The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery by Witold Pilecki.
Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Not Only Jews: Poles Were Also Gassed at Auschwitz! German Death Penalty Deterred Underground Action as Well as Aid to Fugitive Jews. Double Genocide (Nazi=Communist) Affirmed
Instead of repeating information presented by other reviewers, I mainly focus mainly on matters not mentioned by them, especially insofar as they shed little-known insights on the function of Nazi Germans in general and the Auschwitz Concentration/Death Camp in particular.
The reader must know something about the function of Auschwitz in order to appreciate this work. Major aids for the reader include a glossary of German terms (pp. 335-344) and especially the detailed chronology of Pilecki’s experiences. (pp. 355-on).
The descriptions of German cruelties are graphic, and may upset the sensitive reader.
THE TRUE CHARACTER OF THE POLOKAUST
Nowadays, Poles murdered by the Germans during WWII are commonly belittled as common wartime incidents, and as merely a German drive to intimidate Poles into submission and to destroy their ability to resist. In actuality, the Germans were conducting long-term genocide on the Poles, beginning with the intelligentsia. Even when Poles were arrested for unrelated reasons, such as part of random mass arrests, they were still screened for intelligentsia. Pilecki comments how arrivals at Auschwitz were asked by the Germans for their occupation: “Replying priest, judge, lawyer, at that time meant being beaten to death…So, they were going out of their way to kill the professional classes.” (pp. 17-18).
OPERATION ZAMOSC: ARRIVING POLES WERE GASSED
The author alludes to the Germans’ genocidal “Operation Zamosc”. Over a hundred thousand Polish villagers from the Lublin region were eventually deported, and replaced with German colonists. Such Poles arriving at Auschwitz were commonly gassed. Pilecki encountered Polish peasant shoes, clothing, and rosaries among the mountains of clothing of the Jewish victims. (p. 231). He also encountered some teenage boys who the Germans later killed with phenol injections into their hearts, instead of being gassed, for some reason. (p. 232).
EVERYDAY EVENTS AT AUSCHWITZ
The author describes how the Germans tortured their victims. This included turning dogs on victims. Some bodies about to be cremated had been clearly mutilated. (p. 174). The starvation rations meant that the best occupation at Auschwitz was to take care of the pigs, which got better food than the inmates did. (p. 113). Being sent to the hospital meant almost certain death.
One of the diversions of the inmates was boxing with Germans. Poles usually beat the Germans, just as they had earlier in football (soccer). (pp. 205-206).
Passive resistance included the adding of numbers (tattoos) of the sick unto the bodies of the dead. (p. 182). Many inmates died of typhus. Interestingly, Poles turned this disease against the Germans by cultivating typhus-infected lice and then releasing them unto the coats of passing SS men. (p. 159). Typhus thus infected many SS men. (p. 186).
One of the nationalities mentioned by Pilecki is the Silesians. Once commonly reckoning themselves as Poles, they now turned back on their Polish nationality, considered themselves a Germanic tribe, and aspired to become block chiefs at Auschwitz. (p. 69).
RUSSIANS AND THEN JEWS WERE GASSED
Pilecki describes the mass gassings of Russians. (p. 135). He then describes the same fate of the Jews in considerable detail. In common with Jewish survivors, Pilecki overestimates the number of Auschwitz victims as 2 million up to the time of his escape (p. 328), and 5 million by those Poles who had survived until its end. (p. 329). [The currently accepted total is about 1.5 million.] Obviously, the grossly inflated death toll at Auschwitz, often quoted as 4 million for some time after the war, was a survivors’ exaggeration. It was not (as sometimes alleged) some kind of postwar Polish invention designed to hide the Jewishness of most of the victims.
GERMAN-IMPOSED DEATH PENALTY DETERRED UNDERGROUND ACTIVITY AS WELL AS THE AIDING OF JEWS
Jan T. Gross and his neo-Stalinist friends have argued that Poles should have been more willing to risk their lives by hiding Jews since they already risked their lives in Underground activity—implying that Polish fears of German reprisals were selective and that Jews were of little importance to Poles. This is nonsense. Pilecki makes it clear that the German-imposed death penalty had been an all-around deterrent: “Our population in Warsaw had very willingly provided help to people in the underground movement, especially during the initial phases when people had not yet been terrified by dreadful descriptions of concentration camps, or of the Aleja Szucha. Later, finding ‘safe houses’ would be harder…” (p. 152).
DOUBLE GENOCIDE (RED=BROWN) SUBSTANTIATED: COMMUNISM WAS WORSE THAN NAZISM
Pilecki’s escape from Auschwitz is elaborated in spellbinding detail. He was surprised to find other escapees, from German concentration camps, in Warsaw. Years later, when imprisoned (and soon thereafter murdered) by the Communists, Pilecki was quoted as saying that his stay at Auschwitz had been „child’s play” compared with his tortures under the Communist authorities. (p. liv).
Published with the author’s permission.
The title image: The cover of „The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery by Witold Pilecki / selected by wg.pco