Book review: The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz

The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz- Denis Avey
The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz is the true story of an English soldier, Denis Avey, who found himself captured during WWII and was sent to Auschwitz as a prisoner of war. From his vantage point, he saw first-hand the horrific treatment that Jewish prisoners endured and hatched a plan to swap places with one of them. It is this part of Avey's story that gives the book its name, although I found this quite misleading.
Avey swapped with the Jewish inmate, Hans, overnight on two separate occasions. In the evening, the two men swapped clothes and imitated each other, repeating the process again a few hours later, once morning had broken. Although this is obviously an immensely heroic and brave thing to have done, it seemed odd to title the book after a very minute part of Avey's story. The majority of the book leading up to the swap is about Avey's life in the British Army, most of which is centred around his time stationed in the desert. Of course he has done great things and there are certain events that need retelling but, unfortunately, this doesn't necessarily equal a great book. Much of the narrative is repetitive and banal, such as the repeated references to Avey preparing for bed underneath the tank. 

There has been much controversy over the legitimacy of Avey's story. I have no reason to doubt him and the reunions of individuals towards the end of the book prove that at least some major points are true. To me it seems that most of the doubts are cast around the swap itself, as so little detail is recounted compared to the minutae recorded throughout the desert post. 
Denis Avey had an incredible career in the army and was truly a wonderful man for serving not just the country, but humanity, in the way he did. His stories need to be told, and I'm very glad they have been. I'm just not sure if an autobiographical book was the best approach. 


  1. Oh dear. I have this sitting on my shelf back at home and I'm quite sad to hear that the story isn't quite what it seems like! I'll still give it a go - maybe knowing this beforehand will make me like it more aha.

  2. Oh man. this had the potential to be such a great book! I saw the title of your review and was immediately interested. Such a shame that it wasn't what you thought it would be. Xx


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