Book May Be a Work of Fiction. but the Story Is Real and Harrowing; It's Perhaps a Less Well Known Episode of the Second World War - the Internment of Jews into British Camps in Cyprus. Neil McKay Speaks to One Man about How His Own Involvement Inspired Him to Write His First Work of Fiction

Article excerpt

Byline: Neil McKay

THE HORRORS he witnessed have never left David Hughes after more than 60 years. As a 20-year-old Army sergeant he watched speechless as thousands of skeletal Jewish figures were frogmarched off ships at the point of guns and bayonets and led to internment camps - by British soldiers.

The year was 1946 and news of Nazi atrocities in camps such as Auschwitz and Belsen had not reached public consciousness.

David, from Murton, County Durham, saw at first hand the effect on the survivors from those, and other concentration camps. And he unwittingly found himself taking part in an episode which still shames Britain.

Internment camps were set up by Britain on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus for Jewish immigrants who attempted to travel to Palestine in violation of immigration quotas set for Jews.

Tens of thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors escaping to flee Europe for Palestine on transport ships were intercepted on the high seas by the Royal Navy and escorted to Cyprus.

From 1946 until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the British confined 50,000 Jewish refugees on the island. Sgt Hughes was stationed with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps on Cyprus and found himself working in the stores supplying one of the internment camps near Famagusta. But the sight of the Holocaust survivors being transferred to British camps still haunts him more than 60 years later.

"It is the sight of the hatred in the eyes of those survivors directed at us which I will never forget. I had never witnessed such hatred either before or since," he said.

"None of us knew at that time of the horrors the survivors from the Nazi concentration camps had experienced and witnessed, but here we were putting them in another internment camp at the point of the gun and bayonet, with searchlights and barbed wire."

David, now 84 and living in Houghtonle-Spring is a respected author and charity fundraiser.

His seventh book, and first fiction account, is based on Cyprus at the time he was stationed there.

My Son The Enemy, which has been praised by critics including The Journal columnist Denise Robertson, follows the lives of a wealthy German Jewish family in Berlin, one of whom endures many years in a concentration camp followed by a further two years detention in Cyprus by the British Government from 1946-1948, when the state of Israel was formed.

In 1930 the family send their youngest child to an Aunt in England to escape from Hitler. The climax of the story is reached in 1946 when the boy, an officer in the British Army, is guarding holocaust survivors on Cyprus where his mother is one of the detainees, unbeknown to each other. …