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The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz is the extraordinary true story of a British soldier who marched willingly into the concentration camp, Buna-Monowitz, known as Auschwitz III.
In the summer of 1944, Denis Avey was being held in a British POW labour camp, E715, near Auschwitz III. He had heard of the brutality meted out to the prisoners there and he was determined to witness what he could. He hatched a plan to swap places with a Jewish inmate and smuggled himself into his sector of the camp. He spent the night there on two occasions and experienced at first-hand the cruelty of a place where slave workers, had been sentenced to death through labor. Astonishingly, he survived to witness the aftermath of the Death March where thousands of prisoners were murdered by the Nazis as the Soviet Army advanced. After his own long trek right across central Europe he was repatriated to Britain.
For decades he couldn’t bring himself to revisit the past that haunted his dreams, but now Denis Avey feels able to tell the full story—a tale as gripping as it is moving—which offers us a unique insight into the mind of an ordinary man whose moral and physical courage are almost beyond belief.
Maree: “This book is a personal account of a soldier during world war II, and while it focuses on how he was a POW working in the same fields as Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz, it also tells about his time before that, when he was captured by the Afrika corps, when he was wandering around Greece and Italy, and serving in Egypt. But the tale of how he switched out with a Jewish prisoner not once but twice, just for a night, is the central draw of the story.
I’m not really big on history and nonfiction, especially personal tales because there’s always the question of how much was made up when there’s no one to prove or tell otherwise. And if I question it, it makes me question the emotions I felt while reading the story, which I don’t have to do in fiction because I know it’s not real. But there’s a different emotion that comes when a story when it’s supposed to be true.
I’m not sure how I felt about the believability aspect of this whole story. With the title, I thought that he was helping Jews escape from Auschwitz rather than just taking their place for a day and letting them go back to their miserable existence after that. So while this seemed more realistic than helping them escape, I’m still not sure why he would do such a thing. It seems a very vague basis to do such a dangerous switch, and his tone through the rest of the story has an arrogance to it that makes me question.
It was still an interesting story, but I wouldn’t recommend it to others as a must read.
Brenda: This book has been brilliantly written! Denis Avey, along with Rob Broomby, let me feel the emotion, the horror, sorrow, heartache, anguish, everything that Denis went through in those horrible years!
Denis tells of his early life as a youngster, training for the war, then heading over to fight. He tells of the mate he went with, Les, how he’d grown up with him, dated his sister, the hardship they went through together.
When he eventually was caught, and became a POW, there is the story of the ship he was on, with hundreds of other prisoners, being torpedoed, and how he escaped from that. Recaptured, he eventually ended up at the labour camp E715, very near Auschwitz. He witnessed the brutality meted out to the prisoners there, and the idea came to him that he needed to see what went on, he HAD to see what went on. The fact that he went into Auschwitz not once, but twice, of his own free will, is astounding!
There is a whole lot more for you to read in Denis’ book, but I will leave it now, so I don’t spoil it for you.
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