Saturday, April 03, 2010

"hell on earth"

One of the British Prisoners of War in the E715 camp near the Auschwitz III camp, also known as Monowitz, was Denis Avey, who was sent there after the POW camp opened in September 1943. The photo above shows Avey with his sister in 1940.

In 2009, Avey revealed that, while he was a prisoner housed in barracks near the construction site of the I.G. Farben Buna plant at Monowitz, he twice sneaked into the Auschwitz concentration camp, after trading places with a Jewish prisoner.

The following quote is from a news article on the BBC web site:

Denis Avey is a remarkable man by any measure. A courageous and determined soldier in World War II, he was captured by the Germans and imprisoned in a camp connected to the Germans' largest concentration camp, Auschwitz.

But his actions while in the camp - which he has never spoken about until now - are truly extraordinary. When millions would have done anything to get out, Mr Avey repeatedly smuggled himself into the camp.

Now 91 and living in Derbyshire, he says he wanted to witness what was going on inside and find out the truth about the gas chambers, so he could tell others. He knows he took "a hell of a chance".

According to his story, as told to the BBC, Denis Avey arranged to change places, for one night at a time, with a Jewish prisoner who was living in the barracks in the Auschwitz camp, but working at Monowitz. The two prisoners traded uniforms: Avey put on the Jewish prisoner's filthy, blue and gray striped uniform and the Jewish man sneaked into the British POW camp wearing Avey's uniform. Although Avey had red hair and spoke only English, the Auschwitz guards never caught on, and the Wehrmacht soldiers who guarded the POWs never noticed that there was a Jewish prisoner amongst the British soldiers. The Jewish prisoners typically had their heads shaved to control the lice that spreads typhus.

Avey described Auschwitz as "hell on earth" with a "terrible stench," and said that he would lie awake at night listening to the screams of the prisoners.

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