Friday, April 02, 2010

Great Britain / Auschwitz / Jewish Holocaust

Briton Recalls His Risky View of Auschwitz Horror
By Henry Chu
The Los Angeles Times, April 2, 2010
"The men in stripes came in looking like boxers and ended up like skeletons. Denis Avey could see them wasting away in a place so evil that even nature had abandoned it, without a bee or butterfly in sight. They were the Jewish inmates housed in the ghastliest part of Auschwitz, subjected to brutalities and atrocities that Avey, an English prisoner of war confined to another section of the camp, could barely imagine. But then, he thought, why only imagine them? What if, somehow, he could see those horrors for himself -- see them, remember them, bear witness to the world about them? So the then-25-year-old pondered and plotted, soon hatching a plan so audacious that, more than 65 years later, he shakes his head at its absurdity. While so many Jews and others
held at the infamous extermination camp were desperate to get out, Avey was actually devising a way to sneak in. As reckless as it seems, the attempt to infiltrate the heart of Nazi darkness was part and parcel of a remarkable wartime career that saw Avey fight in North Africa with Britain's famous Desert Rats, suffer capture by the enemy, survive the sinking of a boat full of POWs and languish for a year in a camp in Italy before he even arrived in Nazi-occupied Poland. Now 91, Avey is finally being recognized for his long-ago bravery, especially his role in saving the life of a Jewish internee at Auschwitz. The British government recently awarded him a medal, and Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial center in Israel, is considering whether to add Avey to its honor roll of 'The Righteous Among the Nations,' non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during World War II. It's all a bit overwhelming for a nonagenarian who stuffed his wartime experiences behind a wall of silence for decades, after his first attempt to tell his story met with shocking indifference from his superiors. [...]"

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