PoW re­lives death camp hor­rors

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY JU­DITH HAY­MAN

A BRI­TISH PoW who wit­nessed the daily regime at Auschwitz for two years has spo­ken pub­licly for the first time about his ex­pe­ri­ences.

Frank Rid­ing, 91, was a Royal Marine cap­tured by the Nazis dur­ing the fall of Crete.

“It was bad for us but it was in­fin­itely worse for the Jews,” he re­called this week. “What­ever you read, it was worse. I still get night­mares.

“I go to bed with the hor­rors of Auschwitz in my mind and I wake up with them. It’s never left me.”

The Man­cu­nian was in­car­cer­ated half a mile out­side Auschwitz. He has vivid rec­ol­lec­tions of “the stench of burn­ing flesh” em­a­nat­ing from the camp. “There was no mis­tak­ing it — it was hor­ri­ble.”

He en­tered the camp when as­signed to carry tools for a Ger­man plum­ber who worked there. He got a true idea of its pur­pose when he ven­tured around a cor­ner and saw a corpse hang­ing from a gal­lows.

Al­though the PoWs and Jews and gyp­sies worked side-by-side build­ing rail­way lines, or at the IG Far­ben in­dus­trial plant, their treat­ment was markedly dif­fer­ent.

The PoWs were al­lowed to leave af­ter they had com­pleted their work and had their mea­gre ra­tions sup­ple­mented by oc­ca­sional Red Cross parcels.

Yet “the Jews only lasted six weeks in the camp”, Mr Rid­ing told the JC. “We just saw them go thin­ner and thin­ner un­til they died. I saw a guard hit a Jew who fell and hit his head on a rail­way line and die in­stantly. The guard just laughed and said: ‘There’s one less for the gas cham­ber.’”

He was shocked at the cru­elty and in­dig­nity the women in­mates were sub­jected to. “I saw them strip­ping off to try and rid their bod­ies of the lice they were plagued with. I felt sorry for them, but there is noth­ing worse than feel­ing sorry and not be­ing able to do any­thing to help.”

Al­though cer­tain that the Jews knew their fate, to this day he can­not fathom why “they were calm and had smiles on their faces”.

While Mr Rid­ing had told fam­ily and friends about the wartime hor­rors he had wit­nessed, he was moved to share his rec­ol­lec­tions with a wider au­di­ence af­ter a teacher neigh­bour in­volved him in a me­dia project at the lo­cal Cedar Mount High School.

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