AT THE GRAND OLD AGE OF 98…. BRITAIN’S OLDEST SURVIVING AUSCHWITZ NAZI DEATH CAMP INMATE, NOW FEATURED HERE IN AND AMONGST THE NAZI HOLOCAUST YEARS EXHIBITION AT THE CRIME THROUGH TIME COLLECTION , LITTLEDEAN JAIL .
The Auschwitz goalkeeper: British prisoner of war who played in football match at Nazi death camp returns to bury the past
- Ron Jones, 96, held in E715 – a prisoner of war camp alongside the main Auschwitz extermination camp in Poland
- During the week prisoners of war were employed at forced labour camps but on Sunday allowed to play football
- Games would take place on a field outside the camp with armed German guards watching
- The Red Cross provided the teams with four sets of shirts – English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh
An Auschwitz survivor who played in goal for the Welsh team in the Nazi death camp’s football league has returned to its site to bury the ghosts of his past.
Ron Jones, 96, was held in E715 – a prisoner of war camp alongside the main Auschwitz extermination camp in Poland – after being captured by German troops during World War II.
He said the soldiers were terrified.
‘We did not know what would happen to us. We thought at one time they would stick us in the gas chamber,’ said Ron.
‘It was not just Jews going in, it was Polish, political prisoners, gypsies, homosexuals.’
During the week prisoners were employed at forced labour camps, but on their rest day they were allowed to play football on a field just outside the camp – with armed German guards watching from the sidelines.
Father-of-one Ron said: “We didn’t work on a Sunday so we used to play football.’
The Red Cross heard about it and brought the teams four sets of shirts – English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh.
Ron, a widower, of Newport, South Wales, played in goal for the Welsh team at the camp, which is situated near the Polish town of Oswiecim.
‘When you’re under those conditions it was a real pleasure to play football on a Sunday,’ he said.
‘But we could only play in the summer, of course, because in the winter it was deep with snow.’
Prisoner of war Ron Jones (centre, back row) – the goalkeeper for the Welsh team in the Auschwitz football league.
Football was a brief respite from the prisoners’ suffering as throughout the games smoke would rise ominously from the chimneys of Auschwitz.
“The first thing you’d notice was the smell,’ said Ron. ‘If the wind was in your direction the smell was terrible.’
‘We were always frightened we would be next.’
He left the camp near the end of 1945 as part of the Auschwitz death march – when the Nazis forcibly moved prisoners as the Soviet army came to liberate.
Former Nazi death camp Auschwitz in Oswiecim, Poland, where Ron played in goal for the Welsh team during World War II.
For more than four months he was marched 900 miles across Europe before eventually being freed by American troops.
He lost half his body weight and had to watch more than a hundred of his allied comrades die in the freezing conditions.
But he survived the ordeal and eventually returned to his home to be reunited with his wife Gwladys.
Ron is now only one of three men still alive who survived the death march.
He has returned to Auschwitz as a book about his survival called The Auschwitz Goalkeeper is published later this month.
Ron said returning to the death camp stirred up strong memories.
Auschwitz-Birkenau in 2005, and in 1945, where Ron was held after being captured by German troops.
‘There was the humiliation and the lack of food but on the whole life wasn’t too bad.’
‘The Germans, contrary to what a lot of people think, were pretty good to us on the whole.’
But it was the march that was terrible.
‘I could still see it when I first went back to Auschwitz, I couldn’t sleep with the memories.’
About 1.5 million people, primarily Jews, were killed at the Auschwitz complex between 1940 and 1945. Two years after the end of World War II it became a museum.