'Totally gripping'-- Simon Sebag Montefiore
‘Pilecki is perhaps one of the greatest unsung heroes of the second world war ... this insightful book is likely to be the definitive version of this extraordinary life’ -- Economist
Would you sacrifice yourself to save thousands of others?
In the Summer of 1940, after the Nazi occupation of Poland, an underground operative called Witold Pilecki accepted a mission to uncover the fate of thousands of people being interned at a new concentration camp on the border of the Reich.
His mission was to report on Nazi crimes and raise a secret army to stage an uprising. The name of the detention centre -- Auschwitz.
It was only after arriving at the camp that he started to discover the Nazi’s terrifying plans. Over the next two and half years, Witold forged an underground army that smuggled evidence of Nazi atrocities out of Auschwitz. His reports from the camp were to shape the Allies response to the Holocaust - yet his story was all but forgotten for decades.
This is the first major account to draw on unpublished family papers, newly released archival documents and exclusive interviews with surviving resistance fighters to show how he brought the fight to the Nazis at the heart of their evil designs.
The result is an enthralling story of resistance and heroism against the most horrific circumstances, and one man’s attempt to change the course of history.
"Witold Pilecki volunteered to be imprisoned in Auschwitz," writes former war correspondent Fairweather in this immaculately detailed history, and rather than being heralded as a hero, he was tried, executed, and "effectively deleted from history" by his country. Fairweather mines letters, coded diaries, and personal interviews to tell the story of how Pilecki, a gentleman farmer and Polish cavalry officer, left his family, assumed a false identity, and handed himself over to the Gestapo for imprisonment at Auschwitz along with all the other military-age men in Warsaw. For two and a half years, he endured torture, starvation, and disease, witnessing Jewish families being led to the gas chambers and choking on the fumes from burning bodies, all the while risking his life to collect information on death tolls and building plans for death chambers and crematoriums that would be smuggled out by released upper-class prisoners. Pilecki was devastated when the Polish resistance and the Allies refused to believe that Auschwitz had become the center of the "final solution." After escaping on his own, Pilecki returned to a Poland decimated by the fleeing Germans and seized by the encroaching Communist forces, which labeled him a traitor for opposing them and executed him. Fairweather tells this tragic tale in gripping fashion, bringing a new angle to the literature of the Holocaust. Illus.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Hard on the heart but a great book
This is the first kind of book in this genre/setting I have read since secondary school. I read a lot of biology/physiology books for my course but I saw this and I thought I’d switch it up.
I found it a struggle to read in certain places, not for the fact of the detail of events that where in the book, but the writing style between events. I understand not every waking second to “Witolds” (main character) story is known but in parts it felt like his documented stories and events didn’t coalesce with the writing style and at points made “Witold” to look like two people at one time.
The documented parts to the story are hard hitting and a tough pill to swallow as some of the events really hits hard on the way life was in the concentration camps and the horrifying things experienced. This to me, is not a discouragement of the book but a praise because at points I looked up and just exhaled in disbelief of the events that took place and this is something I will take away with me from this book.
You meet an array of fantastic people along the book who all would off had incredible stories to tell themselves no doubt. But the point id like to take away was at the end of the book, a section with every character you meets brief back story and what happened to them was extremely fascinating and worth a read on itself.
Finally, the peer reviewed literature used. Big points the writer conveys that happened, are backed up with references and point of contact for the information. This not only brings the book alive more, but if, like me you are very research based and analytical in your thinking this makes the book stand out more and tell the story in a completely different way then if it was a fiction novel.
On a buy/wait for sale/leave score
Buy or wait for sale