Holocaust Rescuers - Jean Marie & Benoit Musy
The Mission & Story - Theresienstadt 1945

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July 1945 - Excerpts based on a report written by Dr. Jean-Marie Musy  delivered to:
"The Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada"

(Original text in French -  translated into English) Copyright 1945-2010
All rights to translations, reproductions, adaptations reserved for all countries.

A few days later in Switzerland, Jean Musy received a declaration from the Committee in Montreux, headed by Mr. Sternbuch, that he was the sole authorized representative in Switzerland of the "Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States of America and Canada." Based on the information received, Sally Meyer's organization was essentially an American organization involved in charitable work. Benoît and Jean-Marie Musy left once again for Berlin with the declaration to give it to the German leaders.

Mr. Musy had been able to convince General Schellenberg and Göring that Germany should liberate all of the concentration camps without compensation and conditions. These two individuals had sincerely been attached to the liberation project.

On February 5th, 1945 it was agreed that a train of 1,200 to 1,300 deportees would depart continuously for Switzerland. Three days later, on February 8, 1945 Swiss border guards at Constance informed Jean-Marie Musy that a train of 1,200 Jews from Theresienstadt had arrived. The Swiss people gave a cordial welcome to the deportees.

Göring who had accompanied the first train of deportees returned to Berlin, because it had been understood that a second convoy would leave immediately, to be followed each week by other transfers. All appeared to be going well, barring the unexpected difficulties which developed rapidly. Mr. Göring told Mr. Musy that everywhere in Germany it was falsely announced that this liberation had been granted in exchange for 200 S.S. officers to find asylum in America at the end of the war. It was rumored that this announcement had been perhaps spread by Sally Mayer, then told to Colonel Becher, which brought it to the attention of Adolph Hitler by General Ernst Kaltenbrunner (chief of security). Hitler became so enraged and immediately gave the order to suspend the liberation of all of the concentration camps.

Another difficulty was suddenly created when a false broadcast from Radio-Atlantic announced that the liberation of the Jews had been achieved in exchange for the offer that all Germans who had helped with this liberation, would find protection and refuge in America. This communiqué was completely fictional, and the end result was to be that Hitler, the Führer, forbade permanently the liberation of all concentration camps.

The anti-Semites were numerous in the Führer's entourage and firmly determined to completely collapse the liberation project. Hitler and his followers, including many Germans between 1944-45, had never realized how much they were hated by people from other countries.

Unfortunately, the efforts which appeared only yesterday on the track to success, now seemed rapidly compromised. Nonetheless, Jean-Marie and Benoît Musy did not lose faith and they knew that several more trips to Berlin would be without a doubt necessary. As the undertaking of the task was vast, Mr. Musy thought that the collaboration from the International Red Cross could be useful.

Because the second train, which had been promised was not arriving, the Musys father and son left for Berlin. This trip was undertaken under conditions which were especially dangerous, because they were bombarded and machine-gunned near Beyreuth by airplane fighters. Fortunately, due to exceptional luck, they were not hit during this dangerous adventure. They were resolute to try everything to achieve their mission.

Upon arrival in Berlin, the conversations with General Schellenberg and Göring gave them hope that, in spite of everything, the liberation undertaking could be resumed and persued. General Himmler gave the order to liberate all of the relatives of Mrs. Recha Sternbuch and all persons named on a list issued by the American Rabbis. Himmler also promised to relocate to the Swiss border Czechoslovakian and Hungarian Jews, which the Germans called "Die Illegalen Juden" (illegal Jews), and which were considered out of the boundaries of the law. Sixty one Jews arrived at Constance (Switzerland) - February 1945. In the meantime Mrs. Sternbuch's two brothers also arrived at the Swiss border.

February 8 1945
Train from Theresienstadt February 5, 1945
Train from Theresienstadt February 5, 1945 to Switzerland
Rescued from Theresienstadt  February 5, 1945

Women & men rescued from Theresienstadt
Hadwigschulhaus
St. Gallen - Switzerland
February 11, 1945
---
Photographer W. Scheiwiller
Stadtarchiv (Vadiana)
St. Gallen - Switzerland

Copyright: Public domain
 

In spite of Himmler's promises and the precise orders which had been given to the Therensienstadt camp for the preparation of the second train, no one arrived. The Musys left again for Berlin, anxious to see the promises fulfilled which had been made. The trips to Germany became ever more dangerous, as all along the road demolished cars were stranded due to aerial attacks. The radio was at each instant announcing the proximity of airplane fighters which were machine-gunning the roads. Without regard to these multiple dangers, Benoîît Musy and his father arrived in Berlin safe and sound.

The next morning Mr. J-M Musy requested a meeting with General Schellenberg to ask him why the second train had not left as promised. The new difficulty was that Hitler had reaffirmed his refusal to liberate the Jews. He demanded, amongst other actions the evacuation of all of the concentration camp prisoners to the south of Germany. Hitler's order would mean that the prisoners would have to walk 300 to 400 kilometers, and this would have been certain death for 40% of them. Jean-Marie Musy told Shellenberg and Gööring in no uncertain terms that it was not possible for a normal man to personally participate in the execution of an order which was horribly cruel. Jean-Marie did everything within his powers for the German high command to desist from this unconscionable camp relocation undertaking.  To help prevent the execution of this order, Mr. Musy asked for a meeting with Hitler, whom he had never met.  He was told that this was impossible, and that Hitler had expressed grave threats against Mr. Musy.  It was reported that Hitler had ordered that, if J.-M. Musy were to step again on German soil, he be executed by a firing squad.

Benoît and Jean-Marie Musy returned to Switzerland with almost unsurmountable difficulties, especially to obtain the necessary gasoline to drive the 1,000 kilometers which separated Berlin from Kreuzlingen (Switzerland). On the eve of their departure, four German officers were killed 100 meters away from where the Musy had found lodging. The roads were infested with deserters and desperate individuals. En route their car was fired upon, and they were lucky to escape by traveling during the night with the automobile lights off; after a dangerous trip they arrived in Switzerland.

A few days later, on April 9 1945, Benoît Musy left without his father for Weimar, the place were he was to meet Franz Göring. He wanted to find out if Sternbuch's parents and a number of other people which were on an special American list, were interned in the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany. Since the promises made by Himmler had not been fulfilled, Benoît Musy felt that a personal intervention, accompanied by Göring, would be the only practical way to succeed in obtaining the release of these individuals. However, the military advances by the Allied forces had cut off the road from Berlin to Weimar and Göring could not pass. Benoît was very fortunate indeed to be unharmed, as the Germans and Allies were fighting for control of the area. He had been vigorously warned to cancel his mission and that, if he left for Weimar, in any case he would not come back. But Benoît wanted to do the impossible to save the lives of the people that had been intrusted to him.

He arrived to the Buchenwald concentration camp as its evacuation had been already started by the Germans. He was a witness to nauseating events whereby the camp guards were evacuating the prisoners by baton blows. Benoît was powerless to do anything in the face of such atrocities. The last months before the collapse of the German armies had made concentration camp prisoners suffer considerably.

Jean-Marie Musy
Benoît Musy

Benoît Musy then went to Berlin to protest to General Himmler the actions which were in flagrant contradiction to the agreement which was concluded with Jean-Marie Musy. En route to Berlin, Benoît was attacked several times. His car was riddled with bullets and the tires lacerated. By chance he found a Polish mechanic who helped him repair his car in exchange for 300 cigarettes. The next day by a miracle he arrived in Berlin and contacted Göring and General Schellenberg. The meeting lasted two hours and Benoît protested the violations of the accord between his father and Himmler, as well as the unconscionable treatment of the prisoners by the Buchenwald camp guards. Later, it is by way of a new intervention by Himmler that a good number of prisoners from Buchenwald were saved.

A second meeting between Benoît Musy and Schellenberg gave to Benoît the authorization to enter the Theresienstadt concentration camp. The camp leader (hauptsturmführer) Moes had confirmed to Göring that the parents of the Sternbuch's, including the Donnebaum and Rottenberg were positively all in this camp. Göring and B. Musy left for Theresienstadt on the 14 th of April in two separate cars. On the evening of April 15, 1945 they arrived at the camp and immediately contacted the camp commanders.

The families which they were trying to locate were not there, and the camp overseer claimed that the family Berger- Rottenberg had been deported to Ausschwitz. By a strange coincidence, Moes the camp commander, had suddenly disappeared. Göring and Musy decided to return to Berlin to confer with Schellenberg. This trip was again marked by several attacks before arriving in Berlin. Schellenberg gave the order by radio to Theresienstadt the order to free immediately the Jewish families which had been previously communicated. Schellenberg had several meetings with Himmler concerning the fate of concentration prisoners because he was fearful that, by Hitler's order at the last moment, they would be exterminated.

Jean-Marie Musy had often mentioned to General Himmler that it would be a crime and shameful in front of humanity to exterminate unfortunate prisoners who were defenseless. Mr. Göring realized in his report later that the Generals Himmler and Schellenberg had been effectively convinced to liberate the Jews by Jean-Marie Musy, ex-Federal councillor from Switzerland. Several hundred thousand Jews would certainly have been saved if General Kaltenbrunner had not systematically interfered with the liberation enterprise.

Hitler had threatened that persons taken with the idea to liberate the Jews would face the firing squad. In Berlin the situation changed daily and all communication with Switzerland had been severed. Panic was reigning everywhere and the Russians had surrounded Berlin. In keeping with the promises he made to Jean-Marie Musy, Himmler ordered the release of women interned in the Ravensbruck camp, who were living in horrible conditions. Schellenberg gave instructions to Göring and Benoît Musy to try to breach the Russian lines to reach Ravensbruck. On the 22 nd of April 1945, with audacity and courage they arrived in Ravensbruck. Following Göring's information, there were still in Ravensbruck: 9,000 Polish women, 1,500 French and Belgian women, together with 3,000 Jews. After many difficulties, the camp evacuation was organized. Schellenberg, Himmler and Count Bernadotte (Sweden) accomplished the task that was started. The promise which had been made on multiple occasions to Jean-Marie Musy was fulfilled.

Benoît Musy was to return to Kruzlingen (Switzerland) after 4 to 5 days of absence to drive his father Jean-Marie Musy to Berlin to further negotiate with the Germans. However he did not return and during the next 5 weeks Benoît's family was left without news and his parents feared him dead. It is after 6 weeks of silence that Jean-Marie received news from his son, and that he had arrived in Stockholm - Sweden. Benoît demonstrated unparalleled courage by escaping danger throughout his perilous humanitarian mission.

Through perseverance, the outcome of the mission was to be able to save more than 10,000 prisoners. Emphasis was placed on the rescue efforts of the International Red Cross to evacuate the Ravensbruck camp but it was insufficient for the task. In addition, 450 Jewish women and 1,500 French and Polish women were rescued at Malchow.

Afterward, General Schellenberg often repeated that it was the action of Jean-Marie and his son, Benoît who laid the groundwork for the evacuation of all of the prisoners in the concentration camps.  The Musys were amongst the first to undertake the complex endeavor which no one until then had dared to undertake.

It is a deep sentiment of humanity and Christian altruism which pushed the actions of Jean-Marie and his son Benoît to intervene on behalf of the prisoners in Germany. They never asked or received monetary compensation for their unselfish rescue endeavors. Jean-Marie Musy acknowledged his son's courage and dedication which was well deserved

Train to Freedom - celebration February 5, 2010  Raanana

65th Anniversary of the February 5th 1945 train from
the Ghetto of Theresienstadt  to Switzerland
.      Commemoration and Concert
Transport  to Freedom - Raanana,  Israel - February 5th 2010

 Conclusions & Analysis of the Mission

Jean-Marie Musy's endeavors had been hindered from the start by multiple obstacles, which made his mission very complex. Before Germany's fall there was an authority crisis: Hitler remained the leader, sometimes Himmler and the S.S prevailed.

General Himmler had declared to J.-M. Musy that all of the problems for the liberation of the concentration camps could be handled without Hitler's (the Führer) involvement.  Later, Musy felt that the levers of controls were again in the hands of the Führer. One also had to take into consideration that the concentration camp commanders enjoyed a great deal of independence. These individuals could practically prevent the liberations ordered by Himmler, under the pretexts that these people were not in the camp, or that they were indispensable to the work of the camp. This indeed caused serious complications, since the camp commanders were all opposed to the liberation of the Jews.

It was also extremely difficult, and almost impossible, to reach the persons with whom you had to be kept in constant contact. General Himmler was more and more preoccupied with a military situation which became every day increasingly complex.

General Schellenberg was busy taking care of the liberation problems, but he arrived on the scene late as Germany's capitulation was approaching rapidly. It is probable that thousands of prisoners would have been killed at the last moment, if it were not for Musy being able to convince Himmler and Schellenberg to intervene.

Jean-Marie and Benoit Musy were amongst the first who tried to liberate the prisoners in the German concentration camps. This intense effort was courageously pursued during 8 months, although it did not fully reach the intended outcome of freeing 600'000 prisoners. These trips which accumulated approximately 18,640 miles/30,000 kilometers nonetheless resulted in freeing several thousand prisoners. The Musys had done everything humanely possible by risking their lives many times to accomplish the rescue mission.

The Financial Matter of the 5 million Swiss francs

During October 1944, it was agreed with General Himmler that all Jews held in German concentration camps, approximately 600,000 people be released in exchange for a payment of 5 million Swiss francs. This amount had been deposited in the name of Mr. Isaac Sternbuch, with the stipulation that the Bank would transfer these funds following the instructions of Mr. Jean-Marie Musy. Unfortunately, the objective of the Musy mission was only partly attained. The stipulation for the transfer of the 5 million Swiss francs was based on the release of all of the Jews held in concentration camps. Given these conditions, Mr. J-M. Musy returned to Mr. Sternbuch, representing the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States of America and Canada, the Bank declaration which was to transfer the funds based on his instructions. In conclusion, Mr. Musy released the 5 million Swiss francs and instructed the Fiduciary to remit the funds to Mr. Sternbuch.

The Reconstitution of an Israeli state in Palestine (after 1945)

After the end of the second World War (9 May, 1945), Jean-Marie Musy thought that the most rational solution would be the reconstitution of an Israeli state.   For him this solution was proper and equitable, one that would find support from all people that wanted justice.

The state of Israel was established in 1948 with the approval of the United Nations..

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