Friday, April 27, 2012

More on British POWs at Auschwitz, including the father of Shimon Peres

The Jewish Chronicle has another article about the British soldiers held near Auschwitz:

As many as 1,400 British prisoners arrived at Auschwitz towards the end of 1943 and hundreds were forced to work at the IG Farben chemical factory....
In mid-1944, the POW camp was moved directly adjacent to the plant and was therefore in direct view of Auschwitz III (Buna-Monowitz). British prisoners therefore witnessed the routine brutality meted out to the Jewish slave labourers including those hanged from the gates of the camp as an example to others. At times the "kriegies", as the POWs were known, and the "stripies", as they called the Jewish prisoners, worked together, formed friendships and exchanged information. Thus it was that the British soldiers discovered the source of the sickly-sweet burning smell that hung over the camp. 
Another amazing piece of information revealed by the JC:
Yitzhak Persky, the father of Israeli President Shimon Peres, was held at Camp E715, as the British camp at Auschwitz was known. 
From another article at the JC:
Mr Persky joined the British army on the outbreak of war as a combat engineer or "sapper". He was first captured in Greece, but escaped and spent a year alone hiding in monasteries. The Greek underground later led him to other escaped British prisoners, reported to include Sergeant-Major Charlie Coward, an escape specialist whose exploits were later celebrated in the film The Password is Courage. A failed attempt to reach the Turkish coast led to a further capture and after serving time in a series of POW war camps, Mr Persky found himself in E715.
Another article tells more about the British POWs - 
The British prisoners of war (POWs) who were housed in the E715 prisoner of war camp at Auschwitz between September 1943 and January 1945 were forced to work at the I.G. Farben construction site. According to the Geneva Convention, it was not acceptable to have them produce war materiel. When that led some to protest their use in gasoline production, the I.G. Farben camp manager in charge, Gerhard Ritter, made it clear to them with his pistol that it was he who decided how the Geneva Convention was interpreted in Auschwitz.

The British POWs had to work about 12 hours a day, and days off work were few in number. They were deployed in a wide variety of work detachments, in some cases also as skilled workers. Many British POWs sabotaged the German war efforts as they worked. For example, they improperly laid cables or pipelines for the power plant of I.G. Auschwitz, and they damaged freight cars when working in the freight depot. The extent to which the British sabotage actions succeeded in delaying the building of the plant is unclear, however....

In general, the British POWs received better treatment than all the other groups of forced laborers of I.G. Auschwitz. Since the Germans treated Allied servicemen in accordance with the Geneva Convention, the British POWs had a right to receive food parcels from the Red Cross, correspond with their family members, and have visits from Red Cross representatives. Thanks to the food parcels, the British POWs had a relatively good diet. Thus they could forego the soup they received in I.G. Auschwitz and give it to individual concentration camp inmates.
Another longer article gives more information - The British Connection to Auschwitz.

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