terrifying information that these "resettlement" activities really meant murder. Andre Steiner suggested the convertion of Slovak concentration camps to work camps. The working group achieved this goal by bribing the Slovaks. In addition, they bribed the Germans and gave SS Dieter Wisliceny $50,000 to ensure that they will not demand further deportatoins of the Slovaks. Eventually, three concentrations camps were converted to work camps and several thousand Jews were able to obtain documents exempting them from further deportations.
After the sucess of this initial negotiations with the Germans, Rabbi Weissmandl suggested to expand their sucess and to try negotiate the termination of deportation accross the European continent. This plan became known as the "Europa Plan". During the negotiation, the Germans agreed to stop the deportation of Jews from most of Europe. In late 1942 the Germans quoted a price of $2,000,000 for approximately one million Jews (Hungary was not yet under German control. Poland and Germany itself were excluded from this agreement). Delighted with their sucess, the working group appealed for money. In particular they appealed to the Jewish Agency and the Joint Distribution Committee. To their distress, the working group encountered doubts and hostility to their plan. Saly Mayer, the Joint representative in Switzerland replied that under US law, it would be illegal to send money to German controlled territory. They also voiced their skepticism and disbelief that the Germans would actually follow through with their promise.
To combat this disbelief, Andre Steiner suggested to SS Wisliceny that they start out on a smaller scale. Rabbi Weissmandl suggested that he offer the Germans $200,000 for the release 1,000 children. The Germans accepted this proposal and were to transfer 1,000 children from Auschwitz to Thereisienstadt. After receiving the $200,000 the German's would further transfer them to Switzerland. And indeed, the children were brought to Thereisienstadt. Yet, the working group failed to come up with their part of the bargain. Rabbi Weissmandl and Gisi Fleichmann pleaded to their contact in the free world to provide the money - but with no results. Eventually, the children were sent back to Auschwitz and murdered there. The Europa-plan negotiation collapsed.
In a recent interview, Andre Steiner said that "$200,000 was not a very big sum of money. This was a risk that the Joint should have taken. The Joint is guilty for not preventing the murder of many Jews".
The full story of Rabbi Weissmandl and the Bratislava working-group is described in The Unheeded Cry and other books.
Later on, in 1944, Dr. Israel Kastner negotiated again with the Germans for the release of Hungarian Jews that were now under German control. These negotiations, are better known world wide, due to Dr. Kastner's trial and murder in the Israel in the '50s. These negotiations were later to be called the Blood for Goods (10,000 trucks) deal. Few people realize however, that this negotiation was actually a replay of the earlier negotiation conducted by the Bratislava working-group. The difference was that in the mean time approximately five million Jews were murdered, and that this time the Germans were demanding a higher price. The Germans were to release 1,000,000 Hungarian Jews in exchange for 10,000 truck. Here too, the German's recognized that the free world would not trust them and were willing to release 100,000 Jews for the mere agreement of the deal by the western world. This negotiation also failed for similar reasons. Eventually, a total of six million Jews were murdered. May G-d revenge their blood.