The opening words of his book read “The Man who Broke into Auschwitz is the true story of a British Soldier who marched willingly into Buna Monowitz, the concentration camp known as Auschwitz 3”.
In the summer of 1944, Denis Avey was being held in a POW (Prisoner of War Camp), E715, near Auschwitz 3. 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 a sector of the camp. He spent the night there on 2 occasions and first experienced at first hand the cruelty of a place where slave workers had been sentenced to death through labour.
In July 2015, Denis Avey formerly of the 7th Armoured Division in the British Army sadly passed away aged 96. For over 5 decades following the end of the war, Avey remained largely silent over his time during the British North African campaign fighting Rommel’s armies. He rarely spoke of his subsequent capture and the time spent as a British Prisoner of War in the Polish town of Oświęcim (Auschwitz in German).
I was fortunate enough to meet Dennis Avey on a number of occasions and particularly over 2 talks in 2011 and 2012 as Avey presented his book to students and scholars. I took this opportunity to speak to him about his time in as a prisoner, writes Michael Challoner of the Auschwitz Study Group.