The Goalkeeper of Auschwitz Returns to Nazi Death Camp to Bury the Past


An Auschwitz Nazi death camp survivor, who played as a goalkeeper for the Welsh team in the Nazi death camp’s football league, returned to the site to bury his past.

Ron Jones, 96, is one of the three men who are still alive that survived the Auschwitz death camp and the death march. After being captured by German troops during World War II, he was held in E715, a prisoner of war camp in the main Auschwitz extermination camp in Poland.

Being in the Nazi death camp was a terrible ordeal. Most of the prisoners were afraid of their lives in the death camp.

“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.”

In the Nazi death camp, it was tough but there was a bit of recreation time for the prisoners. The detainees were employed at forced labor camps during the week. One their rest day, they were allowed to play football with armed German guards watching from the sidelines.

“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.”

Playing football was a sort of a breather for most of the prisoners. However, facing reality, fear was still in their minds. During in their football matches, smoke would come out from the chimneys, an ominous sign to the unfortunate ones.

“The first thing you’d notice was the smell,” said Ron. “If the wind was in your direction the smell was terrible.”

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At the later part of 1945, Ron left the death camp. However, it wasn’t easy for him. He was part of the Auschwitz death march that covered about 900 miles across Europe. Along with his fellow prisoners, they travelled constantly for four months until they were freed by American troops.

The death march was dreadful. Along the march, he could see his comrades die in fatigue and freezing conditions. Fortunately for him, he survived the death march reunited with his wife Gladys. In the span of the four month travel, he lost half of his weight.

“There was the humiliation and the lack of food but on the whole life wasn’t too bad,” Ron recalled. “The Germans, contrary to what a lot of people think, were pretty good to us on the whole.”

His awful experiences in the Nazi death camp and the death march are still fresh in Ron’s mind. Ron hopes that his visit back to Auschwitz could help him put down to rest his troubled past.

“I could still see it when I first went back to Auschwitz, I couldn’t sleep with the memories.”

His struggles in the Nazi death camp and the death march is written in the book entitled, “The Auschwitz Goalkeeper,” which will be published later this month.

Robert Manto

Robert Manto is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE