The man who smuggled himself into Auschwitz

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by jk22, Jan 27, 2010.

Welcome to the Army Rumour Service, ARRSE

The UK's largest and busiest UNofficial military website.

The heart of the site is the forum area, including:

  1. What is it, post a link day?
     
  2. Cheers for that. Care to tell us why you're sharing it? Any particular thoughts on it?
     
  3. i couldnt be bothered to comment on it to be honest. It is Holocaust Memorial Day I suppose.

    Let me read it again, I was pissed the first time
     
  4. Brave bloke, great place to swap, or not. Apparently he wrote down the names of the SS officers and kept a book to they could be tried later. But he lost it!
     
  5. Could make a film about it, the man in the stripey pyjamas
     
  6. I saw this already a couple of months ago. Seriously though, I think that takes a hell of a lot of balls, how many people would smuggle themselves knowingly into a death camp to "see what was going on"...
     
  7. I had no idea there were any POW camps in the vicinity of Auschwitz, but as it turns out E715 was nearby.
     
  8. Not the only one - but this one did something about it!

    BQMS Charles Coward RA, the Count of Auschwitz, ventured into the concentration camp in December 1943, he was transferred to Auschwitz III (Monowitz) labour camp only five miles from the better-known extermination camp of Auschwitz II (Birkenau). Monowitz was under the direction of the industrial company IG Farben, who were building a Buna (synthetic rubber) and liquid fuel plant there. It housed over 10,000 Jewish slave labourers, as well as POWs and forced labourers from all over occupied Europe.

    Thanks to his command of the German language, Coward was appointed Red Cross liaison officer for the 1,200-1,400 British prisoners. In this trusted role he was allowed to move fairly freely throughout the camp and often to surrounding towns. He witnessed the arrival of trainloads of Jews to the extermination camp, followed by their 'selection' for either slave labour or the gas chambers. Coward and the other British prisoners smuggled food and other items to the Jewish inmates, even supplying dynamite to the Sonderkommando in a partially successful attempt to blow up the gas chambers and crematoria. He also exchanged coded messages with the British authorities via letters to a fictitious Mr. William Orange, giving military information, notes on the conditions of POWs and prisoners in the camps, as well as dates and numbers of the arrival of trainloads of Jews to the extermination camp.

    On one occasion a note was smuggled to him from a Jewish-British naval doctor who was being held in Monowitz. Coward determined to contact him directly and managed to swap clothes with an inmate on a work detail and spent the night in the Jewish camp, seeing at first hand the horrific conditions in which they were held.

    Determined to do something about it, he used Red Cross supplies, particularly chocolate, to "buy" corpses of dead prisoners, including Belgian and French civilian forced labourers, from the SS guards. Coward then directed healthy Jewish prisoners to join the nightly marches of Jews considered unfit for further work from Monowitz to the Birkenau gas chambers. During the course of the march the healthy men dropped out of procession to hide in ditches; Coward scattered the corpses he had purchased on the road to give the impression that they were members of the column who had died on the march. He then gave the documents and clothes taken from the non-Jewish corpses to the Jewish escapees, who adopted these new identities and were then smuggled out of the camp altogether. Coward carried out this scheme on numerous occasions and is estimated to have saved at least 400 Jewish slave labourers.

    After the war Coward testified at the IG Farben Trial in Nuremberg. In 1954 John Castle published a book, The Password is Courage, describing Coward's wartime activities; this was adapted into a 1962 film of the same name starring Dirk Bogarde. The film was lighthearted compared to the book and made only passing reference to Coward's time at Auschwitz; it concentrated instead on his numerous escapes and added a fictitious romantic liaison.

    In 1963 Coward was named among the Righteous Among the Nations and had a tree planted in his honour in the Avenue of Righteous Gentiles in Yad Vashem. In 2003 Coward was further commemorated with the mounting of a blue plaque at his home at 133 Chichester Road, Edmonton, London, where he lived from 1945 until his death.