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The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery

The coherence of his report lies in his concern for his comrades in the camp. View all New York Times newsletters. Their ultimate goal was to organize an uprising to coincide with an Allied bombing or a Polish Home Army raid, neither of which came. When Pilecki finally escaped, in April , the plan involved getting a work assignment in the bakery.

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It worked, although Pilecki took a bullet along the way. The two major sources of anti-Nazi resistance in wartime Europe were Communism and Polish patriotism, which were themselves inimical. For him Communism was a threat and a mistake. His homeland, after all, had been invaded by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union simultaneously.

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His friends were in German and Soviet camps, and killed by both German and Soviet executioners. By the time he rejoined the Polish anti-Nazi underground in late , the problem was how to fight the German occupation even as Soviet occupation again threatened.

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Meanwhile the Soviets halted outside Warsaw, allowing the Germans to kill more than , Poles, most of them civilians, many of them people who would have resisted Soviet rule as they resisted German rule. After the uprising was crushed and Warsaw destroyed, Pilecki was detained in a German P.

But it was not his only deed of bravery, and not the one that killed him. He then accepted what would turn out to be his final mission. The Soviet re-entrance into Poland brought with it the progressive installation of a Communist regime. Pilecki returned to his homeland in October to report on the takeover, but in the Polish Communist secret police arrested him.

He was given a show trial and executed as an imperialist spy in Though Pilecki had been tortured before his trial, he maintained his dignity in court; his defense was that he was doing his duty. We thus owe his lucid presentation of the fate of the victims of Nazi criminality to his equally lucid anticipation of his own fate under Communism.

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Description In , 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.


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His intelligence reports, smuggled out in , 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 ; soon after, he wrote a brief report. This book is the first English translation of a expanded version. In the foreword, Poland's chief rabbi states, If heeded, Pilecki's early warnings might have changed the course of 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 Pilecki is the only man known to have volunteered to get himself arrested and sent to Auschwitz as a prisoner.

His secret undercover mission for the Polish Underground: smuggle out intelligence about this new German concentration camp, and build a resistance organization among the inmates with the ultimate goal of liberating the camp. Barely surviving nearly three years of starvation, disease and brutality, Pilecki accomplished his mission before escaping in April Soon after his escape, Pilecki wrote two relatively brief reports for his Polish Army superiors about his time in Auschwitz.

In he wrote his most comprehensive report of more than one hundred single-spaced typed foolscap pagesit is this last, most comprehensive, report which Aquila Polonica is publishing in English for the first time.


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In late , Pilecki, who was married and the father of two children, volunteered to return undercover to Poland where conditions were chaotic at war's end as the communists were asserting control. His mission this time: liaise with anti-communist resistance organizations and report back on conditions within the country.

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He was captured by the postwar Polish communist regime, tortured and executed in as a traitor and a Western spy. Pilecki was fully exonerated posthumously in the s. Today he is regarded as one of Poland's heroes. His father was noted historian and author Jozef Garlinski, a former prisoner at Auschwitz-Birkenau.