British POW joins Holocaust Memorial Day

By Jessica Elgot, January 20, 2010

The British prisoner of war who helped save the life of an Auschwitz prisoner will join survivors for a memorial service on Holocaust Memorial Day.

Denis Avey, 91, was a prisoner of war in Auschwitz who swapped places with a Jewish inmate. He met Ernst Lobethall, smuggling him cigarettes and bartering to repair his shoes to improve his chances of surviving the harsh winter and death marches.

In 1996, Mr Lobethall told the Shoah Foundation that he credited a British POW with saving his life, who he knew only as “Ginger”. He died in 2002, never meeting Mr Avey again.

Mr Avey, whose story was uncovered recently by a BBC investigation, is now being considered to be named “Righteous among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, an award given to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the Holocaust.

The service will take place next Tuesday at the Holocaust Centre in Laxton, Nottinghamshire, to commemorate those who died. This year is the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Dr James Smith, chief executive of the Holocaust Centre, said: “At a time when most would place their own survival above all, Denis had the inner resource to show humanity toward others. He's an inspiration; a hero who richly deserves recognition for his selfless actions."

Last updated: 11:25am, January 28 2010