On the contrary, both those numbers are open to challenge.It also means being aware of how the numbers are defined. Hungary is the best example possible - depending on where the borders are drawn pre, during or postwar, you will get different answers. Nobody can doubt or dispute that nearly 430,000 Jews living in 1944 Hungarian borders were deported to Auschwitz in three months, or that 320,000 were killed on arrival, but it is perfectly possible to be unsure whether these 430,000 or 320,000 were originally Slovak, Hungarian or Romanian nationality.
The 430,000 number does have a basis in the reports made to the Hungarian Government by Ferenczy, the commander of the Hungarian Gendarmerie who was actually responsible for rounding up the Jews and putting them on the deportation trains, and in similar reports by the German plenipotentiary in Hungary, Veesenmeyer, quoting figures which must have been derived ultimately from Ferenczy.
However, those reports do not specify that the deportees were sent to Auschwitz, but only to the Reich, leaving open the possibility that some of the deportation trains went directly to destinations in Germany, rather than to Auschwitz.
A more reliable indication of the number of Hungarian Jews actually sent to Auschwitz is provided by the records held at the railway station at Kassa (Kosice), the point at which the deportation trains were handed over by the Hungarian Gendarmerie to the German authorities. Those records list each arriving train, its place of origin, and the number of deportees on it. The total number of deportees on all the trains listed comes to about 390,000, which is most probably the true number of Hungarian Jews sent to Auschwitz in May-July 1944.
The difference between that 390,000+ and the 430,000 reported by Ferenczy and Veesenmeyer most probably consists of deportees sent directly to destinations in the Reich, mainly Austria.
The 320,000 figure is not documented anywhere, but is purely a calculation made on the basis of a number of unproven assumptions. Essentially it derives from a calculation of the number of Hungarian Jews selected for labour, which may or may not be correct, the resulting figure being subtracted from a presumed number of Hungarian Jews arriving at Auschwitz, which may or may not be correct, yielding a figure of 320,000 which is assumed to be the number killed on arrival, which assumption may or may not be correct.
The calculation of the number of Hungarian Jews selected for labour is made on the basis of a document of unknown origin which purports to list the number of male Jews selected for labour from various transports arriving at Auschwitz during a period in 1944. There is reason to believe that this document was compiled on the basis of genuine German records, and hence can be used as a yardstick, although it is not certain that it is comprehensive, ie the numbers given in it must be assumed to be minima.
According to the above document, the number of male Jews selected for labour from transports arriving from Hungary totals around 50,000. As stated, that figure must be presumed to be a minimum, since the comprehensiveness of the document used is uncertain due to its unknown origin.
That figure is then doubled to about 110,000, on the assumption the males selected for labour constituted half the total number of Jews thus selected, ie that a similar number of females were selected for labour. That is in itself an unwarranted assumption, since more young female Jews for for labour were deported from Hungary than young fit males, since the greater part of the latter had been conscripted by the Hungarian Government for labour service within Hungary and hence withheld from deportation. Hence it is probable that the number of female Hungarian Jews selected for labour exceeded by an an unknown factor the number of male Hungarian Jews so selected.
The above figure of 110,000 is deducted from the figure of 430,000, the number of Hungarian Jews assumed to have arrived at Auschwitz (which as we have seen is almost certainly an exaggeration), yielding a figure of 320,000 which is assumed to be the number killed on arrival.
What is known for certain about the deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz is that very large numbers of the deportees were not subject to selection on arrival, but were held in Birkenau as unregistered depot-prisoners, sometimes for several months, pending assessment of their suitability for labour. As the camp filled up and became overcrowded, space was created by regularly weeding out the unfit depot-prisoners and killing them in the gas chambers of Crematorium VI. At the same time there was a regular process of selecting the depot-prisoners fit for labour, and either registering them within the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex or transferring them unregistered to other places of forced labour. While the two afore-mentioned processes were underway, over a period of several months, an unknown number of depot-prisoners died from hunger, disease or exposure and were never recorded either in the statistics of the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex or of any other camp or place of forced labour.
Thus, of the nearly 400,000 Hungarian Jews sent to Auschwitz, it can be said that the majority were held initially as depot-prisoners, with an unknown number being selected for killing on arrival (but certainly far fewer than 320,000).
Of the depot-prisoners;
- a known number was selected as fit for labour and registered within the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex;
- an unknown number was selected as fit for labour and sent unregistered to other destinations;
- an unknown number was selected out at various times as unfit for labour and killed in the gas chambers;
- an unknown number died while awaiting selection.
Of the depot-prisoners registered within the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex, an unknown number died or was killed after becoming unfit for further use as labour. Of those sent to other destinations, an unknown number may have been sent back to Auschwitz for "euthanasia" after becoming unfit for further use as labour; in addition, an unknown number, probably the majority, died while being used for labour from hunger, disease and exhaustion.
In summary, it is known that of the total number of Jews deported from Hungary in 1944, consisting of the nearly 400,000 sent to Auschwitz and a futher 50,000+ sent directly to other destinations in the Reich, at least 150,000 survived until the end of the war, and either returned to their homes or went elsewhere.
It may therefore be reliably assumed that the majority of the deportees perished before the end of the war, and that the number of those who perished may have been close to 300,000. It is however quite erroneous to assert that 320,000 deported Hungarian Jews were definitely killed on arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The number of Hungarian-Jewish victims is commonly exaggerated by adding to the documented Jewish population of the expanded Hungary of 1944 (about 700,000) a figure of 100,000 persons of Jewish origin, to arrive at a total of 800,000 persons subject to the anti-Jewish measures. However, that figure of 100,000 persons of Jewish origin or descent is purely a guesstimate made a Hungarian official, and there is no documentary proof that they ever existed, or that if they existed they were identified, tracked down, and deported or subjected to other anti-Jewish measures.
Accordingly, estimates of the number of Hungarian-Jewish victims derived from an assumed population of 800,000 (including the mysterious 100,000 persons of Jewish origin) are in fact grossly inflated, and may be too high by up to 100,00.