The Volunteer

The Volunteer

Author
Jack Fairweather
ARRSE Rating
4.5 Mushroom Heads
This is the harrowing true story of Witold Pilecki, who, at the invasion of Poland by Germany, was a second lieutenant in the cavalry reserves. After his unit was overrun and most of his men killed, wounded or prisoner, he and the few survivors made for Warsaw.

He remained in Warsaw, joining the underground movement and was involved in resisting the Germans by guerrilla tactics.

The SS were constantly rounding up young men for forced labour and when the underground movement learnt about the atrocities in the camp at Auschwitz they decided that as much information as possible about the camp was needed in order to inform the Allied forces and the world about the place.

Witold Pilecki volunteered to be 'rounded up' by the SS and sent to Auschwitz. Once there he formed an underground group and began to collect information about the camp. He collected and collated information about the conditions inside Auschwitz and the methods of torture and extermination of the inmates. Gradually there was an increase of inmates, and now, most of them were Jews instead of Poles. The Poles were mostly used as a labour force whereas the Jews were mostly gassed and cremated.

It took a long time for the information to leak to the outside world and eventually Witold himself escaped after having been incarcerated for over two and a half years in Auschwitz from September 1940 until April 1943. He was apprehended by the Germans after the Warsaw uprising and put in a POW camp at Lamsdorf in Silesia where he remained until the end of the war.

After the war he continued to work with his old underground colleagues, taking reports on his experiences to the Vatican. He returned to Poland and began to write his autobiography. He also collected information on how the new communist regime was treating the Poles.

In 1947 he was arrested by the communist secret police and charged with treason, plotting to kill officials, failure to report to the authorities,using forged documents and possession of illegal firearms. He admitted to the forged documents and the possession of weapons but denied acting for a foreign power or plotting to kill secret police officers. When allowed to speak he stated "I tried to live my life in such a fashion so that in my last hour, I would rather be happy than fearful. I find happiness in knowing that the fight was worth it." He also reiterated the fact that he was a Polish officer following orders.

He was sentenced to death and, although there were appeals they were all rejected and he was executed (shot in the back of the head) on the 25th May 1948 in Mokotรณw Prison.

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