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The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz--A True Story of World War II

Denis Avey with Rob Broomby

DaCapo Press, a division of Perseus Book Group





The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz, written by Denis Avey with Rob Broomby, begins with a glimpse of how the British troops first entered into World War II.  Maneuvers through the desert, victories, and routing of Italian forces are described in detail. How Denis Avey was able to survive the desert and the gruesome war sights he observed became irrevocably etched into his psyche.

The early years of the war were exciting until the tide turned against the British war effort. Denis had enlisted in 1939 and became a soldier. Captured, he spent several years in various prisoner‑of‑war facilities, eventually winding up in the E715 Prisoner of War Camp that was located next to Auschwitz concentration camp. The Geneva Convention sets rules under which warring nations must abide.  One of those rules was there should be no slave labor imposed upon prisoners. The Nazis ignored this rule. Denis Avey describes his experiences as a slave laborer.

While Avey was captive, he observed the Jewish prisoners in their striped outfits as their work details moved along on the other side of the electrified barbed wire fences. He witnessed inhumane treatment and death. During this time, he felt compelled to learn more about what went on in the death camp adjacent to his prisoner‑of‑war camp.  He hatched a plan to visit the interior of Auschwitz concentration camp.

Language was a barrier among many of the prisoners since they had come from various countries throughout Europe. Denis quickly became fluent in German, even though he had not been able to speak it prior to becoming a prisoner. He established contact with a Jewish prisoner, and they switched places two times. Swapping clothes, he spent two different nights living in deplorable conditions so that he could report on them after the war. Up close, he observed the brutality of the SS guards as they beat and killed Jewish prisoners.

With this reversing of roles, Denis was able to use the Red Cross to send cigarettes to him to give to the Jewish prisoner. In the concentration camp, as well as the prisoner-of-war camp, the mode of currency was cigarettes, which could buy food and other favors. The prisoners in both camps had little food; they either starved or were so weak by the lack of food they were beaten to death when they could not perform their menial tasks.

This book has two distinct parts. The first is the war years themselves, and the second is the aftermath, which tells of the readjustment to civilian life Avey further endured. He had PTSD (post‑traumatic stress disorder) diagnosed years later. He had nightmares about the camp and the things that he observed. What troubled him most was his inability to tell others about his experiences since everyone had their own experiences and did not wish to hear any more. When Denis finally told his story, he received special commendations for the things he had done to help others survive.

This book is highly recommended. It is another chapter showing man's inhumanity during WWII through the eyes of a British Christian soldier.

Clark Isaacs