MSN News reports a Reuters story about Denis Avey, now 92, who fought in the British Army in World War Two. When captured by the Germans, he was sent to a labor camp near Auschwitz. From this labor camp, he managed to sneak into Auschwitz twice to see for himself what things were like.
Mr. Avey kept his silence for over sixty years. Then, a few years back, he broke his silence in an interview. His book, The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz, is now on bookstore shelves in the UK and will come out in the US on July 11, 2011.
The story is incredible in itself; but what is equally incredible is the survival of the Dutch Jew, Ernst Lobethal, with whom Mr. Avey had exchanged clothing during work hours to be able to get into Auschwitz. In fact, Mr. Lobethal had recorded his testimony in video. In this testimony, Mr. Lobethal had directly attributed his survival to the help that Mr. Avey had given him. Unfortunately, he and Mr. Avey had lost track of one another after the war, and Mr. Lobethal was never reunited with the British soldier whom he had nicknamed Ginger.
I think that we throw the word hero around too loosely these days. I know the intent is good, but it dilutes the meaning far too much. Frankly, I don’t even know that those whom we call heroes nowadays would even acknowledge their putative heroism. I suspect that, like the silent giants of World War Two, they would simply say that they were doing their jobs.