The “Final Solution” in its Last Stages
Between May and October 1944, when the extermination was reaching its height, 600,000 Jews were transported to Auschwitz. Additionally, the Germans exploited tens of thousands of able-bodied Jews, mainly to manufacture armaments, in particular V–1 and V–2 rockets. Most died or were exterminated due to their poor physical shape and the difficult conditions, but some of these slave laborers survived the war. During this period Himmler and Kasztner opened negotiations regarding the “blood for wares” deal which was mainly a propaganda ploy to split the Western powers from the Soviets. Roughly 1,600 Jews eventually left Hungary for Switzerland. In September the Poles informed the US that all remaining prisoners in Auschwitz were targeted for extermination. Jewish and other organizations protested strongly that Himmler rescind the order. However, mass murders still continued, though on a lesser scale. Furthermore, forced death marches to the west claimed a heavy toll. Although some 600,000 prisoners were liberated, many perished during the last few months of the war and only 100,000 survived. Both leaders and rank-and-file Germans killed Jews mercilessly in as large numbers as possible.