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The man who smuggled himself into Auschwitz …

The man who smuggled himself into Auschwitz
Children in Auschwitz
More than a million people died in Auschwitz

By Rob Broomby
BBC News

When millions would have done anything to get out, one remarkable British soldier smuggled himself into Auschwitz to witness the horror so he could tell others the truth.

Denis Avey is a remarkable man by any measure. A courageous and determined soldier in World War II, he was captured by the Germans and imprisoned in a camp connected to the Germans’ largest concentration camp, Auschwitz.

But his actions while in the camp – which he has never spoken about until now – are truly extraordinary. When millions would have done anything to get out, Mr Avey repeatedly smuggled himself into the camp.

Denis Avey: “They knew they’d only last five months”

Now 91 and living in Derbyshire, he says he wanted to witness what was going on inside and find out the truth about the gas chambers, so he could tell others. He knows he took “a hell of a chance”.

“When you think about it in today’s environment it is ludicrous, absolutely ludicrous,” he says.

“You wouldn’t think anyone would think or do that, but that is how I was. I had red hair and a temperament to match. Nothing would stop me.”

He arranged to swap for one night at a time with a Jewish inmate he had come to trust. He exchanged his uniform for the filthy, stripy garments the man had to wear. For the Auschwitz inmate it meant valuable food and rest in the British camp, while for Denis it was a chance to gather facts on the inside.


He describes Auschwitz as “hell on earth” and says he would lie awake at night listening to the ramblings and screams of prisoners.

“It was pretty ghastly at night, you got this terrible stench,” he says.

He talked to Jewish prisoners but says they rarely spoke of their previous life, instead they were focused on the hell they were living and the work they were forced to do in factories outside the camp.

Listen to Denis Avey’s story on BBC News 24 throughout Sunday and on Broadcasting House, BBC Radio 4 at 0900 GMT.
Or listen to it here later

“There were nearly three million human beings worked to death in different factories,” says Mr Avey. “They knew at that rate they’d last about five months.

“They very seldom talk about their civil life. They only talked about the situation, the punishments they were getting, the work they were made to do.”

He says he would ask where people he’d met previously had gone and he would be told they’d “gone up the chimney”.

“It was so impersonal. Auschwitz was evil, everything about it was wrong.”

He also witnessed the brutality meted out to the prisoners, saying people were shot daily. He was determined to help, especially when he met Jewish prisoner Ernst Lobethall.

‘Bloody marvellous’

Mr Lobethall told him he had a sister Susana who had escaped to England as a child, on the eve of war. Back in his own camp, Mr Avey contacted her via a coded letter to his mother.

He arranged for cigarettes, chocolate and a letter from Susana to be sent to him and smuggled them to his friend. Cigarettes were more valuable than gold in the camp and he hoped he would be able to trade them for favours to ease his plight – and he was right.

Auschwitz prisoner’s sister meets man who helped save him

Mr Lobethall traded two packs of Players cigarettes in return for getting his shoes resoled. It helped save his life when thousands perished or were murdered on the notorious death marches out of the camps in winter in 1945.

Mr Avey briefly met Susana Lobethall in 1945, when he came home from the war. He was fresh from the camp and was traumatised by what he’d witnessed and endured.

At the time both of them thought Ernst was dead. He’d actually survived, thanks – in part – to the smuggled cigarettes. But she lost touch with Mr Avey and was never able to tell him the good news.

The BBC has now reunited the pair after tracing Susana, who is now Susana Timms and lives in the Midlands. Mr Avey was told his friend moved to America after the war, where he had children and lived a long and happy life. The old soldier says the news is “bloody marvellous”.


Sadly, the emotional reunion came too late for Ernst – later Ernie – who died never even knowing the real name of the soldier who he says helped him survive Auschwitz.

But before he died Mr Lobethall recorded his survival story on video for the Shoah Foundation, which video the testimonies of Holocaust survivors and witnesses. In it he spoke of his friendship with a British soldier in Auschwitz who he simply called “Ginger”. It was Denis.
Ernst Lobethall
Ernest Lobethall moved to the US

He also recalled how the cigarettes, chocolate and a letter from his sister in England were smuggled to him in the midst of war.

“It was like being given the Rockefeller Centre,” he says in the video.

Mr Avey traded places twice and slept overnight in Auschwitz. He tried a third time but he was almost caught and the plan was aborted.

He suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when he came back from the war and has only recently been able to speak about what he did and what he saw.

He admits some may find it hard to believe and acknowledges it was “foolhardy”.

“But that is how I was,” he simply says.

Lake Saint Point e-twinning

Once upon a time, there was a very beautiful valley with lots of charming and cozy houses, and it was filled with colorful and scented flowers.
In this very beautiful village, there was a mother who had to feed her seven children. She was living on her own with them. The crops were scarce, the wheat was scarce, the barley was scarce, and the potato crop was scarce. Winter had been harsh and she was left with no food.
She had no food, no bread, no vegetables, nothing to give them. She was desperate to find something to eat to give her children.
What did she tell her children?
“Children, dear children, we have to get something to eat.”
“Let’s go out and ask some neighbors to help us for a while.”
Knock… knock…knock… knock…knock…knock…
?Have you got something to give my children? They are starving and I have not got anything to feed them! Please, on bended knees, help!”
Knock knock… knock knock…
“Who’s there?”
‘I am Lady Lonely, my seven children are by my side and we haven’t got anything to eat… What should I do? Can you do me a favor, please, and give me a piece of bread or something to eat for me and my children? They haven’t had anything to eat for the past four days except some broth.”
“Sorry, Lady Lonely, I can’t help you. I wish I could but I can’t. My children are starving too!”
Knock knock …knock knock…
“I am Lady Lonely, can you help us and give us a piece of bread , even some crumbs will do, and some wood to get warm? We are exhausted. We’ve been walking in the woods to find some food but the weather’s been so bad we could not see what we were doing or where we were walking.
Can we come in and get warm?”
The door did not open but Lady Lonely could hear a somber voice saying in a very angry tone:
“Sorry! I can’t give you anything!”
Knock knock… knock knock…
“Come in!” answered someone in a cheerful tone.
Lady Lonely told her story to the only person left in the village, a man who was living by himself at the very top of the hill overlooking the valley. Gentleman Gentle was very happy to hear the cheerful cries of children and even more enthusiastic to prepare a soup with the vegetables he had been growing during the summer in his own garden. There were all sorts of them: onions, garlic and leeks, potatoes and carrots… and, last but not least, a huge pumpkin with parsley, rosemary and thyme.
Although he did not have much milk or cream, he shared the tiny amount he had with the children, including a fire burning warmly in his fireplace–thanks to the boys who had gone out and had collected some odd pieces of wood here and there.
He invited them to share his tiny house so that they did not feel the coldness of the night. The next morning, when they woke up, they realized that there was no valley nor village left but… a peaceful lake!
Indeed Gentleman Gentle was a hermit-cum-magician and had cast a spell on all the villagers who had not helped Lady Lonesome.
This is how LAKE SAINT POINT saw the light of day!


The Thanksgiving turkey is being pardoned and sent to live in Disney

1. Obama Turkey Pardon: Thanksgiving At The White House [Ajouter à ma selection]
On Wednesday, President Obama will participate in the the annual White House Thanksgiving Turkey pardon, a tradition where presidents “pardon” a turkey from slaughter …

Youngest First World War Victim

“We went on a scout camping expedition to Wetteren and I remember now that it was an old military camp,” Maité recalls very slowly. She has tiny dreadlocks that hang down her slim face and a silver ring in her nose – not the usual face of a First World War victim. “It was July 6th, 1992. I knew nothing about war. I remember we all built a fire using bricks round the outside and the other kids starting throwing logs on it. I was tired and so I went a few metres from the fire so I could sleep. Then there was a sudden explosion – I woke up and saw sparks from the explosion. Everyone was running and shouting and I tried to get up and I couldn’t. Everyone was looking at me and I looked down – and I saw that my left leg was hanging by a piece of skin.”

A million British soldiers had experienced this same terror in this same land more than 60 years earlier. But Maité could not understand. She was rushed to the local hospital at Wetteren where there were no specialist surgeons and she had to be rushed by air to Ghent University Hospital. For three hours, she wept and cried in pain before doctors could give her a sedative because the doctors were not sure which medication to administer. “I only started feeling the pain when I saw my leg – and then it never stopped,” she said.

Nor has it stopped now. The doctors took skin and muscles and arteries from thighs and back and ribs to reconstruct her left leg – and saved it after 29 operations in which Maité spent two years in hospital, all of them on morphine. For the next 10 years she was addicted, desperate to detoxicate but still finding the pain unbearable. Maité now has only one artery in each leg. The birth of her child, Damon, and the love of his father, Kurt, helped her, she says, admitting with a smile that she still needs cannabis and alcohol to survive the pain but has been without morphine for a year and five months.

She is now cared for by the Belgian Institute for Veterans’ Affairs and War Victims. The Institute, along with doctors and police officials, quickly realised that the scouts must have picked up the cylindrical RAF bomb, thinking it was a mouldy log – and thrown it on the fire. The explosion blasted the bricks into pieces, one of which almost severed Maité’s left leg. Belgian explosives officers later identified the fragments as those of an RAF bomb – typical of many found over battlefields in the decades that followed the 1918 Armistice – manufactured in 1918 and used during the German retreat. The Wetteren camp was used by the Reichswehr during this period because the town was a major rail centre for German military traffic to the front.

With one of those bitter ironies that war alone can produce, the RAF’s youngest victim – long after both the pilot and his intended targets must have died – turns out to be partly British. Maité’s grandmother, Janette Matthieson, is Scottish and now lives in Ostend, making Maité’s French-speaking mother half-British. Maité now lives on £700 a month, a stipend available to her since she was 16. When she was so grievously hurt, not a single newspaper outside Belgium mentioned her fate.

Belgian authorities are still paying monthly allowances to much older victims of First World War munitions as well as survivors of the Second World War – including Belgian Jewish survivors of the Holocaust – and newly-arrived wounded from Afghanistan. Maité wants to go on a clothes-making course and open a boutique – “I don’t want to work for a boss,” she says as cheerfully as any 1914-18 British soldier with a “Blighty” wound, though she may be more successful than the men who came home in 1918 and found that theirs was not a land fit for heroes.

“I have an ‘051’-coded card from the First World War veterans’ department and when I buy train tickets, they often question me about it,” Maité says. “They think I’ve taken it from an ancestor but it’s completely real. I’m just the youngest victim of that war.”

I ask her why she shows no interest in this terrible period of history which struck her so mercilessly – and so literally – when she was younger. She shrugs her shoulders. So much for the Somme and Verdun and Gallipoli and the nine million military dead of the Great War and the Last Post just down the road in Ypres. But I rather suspect Maité is right. Her boutique and her home-made clothes sound a far better future than an examination of the awful mud upon which her village of Bovekerke was rebuilt after the War to End All Wars.

US president and EU president

Page last updated at 11:23 GMT, Thursday, 19 November 2009
Belgian PM named as EU president

European Council leaders have elected a president under the rules of the newly-adopted Lisbon Treaty. But how does the position compare to that of other presidents, such as the President of the United States?

President of European Council President of United States of America

Flags of Eu and US

European Union:
Population: 490 million
GDP: $18.7tn
United States:
Population: 304 million
GDP: $14.9tn

Military: 3,800 troops on European military missions Military: 250,000 on deployment (Iraq/Afghanistan)

Land mass: Land mass:

Graphic showing land mass of EU and US

Elected by:
European Council leaders. Liable to select candidate by consensus. If vote held, each country has different number of votes. Winner must gain 258 out of 345 votes from at least 18 of the 27 countries.
Elected by:
Electoral College system. In general election, must win 270 out of 538 electoral college votes. President Barack Obama won 67 million votes in popular vote.

Term of two and half years – renewable once. Term of four years – renewable once.

Salary reported to be 350,000 euros ($521,374) a year President earns 268,521 euros ($400,000) a year

Position and key roles: Position and key roles:

Flow charts shwoing structure of EU and US government

Chairs European Council.Duty to “facilitate cohesion and consensus”, without national bias.

Head of state.Partisan, elected on own platform of policies, usually with support of a party, eg Republican or Democratic.

Represents EU abroad on issues concerning its common foreign and security policy.

Negotiates treaties. Directs foreign policy. Can sign executive orders without Congress approval.

No powers of veto.

Power of Veto – President must sign any bill passed by Congress before it becomes law.

Must report to European Parliament after each European Council meeting.

President must report to Congress by delivering State of Union address.

Eufor US

Military control:
No influence on military. EU Military staff receives “taskings” from EU Military Committee (which represents defence chiefs of all member states).
Military control:
Commander-in-Chief of armed forces – responsible for strategy. Congress must approve going to war but president can decide when to launch nuclear missiles.


November 2009

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