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The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz

A True Story of World War II
Narrated by: James Langton
Length: 9 hrs and 19 mins
4 out of 5 stars (107 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz is the extraordinary true story of a British soldier who marched willingly into the notorious concentration camp Buna-Monowitz, known as Auschwitz III. In the summer of 1944, Denis Avey was being held in a British POW labor camp, E715, near the site of 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 firsthand 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 in which thousands of prisoners were murdered by the Nazis as the Soviet Army advanced. After his own long trek 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 unique insight into the mind of an ordinary man whose moral and physical courage are almost beyond belief.

©2011 Denis Avey & Rob Broomby (P)2011 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"This is a most important book, and a timely reminder of the dangers that face any society once intolerance and racism take hold." (Sir Martin Gilbert)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Great, great story

Who cares if it's all entirely true or not, this is a great, great story. Funny at times, gruesome in spots, this book recounts the exploits of Avery during his time in British forces of WWII. I thought it was very well written and well read. The humor is of the dry, British sort, but this book kept me listening just to find out what else could happen to Ginger (Avery's assumed name). I don't think you'll be disappointed.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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More Than Just A Break-In

Great book, but I was a little mislead by the title. I expected the ENTIRE book to be about how Denis Avey broke into Auschwitz and the tale of his experiences there; turns out it’s just a small part of his story and did not happen until almost half way through.

But that’s not a criticism; the story of his life was very interesting! The first half of the book recounts his time fighting in Libya and Egypt, his harrowing POW experiences, how he escapes a ship that was torpedoed in the Mediterranean, and how he ultimately found himself in a work camp in Poland - E715, near Auschwitz III. That’s were he meets the man with whom he will switch places on two occasions - ‘breaking in’ to Auschwitz.

Although his stay in Auschwitz was very brief, what impressed me the most was his drive and determination to do it – to be a witness and see things for himself. Amazing. His account was compelling, but honestly so is every survivor’s telling of their horrific concentration camp experiences.

I found myself more interested in his after-war life and how his story became public only about 60 years later. The search for people he knew during the war leads to the telling of the life story of Ernst/Ernie, a man he met in the camp and for whom he procured cigarettes. Turns out, those cigarettes saved Ernst’s life… I won’t get into the details of how, you have to read the book for that, but it felt like a great full-circle.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Misleading Title

Any additional comments?

Based on the title, I was expecting a very different story. It was fine, and somewhat interesting but a bit long and tedious listening at some parts.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great Story, slow start.

I love stories like this and I'm so glad Denis Avey decided to share it! Unnecessary, lengthy
details about war causes the book to have a slow take off, but eventually it gets good.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Good testimony

A very well written account of a British Soldier’s POW account, which includes being a Prisoner at Auschwitz. The title while grabbing as Mr. Avey basically did an overnight in the Jewish Part is the camp by switching uniforms, the book is a lot more than that. The book provides an excellent and somewhat novel perspective of a POW at a death camp. Definitely worth the read.


****

There is some controversy on the break in part account because there are no eyewitnesses to this account (as the person who he swapped with likely perished). As a grandchild of a survivor I would like to add my two cents on the believability of this account:

While survivor accounts are often not perfect give the years, trauma and myopic prisoner perspective. I do believe his account is mostly accurate for two reasons:

First his account where he makes contact with the sister of a Jewish prisoner to secure cigarettes is corroborated. This while not as daring as the “break-in” was none-the-less daring and consistent. Avey’s account is not that different than others. For this credibility is certainly gained.

On the account of the swap, despite other testimony it is believable. I say this because my grandmother who survived Auschwitz said it was common to switch prisoners within barracks. She would emphasize that it was all about the numbers of prisoners. She would talk often about the prisoners being lined up and counted. While a swap within the same camp would be far easier. The idea of swapping is not that far fetched.

Avey also does not go into some sensational story on this and admits that he didn’t get a lot of information.


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Great Read

This is so well written that you will be hanging on every word. It is an amazing story about a tragic history.

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What an amazing story

I thoroughly enjoyed it. Some parts were of course difficult to listen to but I felt it was worth it to learn everything this man went through and witnessed.

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Interesting subject, but very slow.

This man has a great story, but how he tells it bored me to death.

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Incredible story, greatly narrated

Story is great, kept me listening till the last chapter. loved the narrator aswell, great performance!

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A Survivors Holocaust Remembrance

It takes almost half of the book before the man makes it to describing his time in Auschwitz and i think hearing his prior service and story really helped to get a full view of who he was as a person. i loved this book. So Raw and Real.