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The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz: A True Story of World War II

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The almost unbelievable story of Denis Avey, now 92, began in 1944 when he was captured and sent to a POW work camp. He was put to work every day in a German factory, where he labored alongside Jewish prisoners from a nearby camp called Auschwitz. The stories they told him were horrifying. Eventually Avey's curiosity, kind-heartedness, derring-do, and perhaps foolhardiness The almost unbelievable story of Denis Avey, now 92, began in 1944 when he was captured and sent to a POW work camp. He was put to work every day in a German factory, where he labored alongside Jewish prisoners from a nearby camp called Auschwitz. The stories they told him were horrifying. Eventually Avey's curiosity, kind-heartedness, derring-do, and perhaps foolhardiness drove him to suggest--and remarkably manage--switching places with two of the Jewish prisoners in order to spend a couple of harrowing days and nights inside. Miraculously, he lived to tell about it.Surely deserving of its place alongside the great World War II stories, this is an incredible tale of generosity, courage, and, for one Jewish prisoner whom Denis was able to help, survival. Amazingly, breathtakingly, it is told here for the first time.


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The almost unbelievable story of Denis Avey, now 92, began in 1944 when he was captured and sent to a POW work camp. He was put to work every day in a German factory, where he labored alongside Jewish prisoners from a nearby camp called Auschwitz. The stories they told him were horrifying. Eventually Avey's curiosity, kind-heartedness, derring-do, and perhaps foolhardiness The almost unbelievable story of Denis Avey, now 92, began in 1944 when he was captured and sent to a POW work camp. He was put to work every day in a German factory, where he labored alongside Jewish prisoners from a nearby camp called Auschwitz. The stories they told him were horrifying. Eventually Avey's curiosity, kind-heartedness, derring-do, and perhaps foolhardiness drove him to suggest--and remarkably manage--switching places with two of the Jewish prisoners in order to spend a couple of harrowing days and nights inside. Miraculously, he lived to tell about it.Surely deserving of its place alongside the great World War II stories, this is an incredible tale of generosity, courage, and, for one Jewish prisoner whom Denis was able to help, survival. Amazingly, breathtakingly, it is told here for the first time.

30 review for The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz: A True Story of World War II

  1. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    This book wasn’t quite what I was expecting as a fair chunk of it related to battles fought in the desert. I do realise that all these hard fought battles are valid in contributing to the outcome of World War II, but the title indicates that it’s about someone swapping places with a Jewish prisoner of war and entering Auschwitz concentration camp. It turns out that this swap was for a total of two nights, and covered just a tiny portion of the book, and whilst this appears an admirable thing to This book wasn’t quite what I was expecting as a fair chunk of it related to battles fought in the desert. I do realise that all these hard fought battles are valid in contributing to the outcome of World War II, but the title indicates that it’s about someone swapping places with a Jewish prisoner of war and entering Auschwitz concentration camp. It turns out that this swap was for a total of two nights, and covered just a tiny portion of the book, and whilst this appears an admirable thing to do, I do think that the title is something of a misrepresentation. Unfortunately the author comes across as quite arrogant, and most of his ‘escapades’ appear to have been experienced only by himself, with no one to corroborate his many stories. That in itself makes me question just how much of this account is true - surely during any armed conflict, you are part of a unit, carrying out ops together in the company of your battalion, and on the orders of your commanding officer. This is definitely not the case for Mr Avey, and he comes across as very self serving. There are many moving accounts from those who survived places like Auschwitz, and the horror and brutality that they suffered,( both mental and physical ), can only be imagined. However, for me, this is not one of those accounts, in fact something about it just doesn’t ring true. P.S - After completing my review, I felt really bad, it sounded so negative, so I decided to google the book, just to see if anyone else felt the same way that I did, and I discovered that there has been a fair amount of controversy regarding the legitimacy of the author’s claims, and sadly I have to agree with those concerns.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joke

    This book was a disappiontment. Before I start reading, I expected That the story was going to be about Auschwitz. But more than 50 pages was about the desert. When Denis' finally arrived in Auschwitz, I discovered That he only pretended to be jewish for 2nights. About This experience, he wrote ten pages And That was it. The book was good but it goed you an idea about soldiers in world war two And not really about the jewish. I think the book has a wrong title And a wrong plot. To discribe This This book was a disappiontment. Before I start reading, I expected That the story was going to be about Auschwitz. But more than 50 pages was about the desert. When Denis' finally arrived in Auschwitz, I discovered That he only pretended to be jewish for 2nights. About This experience, he wrote ten pages And That was it. The book was good but it goed you an idea about soldiers in world war two And not really about the jewish. I think the book has a wrong title And a wrong plot. To discribe This book , you can use the words 'desert', 'British soldiers',.. But not 'a man who went to Auschwitz And pretended to be a Jewish' cause That's not where it is about , it is about a soldier fighting in world war two who was sent to Auschwitz as a soldier And has to work with the Jewish, not as One. If you want to know more about Auschwitz And how the Jewish survived there, This is not a good book. If you want to read a story about someone helping the jewish, it is an amazing book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    Description: The almost unbelievable story of Denis Avey, now 92, began in 1944 when he was captured and sent to a POW work camp. He was put to work every day in a German factory, where he labored alongside Jewish prisoners from a nearby camp called Auschwitz. The stories they told him were horrifying. Eventually Avey's curiosity, kind-heartedness, derring-do, and perhaps foolhardiness drove him to suggest--and remarkably manage--switching places with two of the Jewish prisoners in order to spen Description: The almost unbelievable story of Denis Avey, now 92, began in 1944 when he was captured and sent to a POW work camp. He was put to work every day in a German factory, where he labored alongside Jewish prisoners from a nearby camp called Auschwitz. The stories they told him were horrifying. Eventually Avey's curiosity, kind-heartedness, derring-do, and perhaps foolhardiness drove him to suggest--and remarkably manage--switching places with two of the Jewish prisoners in order to spend a couple of harrowing days and nights inside. Miraculously, he lived to tell about it. Narrated by James Langton

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    A fascinating, emotionally charged tale of the horrors, sorrows and anguish experienced by Denis Avey’s and his time in World War II, being captured by the Germans and the difference between the POW’s and the Jews in Auschwitz. The story starts before the war and goes through all the experiences from training for the war, fight, being a prisoner and life afterwards. He talks not only about the problems, but the friendships he made. One in particular was a friendship he made with one of the Jewis A fascinating, emotionally charged tale of the horrors, sorrows and anguish experienced by Denis Avey’s and his time in World War II, being captured by the Germans and the difference between the POW’s and the Jews in Auschwitz. The story starts before the war and goes through all the experiences from training for the war, fight, being a prisoner and life afterwards. He talks not only about the problems, but the friendships he made. One in particular was a friendship he made with one of the Jewish prisoner; he also told how not once but twice they swapped places and he was able to experience how the Germans treated the Jews while his friend got a chance to sleep and eat a little better for a change. This book really gives you an insight into War, Prisoner of War Camps as well as the Concentration/Extermination Camps and what is known as a ‘Death March’. Not only is at an interesting story about the horrors of the war, but the emotional and psychological traumas experienced afterwards. An interesting and compelling memoir to read, I would highly recommend it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    I'm in two minds about this book. On one hand it's a very sad, bleak but honest description of the horrors of war and the horrible suffering of the victims of the Nazi regime. On the other it's the biography of a man who really doesn't seem very likeable. The Holocaust and other atrocities committed by the Axis powers (as well as some Allied actions) are some of the darkest blights in mankind's history. For those who went through it their experiences are unimaginable. The horror, the misery, the I'm in two minds about this book. On one hand it's a very sad, bleak but honest description of the horrors of war and the horrible suffering of the victims of the Nazi regime. On the other it's the biography of a man who really doesn't seem very likeable. The Holocaust and other atrocities committed by the Axis powers (as well as some Allied actions) are some of the darkest blights in mankind's history. For those who went through it their experiences are unimaginable. The horror, the misery, the brutality of it all. And for the author to have gone through it all and survived I respect him greatly. But respecting someone is not the same as liking them. Throughout the book the author takes pains to show how insulated he made himself from his fellow men, from the very first day. He also took the route he thought would benefit himself and only himself. Every time he escaped he did so by himself. He said it was because he didn't want to feel responsible for what happened to anyone else but to me there's almost a touch of cowardice in that sort of sentiment. I can't claim to even begin to understand what he was going through but it still doesn't seem right to not help others when you can. The same thing happened when he was in the Auschwitz camp. Again he highly insulated himself. not even letting people know his real first name which surely couldn't have caused any harm. The best thing he did there was helping Ernst and that's the most humane thing he did during the entire book. I find it very hard to comprehend why he did the swap. I get that it was an honourable gesture but I also think it was misguided and could have caused far more harm then good. Was it cruel to Hans to give him this small taste of better treatment before sending him back? Could it have caused some resentment to him from other prisoners? Could all the bribes and hard work to organise the swaps been more beneficial if used to provide something better for the Jews rather than the swap? We'll never know. Maybe like Ernst's cigarettes those couple nights in the other camp helped Hans survive as well. I don't think everything in the book happened exactly as told but memory is a tricky thing, especially after so long so any discrepancies I don't hold against the author. The editors seem to have gone to a lot of trouble to verify as much as they can and supply details around all the events. A horrible time and something that should never be forgotten. Lest we forget.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Starlet Laura

    I read a lot of books (listen) on WWII and the Holocaust, so this one was of interest to me – especially reading about someone who chose to break into Auschwitz – I had not read of anyone doing that (except for the Boy in the Striped Pajamas – but that was unwittingly). I enjoyed The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz from beginning to end but just to let you know that the first half of the download focused mainly about his start in the war – leading up to his time in the Italian POW camp for the Brit I read a lot of books (listen) on WWII and the Holocaust, so this one was of interest to me – especially reading about someone who chose to break into Auschwitz – I had not read of anyone doing that (except for the Boy in the Striped Pajamas – but that was unwittingly). I enjoyed The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz from beginning to end but just to let you know that the first half of the download focused mainly about his start in the war – leading up to his time in the Italian POW camp for the British and then on to the work camp in Auschwitz, where he was right there doing the forced labor with the ‘stripees’ as they were called. These POW prisoners didn’t share the same camp/sleeping quarters with the Jewish prisoners, and had a smidgen more benefits in that they weren’t beaten for the pleasure of doing so by the Germans – but that was about it. Reading about the war of the British troops in the desert sands of Africa, Libya along with Egypt, Italy, was new information for me (as much as I read, I still don’t know all there is to know about WWII because I only recently began to have an interest – an offshoot of reading about the Holocaust). This will not only be of interest to those who know facts and figures about this part of WWII, but it I could see it being of significance to those of us who do not, as it was for me. Reason being is that it is a full blown and absorbing account of Denis Avey’s experience. By the time he gets to Auschwitz, , it’s the next half of the book – so there’s plenty to read for everyone. One thing I was taken aback by was his response to his deceased father's leather bound book collection. It wasn't even necessary to the story to mention and he never apologized for it....strange little twist.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tweedledum

    What an amazing story! Denis Avey! A British POW shipped to a camp in Poland as a "difficult" prisoner found himself mysteriously working alongside prisoners who were even lower down the pecking order at IG Farben and wearing striped pyjamas. These pitiful individuals were marched off to a separate camp at the end of each day. Avey determined to find out more and persuaded Ernst Lobethal to change places with him for 24 hours. Avey managed to get a letter through to Ernst sister in Birmingham an What an amazing story! Denis Avey! A British POW shipped to a camp in Poland as a "difficult" prisoner found himself mysteriously working alongside prisoners who were even lower down the pecking order at IG Farben and wearing striped pyjamas. These pitiful individuals were marched off to a separate camp at the end of each day. Avey determined to find out more and persuaded Ernst Lobethal to change places with him for 24 hours. Avey managed to get a letter through to Ernst sister in Birmingham and asked her via a cryptic message to send the only thing that might possibly be useful.... Cigarettes.... To himself.... Which he was then able to give gradually to Ernst who was able to use them to trade. Denis never knew until he was an old man that this single compassionate but wise act had in fact directly led to Ernst surviving the long march out of Auschwitz because he had wisely traded 2 whole packets of the precious cigarettes to have his shoes repaired with thick walking soles. Ernst Lobet's five hour testimony has been preserved for posterity by the Shoah foundation and it was this testimony that Denis was finally shown only after his book had been written! The book is the powerful testimony of one man who could not forget and, despite his nightmares and wish to just get on with life , eventually found a way to tell the story. "He was tested in the fire and not found wanting" Despite the horror of Avey's war time experiences he tells the story with a light touch and does not miss opportunities for a touch of humour or a story against himself. Avey's honesty about the attitude of postwar Britain to returning POWs does not make for easy reading it shines a light in some dark corners of national life yet he recounts this too without bitterness. Some ignorant people have had the temerity to suggest that because some authorities claim that Auschwitz III did not have the famous sign over the entrance Avey's story is flawed. Yet Avey himself points out that Primo Leviwho was also in that camp, mentions the sign no less than 3 times! Sadly Levi died long before Avey began to tell his story or I am sure he would have been foremost in speaking out against such ignorant calumny. Some people complain about the title of Avey's story.... I find these comments and complaints extraordinary! Avey's determination to interact with those more desperate than himself despite the extreme risk can be seen now as the defining moment of his life even though at the time it appeared to be just one event in a complex story. It was this really that drove Avey to eventually tell the story. It was this that defines the man and reveals his deep compassion, empathy and courage and reveals above all his determination to remain true to himself in a place dedicated to destroying people. Avey's compassionate act, though it felt very small and inadequate to him had consequences far beyond those he could imagine and ultimately brought freedom and joy to one who was condemned to having his future and his past exterminated for the crime of being a Jew. Two thousand years ago Jesus told a small band of followers the story of "the Good Samaritan " a story that has resonated down the centuries and influenced millions of people. Yet the Good Samaritan carried out his act of compassion with no risk to himself .... Avey chose not to look away or cross over the road......

  8. 4 out of 5

    Andreas

    A very interesting and personal story of a British soldier during World War II who was kept as prisoner of war (POW) near Auschwitz. The first part of the book covers his experiences in the desert of Africa where he fought against Italians and Germans. It's almost impossible to imagine what it must have been like to be there but the author gives a detailed and authentic picture. While I respect his braveness I must confess that I don't find him very likeable. Only a good portion of luck let him A very interesting and personal story of a British soldier during World War II who was kept as prisoner of war (POW) near Auschwitz. The first part of the book covers his experiences in the desert of Africa where he fought against Italians and Germans. It's almost impossible to imagine what it must have been like to be there but the author gives a detailed and authentic picture. While I respect his braveness I must confess that I don't find him very likeable. Only a good portion of luck let him survive and many similar men who thought that they could get away with everything died. The second part is about Auschwitz. As prisoner of war the author was kept under normal conditions near Auschwitz but not in a KZ. This cannot be said about the Jews who had to work with them. I have seen some documentaries and you can also find original footage from Auschwitz on YouTube. It leaves you speechless and this is what has happened to the author as well. He probably only tells parts of what he has seen and even these few things are very shocking. What I found almost unbelievalble is the fact that he exchanged clothes with a Jew to enter the KZ to witness the rest of the horror with his own eyes. Actually he doesn't gain much knowledge and to me it looks like he is hiding his real motivation. It does fit into his character though. In case you wonder why the author hasn't told his story earlier, my grandfather was a POW himself and he never talked about it, not even to my grandmother...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Maree

    This book is a personal account of a soldier during world war II, and while it focuses on how he was a POW working in the same fields as Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz, it also tells about his time before that, when he was captured by the Afrika corps, when he was wandering around Greece and Italy, and serving in Egypt. But the tale of how he switched out with a Jewish prisoner not once but twice, just for a night, is the central draw of the story. I'm not really big on history and nonfiction, esp This book is a personal account of a soldier during world war II, and while it focuses on how he was a POW working in the same fields as Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz, it also tells about his time before that, when he was captured by the Afrika corps, when he was wandering around Greece and Italy, and serving in Egypt. But the tale of how he switched out with a Jewish prisoner not once but twice, just for a night, is the central draw of the story. I'm not really big on history and nonfiction, especially personal tales because there's always the question of how much was made up when there's no one to prove or tell otherwise. And if I question it, it makes me question the emotions I felt while reading the story, which I don't have to do in fiction because I know it's not real. But there's a different emotion that comes when a story when it's supposed to be true. I'm not sure how I felt about the believability aspect of this whole story. With the title, I thought that he was helping Jews escape from Auschwitz rather than just taking their place for a day and letting them go back to their miserable existence after that. So while this seemed more realistic than helping them escape, I'm still not sure why he would do such a thing. It seems a very vague basis to do such a dangerous switch, and his tone through the rest of the story has an arrogance to it that makes me question. It was still an interesting story, but I wouldn't recommend it to others as a must read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Brownsey

    I'm sure most of this account is true but as far as the Auschwitz swap is concerned I'm afraid I don't believe it. Most of the book is full of detail but the Auschwitz swap is covered in a few pages of description most people could write having watched a few films of this awful atrocity.This reads to me like a story of the war career the author wished he'd had not the one he actually had. Reading this book you would think Mr Avey single handedly won the war and revealed the truth about Auschwitz I'm sure most of this account is true but as far as the Auschwitz swap is concerned I'm afraid I don't believe it. Most of the book is full of detail but the Auschwitz swap is covered in a few pages of description most people could write having watched a few films of this awful atrocity.This reads to me like a story of the war career the author wished he'd had not the one he actually had. Reading this book you would think Mr Avey single handedly won the war and revealed the truth about Auschwitz. He is constantly frustrated by the 'officers' and the fact that he isn't one. He is desperate to be a hero. The book is flawed and anyone who has actually visited Auschwitz knows that the sign 'Arbeit Macht Frei' (work sets you free) is actually at the entrance of Auschwitz 1 not Auschwitz 3 where Mr Avey supposedly saw it. Maybe the mere idea of breaking into Auschwitz so appalls me that I cannot see the truth in Avey's account. I hope I'm wrong but I doubt it. The only point I would make in Avey's defence is that the book has been written by a journalist who obviously sets the tone and this results in Avey being quite unlikeable from the outset.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Desiree

    The beginning is very technical. One must be able to translate military jargon in order to fully grasp the situations described. I was able to get the gist but I'm pretty sure I missed a lot. The Auschwitz portion wasn't as hard hitting as I expected. There's no real sense of time passing, thus I didn't grasp how long he spent there. He also seemed egocentric, as though it was necessary for him to switch places with one of the Jewish prisoners in order for him to believe that they were being trea The beginning is very technical. One must be able to translate military jargon in order to fully grasp the situations described. I was able to get the gist but I'm pretty sure I missed a lot. The Auschwitz portion wasn't as hard hitting as I expected. There's no real sense of time passing, thus I didn't grasp how long he spent there. He also seemed egocentric, as though it was necessary for him to switch places with one of the Jewish prisoners in order for him to believe that they were being treated horribly. He tried to explain the rationale but I wasn't buying it. It was stupid. The best part, and the redeeming part, was the post-war section. I think the bulk of the book should have been more about this time. Again, he doesn't really describe time passing (he's just back from war and then suddenly it's 2003) very well but, this was the best, most moving part, and this is the part that hit me hardest.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brenton

    Contrary to what the title suggests, this book has little to do with Auschwitz. It's a desultory memoir of a British POW recounting his war years. He claims to have switched places with a Jewish inmate at Auschwitz and gained entrance to the notorious prison camp with the express purpose of reporting what conditions were like inside the camp. Strangely, he doesn't report anything until this book, published more than 60 years later. Coupled with the fact that it's difficult to imagine one sneakin Contrary to what the title suggests, this book has little to do with Auschwitz. It's a desultory memoir of a British POW recounting his war years. He claims to have switched places with a Jewish inmate at Auschwitz and gained entrance to the notorious prison camp with the express purpose of reporting what conditions were like inside the camp. Strangely, he doesn't report anything until this book, published more than 60 years later. Coupled with the fact that it's difficult to imagine one sneaking in and out of Auschwitz, it's difficult to say whether the book is true. The book reminds me of the controversial book by Slavomir Rawicz, "The Long Walk" in which the author claims to have escaped a Russian gulag and marched to freedom across the Himalayas (encountering a Yeti along the way).

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marjolein

    I have grown up with stories like these. Stories that made clear that we should never forget. Still, it took me till this summer to finally visit Auschwitz, which was one of the reasons why I picked up this book later this year. It's not easy to read, it's hard to imagine that what Avey describes actually happened. It's almost impossible to imagine that people are capable of doing it, but that is exactly why this story needs to be told. We have to remember what happened, but we also need to reme I have grown up with stories like these. Stories that made clear that we should never forget. Still, it took me till this summer to finally visit Auschwitz, which was one of the reasons why I picked up this book later this year. It's not easy to read, it's hard to imagine that what Avey describes actually happened. It's almost impossible to imagine that people are capable of doing it, but that is exactly why this story needs to be told. We have to remember what happened, but we also need to remember the small acts of kindness that happened in these situations as well.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kriegslok

    I had this book marked down as one to pick up from time to time and read a few pages and finish in a month or two. Didn't quite work like that. Couldn't put it down. Human conflict has always tended to bring out the best and worst in people and WWII excelled in bringing out the very worst in some people. Surviving was tough and you needed to be damn tough to survive what Denis Avey did yet as he is at pains to tell in this book his suffering while unimaginable to most of us today was far exceede I had this book marked down as one to pick up from time to time and read a few pages and finish in a month or two. Didn't quite work like that. Couldn't put it down. Human conflict has always tended to bring out the best and worst in people and WWII excelled in bringing out the very worst in some people. Surviving was tough and you needed to be damn tough to survive what Denis Avey did yet as he is at pains to tell in this book his suffering while unimaginable to most of us today was far exceeded by those who incurred the full wrath of the Nazi killing machine. The book is gripping and Denis does not spare us detail. Perhaps bizzarely the book also contains a lot of humour, at least in the pre-Auschwitz chapters. He first describes his background and how he fought across North Africa an experience that finished many of his friends and one that gave him a full taste of the horrors of war. Taken prisoner Denis is then lucky to survive rounds of neglect, ill treatment, disease and starvation eventually finding himself imprisoned in a Polish labour camp in Oswiecim. Aveys description of the Hell on Earth created by the Nazis is harrowing as it can only be. His bravey, or foolhardyness, in the face of this Hell and his efforts to continue to do something and to assist his fellow man are humbling. Not surprisingly Denis Avey suffered serious pschological damage as a result of his experience for many years and at a time when such things were not acknowledged and support systems did not exist. I don't think many of us appreciate what those who lived through it continued to silently suffer with and struggle to overcome for the rest of their lives. Interestingly Avey notes that PoWs were seen as having let the side down and as having helped the German war effort through their labour. It seems the films some of us grew up on of the chaps carving their chess sets and their tunneling exploits were a myth that hid a grim reality that still has to be properly told. While officers may have lived it up to an extent the men were worked inhumanly and their deaths were of no consequence to the Nazis. Denis could only consider himself lucky not to be from the Red Army whose members were considered "sub-human" fit only for extermination as those in the camp beside him were. As the living link to the worst episode of human history during the Twentieth Century gets ever thinner it is the recording of such witnesses and keeping of the memory alive that becomes all the more important. Being of little faith in humanity and looking at post WWII human behaviour sadly I think such things probably can and will happen again and are more likley to if people are not reminded of the past. Denis Avey in this book records the lives of many who were destroyed, helping to keep their memory alive. His witness is also a powerful cry for people today to understand the ultimate futility of hate and war and to resist all that would drag us back down that road. He set out to bear witness and that is just what this excellent book does.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Terri

    I have mixed feelings when it comes to this book. Mainly after reading a lot of negative comments on reviews online about this novel and about Denis Avey, a lot of people call him a liar, that the things he said he did, never really happened at all. But what gets me is...how do they know what happened then and to him? They weren't there, it happened over 70 years ago and many people had passed on or died during the war, so any witness may not be able to say it it happened or not. Other people sa I have mixed feelings when it comes to this book. Mainly after reading a lot of negative comments on reviews online about this novel and about Denis Avey, a lot of people call him a liar, that the things he said he did, never really happened at all. But what gets me is...how do they know what happened then and to him? They weren't there, it happened over 70 years ago and many people had passed on or died during the war, so any witness may not be able to say it it happened or not. Other people say that he's just a old man, making a mistake in the retelling of his history during the second world war, even Jew's have said that it couldn't of happened. But we don't know for sure,there is a reason why the past is the past. And the longer we more forward, the further the past goes and the less people there is to help state whether a story is true or not. I would like to believe what I've read within this book, but like most post war stories which come out many years later, you have to take them with a pinch of salt, decide on whether you want to believe a piece of information or whether to decide straight away that this person has lied. If everything that Dennis Avey has said happened, then I call him a brave man, to do something so daring and dangerous takes a lot of courage when facing down the members of the SS. But as most soldiers from the second world war, many don't speak about their experience until years later, sometimes even never at all. I personally have never spoken, or even known if any of my family served during the second world war, I do know that I have a 3x or 4x uncle who served in the battle of the Somme and is buried over in France from world war one. But I would recommend anyone who wants to learn more about the horror which went on during the war, from different views and to try and find out whether it happened or not, I would tell them to read this novel and then decide for themselves. I know, that had I read all these reviews before I started reading The man who broke in to Auschwitz, then my view on the book would be highly different. At the end of the day, everyone has their own thoughts to what may of happened and not happened during those years. Just because someone may not believe a person when they are retelling their story, doesn't mean that they should abuse that person. After all, they thought for us in a time that protected our country, all they have to imagine is what life would be like if those men never gave their lives during the second world war, whether they died or are still alive now, because at the end of the day, nearly all those men lost their innocence in that war.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Avey is an exceptionally admirable man (even more so because he doesn't flinch from the difficult decisions he made) and will remain so even if his controversial claim of role-swapping with a Jewish prisoner of Auschwitz is untrue or distorted by time and memory (see here and here ; for what it's worth, I give him the benefit of the doubt). Stripped of the prison-swap his story could be told by any number of WWII survivors, but that doesn't lessen his own story's power. The book itself needs m Avey is an exceptionally admirable man (even more so because he doesn't flinch from the difficult decisions he made) and will remain so even if his controversial claim of role-swapping with a Jewish prisoner of Auschwitz is untrue or distorted by time and memory (see here and here ; for what it's worth, I give him the benefit of the doubt). Stripped of the prison-swap his story could be told by any number of WWII survivors, but that doesn't lessen his own story's power. The book itself needs more ruthless editing; there's a great deal of repetition and the final chapters detailing Avey's life after the war, while interesting, ramble a bit; the end is more than worth reading, though, if only for the story of Ernie Lobet, one of Avey's Auschwitz contacts and with whom he had a powerful connection. If you're at all interested in WWII or the Holocaust it's worth a read. It may be, also, that men like Avey (and Lobet) who made such enormous sacrifices simply deserve to have their experiences remembered and reading this book is an easy way to do that. Finally, the most moving part of the book, for me, was that Primo Levi was somewhere nearby Avey.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    You read this and wish it was fiction, but human depravity cannot be wished away. Auschwitz was real. People think it could never happen here. Don't you believe it; it doesn't take much. You read this and wish it was fiction, but human depravity cannot be wished away. Auschwitz was real. People think it could never happen here. Don't you believe it; it doesn't take much.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Karl Jorgenson

    A fascinating story of war in the western desert, leading to captivity for the author during the bulk of the war. Avey, a self-proclaimed leader, fought the war heroically (according to him) until he was wounded and captured. He survived brutal and dangerous transport and multiple prison camps, finishing up at a camp next door to an Auschwitz sub-camp where POWs and KZ (concentration-camp) inmates labored to construct a war factory. The story is told in beautiful working-class English, though w A fascinating story of war in the western desert, leading to captivity for the author during the bulk of the war. Avey, a self-proclaimed leader, fought the war heroically (according to him) until he was wounded and captured. He survived brutal and dangerous transport and multiple prison camps, finishing up at a camp next door to an Auschwitz sub-camp where POWs and KZ (concentration-camp) inmates labored to construct a war factory. The story is told in beautiful working-class English, though whether this comes from Avey or his journalist-co-writer Broomby we don't know. Avey, horrified by the mistreatment of the Jewish KZ slaves, does what he can to help individuals with scraps of food and cigarettes (used for barter.) He concocts the idea of swapping places with a KZ inmate named Ernst and eventually completes his plan, spending one night in the KZ barracks while Ernst, a German Jew, spends one night as a British Army POW in their barracks. The next day they swap back. The plan is repeated a few weeks later. Ernst gets a one night vacation from filth, starvation, and imminent murder and Avey gets to experience the horror first-hand. It could have happened this way. A skinny POW could shave his head, dirty his face, and pass for a KZ inmate among thousands of similar slaves. Avey tells us he wanted to know, he wanted to remember names. But he was already doing that, working side-by-side with KZ inmates, sneaking conversations when the guards weren't looking. He could see the KZ; he could smell the crematorium and see the smoke. He had not seen the inside of the KZ barracks, but it surely would have been described to him. If somebody or something gave him away during his night in the KZ, he would be killed. Friends of Ernst could have killed him, leaving Ernst alive and well as a POW. Was it worth the risk? After describing his disappointment at how little he learned on his first swap (the mass-murder apparatus was located in the main camp, miles away and unseen except by its victims) Avey decides to do it again. It could have happened this way, but on balance, I believe he made it up. I don't see any motivation that would overcome the risk, especially on the second swap where he KNOWS there is nothing to be gained. All the witnesses (60+ years later) are dead. But wait! Ernst is discovered to have survived the war, emigrated to America, prospered, and made a long video about every detail of his life during the war and in the KZ. He mentions a tall British POW called 'Ginger' (conveniently, for purposes of exaggerating his exploits, Avey claims to have never used his real name, making it difficult to verify his statements.) Ernst does NOT mention swapping places with the Brit called 'Ginger', only that they spoke and Ginger got him some cigarettes. Is it possible that Ernst did not remember escaping the KZ on two occasions by swapping with Ginger? Is it possible Ernst forgot or didn't mention the swaps because he considered them insignificant? No. The logical conclusion is that Avey, a man with a strong need for attention, invented the swaps and never 'broke into Auschwitz.' The book is more fascinating for the possibility that its premise is fiction.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    The number of survivors of WWII are dwindling away. How grateful I am for those who tell the tale. That particular time in history should never be repeated. Mr. Avey completed an incredible journey - keeping his hope and love for fellow man alive. Would that we could all follow his example. We should never forget - in order to never again commit those atrocities. This should be required reading for all. Memorable passages: "It was days before I was able to reflect on those hours in Auschwitz III a The number of survivors of WWII are dwindling away. How grateful I am for those who tell the tale. That particular time in history should never be repeated. Mr. Avey completed an incredible journey - keeping his hope and love for fellow man alive. Would that we could all follow his example. We should never forget - in order to never again commit those atrocities. This should be required reading for all. Memorable passages: "It was days before I was able to reflect on those hours in Auschwitz III and appreciate the utter desperation of the place. It was the worst thing you could do to a man, I realised. Take everything away from him - his possessions, his pride, his self-esteem - and then kill him. Kill him slowly. Man's inhumanity to man doesn't begin to describe it. It was far worse than the horror I faced in the desert war." "The question that insulted me most was, 'How many Germans did you kill?' We were forced to do the things we had done and it cheapened the whole thing to talk about it like that. They were inviting us to gloat about the things we wanted to forget. The enemy soldiers we had killed had paid the price and going on about it showed a lack of respect." "There it was and it was so simple. It was the shoes. I had walked over all those bodies. People who slipped and were shot, got frost-bite and were shot, people whose wooden clogs bit into their swollen feet until they fell behind and were shot. Ernie had used the cigarettes to get the one thing that made the difference between life and death: strong boots." "I began to understand why Ernie was telling his story. He was committing it to record so that others in the future would know that he, Ernie Lobet, once had a grandmother named Rosa who lived and was loved by her family. He too was bearing witness." " 'For evil to succeed all that was needed was for the righteous to do nothing.' I was thrilled to hear his words. 'You cannot let things go...you have to fight for what you believe and you can't be passive, you cannot let somebody else do it for you'...People think it could never happen again and particularly that it could never happen here. Don't you believe it; it doesn't take much."

  20. 5 out of 5

    Brenda

    This book has been brilliantly written! Denis Avey, along with Rob Broomby, let me feel the emotion, the horror, sorrow, heartache, anguish, everything that Denis went through in those horrible years! Denis tells of his early life as a youngster, training for the war, then heading over to fight. He tells of the mate he went with, Les, how he'd grown up with him, dated his sister, the hardship they went through together. When he eventually was caught, and became a POW, there is the story of the shi This book has been brilliantly written! Denis Avey, along with Rob Broomby, let me feel the emotion, the horror, sorrow, heartache, anguish, everything that Denis went through in those horrible years! Denis tells of his early life as a youngster, training for the war, then heading over to fight. He tells of the mate he went with, Les, how he'd grown up with him, dated his sister, the hardship they went through together. When he eventually was caught, and became a POW, there is the story of the ship he was on, with hundreds of other prisoners, being torpedoed, and how he escaped from that. Recaptured, he eventually ended up at the labour camp E715, very near Auschwitz. He witnessed the brutality meted out to the prisoners there, and the idea came to him that he needed to see what went on, he HAD to see what went on. The fact that he went into Auschwitz not once, but twice, of his own free will, is astounding! There is a whole lot more for you to read in Denis' book, but I will leave it now, so I don't spoil it for you. Just let me say, it is most definitely worth a read, I am amazed at Denis' courage, both back in the war years and now, for telling the story of what went on, the story that no-one wanted to hear, or admit happened......

  21. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    From Amazon: "THE MAN WHO BROKE INTO AUSCHWITZ is the extraordinary true story of a British soldier who marched willingly into Buna-Monowitz, the concentration camp known as Auschwitz III. In the summer of 1944, Denis Avey was being held in a 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 From Amazon: "THE MAN WHO BROKE INTO AUSCHWITZ is the extraordinary true story of a British soldier who marched willingly into Buna-Monowitz, the concentration camp known as Auschwitz III. In the summer of 1944, Denis Avey was being held in a 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 labour. 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, 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. "

  22. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I went to pick this one up at the local library, and ran into one of my friends who did suggest that this may not be the book to break into on the day, which is true. I always do like a memoir and I had read about this in blogland. We get to hear about Denis growing up before war intervened, and his service in North Africa. As a prisoner of war he found himself working in a factory in Poland alongside concentration camp inmates from Auschwitz. Wanting to see conditions for himself, on two separat I went to pick this one up at the local library, and ran into one of my friends who did suggest that this may not be the book to break into on the day, which is true. I always do like a memoir and I had read about this in blogland. We get to hear about Denis growing up before war intervened, and his service in North Africa. As a prisoner of war he found himself working in a factory in Poland alongside concentration camp inmates from Auschwitz. Wanting to see conditions for himself, on two separate occasions he swaps uniforms with a prisoner and is smuggled inside. Witnessing the terrible conditions of the prisoners, when he returns to the UK, he never speaks of his ordeal with friends and family, and tries to forget the horrors that he has seen. Now in his ninties, he realizes that he has the opportunity to speak up for all those that had died, and writes his memoirs which gained considerable publicity in the UK. For me the book was very readable and another reminder of the craziness of war. 4/5

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    This book was an interesting. At first, I didn't understand the back story that was in the first part of the book, but then as it progressed it made sense. Here's a story of an average guy, a POW for the Allied forces, who sensed that even though his treatment was cruel & sub par, he found out that the treatment of the men and women next door at Auschwitz was inhumane. The thing about the Holocaust that I don't understand is how the Germans were able to succeed in persecuting so many people. How This book was an interesting. At first, I didn't understand the back story that was in the first part of the book, but then as it progressed it made sense. Here's a story of an average guy, a POW for the Allied forces, who sensed that even though his treatment was cruel & sub par, he found out that the treatment of the men and women next door at Auschwitz was inhumane. The thing about the Holocaust that I don't understand is how the Germans were able to succeed in persecuting so many people. How did so many German soldiers get convinced that this was the right thing to do?

  24. 4 out of 5

    Franky

    It’s difficult for me to review this novel because I do think it is an important book and I would recommend it, although with some reservations. There are moving points in Avey’s narrative, especially towards the end (which is undoubtedly the most moving and important part of Avey’s memoir). However, clearly the book’s title is misleading, its focal point being Avey addressing and coming to terms with what he witnessed at Auschwitz and the camps in the aftermath of his experience, as well as his It’s difficult for me to review this novel because I do think it is an important book and I would recommend it, although with some reservations. There are moving points in Avey’s narrative, especially towards the end (which is undoubtedly the most moving and important part of Avey’s memoir). However, clearly the book’s title is misleading, its focal point being Avey addressing and coming to terms with what he witnessed at Auschwitz and the camps in the aftermath of his experience, as well as his need to find closure and seek out those who he was close to during that horrific experience in the many years since. Some have questioned the authenticity of the narrative, but I’ll give Avey the benefit of the doubt as he remembers his experiences. My thinking is: who am I to question someone who has experienced such devastating moments, something that I’ve only read about in books? The first part of the narrative highlights Avey’s experiences in war and the military, and it isn’t until the second part of the book where he gets to Auschwitz and begins to witness the atrocities. It’s a mental struggle for Avey, and he has to fight against himself as much as anything else. His brash disposition leads to quarrels among his group and the officers (much to his detriment). He understands the difference between war and sheer brutality and dehumanization, and what he sees is shocking and revolting. When the opportunity arises, he, as a British POW working in the camp, decides to switch places with Ernst, a Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz. Remarkably, he switches places twice with Ernst. I was a bit skeptical at first about Avey’s testimony. It appeared to contradict his “look out for number one” mentality, but he explains later that with Ernst, he feels a bond and comradeship, and he feels he is a kindred soul, so he does it in spite of his philosophy and what he is risking. Later, there are some testimonies that seem to back up what Avey says. Still, what one must be aware of before going into this novel is that narrative for the actual switching places between Avey and Ernst is a small portion of the book. The book’s last half details Avey trying to survive during and after the infamous Death March as well as the demons he battles after his experience, coming to terms with what is so difficult to talk about as well as his need to find out what happened to Ernst. While the book’s title is a bit of a misrepresentation, Avey does a solid job giving some insight into the horrific moments in Auschwitz and the Holocaust, and his book is a testimony to what we should never forget. 3.5 stars

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bex

    "People think it could never happen again and particularly that it could never happen here. Don't you believe it; it doesn't take much". What an impressive man with an equally impressive story. Denis Avey shares his story of the war through his eyes and his firsthand encounters with two prisoners inside the walls of Auschwitz III Monowitz. A British soldier, but a prisoner of war no less, Denis finds himself working inside the camp, and watching the awful extermination, beatings and unimaginable "People think it could never happen again and particularly that it could never happen here. Don't you believe it; it doesn't take much". What an impressive man with an equally impressive story. Denis Avey shares his story of the war through his eyes and his firsthand encounters with two prisoners inside the walls of Auschwitz III Monowitz. A British soldier, but a prisoner of war no less, Denis finds himself working inside the camp, and watching the awful extermination, beatings and unimaginable cruelty of which he retells in this book. Some of the scenes within, one in particular, are utterly barbaric. This book however is not what I initially imagined it would be - I expected a retelling of how Denis manages to swap places with a Jewish prisoner inside. In fact, the first half of this book focuses more on Denis as a soldier in the desert prior to finding himself in Auschwitz III and how he eventually came to get to the camp with other soldiers. The subterfuge of the swap only features in a very small portion of the book overall. What I liked about this was the completeness of it. I feel I know Denis Avey's war as well as he would want me, as a reader, to from start to finish (and then some, as he continues to share his experiences after the war). It's fascinating to read a story from the perspective of a soldier who was able to bear witness to the suffering within and give a reliable account of this. But it's also interesting to see how Avey later went on to struggle from the effects of the war, and how he came to find out what happened to some of the people he encountered after being separated from them decades ago with no idea of their stories. I also appreciated that the story didn't feel as though it was being told for any particular reason other than to make it known that these people existed, lived and loved and were more than just a collective - we know that millions were murdered at the hands of the extermination machine that was Auschwitz I, II and III. But we should recognise these individuals and their stories singularly, and this book does that excellently. Avey tells the story of how he and a Jewish inmate he only knew as Hans were able to trade places a few times. The kindness and courage that this demonstrated is beyond comprehension and I would urge anyone to give this a read if only in respect of that. A war with many stories to share; this story will stay with me long after the pages have yellowed and frayed.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Toni Osborne

    A true Story of World War 11 What an intriguing title, can this be possible without being caught and why would someone want do this in the first place, this action has been questioned by many since the book’s publication. Whether you are on the side of sceptics or not this is one incredible story of courage and determination and an exceptional life well lived. In the opening pages and a good portion of Denis Avey autobiography, is the vivid details of horrors he had witnessed as a young soldier f A true Story of World War 11 What an intriguing title, can this be possible without being caught and why would someone want do this in the first place, this action has been questioned by many since the book’s publication. Whether you are on the side of sceptics or not this is one incredible story of courage and determination and an exceptional life well lived. In the opening pages and a good portion of Denis Avey autobiography, is the vivid details of horrors he had witnessed as a young soldier fighting the Italians in the North Africa War Theater, little he knew at the time this experience would be a small sample of what was to come. In the sands of the Sahara, the battles were fearless and bloody and many never made it out alive. He goes on in a very emotional note to tell us how he was captured by the Germans in Libya and the long road to E715A, a camp for Allied Prisoners of War adjacent to Monowitz. There, he claims he swapped places with a Jewish inmate of Auschwitz 111 on two occasions and save the life of Ernst Lobethal by smuggling and supplying him with cigarettes. This part is questioned by some Holocaust survivors and experts on the subject. When the Russians army was closing in he took advantage of an escape opportunity during the evacuation organized by the prison authorities. Ernst was able to trade the cigarettes for new soles on his shoes, so vital for his survival during the “Death March”. On his way to safety, Mr. Avery goes on detailing the hardship he suffered before reaching an RAF evacuation point and finally making it back home to England. He ends his incredible story telling us his life as a civilian was not particularly joyous, he could not rid himself of his wartime nightmares although he did extremely well in industry as an engineer and achieved a luxurious lifestyle. He always had on his mind Ernst and wanted to know what had become of him. He was in his 90’s when with the help of BBC Berlin correspondent Rob Broomby he was able to trace Ernst’s sister who revealed more about her brother than Mr. Avey could have imagined. Some seventy years later, Mr. Avey was awarded the British Hero of the Holocaust Award at a reception given by Prime Minister Gordon Brown. This is extremely moving and such an amazing account.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    I know there is some controversy about this book and the facts claimed by the author as his experience. But, for the life of me, I don't understand why. So the swap seems unbelievable to you? Really? That's the part of this story that goes beyond belief? This was an amazing story of courage and despair and triumph and joy. Denis Avey is now a 90+ year old man who has been through more in his life than most people. Not only his war time experiences in a (or next to, if you prefer) concentration cam I know there is some controversy about this book and the facts claimed by the author as his experience. But, for the life of me, I don't understand why. So the swap seems unbelievable to you? Really? That's the part of this story that goes beyond belief? This was an amazing story of courage and despair and triumph and joy. Denis Avey is now a 90+ year old man who has been through more in his life than most people. Not only his war time experiences in a (or next to, if you prefer) concentration camp but also his post war life which held it's own despair and horror. And for those who claim that obviously his story is a fabrication because Yad Vashem said it was unable to honour Avey with the title "Righteous Among the Nations" because it was unable to substantiate his account of the prisoner swap. You need to research more. Yad Vashem doesn't not believe his story - their policy is that anyone's story needs to be substantiated by more than just the storyteller.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty Noah-whitlock

    Hard one to rate really so shall give 3.5 which will mark as 4/5 here as can't give half stars. I purchased this book as I was interested in reading more about Aushcwitz. Although the book did go into detail it was not until over half way through as it spoke more of Denis's experiences in the war. Where I cannot say I am not interested in that side of history as well it was not the original reason I purchased the book. Apart from that I found it quite well written and it was extremely emotional Hard one to rate really so shall give 3.5 which will mark as 4/5 here as can't give half stars. I purchased this book as I was interested in reading more about Aushcwitz. Although the book did go into detail it was not until over half way through as it spoke more of Denis's experiences in the war. Where I cannot say I am not interested in that side of history as well it was not the original reason I purchased the book. Apart from that I found it quite well written and it was extremely emotional although I did struggle with all the different names of places, people and languages at times. I wouldn't recommend this book if you are not interested in reading aspects of war other than Aushcwitz but if you are then I do recommend it. I am glad that victims are finally telling their stories and being heard even if it is well overdue

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Wegner

    This was a truly remarkable story told first hand about a man who lived through the terrible atrocities of WW2. It is extremely well written, and incredibly moving. I am so thankful that Denis Avey chose to write his story down, while he could have kept it to himself, keeping the horrors he experienced private. The choices he made during the war to keep himself alive and the few he managed to help along the way spoke so deeply to me about the strength of humanity and the abilities we have to com This was a truly remarkable story told first hand about a man who lived through the terrible atrocities of WW2. It is extremely well written, and incredibly moving. I am so thankful that Denis Avey chose to write his story down, while he could have kept it to himself, keeping the horrors he experienced private. The choices he made during the war to keep himself alive and the few he managed to help along the way spoke so deeply to me about the strength of humanity and the abilities we have to combat evil with acts of kindess, selflessness and love. I have read countless books on WW2, and this is one of the best I have read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    John

    An interesting story. I think the title is slightly misleading but in the end it was his time there that scarred him mentally for the rest of his life. A lot of the story is set in North Africa and his war experiences. Parts of the book ring true and others may have been embellished. In the end though it is an inspiring tale of survival and determination to do the right thing. An enjoyable read.

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