A FORMER Nazi prison guard discovered to be living in Fareham has said he was forced to take the job or die.
A Holocaust researcher has unearthed papers showing Alexander Huryn served as a guard at Trawniki labour camp in occupied Poland where thousands of Jewish prisoners died.
Documents obtained by Dr Stephen Ankier through the recent opening of Soviet-era archives show that Mr Huryn served at the concentration camp and also appear to prove he joined an SS battalion that committed atrocities against Polish civilians in 1944 and 1945.
But Mr Huryn, 90, has denied being part of the war crimes and told The News that the invading German army gave him the stark choice of signing up or joining the camps himself.
Speaking in heavily-accented English, the frail pensioner said: ‘I never volunteered to join. We had to go or they would have confiscated our farm and put my whole family in a concentration camp.’
He claims that his main duty was training horses for the German cavalry and the occupying forces didn’t trust people like him with modern guns.
‘We were never given a rank, we were just soldiers,’ he said. ‘We were given a prehistoric gun, like an American Civil War rifle and just five bullets. When the German soldiers got new rifles we weren’t allowed them.
‘The Germans never trusted us.
‘We did do some guarding of the prisoners but we didn’t get involved with any of them. I absolutely never saw anyone get killed at the camp and I never killed anyone.
‘I do feel bad about what we had to do, I didn’t like it at all, but I did nothing wrong at all.’
Ukrainian-born Mr Huryn grew up in the village of Wola Uhruska, now in Eastern Poland, and he recalled a time shortly before the Germans came when his family sheltered a fleeing Jewish woman for several days at their farm.
‘She asked us to help her so we did,’ he said. ‘If the Germans knew we had helped her we would have all been shot.’
As a former member of the German armed forces, Mr Huryn still receives a German Army pension, which he said was about £10 a month. Mr Huryn said he came to the UK in 1948. He married English woman Diana in 1954 and became a UK citizen in 1965. They now live in a detached bungalow they bought themselves.
He worked as a farm labourer in Scotland before moving to London and eventually settling in Fareham.
He spent 18 years with John Hunt, a Gosport-based building company.
The couple’s daughter Sophie Huryn, who also lives in Fareham, said: ‘Dad never really talked about it, but he has always insisted his family would have been shot.
‘There were all sorts of victims of Adolf Hitler in all sorts of different ways. He came to this country with nothing but he worked hard. He’s not wasted his life.’
In documents obtained by Dr Ankier is Mr Huryn’s Trawniki identity certificate showing his place and date of birth. It bears a passport-style photograph of him in 1943.
Neighbours were stunned to learn of Mr Huryn’s past. One who did not want to be named said: ‘It’s awful. It’s shocking to think that someone who was involved in something like that could end up on your doorstep.’