Devon, a Tank Collection and a Grim Memento of the Camps

By Martin Bright
April 15, 2010

Deep in the North Devon countryside, just outside Barnstaple, you can find a very eccentric collection of military vehicles. The Cobbaton Combat Collection is one man's obsession: tanks and armoured vehicles from various wars, uniforms, weaponry. All very Boy's Own.
I visited last weekend out of curiosity and stumbled upon a corner of the collection dedicated to Holocaust memorabilia - respectfully done I hasten to add. There were some of the famous photographs of the liberation of Belsen, a yellow star, but the star exhibit was a hand-carved wooden head of a camp guard.
According to the owner of the collection, this detailed effigy was made by a prisoner in order to identify hi Nazi tormentor after the war, so he could be tracked down for the crimes he committed.
The chilling object had been passed to the collection after it had been acquired at auction by a man whose wife wouldn't have it in the house. On closer examination it turned out to have been made out of several small pieces of wood collected around the camp and expertly jointed together. The only marking on the gruesome bust was the word "genocide" crudely written on the bottom in pokerwork.
The story that went with the wooden head was that its original creator had never found the guard, but kept the awful thing with him until he died, just in case.
I didn't have a camera with me at the time, but I will try to get a photograph to post here. For some reason the thought of this object of hate, lovingly carved has really left an impression. A work of art of sorts, but of the most hideous kind.
I'd be interested if anyone knows of any other such stories.


You must be logged in to post a comment.