Revealed:the English Soldiers Who Survived for Two Years in the Hell That Was Auschwitz; When Arthur Dodd Returned from Hitler's Most Notorious Death Camp, No One Wanted to Hear His Tales of Horror. but Now, 53 Years Later, He Has Found the Courage to Tell His Amazing Story
Byline: JANE KELLY
WORLD War II had been over for only two months. There was still a sense of jubilation in the land and people greeted each other like comrades.
In the town hall of Northwich, Cheshire, two men reputed to be local heroes addressed a packed gathering.
Cllr Hilditch asked them both questions in turn. People listened attentively and cheered as the paratrooper who had been at Arnhem gave his story of battle, flight and capture.
Then Arthur Dodd, 26, of the Royal Army Service Corps got up and told his remarkable tale.
He described how he had been captured in North Africa in 1942, after the disastrous first battle of Tobruk. Sent to Italy, he had been troublesome and along with 24 other rebellious PoWs had been transferred by train to the death camp at Auschwitz, in southern Poland.
Arthur, a mechanic and the son of a soldier in the Cheshire Regiment, was probably the first ordinary man in England to say the name Auschwitz and to describe that living hell where, as he put it, you saw 'Satan at his best'.
The audience listened in deathly silence. When he sat down, they crowded round the hero of Arnhem but Arthur remained alone. No one spoke to him.
His words were perhaps too horrible to be believed - or tolerated in the optimistic mood of those post-war times. He was not talking about Bulldog Drummond characters triumphing over adversity in a war played according to the rules. His was a tale of genocide, a word then unknown to the British public.
He returned home that night in the deepest gloom, vowing that never again would he tell the story of what had happened to him in the war.
Fifty-three years later the subject of the concentration camps has become common knowledge, even rather fashionable after the success of Steven Spielberg's film Schindler's List.
Now, at 79, Arthur Dodd has finally been per-
suaded to set down his experiences in a book.
Most people have no idea that there were any Englishmen in Auschwitz. In fact, according to Dodd, about 400 British soldiers were there.
Two bits of bad luck landed Arthur in Poland. While he was in the camp at Farasabrina, near Rome, with 4,000 other PoWs, life was not too bad.
An escape bid was planned by four men, including Arthur, but when they drew cards to see who would have to keep watch and stay behind, Arthur was unlucky.
His friends escaped successfully while he had to spend another six months there.
EARLY in 1943 the prisoners were asked to write down their working skills.
Arthur and 12 others put down professions such as 'cat burglar'. This act of bravado did not amuse the Germans, who had just lost half a million men in the Soviet Union and been trounced by the British Eighth Army at Tripoli and Tunis.
The troublesome 13 were sent first to work in a coalmine in Poz-nan in Poland, where they were beaten with rifle-butts and kicked with jackboots for refusing to work. Then at the beginning of May, 1943, they were transferred to Monowitz, a labour camp otherwise known as Auschwitz Camp Three and half a mile from the death camp.
None of the British PoWs had any idea what they had come to.
At first they behaved as they had done previously, with truculent contempt. As they entered the camp, their first sight was of a bald, badly cut young woman kneeling half naked in the mud, while an SS officer flogged her with a riding crop. They saw rivers of blood running down her face and neck and noticed that she was obviously starving. They had never seen an emaciated woman before.
Arthur shouted at the guard to leave the girl alone. The German officer simply reached for his gun and a Wehrmacht soldier raised his rifle and aimed it at Dodd.
Orders were barked in German and the British Tommies fell back in line, to watch as the beating continued even more ferociously than before. …