Thursday, April 28, 2011

Veteran defends disputed story of Auschwitz heroics

 By Mike Collett-White

LONDON, April 26 | Tue Apr 26, 2011 10:01am EDT

LONDON, April 26 (Reuters) - A British World War Two veteran and his publisher have defended his account of smuggling himself into Auschwitz concentration camp to witness first hand the horrors of the Holocaust after doubts surfaced about the story.
Denis Avey, 92, wrote "The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz" about his time as a prisoner in a nearby labour camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
The book, published by Hodder & Stoughton, generated significant media coverage, including by Reuters. But a subsequent investigation by the Daily Mail quoted historians, Jewish groups and former Auschwitz inmates who said they had serious misgivings about some of its content.

The main point of contention was Avey's account of how he twice swapped places with a Dutch Jew in order to smuggle himself into Auschwitz III camp following weeks of planning including bribes to a guard.

Piotr Setkiewicz, head of research at the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and museum, told Reuters that while it was impossible to prove or disprove Avey's swap story due to the absence of survivors personally involved, it was a problematic account.

"Theoretically it is possible to do such a thing, but for practical reasons it would be extremely difficult," he said.
"It is a question of confirmation, and I can't see any way to confirm Mr. Avey's story. Nevertheless, privately, I don't think this (the swap) happened."
He said it was almost certain the swap would have been detected even if a guard was bought off and a handful of fellow prisoners kept informed.

Setkiewicz added that the "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign under which Avey said he marched almost certainly did not exist at Auschwitz III, although he did not have conclusive proof.

Hodder & Stoughton issued a point-by-point rebuttal of the Daily Mail article by Guy Walters, while Avey and co-author Rob Broomby stood by their story.
"I am certainly not distancing myself from the book at all," said Broomby. "I stand by everything in the book."

Full story at Reuters.

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