Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz

Take one brash British army soldier, put him in a WWII POW camp near Auschwitz III, and give him the "opportunity" to witness firsthand the savagery of the Nazis, and you've got The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz by Denis Avey (with Rob Broomby). Denis Avey was just twenty-one when he enlisted, not for King and Country but, as he put it, "for the sheer hell of it, for the adventure." Adventure he got. And hell? Enough to last a lifetime. Avey saw combat against the Italians in North Africa, but when German panzers arrived, his luck went downhill in a hurry. Captured, he was transferred from one POW camp to another until he wound up in Oswiecim, Poland. Auschwitz. Avey did time in E715, a POW camp near Auschwitz III, and he couldn't believe what he saw on a daily basis: "People talk about man's inhumanity to man, but that wasn't human or inhuman--it was bestial. Love and hate meant nothing there. It was indifference. I felt degraded by each mindless murder I witnessed and could do nothing about. I was living in obscenity." There was, however, one thing he felt he could do, and it was a foolhardy thing indeed: sneak into Auschwitz III and see the conditions of the camp and its inmates firsthand, and, as Jewish prisoners were constantly begging Avey and his fellows to do, tell the world what he saw. If he lived, that is. How Avey accomplished this and the larger story of how he managed to survive the war make for some white-knuckled reading. Only now, some seventy years later, has he felt the burden of all he saw and endured begin to lift. Of Auschwitz Avey wrote, "A part of me died in there but I stayed angry even when there was little I could do. I admit I have left it late but now people are prepared to listen and I want my story to do some good, that's all I ever really wanted."

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