Gavriil Ahrenski

01/05/2015 21:33

Who is Gavriil Ahrenski?

Gavriil Ahrenski is a Russian Prisoner of War ("POW") having fought in the Leningrad campaign spearheaded by his friend Andrei Vlasov. This campaign was an illfated attempt to break the German stranglehold on the city. The subsequent encirclement left the Russian army surrounded and enclosed within the same forests where Franz Wolff was wounded one year before. Subsequently the soldiers were massacred. Gavriil survives and leaves his friend behind by joining the partisans. Vlasov is captured by the Germans and defects to the Nazis to form the Russian Liberation Army. In the meantime, Gavriil is later captured and, after a horrific experience in the 'Bear Pit', is sent to Auschwitz. Here, he meets Franz, who feeling a soldier's bond, insists the POWs be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention. In doing so, he has a major confrontation with Mihael insisting that their unforms are returned to them.

Gavriil takes part in the Escape Committee, following Mihael's escape. He helps to smuggle dynamite to the Sonderkommando and eventually escapes himself when Monowitz is bombed in the final days of the camp.

His story is recounted as part of his interrogation by the NKVD after the war. It is apparent that he met up with his former colleague Vlasov. In 'Truth in Ash' we hear how Gavriil rejoined his former friend Vlasov fighting in the POA (Russian Liberation Army). He fights alongside his old captor Franz Wolff and escapes with him during the Czech Uprising. The POA turned their guns on their German allies in this battle but found no mercy with Stalin who hunted down all POWs and had them summarily executed including Vlasov.

What was the significance of Gavriil?

Gavriil is important, because it was clear that the Russians received the worst treatment in the camp. The Germans resented their presence, for the war with Russia was proving an incredibly bitter conflict. Keeping their uniforms was an important factor, for without they would be classed as deserters. He also represents the complexity of the Russian position during the war, with Stalin changing sides and undermining the Slovakian Uprising. Nothing is ever clear with Russia, but what we do know is that their nation suffered the most during WWII. Please click here for more.

How would you describe his relationship with Franz?

Gavriil's relationship with Franz is limited as is his relations with the others. This is deliberate in that it shows the isolation of these people who were terribly treated. Of all the atrocities in Auschwitz, the Russian atrocities are the least mentioned, for few survived to tell the story and those that did survive could not relate their story. Russia should give them special remembrance.

What is Gavriil's religious significance?

Gavriil is an Archangel. In the scriptures Gabriel is a messenger or courier, a role Gavriil performs in the gunpowder smuggling operation. Gabriel is the angel that announces to Mary that she will have Christ. The absence of women in Gavriil's text is symbolic of the lack of any salvation in the camp. The church has a questionable role in the Nazi period. 

What inspired the character Gavriil Ahrenski?

Gavriil was not inspired by any specific character. His friend is a real character who played a significant role particularly in the final days of the war. Ironically Vlasov held up the Nazis and changed sides at the very end when it was too late. Please click here for more.






Andrey Vlasov

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