Dennis Avey: "I was the man who broke into Auschwitz"

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Neil Tweedie meets Denis Avey and hears his astonishing tale of breaking into the Nazi's most feared concentration camp - for a dare.

The music came from an orchestra hidden just out of sight: Wagner, wafting across the blasted ground. Denis Avey was 25 and a prisoner of war for more than two years. It was 1943 and this was the latest in a long line of PoW camps since his capture in North Africa, a collection of huts in the shadow of an enormous industrial complex in southern Poland. The nearest town was called Oswiecim in Polish. To the Germans it was Auschwitz.

“I thought, what is an orchestra doing here?” remembers Mr Avey. The British soldier soon had his answer. The camp just out of sight was full of Jews, slave labourers imported from all corners of Occupied Europe to build a giant plant for the German industrial giant I G Farben. The synthetic rubber and methanol it was designed to produce were vital to the Nazi war effort. The labour camp, known as Monowitz or Auschwitz III, was part of that vast, sprawling killing machine that included Auschwitz I, a Polish army barracks turned concentration camp, and Auschwitz II, otherwise known as Birkenau, the extermination factory, home to the gas chambers and crematoria....

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