Auschwitz survivor, 84, says bottled message a 'mystery'
The man, whose name was on a note recently found in the death camp, says the discovery was the biggest surprise of his life.Allauch -- A French Holocaust survivor whose name was found in a bottled message on the grounds of Auschwitz this week said Tuesday the discovery was a "mystery" to him.
Museum officials said Monday that workers demolishing a wall that was once part of the Nazi death camp in Poland had found a hand-written 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 sprightly 84-year-old, told AFP 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.
"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 the following year.
Dated September 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 southern Polish town of Oswiecim that served as a warehouse for the camp's Nazi guards during World War II, now part of a local high school.
Veissid said he remembers meeting the six Poles in question while working as a builder at the camp.
"It's true I did them some favours. 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, the Auschwitz museum said Monday.
Veissid said he had spoken little about his experiences at Auschwitz, declining to give speeches in schools on his time there.
"But since this story intrigues me, I decided to play the game for once. It's a revolution for me."
Born into a Jewish family in Istanbul -- then known as Constantinople -- in 1924, Veissid arrived in the southeastern French city of Lyon as a baby.
As a young man he worked as a musician and a sweet-store vendor, before being deported.
He survived until Auschwitz was evacuated in January 1945, when he walked across Germany to France, arriving in a state so emaciated that his family struggled to recognise him.
"I was a walking skeleton. One more week and I wouldn't have made it back," said Veissid, who took up work as a musician then as a salesman after recovering his health.
More than one million people, most of them European Jews, died at the twin Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi camps during World War II. In total, six million Jews died in the Holocaust.
Others who died at Auschwitz included tens of thousands of non-Jewish Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, Romas (gypsies) and anti-Nazi resistance fighters from across Europe.