“The Volunteer” by Jack Fairweather— One Man, An Underground Army, and the Secret Mission to Destroy Auschwitz

Fairweather, Jack. “ The Volunteer”, Custom House, 2019.

One Man, An Underground Army, and the Secret Mission to Destroy Auschwitz

Amos Lassen

Jack Fairweather’s “The Volunteer” features maps, drawings, and more than 200 original photographs from the 1930s and 40s that detail the breathtaking journey of Witold Pilecki. This is the story of one man who tried to warn us about Auschwitz from inside the camp and who tried to destroy Auschwitz and save the lives of 800,000 Jews. He was on a mission to inform the world about Auschwitz.

The book smuggles us into Auschwitz and shows us the story of a Polish agent who infiltrated the infamous camp, organized a rebellion, and then snuck back out. Fairweather has dug up a story of great value and delivered it to us in beautiful and compelling prose.

It is meticulously researched and clearly told and gives us a  remarkable inside-view of the Holocaust. It is also a look at the triumph of the human spirit.
“Jack Fairweather has chronicled Pilecki’s remarkable journey and gives us a work that is a testament to courage.  Here is human heroism in the face of overwhelming odds.

This  is the untold story of one of the greatest heroes of the Second World War. In the Summer of 1940, after the Nazi occupation of Poland, Witold Pilecki, an underground operative accepted a mission to uncover the fate of thousands of people being interred 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 camp was Auschwitz. It was only after arriving at the camp that he started to discover the Nazi’s terrible treatments and plans. Over the next two and half years, Witold forged an underground army that smuggled evidence of Nazi atrocities to the West that were responsible for the murder of over a million Jews. 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is the first major account of it and it draws on exclusive family papers and recently declassified files as well as unpublished accounts from the camp’s fighters to show how he saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

 Completely erased from the historical record by Poland’s Communist government, Pilecki remains almost unknown to the world. Now, with exclusive access to previously hidden diaries, family and camp survivor accounts and recently declassified files, Jack Fairweather shares Witold’s exploits and uncovers the tragic outcome of Pilecki’s mission, in which the ultimate betrayal came not on the Continent, but England.

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