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The Auschwitz Volunteer Summary and Reviews

The Auschwitz Volunteer

Beyond Bravery

by Captain Witold Pilecki

The Auschwitz Volunteer by Captain Witold Pilecki X
The Auschwitz Volunteer by Captain Witold Pilecki
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Book Summary

In 1940, the Polish Underground wanted to know what was happening inside the recently opened Auschwitz concentration camp. Polish army officer Witold Pilecki volunteered to be arrested by the Germans and reported from inside the camp. His intelligence reports, smuggled out in 1941, were among the first eyewitness accounts of Auschwitz atrocities: the extermination of Soviet POWs, its function as a camp for Polish political prisoners, and the “final solution” for Jews. Pilecki received brutal treatment until he escaped in April 1943; soon after, he wrote a brief report.

This book is the first English translation of a 1945 expanded version. In the foreword, Poland’s chief rabbi states, “If heeded, Pilecki’s early warnings might have changed the course of history.” Pilecki’s story was suppressed for half a century after his 1948 arrest by the Polish Communist regime as a “Western spy.” He was executed and expunged from Polish history.

Pilecki writes in staccato style but also interjects his observations on humankind’s lack of progress: “We have strayed, my friends, we have strayed dreadfully... we are a whole level of hell worse than animals!” These remarkable revelations are amplified by 40 b&w photos, illus., and maps.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"One man volunteered for Auschwitz, and now we have his story. . . Pilecki’s report on Auschwitz, unpublishable for decades in Communist Poland and now translated into English under the title "The Auschwitz Volunteer," is a historical document of the greatest importance." - The New York Times Sunday Book Review Editor's Choice, Timothy Snyder, Yale Professor, author of Bloodlands

"In the summer of 1945, a Polish officer serving with British forces in Italy wrote an extraordinary memoir. In 1940, as the London-based Polish government-in-exile puzzled over what might be going on in the still little-known camp the Nazis had set up in Auschwitz. . . Pilecki, as revealed in his 1945 report-made all the more affecting by its stark, just-the-facts tone-responded magnificently to his situation, organizing underground support groups for the prisoners, smuggling out information, and even managing to escape in 1943. . .In 2006 Pilecki, one of the unsung heroes of the war, was awarded Poland’s highest medal." -- Brian Bethune, Maclean’s, June 22, 2012

"Earthshaking. A book which I hope will be widely read." - Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Center for Strategic & International Studies

"A shining example of heroism that transcends religion, race and time…This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the Holocaust." - Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland

"A real contribution to our understanding of the history of Poland under Nazi occupation." - Antony Polonsky, the Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies at Brandeis University

"An Allied hero who deserved to be remembered and celebrated." - Professor Norman Davies, historian and author (Vanished Kingdoms)

"This remarkable book...may shock but will surely enlighten. Here is a portion of the Auschwitz story that needed to be told." - Gerhard L. Weinberg, the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor Emeritus of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, internationally recognized authority on Nazi Germany

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