Friday, November 22, 2013

Buchenwald Lampshade

In 1945 Ness Edwards, MP for Caerphilly, was part of a parliamentary delegation that visited Buchenwald concentration camp. Many people in Britain were sceptical about the nature and scale of the horrors being reported from such places. Surely the "atrocity mongering" newspapers were exaggerating the crimes? It was the job of the 10 volunteer MPs to verify what actually took place at Buchenwald.

What they found at the camp was evidence of large-scale murder, disease and human degradation. At one point Edwards briefly fainted after being overpowered by the stench of death. There are in existence photographs of Edwards and his colleagues inspecting huge piles of naked, decomposing corpses. Unfortunately the pictures are just too gruesome to use here.

When Edwards left the concentration camp he took with him a grim souvenir - a lampshade made from human skin. It was intended to remind him of man's inhumanity to man. The visit had been traumatic and for many years he continued to have nightmares about Buchenwald. It is said - though I don't know for sure if this is true - that when he attended election meetings he would sometimes take the Nazi lampshade with him and claim that such atrocities would happen again if the Welsh nationalists gained power.

Ness (Onesimus) Edwards was a former miner who first went down the pit aged 13. A conscientious objector during WW1 he spent time in Wormwood Scrubs prison for his beliefs. After the Munich Agreement in 1938 he helped anti-Nazi Czech miners escape from the Sudetenland. In 1939 he became MP for Caerphilly. In 1945 he represented British miners at the memorial to the murdered at Lidice. He remained the MP for Caerphilly until his death in 1968.

Amazingly the Buchenwald lampshade was kept at St Martin's Comprehensive School in Caerphilly. It may even still be there.

*If you want to discover more about Ness Edwards there is a good biography on him written by Wayne David called Remaining True.