This is a review of a book that I just posted on Amazon on the experiences of Witold Pilecki, a Polish army officer who volunteered to go to Auschwitz:
In an era where the word “hero” is bandied about a little too much, one can go back to an era where bravery and heroism was done by people who went above and beyond the call of duty. In this book, the report of Captain Witold Pilecki on his experiences in the Auschwitz concentration camp in what is now western Poland is told with stunning clarity and anguish.
By intentionally involving himself in a roundup by SS officers, he undertook a mission to go inside Auschwitz to see how the camp was being run and to buildup resistance among the Poles who were detained there. Throughout the report, he told of great hardship where “capos” and SS men were extraordinarily cruel to the prisoners where men were put into “commandos” and essentially worked to death (finished off). Pilecki survived in part by conserving his energy during the ordeal and using his wits to obtain better jobs in the camp that involve lighter labor.
He recorded all of the great horrors of the camp including Soviet prisoners being exterminated all at once with gas and men and women being given phenol injections to procure agonizing deaths. Others were given too little of the drug and were burned alive in the oven. Jews were the main targets of these atrocities, but Poles, Ukrainians, Czechs and to a certain extent Catholic priests had a share in this horror.
After being informed that he might be sent to a harsher camp where he might not survive, he planned his escape in April 1943 and accomplished it with a large amount of suspense and drama. He escaped to the “General government” area east of Krakow where he met men of the Polish Home Army and reported his findings. The final tragedy was to come several years later at the hands of his own countrymen who embraced the Soviet government and tried him as a spy. Nonetheless, this story which is contained in this book should be read by all who look for men who were giants. A brilliant book with a short introduction and informative appendices.