Thu, Apr 30, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Find at Auschwitz mystifies survivor

AFP , ALLAUCH, FRANCE

Pieces of a bottle and a letter written by a prisoner at Auschwitz are pictured on Tuesday. Workers found the bottle in a building near the one-time Nazi death camp.

PHOTO: REUTERS

A French Holocaust survivor whose name was found in a bottled message on the grounds of Auschwitz this week said on Tuesday the discovery was a “mystery” to him.

Museum officials said on Monday that workers demolishing a wall that was once part of the Nazi death camp in Poland had found a handwritten message apparently signed by seven prisoners, only two of whom survived.

“I am a little shaken up by this bottle business — it’s a mystery,” Albert Veissid, now a healthy 84-year-old, said at his home in Allauch in southeastern France.

“It’s incredible. I remember everything from the camp, from A to Z. As I speak to you now, I can see the images before my eyes,” he said.

“But this bottle business is an enigma. The biggest surprise of my life,” said the former fairground worker, who was arrested by collaborationist French authorities in 1943 and deported to Poland.

Dated Sept. 20, 1944, the message listed the names and camp ID numbers of seven Auschwitz prisoners aged 18 to 20, all Polish nationals except for Veissid, who worked together on the construction of an air shelter.

Workers found it packed inside the mortar of a wall of a building in the town of Oswiecim that served as a warehouse for the camp’s Nazi guards during World War II, now part of a high school.

Veissid said he recalled meeting the six Poles in question while working as a builder at the camp.

“It’s true I did them some favors. There was food supplied upstairs and they used to steal tubs of marmalade, which I would hide downstairs,” he said. “Maybe they wrote my name in the bottle as a way of thanking me.”

Further details about the message are expected to be made public in the coming days.

Veissid managed to survive Auschwitz until it was evacuated in January 1945, when he walked across Germany to France, arriving in a state so emaciated that his family struggled to recognize him.

“I was a walking skeleton. One more week and I wouldn’t have made it back,” Veissid said.

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