Friday, May 8, 2009

Cryptic list of British POWs surfaces near Auschwitz

A list of 17 names believed to refer to World War II British prisoners of war held by Nazi Germany near its infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp has surfaced in Poland, an Auschwitz museum historian said Tuesday.

The list of names on the left-hand margin of the card reads as follows, three of them illegible: "OSBORNE LAWRENCE GARDINER LAMB SYMES SAUNDERS DUNNE DUNN HUTTON HOLMES ..., ..., CLARK MANSON ..., AUTY STEINGER."

"I can confirm the document's authenticity," historian Piotr Setkiewicz, an expert from the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum in Oswiecim, southern Poland, told AFP Tuesday.

The card of white celluloid material bearing 17 surnames handwritten in pencil in block capital letters was found by Dominik Synowiec, a Krakow-based historical monuments conservator.

Check marks are placed next to the names Gardiner, Dunne, Dunn, Holmes and Clark as well as one of the names which is illegible.

A list of numbers is visible on the top right corner of the same page.

The reverse side of the card bears a list of some 20 German words with their English translations including "jetzt - now, niemals - newer, oft - often, seitdem - since then" also handwritten in pencil.

Areas of the card which Synowiec has cleaned of grime appear white.

"I was looking for something else entirely," Synowiec told AFP Tuesday.

He says he discovered the list of names by chance under debris inside a WWII-era bunker located on the site of the Nazi German Monowitz prisoner of war (POW) camp holding primarily British citizens.

The POW camp in question was located next to the Monowitz slave labour camp, known as Auschwitz III, a branch of the main Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp holding labourers working at the nearby Nazi-run IG Farben rubber factory.

Historian Setkiewicz was able to determine the fate of a man bearing the name Gardiner, believed to be James William Gardiner of Britain's Royal Artillery, who died in a US bombing raid and is buried in Krakow's Rakowicki cemetery.

A separate list of seven Auschwitz prisoners surfaced last week after workers found it packed inside a bottle fixed in the mortar of a wall of a building in the southern Polish town of Oswiecim (AFP).

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