The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz is the extraordinary true story of a British soldier who marched willingly into the concentration camp, Buna-Monowitz, known as Auschwitz III.
In the summer of 1944, Denis Avey was being held in a British POW labour camp, E715, near Auschwitz III. 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 his sector of the camp. He spent the night there on two occasions and experienced at first-hand the cruelty of a place where slave workers, had been sentenced to death through labor.
Astonishingly, he survived to witness the aftermath of the Death March where thousands of prisoners were murdered by the Nazis as the Soviet Army advanced. After his own long trek right across central Europe he was repatriated to Britain.
For decades he couldn't bring himself to revisit the past that haunted his dreams, but now Denis Avey feels able to tell the full story -- a tale as gripping as it is moving -- which offers us a unique insight into the mind of an ordinary man whose moral and physical courage are almost beyond belief.
Broomby is a BBC journalist who first chronicled the story of British Army veteran Avey, now 93, who was honored as a British Hero of the Holocaust in 2010. After a comfortable rural childhood, Avey enlisted in 1939, serving in Africa with the 7th Armoured Division, known as the Desert Rats, sleeping in the sand, battling malaria, and engaging in bloody combat. Captured, he escaped over the sea, floating in a packing crate, only to be recaptured in Greece. In 1944, he experienced horrors at a POW labor camp near Buna-Monowitz (aka Auschwitz III): "I felt degraded by each mindless murder I witnessed... I was living in obscenity." His curiosity prompted him to swap uniforms with a Jewish inmate in order to sneak into the Jewish sector: "I was tormented by a need to know; to see what I could." Avey recalls it as "a ghastly, terrifying experience." His memory rarely lapses, and his vivid narrative places the reader in the middle of the action. The grim descriptions of despair and anguish inside Auschwitz are followed by Avey's poignant 1945 homecoming, making this an excellent memoir of survival.