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Rudolf Vrba, one of five Jews who escaped the Auschwitz death camp during World War II, died Monday in Vancouver, Canada at age 82, Toronto's Globe and Mail reported Friday.
Vrba was born in Slovakia and was sent to the Majdanker extermination camp when he was 18. He was later transferred to Auschwitz and assigned the job of removing from freight trains the bodies of Jews who had not survived the journey. From Auschwitz, Vrba was transferred again to Birkenau, where he befriended Alfred Wetzler, a Hungarian Jewish leader.
Wetzler and Vrba faced being tortured to death if they were caught in an attempt to escape; nevertheless, the two confounded guards by hiding for three days in a space inside a pile of lumber near Birkenau's perimeter fence. In order to keep the camp dogs away, Vrba and Wetzler used a mixture of tobacco and gasoline to disguise their scent.
Once they were sure that the standard three-day search for prisoners who failed to appear for the evening head count was over, the friends made their way to the Sola River and eventually entered Slovakia.
In spring 1944, Vrba and Wetzler provided the Allies with a description of the Nazi killing machine that later became known as the Auschwitz Protocols.
Twenty years after the end of the war, Vrba emigrated to Canada. He became a professor and later professor emeritus of pharmacology at the University of British Columbia.
Vrba is survived by his wife, Robin Vrba, his daughter Zuza, his grandchildren Hannah and Jan and nephews Stefan and Jan.
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