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Mon, June 17

A compelling account of 'Auschwitz'

The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz, A true story of World War II, by Denis Avey with Rob Broomby; 978-0-306-81965-0; 264 Pages; $25.00; Published: July, 2011; Hardcover; Novel; DaCapo Press (a division of Perseus Book Group)

This week we have a very interesting, yet painful book. It is the non-fiction story of a 92-year-old soldier who served with the British Army in WWII. His story is both compelling and dramatic. The book tells the full story and is one that should be read by all.

There is an old saying that goes, "Truth is stranger than fiction!" "The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz," written by Denis Avey with Rob Broomby, fits this statement to a "T."

The story begins with a glimpse of how the British troops first entered into World War II. Maneuvers through the desert, victories and the routing of Italian forces are described in exacting detail. How Denis Avey survived the desert and the gruesome sights he observed became irrevocably etched into his psyche.

The early years of the war were quite exciting until the tide turned against the British war effort. Denis enlisted in 1939 and became a soldier. Captured, he spent several years in various prisoner of war facilities, eventually winding up in the E715 prisoner of war camp that was located next to the Auschwitz concentration camp. The Geneva Convention sets rules under which warring nations must abide. One of the rules is that there can be no slave labor imposed upon prisoners. The Nazis ignored this rule. Denis Avey describes his experiences as a slave laborer.

While Avey was captive, he observed the Jewish prisoners in their striped outfits as their work details moved along on the other side of the electrified barbed wire fences. He witnessed inhuman treatment and death. During the time, he felt compelled to learn more about what went on in the death camp adjacent to his prisoner of war camp. He hatched a plan to visit the interior of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Language was a barrier among many of the prisoners since they had come from various countries throughout Europe. Denis quickly became fluent in German, even though he did not speak it prior to becoming a prisoner. He established contact with a Jewish prisoner and they switched places twice. Denis changed out of his military uniform and donned the striped pajamas of the prisoner. He spent two different nights living in deplorable conditions so that he could report on them after the war. He observed first-hand the brutality of the SS guards as they beat and killed Jewish prisoners.

One of the fascinating aspects of this reversing of roles,was that Denis was able to use the Red Cross to send cigarettes to him, which he then gave to the Jewish prisoner.

In the concentration camp, as well as the prisoner of war camp, the main currency was cigarettes. They could be used to buy food and other favors. The prisoners in both camps had little food. They either starved or were so weak from hunger that they were beaten to death when they could not perform their menial tasks.

This book has two distinct parts. The first is the war years and the second is the aftermath. The latter tells of the re-adjustment to civilian life Avey endured. He had PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) which was diagnosed years later. He had nightmares about the camp and the things he had observed. What troubled him the most was his inability to tell others about his experiences. He found that everyone had their own experiences and did not wish to hear any more. When Denis finally did tell his story he received special commendations for the things he had done to help others survive.

This book is highly recommended. It is another example showing the Nazi inhumanity during WWII, through the eyes of a British Christian soldier. Five stars is the rating for this book!

Publishers Weekly



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Clark Isaacs is an accomplished book critic published in local newspapers and national book review lists. He also is a faculty member of Mohave Community College in Kingman. Visit Clark Isaacs at


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