Scrapbookpages Blog

January 7, 2012

How Rabbi P. N. Gross “tricked the Nazis” and saved his wife and daughter at Bergen-Belsen

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 9:26 am

A big Thank You to Black Rabbit, another blogger who provided a link, in a recent comment, to an article published on May 8, 1945 in The Pittsburgh Press.  The headline of the newspaper article is

Rabbi’s wife and Child Freed from Horror Prison

Nazis Hold Kin of Pittsburgher 5 years

Rabbi Gross had emigrated to America and had been living in Pittsburgh since September 1940, but he had left his wife and daughter behind; they were held by the Nazis for 5 years, according to the newspaper article.  Why didn’t Rabbi Gross bring his family with him to America?  Probably because America had a law, passed in 1920, which limited the number of Jews that could obtain a visa to enter America.  This law remained on the books until Israel became a country in 1948.  After Kristallnacht, a pogrom in Germany on November 9, 1938, there were many Jews who wanted to escape from Europe, but the American laws allowed only a few to come to America.

This quote is from the article in The Pittsburgh Press:

Tuesday, May 8, 1945  The Pittsburgh Press

From the horrors of the Belsen Concentration camp has come good news for Rabbi P. N. Cross (sic) of the Hebrew Institute of Pittsburgh.

His wife, Blanka, and seven-year-old daughter, Ruthi, who were interned there 20 months before the British Second Army liberated the camp, are safe and well.

U.S. Army Chaplain S. Bunder of Philadelphia wrote Rabbi Wise yesterday that he had seen and talked with them there.

His Trick Works

For the Polish-born rabbi, who has made his home in Pittsburgh since Sept. 1940 the letter brought an end to his long fight to save the  lives of his wife and child.

His chief weapon was his wife’s citizenship paper for a Latin-American country, which Rabbi Gross obtained for her in Feb. 1942.  Although neither he nor his wife had ever seen the country, which Rabbi Gross calls “Rescuania,” and although he confesses that the transaction was a little outside the law, the trick worked.

Blanka Gross and little Ruthi Gross survived for 20 months in the Belsen “horror camp”  because they were saved by the Rabbi’s trick.  But how?  30,000 Jews died at Bergen-Belsen, according to the Memorial stone at the site of the former camp.  I previous blogged about the memorial stones at Bergen-Belsen here.   

Bergen-Belsen was divided into 8 separate camps. This quote from my own website explains how some of the prisoners at the Belsen camp managed to survive.

3. Special Camp (Sonderlager)

According to the Memorial Site booklet, this camp held several thousand Polish Jews who had been deported in mid-1943 because they were in possession of temporary passports from South American countries. They did not have to work, but they were kept in strict isolation because they “had full knowledge of the cruelties committed by the SS in Poland.” The booklet says that “By mid-1944 most of this group had been transported to Auschwitz and murdered. Only about 350 of them remained.”

Eberhard Kolb wrote in his book “Bergen-Belsen from 1943 to 1945,” as follows:

In mid-July 1943 two transports with about 2300 – 2500 Polish Jews (mostly from Warsaw, Lemberg and Cracow) reached Bergen-Belsen. They mostly possessed Latin American papers (e.g. from Paraguay and Honduras), which however were not passports in most cases but so-called “promesas.” These were letters by consuls of the respective countries saying that citizenship of the state represented by the consul was granted and that a passport would follow soon.

According to Kolb, these documents were of “very dubious quality” and the camp administration headquarters decided not to honor them.

So Rabbi Gross’s trick worked, as the newspaper reported.  The documents that he provided for his wife and daughter were probably of “very dubious quality” since they were papers from a country that didn’t exist.  Nevertheless, these documents allowed the Rabbi’s wife and daughter to remain in Special Camp No. 3 at Bergen-Belsen for 20 months where they had a better chance of survival than if they had been sent to Auschwitz.  (The typhus epidemic at Bergen-Belsen that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Jews did not get started until December 1944.)

In doing some research for my blog post today, I found this article from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on October 27, 1947 with this headline:

Mother was sent to Siberia by Russians who invaded Poland 

The article tells of the death of Sara Gross, the mother of Rabbi P.N. Gross.  According to the Post-Gazette article, the Rabbi’s mother had spent 5 years in a Siberian prison camp.

This quote is from the newspaper article:

Mrs. Gross was living in Blazowa, Poland when war broke out.  After the Russians moved into Poland, Mrs. Gross and her family were transported to Kazakastan, Siberia.

The article says that “the Russians moved into Poland when war broke out.” What they really mean is that the Soviet Union invaded Poland on September 17, 1939 after Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.  Meanwhile, the British and the French, who had declared war on Germany, were doing nothing to save the innocent Jews in Poland who were being captured by both of the invading armies.

The 1947 article mentions that Chaim Gross, the husband of Sara Gross (and father of Rabbi Gross) died in 1946 in the camp in Russia. So the Russians kept the Jews in camps, even after the war was over?

In the last year or so, there have been TV ads asking for donations of $25 for the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust who are still living in Siberia.  Now we know how they got there.

Apparently, Rabbi Gross and his wife and daughter managed to get to the part of Poland where the Nazis were invading.  Or had they already gone to Germany before the invasion of Poland?

As it turned out, the Jews from Poland were better off in the hands of the Nazis, rather than being taken to Siberia by the Russians.  January 20th will be the anniversary of the Wannsee Conference where the Nazis planned the genocide of the Jews.  The Nazis had a plan to kill all the Jews, but they let some slip through the cracks by allowing Jews to stay at Bergen-Belsen if they had a paper that promised a passport to a country in Latin America.  The Nazis were too stupid to notice that some of these so-called countries did not even exist.


  1. I have blogged about Denis Avey and his book five times in the past.

    1. British POW sneaked into Auschwitz? Not bloody likely!

    2. Learning about the Holocaust from the Dennis Avey story

    3. New Book: The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz by Denis Avey — is it an insult to the millions who died there?

    4. Book Report: The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz

    5. An ignominious end to Denis Avey’s fake story?

    I learned from the link that you gave that there is a new book cover for Denis Avey’s book. The new cover shows a photo of the legs of Holocaust prisoners and their feet. They are not wearing the type of shoes that real photos show that the prisoners wore. I thought about doing one more blog post about the fake photo on the book cover, but I am all blogged out about Denis Avey.

    I’m not sure, but I think I might have been the first person to point out the mistakes in Denis Avey’s book, which indicate that he did not sneak into the Jewish barracks at Monowitz. I did my first blog post about Denis Avey on March 4, 2011. The thing about the Holocaust is that you can blog until you are blue in the face about the mistakes and lies told by the survivors and still the lies go on and on. Holocaust books are a genre of fiction.

    Comment by furtherglory — January 8, 2012 @ 6:20 am

    • I think you ought to replace the word rabbi with either gangmaster, for those in UK plc( go cheka), or kapo.

      Good work.

      Europe is a despoiled crime scene.

      Comment by thestoker — January 21, 2012 @ 6:23 pm

  2. furtherglory and all his faithful readers might be interested in Denis Avey’s book, “The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz” here.

    Comment by Eager for Answers — January 7, 2012 @ 7:43 pm

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