Man who broke into death camp

Decorated war veteran Denis Avey pictured at the signing for his book 'The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz'  at WH Smiths in Buxton.

Decorated war veteran Denis Avey pictured at the signing for his book 'The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz' at WH Smiths in Buxton.

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A WAR veteran who swapped places with a Jewish prisoner to smuggle himself into Auschwitz, has broken his 70-year silence and documented his horrific story in a new book.

In 1944, Denis Avey (92), was held as a prisoner of war at camp E715, which lay adjacent to the death camp, just a few hundred metres away.

“I was determined to witness what I could so that one day the perpetrators would be held to account,” said Denis, speaking from his Bradwell home about The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz, his bestselling book that has already been published in 14 countries since its release last month.

As a prisoner of war, he toiled alongside Jewish slave labourers, and saw the horrific abuse of people in the camps, who he and his fellow PoWs nicknamed, “stripeys”. He writes: “They sucked the life and labour from each exhausted man and when he was spent, he was sent to be killed.”

Unable to cast a blind eye to the obscenities of the camps, Denis did the unthinkable; shaved his head, smeared dirt on his face and swapped uniforms with a Dutch Jew to get into Auschwitz. On two occasions he slept alongside the Jewish prisoners, three to a bunk, so he might find the names of people to be held to account.

“Hearsay had no value,” he writes. “We didn’t know how these camps would be wound up or who would be left at the end of the war to say these crimes had happened at all.”

He added: “I never spoke to a soul about it after that. Not even my dear mother knew,”

The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz, is a sometimes touching, often moving and completely chilling account of the most horrific mass killing in history.

ellie.hunter@

derbyshiretimes.co.uk