92 Year Old British Ex-POW Breaks Silence About Auschwitz

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Animal
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92 Year Old British Ex-POW Breaks Silence About Auschwitz

Post by Animal » 31 Mar 2011 18:18


http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/us_auschwitz_book

Soldier, 92, breaks silence over Auschwitz heroics

Image
Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown (R) chats to Auschwitz survivor Denis Avey at number 10 Downing Street


By Mike Collett-White Mike Collett-white – Thu Mar 31, 9:00 am ET


LONDON (Reuters) – It took him more than 60 years to break his silence, but in a new book 92-year-old Denis Avey tells the story of how he broke into Auschwitz concentration camp twice to witness for himself the horrors of the Holocaust.

Avey was a British soldier captured during World War Two and sent to a labor camp close to Auschwitz where he worked at the IG Farben plant alongside inmates from the concentration camp, nicknamed "stripeys" after their uniforms.

While Avey, a headstrong, battle-hardened soldier, was told about the mass extermination of Jews and experienced the sickening smell from a nearby crematorium, he wanted to see for himself what was happening in Auschwitz.

While conditions in his own labor camp were appalling, the food was better and treatment less harsh than in Auschwitz.

And as a prisoner of war, Red Cross packages occasionally made it through containing chocolate and cigarettes, which could then be bartered for better provisions and aid survival.

After weeks of preparation, including bribes to a guard, Avey twice swapped uniforms with a Dutch Jew of roughly the same height to sneak into the camp where he spent the night.

On both occasions the men managed to change back into their own clothes, despite the risk of discovery and certain death.

"I did my homework over weeks and weeks, but the common denominator of all that was a tremendous amount of luck," Avey said in an interview to promote his biography "The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz," co-written by Rob Broomby and published in Britain by Hodder & Stoughton.

"My life depended on 50 cigarettes -- 25 in, 25 out. He (the guard) could have shot me easily."

His motivation for risking his life was twofold: to "put one over on the enemy" and to see what was happening so he could tell the world afterwards of the atrocities.

He recorded seeing piles of "vaguely human" corpses of workers who died each day. They were carried away by fellow inmates who showed no emotion. Body carriers collapsed, earning them a beating and almost certain death.

TOO WEAK TO RESIST

Men were pulled from lineups and taken away to be gassed, but there was no protest, so weak and dejected had they become.

Avey described the "foul air" of the sleeping area and putrid "soup" the men were served which he dared not eat.

He held whispered conversations with the inmate lying next to him who was in on the plan, finding out what he could about the concentration camp.

"Auschwitz III was like nothing else on earth; it was hell on earth. This is what I had come to witness but it was a ghastly, terrifying experience."

After surviving the camp and the "death march" at the end of the war, Avey tried to tell the army about his experiences, but when he came up against what he called the "glazed eye syndrome," he gave up and kept silent for 60 years.

Even his mother did not know what he had been through, and never asked why he was so emaciated when he returned to England.

For six years Avey had regular nightmares and woke up in a cold sweat. He still recalls his experiences today.

Then, during a radio interview a few years ago he opened up and told his story, and since then has gained recognition for his bravery from Holocaust organisations and politicians.

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation has honored Avey with a diploma, and a spokesman in Israel said: "We feel that his story is genuine," adding that a fellow survivor corroborated his account to the foundation's satisfaction.

Avey said his book was relevant today.

"The difference between right and wrong is fast receding. Awareness is being diluted, people are just saying 'such is life'. People are like this now."

Despite its dark content, the story ends on a note of hope.

Avey recently discovered that a Jew called Ernst survived Auschwitz and recorded his testimony on video.

In that testimony he talked about a soldier -- Avey -- who arranged for him to get 10 packs of cigarettes from England which he swapped for food and new soles on his shoes without which he said he would not have survived the death march.

"I thought he was dead," said Avey. "I couldn't believe it."

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)

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Peter H
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Re: 92 Year Old British Ex-POW Breaks Silence About Auschwit

Post by Peter H » 09 Apr 2011 08:38

"Did this British PoW really smuggle himself into Auschwitz to expose the Holocaust... or is his account pure fantasy and an insult to millions who died there?"

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... nsult.html

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Re: 92 Year Old British Ex-POW Breaks Silence About Auschwit

Post by Crazy_Ivan » 09 Apr 2011 13:57

I have to say when I read the story I had some serious doubts.

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Re: 92 Year Old British Ex-POW Breaks Silence About Auschwit

Post by michael mills » 14 Apr 2011 06:51

An obvious fabrication.

A British POW could not possibly have passed himself off successfully as a Jewish concentration-camp inmate.

The Kapos would have picked him out immediately. Too well-fed for one thing. Unable to speak Yiddish or Polish, or any of the other languages spoken by the Jewish inmates of Auschwitz.

The British POWs might conceivably have concealed and otherwise aided a Jewish inmate who had smuggled himself into their camp, since they would not have been subject to the same level of control or harsh treatment as Jewish prisoners. But if such a thing had happened, then the British POWs involved would certainly have told the story immediately after their release from captivity.

Sounds a bit like the famous Karski story. But he claimed to have disguised himself as a guard, not as a prisoner, a more feasible thing to do.

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Re: 92 Year Old British Ex-POW Breaks Silence About Auschwit

Post by Panzermahn » 14 Apr 2011 07:01

Did the editor or publisher verified the British POW's story before allowing it be published?

Surely there would be some kind of debriefing report which the British POW would have to report to his superiors after he has been repatriated at the end of the war? If this report exists, did the publishers make any efforts to locate it in the National Archives?

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Re: 92 Year Old British Ex-POW Breaks Silence About Auschwit

Post by Sid Guttridge » 14 Apr 2011 11:05

Hi Michael,

Admittedly this story does stretch credulity a bit, but not beyond breaking point.

It is not as if he claims to have spent an extended period in the Jewish section - just two nights.

Watching an interview with him on TV, he does not come across as artful, rather the reverse.

I would be more inclined to question the prominence the story got. "Brit spends two nights in Auschwitz without discovery" does not bear comparison with the experience of a single one of the hundreds of thousands of Jews sent there, even if they survived!

This story is a curiosity without much wider significance.

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Re: 92 Year Old British Ex-POW Breaks Silence About Auschwit

Post by little grey rabbit » 16 Apr 2011 07:09

Peter H wrote:"Did this British PoW really smuggle himself into Auschwitz to expose the Holocaust... or is his account pure fantasy and an insult to millions who died there?"

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... nsult.html
I would not say it was an insult as I think it highly unlikely he would invent such a story unassisted. It has a lot of echos with the discredited story "Stoker" from Australia by former POW Donald Watts. In the frontispiece of that book Mr Watts thanked the director of the Sydney Jewish Museum for this assistance. There is also the book the Spectator in Hell, when the author, another British POW decided to escape from Monowitz and skirt around the back of Birkenau coincidentally on the very day or night that the Sonderkommando revolt took place. Most fortuitious. In each case I don't believe these former prisoners spontaneously concocted these accounts.

In the end these POWs fought for their country and had very difficult conditions in POW camps, for which we owe then gratitude. Although lots of other POWs did the same thing without feeling the need to embellish to such an extent.

The article author, Guy Walters, I think wrote a surprisingly critical biography of Simon Wiesenthal.

I was interested in this section
What is also troubling is that the story of Mr Avey’s swap is almost identical to that told by another former PoW at camp E715 called Charles Coward.

In a post-war trial, Coward gave testimony — now widely discredited by Holocaust scholars — in which he claimed to have smuggled himself into Auschwitz by swapping places with a Jewish inmate. This tall tale is included in a book about Coward’s exploits which is called The Password Is Courage and billed on the jacket as The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz — the very same title as Avey’s book.
While I have never believed Coward's account, I had no idea it was now widely discredited or discredited by anyone except myself. Does anyone have any knowledge of who these Holocaust scholars are and how they have manifested this discreditation?
I am guessing it won't make any difference to Mr Coward's membership in the ranks of the Righteous Gentiles
In 2006 Martin Gilbert seemed to still believe his account
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/ja ... ar.comment
Mason Quaterly also has a soft spot for him
http://www.mqmagazine.co.uk/issue-17/p-47.php

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Re: 92 Year Old British Ex-POW Breaks Silence About Auschwit

Post by Andy H » 18 Apr 2011 17:23

MMills wrote:
The Kapos would have picked him out immediately. Too well-fed for one thing. Unable to speak Yiddish or Polish, or any of the other languages spoken by the Jewish inmates of Auschwitz
Firstly Micheal I haven't read the book and I have no want to read it but I find your remarks troubling unless you've read the book and can add some information to back up your post.

Firstly your too well fed statement-Well almost every prisoner would look well fed when they first arrived compared to those that had been there for a period of time. How would a Kapo be able to tell the difference between new legitimate arrival and this gent-They can't.

Secondly the language issue. I'm sure that English could be spoken by Jews in Auschwitz if required. Equally not every Jew spoke Yiddish or Polish. Some British Jews were deported from the Channel Islands and ended up in Auschwitz

Regards

Andy H

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Re: 92 Year Old British Ex-POW Breaks Silence About Auschwit

Post by little grey rabbit » 23 Apr 2011 01:22

If I recall correctly, 3 Jews were deported from the Channel Islands - how long they stayed at Auschwitz is open to question

In the book by Colin Rushton "Spectator in Hell" there is a section based on an interview with Denis Avey. There is no mention of visiting Auschwitz but there is a very unlikely account of reading a decree in a newspaper. It would seem to me that Mr Avey understandably is still very bitter against his former captors. Unfortunately this bitterness seems to lead him into dishonest testimony.

pages 205-208
Denis Avey
Denis Avey told of his time in E715, the same camp that
Arthur Dodd endured. Originally enlisting with the Rifle
Brigade, his Army number was 6914761 and eventual POW
number 220543. Denis will never forget one dangerous but
nevertheless humorous moment when, after a full day’s work
at I. G. Farben, the men were marched back to their camp and
halted outside the wire, to be counted and searched yet again.
Denis was standing next to a Cockney friend, Phil Hagen,
when a thorough search of the Londoner revealed a scrawny
chicken, feathers and all, hidden between his legs inside his
trousers! Immediately, as always, there was an abundance of
shouting and threatening with guns. Denis, Hagen and the
other chap were taken out of the line, beaten up and thrown
into a bunker. As they spent a freezing night without food
or water they pondered their fate. The following morning in
the Hauptman’s office they feared the worst as the question
rang out, ‘Where did you get this chicken?’ Denis will never
forget Hagen’s classic retort, ‘I was working very hard when
this chicken attacked me and I had no option but to kill it in
self-defence!’ Then followed the silence of a lifetime for the
three Brits before the Hauptman collapsed with laughter,
the guards following suit seconds later. This turn of events
saved the lads a long period of suffering in the bunker and
possibly also the life of the Polish civilian who had supplied
the chicken, for Denis is sure they would have found him
had the enquiry proceeded.
Moments of humour were few and far between in this
hell-hole, where inhumanities were on a scale friends
and families would find impossible to appreciate. One
brutality Denis witnessed that will remain with him
forever was a female SS officer attempting to extract the
last dregs of life from a male Jewish carcass. She punched
the pathetic figure to the ground with her fist and, picking
up a substantial rock, crashed it down on his head.
This elimination of life from a tormented body was an
everyday occurrence and these bestial acts, together with
the memory of the repulsive stench of burning flesh, still
bring depression and nausea to Denis Avey.
Since representing London schoolboys in 1931, soccer
had always been a passion for Denis and playing for the
South African team from Camp E715 was a great form
of escape, albeit momentarily. There were too few South
African soldiers to form a team and their numbers were
supplemented by the English. The team went on to win the
international tournament.
Whilst in Monowitz, Denis saw a copy of an SS
Headquarters edict and subsequently managed to obtain
a newspaper, the Beobaelten Zeitung, which reported this
edict in detail. It read, ‘When we achieve ultimate victory
all British POWs will be executed. We shall invade England
and all males aged between sixteen and sixty-five will be
transported to Europe in order to rebuild the ruined cities.
We shall exterminate all females over child bearing age. We
shall govern the country from Whitehall and our victorious
soldiers will be allowed to impregnate all suitable females
with good Aryan blood.’

After the war Denis spent two years in hospital, a time
punctuated with surgery for systemic tuberculosis in his lungs,
throat and stomach. In addition, complications arising from a
blow from a Luger pistol during his stay at Monowitz resulted
in the loss of an eye. The incident leading up to this great
personal loss occurred when Denis was working in a trench
laying cables with Jews working in very close attendance.
Suddenly a German guard started hitting a ‘Stripee’ with
his rifle butt and kicked him viciously again and again. The
prisoner was pitifully thin and was trying to stand to attention,
his hat off, and not offering any resistance whatsoever. The
blood was literally pouring down his face as Denis shouted at
the guard to stop. An SS Officer came up behind the British
POW with a Luger in his hand and hit Denis across the face,
the gun’s trigger guard catching his eye.
Like many other POWs, Denis is bitter because, despite
the magnificent effort given to obtain victory and freedom
for millions, these heroes were merely given a cheap demob
suit, a woefully inadequate war pension, and were pitched
into civilian life without counselling.
Auschwitz was absolute evil and it bred evil. There were no
bees, nor butterflies nor flowers; it was as though nature had
gone on strike. To Denis Avey it seemed the great architect
of life had turned his back entirely on the whole place. On
incarceration in this hell hole working for the German war
effort, his philosophy was that of Oscar Wilde, ‘stone walls do
not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage’; he would quote this
to his workmates and sabotage became their common focus.
Coming from an engineering background Avey could recognise
the Achilles heel of any equipment – no big bangs, just subtlety
and long term goals, in order to save their necks.
Although hospitalisation prevented him answering the
call to give evidence at the Nuremburg War Crimes trial
in 1947, it did highlight the degree of damage one could
sustain whilst working for the Germans at this Hell on
Earth. Eventually Denis Avey received a cheque from the
British government on account of ‘compensation for Nazi
persecution’. He was so deeply disgusted with the miserly
amount of 204 pounds sterling that he sent the cheque
straight back to the government.

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Re: 92 Year Old British Ex-POW Breaks Silence About Auschwit

Post by michael mills » 23 Apr 2011 02:13

Firstly your too well fed statement-Well almost every prisoner would look well fed when they first arrived compared to those that had been there for a period of time. How would a Kapo be able to tell the difference between new legitimate arrival and this gent-They can't.
Nobody with any knowledge at all of the operation of the German concentration camps could think that.

The prisoners were tightly controlled by the Kapos, who had lists of the prisoners under their control. The Kapos were also informed of the arrivals of any new prisoners, well-fed or otherwise, in their work details. If an unknown person suddenly turned up in a work detail, obviously in better condition than the other prisoners, and without any accompanying paper-work, the Kapo in charge would immediately notice.

Remember also that the British POW is supposed to have taken the place of an existing prisoner. I am sure that the Kapos and the block-leaders would have noticed that a haggard prisoner had suddenly and mysteriously turned into someone who looked like a soldier.
Secondly the language issue. I'm sure that English could be spoken by Jews in Auschwitz if required. Equally not every Jew spoke Yiddish or Polish. Some British Jews were deported from the Channel Islands and ended up in Auschwitz
The question is not whether particular Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz could speak English. Rather, it is whether a person dressed in prison garb but unable to speak any of the languages spoken by the other prisoners would be immediately noticeable.

Remember that the Kapos were drawn from the prisoner population itself. They would be able to tell whether a particular person was not an East European. Even if the Kapo was only mystified by a particular prisoner's inability to understand any of the camp languages, he would surely have checked with the nearest German staff-member as to the identity of this strange prisoner, who would then have been hauled off for interrogation.

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Re: 92 Year Old British Ex-POW Breaks Silence About Auschwit

Post by Andy H » 25 Apr 2011 12:08

michael mills wrote:
Firstly your too well fed statement-Well almost every prisoner would look well fed when they first arrived compared to those that had been there for a period of time. How would a Kapo be able to tell the difference between new legitimate arrival and this gent-They can't.
Nobody with any knowledge at all of the operation of the German concentration camps could think that.

The prisoners were tightly controlled by the Kapos, who had lists of the prisoners under their control. The Kapos were also informed of the arrivals of any new prisoners, well-fed or otherwise, in their work details. If an unknown person suddenly turned up in a work detail, obviously in better condition than the other prisoners, and without any accompanying paper-work, the Kapo in charge would immediately notice.

Remember also that the British POW is supposed to have taken the place of an existing prisoner. I am sure that the Kapos and the block-leaders would have noticed that a haggard prisoner had suddenly and mysteriously turned into someone who looked like a soldier.
Secondly the language issue. I'm sure that English could be spoken by Jews in Auschwitz if required. Equally not every Jew spoke Yiddish or Polish. Some British Jews were deported from the Channel Islands and ended up in Auschwitz
The question is not whether particular Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz could speak English. Rather, it is whether a person dressed in prison garb but unable to speak any of the languages spoken by the other prisoners would be immediately noticeable.

Remember that the Kapos were drawn from the prisoner population itself. They would be able to tell whether a particular person was not an East European. Even if the Kapo was only mystified by a particular prisoner's inability to understand any of the camp languages, he would surely have checked with the nearest German staff-member as to the identity of this strange prisoner, who would then have been hauled off for interrogation.
Hi MM

My reply was in relation to your absolutist POV.

We have no idea what physical state/appearance this POW was in, in relation to those in this particular barrack. In fact we know next to nothing about this specific barrack in terms of its occupants from what I've read. Many POW in German hands were equally emaciated as some of those in the camps and from some of the pics of them, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference-especially as the war progressed.

I'm guessing here but I imagine that the instructions given to POW's in the various factories wasn't delivered in the Queens English, and that over many years some basics of say German would have been picked up, aswell as snippets of other languages possibly depending on geography. Most conversations or should I say instructions between Kapo's or German guards and the inmates would have been rather short and mostly one-way in nature on the whole, and not a distant venue of the Oxford debating society!

Again I'm guessing but from other threads on various boards, that the Kapos weren't robotic copies of each other and that maybe sometimes rules/regualtions weren't followed for whatever reason!

Regards

Andy H

PS:- Is the video testimony of this other inmate transcribed anywhere or accessible on the net?

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Re: 92 Year Old British Ex-POW Breaks Silence About Auschwit

Post by Sampo Jämbeck » 26 Apr 2011 23:23

Interesting subject indeed.
I'm waiting to read the whole book but there's something funny thing (not ha-ha funny) in the story. I found these excerpts "I shaved my hair completely off,' he recalled. 'And before that, I dirtied my face and my eyes. He also carefully studied and copied "the slouch," the defeated bearing of many of the Jewish prisoners, who were starved of both food and hope."
If the POW picture here http://www.scrapbookpages.com/auschwitz ... sAvey.html
is genuine, he would have caught Kapos attention like Michael Mills wrote. He's looking quite better fed than what is commonly seen in pictures of concentration camp inmates. What I've been reading, work details were constantly inspected and POWs were quite well known. Smearing your face with dirt wouldn't be enough.
"With that simple exchange between the two of us I had given away the protection of the Geneva Convention: I'd given my uniform, my lifeline, my best chance of surviving that dreadful place, to another man. . . If I was caught, the guards would have shot me out of hand as an imposter. No question at all." "We worked alongside the striped Jews and we weren’t allowed to speak to them. If you spoke to them, the bullet." Giving your uniform to another prisoner and getting it back shows some reliability and friendship among the prisoners.
He talked to Jewish prisoners and thus risked his life.
Does anyone know when and what kind of situations he had chance to speak to "stripeys" and learn his homework over weeks and weeks and not getting the bullet?

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