Based on interviews with some of the few surviving members of E715 Auschwitz, this book charts the British captives’ true story: from arriving on cattle trucks through to their eventual departure on foot. Haunted by what they had witnessed as young men, Brian Bishop, Doug Bond and Arthur Gifford-England were only able to speak about their experiences decades later, when approached during research for this book. Few people were interested in these remarkable men in post-war Britain, and they were left to cope with the trauma of their experiences with little support.
Allies in Auschwitz records an important and forgotten episode of modern history. As corroboration of the men’s testimony, the final chapter includes post-war accounts from other British POWs held in E715 Auschwitz, based on documents compiled by war crimes’ investigators for the Nuremburg Trials.
Slomo Venezia was born into a poor Jewish-Italian community living in Thessaloniki, Greece. At first, the occupying Italians protected his family; but when the Germans invaded, the Venezias were deported to Auschwitz. His mother and sisters disappeared on arrival, and he learned, at first with disbelief, that they had almost certainly been gassed. Given the chance to earn a little extra bread, he agreed to become a ‘Sonderkommando', without realising what this entailed. He soon found himself a member of the ‘special unit' responsible for removing the corpses from the gas chambers and burning their bodies.
Dispassionately, he details the grim round of daily tasks, evokes the terror inspired by the man in charge of the crematoria, ‘Angel of Death' Otto Moll, and recounts the attempts made by some of the prisoners to escape, including the revolt of October 1944.
It is usual to imagine that none of those who went into the gas chambers at Auschwitz ever emerged to tell their tale - but, as a member of a ‘Sonderkommando', Shlomo Venezia was given this horrific privilege. He knew that, having witnessed the unspeakable, he in turn would probably be eliminated by the SS in case he ever told his tale. He survived: this is his story.
Published in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.