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15 October 2014
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Chapter 9: I’d never heard of it, Auschwitz!

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Ron Redman
Location of story: 
Lansdorf, Auschwitz
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A9034959
Contributed on: 
01 February 2006

We weren’t there very long and then we were transferred to Stalag VIIIB, which is in Lansdorf and that was a really highly organised camp. People say it was like a Butlins in Germany. They were so well organised, the thing I said before, some of the prisoners had been there for 2 or 3 years since Dunkirk. And they were established: they had letters from home, they had cigarettes regularly coming in, Red Cross parcels, little allotments — a little piece of land where they grew something, lettuce seeds. And they didn’t really welcome us because they were going to lose their space. The bunks were in tiers of three and usually the bottom bunk was where they kept their cigarettes and… and seeing us, this unruly lot with beards and lousy and dirty old clothing coming in, they weren’t very… should I say this? We weren’t welcome. It seems strange, we thought we would be, we’d have news of the war but they weren’t interested. They’d established themselves there — they had football matches, organised games, theatre. They put on French Without Tears on one occasion. They were so well organised. The Germans allowed them to run their own camp inside the wire, as long as they had the dogs and the guards outside, they were left to their own devices. They still used their ranks, I mean you were still expected to stand to attention when talking to a sergeant-major, for example.

Anyway, life wasn’t too bad I suppose, organised, watching football matches, plenty of cigarettes being given to you. It was more comfortable. And then, on the tannoy, they’d give out every day numbers, you were all allocated a number, numbers to go to working camps outside in the area, in Upper Silesia. Any my number was called out for Auschwitz — I’d never heard of it, Auschwitz.

When we got there, Auschwitz, again the old cattle trucks, and it was very uncomfortable. On one occasion one of the cattle trucks next to my cattle truck, they discovered that the boards in the truck were loose. And they thought, oh this is wonderful and the train was stopping and starting all the time, because it wasn’t important. The thing was, the train system priority was for troops, not prisoners, that wasn’t important. So we were stopping and starting and going backwards and they discovered they could escape by taking the boards up, stopping in the tracks and thinking — it was dark, it was black-out — that when the train moved on, they were away! What they didn’t realise was that they were in the middle of a station. It was either Leipzig or Dresden, I’m not sure, but it was a big station, but of course all blacked out. And when the train moved on, they were in the middle of the two platforms. They were rounded up, with a lot of shouting and banging. Of course, we were in the next cattle truck and you could visualise what was going on. And then they thought, well we’re not going to use that truck again — 40 men in there, so 5 in each connecting trucks. So we had more in our truck than 40!

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Sue Craig on behalf of Ron Redman and has been added to the site with his permission. Ron fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

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