PoW relives death camp horrors
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.