The Count of Auschwitz

The Count of Auschwitz

Credit:wikicommons/Auschwitz Memorial and Museum

Today as we mark 80 years since the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp opened, our Advocate and Ally of the Jewish people is a war hero and hero of the Holocaust.

Not a Coward

Charles Coward was hardly the chicken his name might suggest. Besides being a heralded escapee of Nazi prison camps, Coward also saved the lives of hundreds of Jews who were fellow prisoners of his.

Born in 1905, Coward enlisted in the British army during the years between the World Wars. Still in the service as Quartermaster Battery Sergeant Major when England entered the war, Coward found himself captured by the Nazis in 1940. He would prove to be a headache for the Germans…and their anti-Semitic plans.

Before the Nazis could even get Coward into a camp, he had already escaped twice. He made seven more escape attempts. One of the most memorable found Coward – fluent in German – posing as a Nazi “hero.” His German enemies unknowingly awarded their prisoner the Iron Cross, the highest German military award! But even when held prisoner, Coward made sure to sabotage German facilities during his slave labor details.

Courage and Cunning in a Concentration Camp

The Nazis couldn’t handle this escape artist bungling their evil plans, so they shipped Coward to Auschwitz in December of 1943. Coward’s fluency in German afforded him the position of Red Cross liaison for British prisoners. This “job” let Coward move freely around the camp. There, he saw trainloads of Jews being brought to their deaths. He had to do something.

First, Coward and his fellow British prisoners smuggled food and other supplies to the Jewish prisoners.

Coward also smuggled things out of Auschwitz in the form of military intelligence. Writing to a made-up “Mr. Orange,” Coward sent detailed information to British authorities.

And finally, Coward helped smuggle people out of Auschwitz, as well. Bribing Nazi guards with chocolate and other contraband, he bought identification paperwork of Gentile prisoners who had died in the camp. He then gave these papers to Jewish prisoners, who first adopted these safer identities before being sneaked from the camp themselves. Using this brilliant scheme, Coward saved more than 400 Jews from the death camp.

A Courageous Gentile

For his bravery, this man known as “The Count of Auschwitz” was named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1963, a year after Hollywood memorialized him on the silver screen in the movie The Password Is Courage. And it was Charles Coward’s courage that made him both an Advocate and an Ally of the Jewish people.

Tags: Advocates and Allies Auschwitz Charles Coward History Holocaust

More From Fellowship Blog

Fellowship Blog

The IDF Rabbi at Jerusalem’s Western Wall

Rabbi Shlomo Goren was an Israeli military veteran and Chief Rabbi of the IDF, which found him blowing the shofar in a reunified Jerusalem after the Six-Day War.

Fellowship Blog

From Purim to Shavuot — In and Out of the Coronavirus Lockdown

A Fellowship staff member in Israel prays that the anniversary of God giving His Word will also be a day when we can celebrate our good health and the health of people around the world.

Fellowship Blog

Project Spotlight: Live Prayer Service With The Fellowship

Through a time like this, we’re especially reminded of the power of prayer.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay informed about issues affecting Israel, the Jewish people, Jewish-Christian relations, receive daily devotionals, and more.