March of the Living to honour UK PoWs

By Martin Bright, February 23, 2012
A historic picture thought to be of Palestinian Jews in British army uniform, taken prisoner in Germany

A historic picture thought to be of Palestinian Jews in British army uniform, taken prisoner in Germany

The UK branch of the international Holocaust memorial movement, March of the Living, will this year mark Yom Hashoah with a ceremony at the site of the British prisoner of war camp at Auschwitz. The decision to pay tribute to the hundreds of British soldiers who witnessed the Holocaust at close quarters follows a JC campaign for the release of all files held by the government on work camp E715, as it was known.

MoL UK was set up two years ago to increase British participation in the annual event, which sees 10,000 Jewish people from around the world marching the three kilometres from Auschwitz to Birkenau, to commemorate those who suffered and died.

Scott Saunders, chair of March of the Living UK, said: "MoL UK will be visiting the site of the former PoW camp this April and honouring the memory of those brave British soldiers who, through their letters home, tried to alert the world to the horrors occurring, literally, next door".

The British participants at this April's event will spend time at the site of E715, which was within view of Auschwitz III (Monowitz), set up to provide slave workers for the nearby IG Farben chemical works.

The organisation will also recruit researchers to search archives for further evidence of what happened at E715. The JC has been campaigning for the release of all government records on British PoWs held at Auschwitz. These included the father of Israeli President Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Persky,who had been captured in Greece in the early years of the war.

The initiative has been welcomed by the family of the most celebrated PoW at Auschwitz, Sergeant Major Charles Coward, who was the first British soldier to be honoured as a Righteous Gentile for the help he gave to Jewish inmates at the Monowitz camp. Mr Coward's son-in-law, Barry Clarke, told the JC: "I would welcome anything which honoured the memory of men like Charlie Coward."

Last updated: 1:58pm, February 23 2012