ISSUE 17, April 2006
Editorial
Historic: The Brother who designed the Spitfire
Travel: The charm of Kerala
Grand Lodge: Pro Grand Master's speech and Quarterly Communication
Public Relations: Hottest spot in town
International: Emulation in Bulgaria and Mauritius takes a leap forward and Hungary's Royal Arch library
Library & Museum: Recent acquisitions
Masonic Bibles: Lodges and their Bibles
    Royal Masonic Girls' School: My thanks to the Freemasons
Holocaust: The Count of Auschwitz
Education: International conference on the history of Freemasonry and Events
Specialist Lodges: Masonry universal - via radio
Masonic Charities: Grand Charity continues to help those in need and New Masonic Samaritan Fund and Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys
Grand Charity: The Tsunami - one year on and Important Gift Aid information
Letters, Book Reviews, and Gardening

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Top-level IG Farben officials inspected the Janina coal mine on 16 July, 1943. After assessing the situation, Walter Dürrfeld, the civilian manager in charge of the factory, who headed the delegation, recommended that the British POWs there be ‘sent away as quickly as possible’ and replaced by Auschwitz Concentration Camp prisoners.
    He saw two advantages to such a move: first, the concentration camp prisoners could be punished at will and forced to achieve higher productivity because they were not covered by the Geneva Convention. Second, 300 concentration camp prisoners could be housed in the barracks that had been occupied by 150 British POWs, without incurring any additional costs.
    In view of these negative experiences, it is baffling that, two months later, IG Farben management agreed to the establishment of a camp for British POWs in Monowice despite misgivings as to their productivity in construction work.
    It may have been the case that slowdowns in the construction of barracks in Camp iv (a branch of Auschwitz Concentration Camp) forced limitations in the number of concentration camp prisoners transferred to Monowice.
    IG Farben had built other camp quarters near the plant, but organisational difficulties made it impossible to house concentration camp prisoners there. Management therefore decided to cordon off some of the barracks in one of these recently finished camps, designated vlii-Karpfenteich, and house British POWs there.
    These barracks were surrounded by barbed wire, but the erection of guard towers was not deemed necessary. The camp was administered by the army and guarded by Wehrmacht soldiers from the third company of 515 Territorial Rifle Battalion Its official name was Kommando e715, Stalag viiib, Lamsdorf.
    Charlie was sent to the factory at Auschwitz where, as senior British prisoner and the Red Cross representative, he witnessed the atrocities at first hand. True to form, he resisted, and by bribing guards he managed to swap the dead bodies of Jewish prisoners for some 400 live people.
    Knowing that the guards only measured the number of people transferred from the camp to the gas chambers, he took live prisoners out of the ranks and buried them in a shallow hole, to be recovered later, and replaced them with dead prisoners. He knew that the SS would assume that the prisoners died on the march.
    At least 80 of these poor souls are known to have survived the end of the war. With the assistance of fellow POWs and Polish resistance workers, Charlie helped to smuggle arms and explosives in to the death camp and substantial damage was done to the gas ovens, and they were never fully repaired.
    One of his last duties before he left the camp was to organise the funerals of 34 British POWs who had been killed by a stray American bomb after a raid on the factory started whilst they were on a sports activity.
    Prior to this he had complained: ‘Another thing I want to mention is that the British prisoners of war were not permitted to use the air raid shelters in the IG plant. I complained to Dürrfeld about this. He was very abrupt and said that a place was being allotted.
    ‘The place we could use instead of an airraid shelter was locked, so we would have to get the guard to get us a key before we could get even that protection. The inmates had no air-raid shelters of any kind, and the foreign workers were marched out into the fields.’
    It is sad to record that the mass graves were subsequent directly hit by another large bomb and the prisoners’ remains were destroyed.
    After the war Charlie Coward testified at the Nuremburg IG Farben war crimes tribunal, and his affidavit is registered as document ni-11696, prosecution exhibit No. 1462.
    His testimony ensured that the civilian contractors could not be excused their dreadful part in this savage Auschwitz death factory enterprise. “I discussed the gas chambers with German civilians. I never heard of any of the German foremen who protested against the gassing. The others were in favour of gassing – provided it was for Jews.
    ‘They looked upon killing Jews as killing vermin. We were not permitted to talk to the inmates but managed to do so anyway. I was told by quite a number of inmates that if they were sick for more than five days, they would be sent to the gas chambers.
    ‘One foreman boasted about having seen Jews arrive for gassing, 100 to the railway wagon, standing because there was not enough room to sit down. It was too much trouble to take the inmates out, so a gas pipe was put into the wagon. He also told us about the Jews walking into the gas chambers.’
    In 1961 he was an expert witness at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, who had been in charge of the extermination of the Jews, in Tel Aviv and he continued to attend Soviet war crimes trials as a prosecution witness until 1967.
    Charlie lived in Edmonton, North London, and recently the area was adorned with a heritage blue plaque. With his brother Charles Stancer, he initiated the first live outside broadcasts of Tottenham Hotspurs’ football matches to hospital radio in three boroughs, taking on the might of the BBC, who tried to curtail these broadcasts by claiming copyright. Charlie informed them that they were welcome to sue him and the matter was quietly dropped!
    It was his great delight to bring the first female into the press box at the Spurs ground, one Jayne Mansfield! She also featured on one of the early Eamon Andrews’ This Is Your Life programmes, when Charlie was the topic.
    The North Middlesex Hospital has a ward named after him, and following his death in 1979, a physiotherapy room was endowed in his name at the Enfield Leonard Cheshire home.

I would like to thank Charles Stancer for providing me with a great deal of information regarding my neighbour, to Linda and Barry Clark, his daughter and son-in-law, who carry the flame and to Diane Clements, director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, for finding Charlie’s Lodge for me after I had spent two years of frustrating, unfruitful searching.



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