Author: Denis Avey
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Star Rating: 4/5
Date Read: September 15th to 18th, 2013
It is impossible not to be moved by the story of Denis Avey, the man who broke into Auschwitz. A British POW in the second world war, it has taken him 70 years to tell his story. He recognised that it was important for his story to be told and I agree with him.
The title, ‘The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz’, is somewhat misleading but it does not make Avey’s story any less incredible. While a POW, Avey worked alongside the Jewish who were prisoners in Auschwitz III Monowitz. This is not ‘the’ Auschwitz where the mass murders through gassing occurred, although it wasn’t far from there, this is where they housed those fit enough to labour for the German war effort – until of course they were worked to death. On two occasions, Avey swapped places with a Jewish man named Hans, putting his own life at risk so that Hans could have a decent feed and a sleep where he wasn’t in fear of at any moment suddenly being put to death. I think it amazing that Hans would swap back the next day, knowing what it was he had to go back to. The British POWs weren’t treated well, but it was better than the Jewish men were treated.
As well as being the story of Avey’s swap with Hans, this also the story of Avey’s chance meeting with another Jewish man named Ernst, who had a sister relocated through the Kindertransport to England. What followed had me in tears on the train.
I worry that stories like Denis Avey’s, like Hans’ and Ernst’s, will fade as time goes on and we progress further and further from the days of World War II. I think it is so important that we do not forget what happened during the time, lest it happen again.