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Denis Avey: To believe, or not to believe?

KRAKOW TOURS: Few his­tor­i­cal ac­counts evoke emo­tion like the Holo­caust, and few ex­pe­di­tions epit­o­mise the true mean­ing of the word ‘brav­ery’ like swap­ping uni­forms with a Jew­ish in­mate to break into Auschwitz.

The Man Who Broke Into AuschwitzDenis Avey, a vet­er­an of World War II, claimed to do this in his mov­ing mem­oir, The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz (2011), which I have im­mersed my­self in over the East­er hol­i­day. When dis­cov­er­ing that the in­tegri­ty and ac­cu­ra­cy of the ac­count has been ques­tioned by a num­ber of pub­li­ca­tions, I felt robbed and cheat­ed. Sure­ly this mas­ter­piece is not a cyn­i­cal act of ex­ag­ger­a­tion?

Co-writ­ten by Rob Broom­by, a jour­nal­ist at the BBC, Avey writes of his ex­pe­ri­ences in the war; the hunger, pain, om­nipresent fear of death and the thrifti­ness re­quired to sur­vive. It is thrilling­ly writ­ten, and done so with the clar­i­ty and poignan­cy of a man who wait­ed 62 years to re­veal the full ac­count of his ex­pe­ri­ence, after first being ap­proached by Amer­i­can pros­e­cu­tors in 1947. But the book, as sug­gest­ed by its title, re­volves around Avey’s as­ton­ish­ing break-in to Auschwitz III.

An ob­vi­ous ques­tion is to ask why Avey only told his story in 2009. The man him­self claims that au­thor­i­ties sim­ply were not in­ter­est­ed in hear­ing about his or­deal; in­stead, he be­came ac­cli­ma­tised to bot­tling up his emo­tions, chan­nelling them through per­ni­cious means. Avey de­scribes scream­ing in the mid­dle of the night along­side his first wife Irene, even throt­tling her in un­mit­i­gat­ed ter­ror at one point, as mem­o­ries haunt­ed him. Ret­i­cence is en­tire­ly un­der­stand­able if he did in­deed ex­pe­ri­ence the hor­rors of a Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camp.

via Denis Avey: To believe, or not to believe? — Books — The Boar.

April 20, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz | , , , | Leave a comment


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