Mem. Ed. $24.99
Pub. Ed. $42.95
You pay $1.00
The 19th of September 1940—the second street round-up in Warsaw.
There are a few people still alive who saw me go alone at 6:00 a.m. to the corner of Aleja Wojska and Felinskiego Street and join the “fives” of captured men drawn up by the SS.
On Plac Wilsona we were then loaded onto lorries and taken to the Light Horse Guards Barracks.
After having our particulars taken down in the temporary office there, being relieved of sharp objects and threatened with being shot if so much as a razor was later found on us, we were led out into the riding school arena where we remained throughout the 19th and the 20th.
During those two days some of us made the acquaintance of a rubber truncheon on the head. However, this was more or less within acceptable bounds for those accustomed to guardians of the peace using such methods to keep order.
Meanwhile, some families were buying their loved ones’ freedom, paying the SS huge sums of money.
At night, we all slept side by side on the ground.
The arena was lit by a huge spotlight set up right next to the entrance.
SS men with automatic weapons were stationed on all four sides.
There were about one thousand eight hundred or so of us.
What really annoyed me the most was the passivity of this group of Poles. All those picked up were already showing signs of crowd psychology, the result being that our whole crowd behaved like a herd of passive sheep.
A simple thought kept nagging me: stir up everyone and get this mass of people moving.
I suggested to my comrade, Slawek Szpakowski (who I know was living in Warsaw up to the Uprising), a joint operation during the night: take over the crowd, attack the sentry posts while I, on my way to the lavatory, would “bump” into the spotlight and smash it.
However, I had a different reason for being there.
This would have been a much less important objective.
While he—thought the idea was total madness.
On the morning of the 21st we were put onto trucks and, escorted by motorcycles with automatic weapons, were taken off to the western railroad station and loaded onto freight cars.
The railroad cars must have been used before for carrying lime, for the floors were covered in it.
The cars were shut. We travelled for a whole day. We were given nothing to eat or drink. In any case, no one wanted to eat. The previous day we had been issued some bread, which we did not yet know how to eat or to treasure. We were just very thirsty. The lime, when disturbed, turned into a powder. It filled the air, irritating our nostrils and throats. We got nothing to drink.
Excerpt from The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery, by Captain Witold Pilecki, translated by Jarek Garlinski. Copyright 2012 Jarek Garlinski/Aquila Polonica (U.S.) Ltd. Excerpted with permission of Aquila Polonica Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Review by Gerhard L. Weinberg
For most people today, the term “Auschwitz” immediately brings to mind the systematic murder of vast numbers of Jews by Germans during World War II. While that image is not incorrect, it is incomplete. Substantial numbers of non-Jewish Poles were the first inmates of the original camp, and it is their role and fate that needs to be seen as an important part of the whole story. The Polish underground resistance to German occupation wanted to find out what was going on in the camp into which so many of their members were being sent. Readers will find in this remarkable book the account of events in Auschwitz prepared in 1945 by a member of the underground who agreed to be arrested by the Germans, was sent there, and escaped in 1943 after helping to organize resistance cells within the camp and reporting by clandestine means about the situation inside.
The translator of Pilecki’s report (from the Polish original held by a Polish organization in England) has also provided an excellent introduction about the author of the report and the circumstances of its preparation. Here one can see the early stages of the camp, the treatment of its Polish inmates, the behavior of the guards and other camp personnel, and the first of the horrendous medical experiments on camp inmates. There are underground cells, efforts at resistance, and contacts with the Polish underground on the outside. The first Red Army prisoners of war are brought in and murdered. Then large numbers of Jews are brought in from all over Europe to be killed in vast numbers. Here the reader can see the initial stages of what the name Auschwitz has come to symbolize.
From fixing a garden for the Commandant to being treated in the most brutal way that the imagination of guards could envision, the inmates can be seen in this book as real individuals rather than statistics. The immediacy of the report written when the author was with the Polish units that had participated in the fighting against the Germans in Italy may shock but will surely enlighten. Here is a portion of the Auschwitz story that needed to be told.
Pilecki escaped when his transfer to another camp looked likely, participated in the 1944 Warsaw uprising, and became a prisoner of the Germans. After the war he was arrested, tried, and executed by the Communist government of postwar Poland; surely a curious tribute from a Soviet-imposed regime to one who already opposed Nazi Germany at a time when Stalin was Hitler’s ally.
Hardcover Book : 464 pages
Publisher: Aquila Polonica (U.S.) Ltd. ( April 16, 2012 )
Item #: 13-437208
Product Dimensions: 6.0 x 9.0 x 1.16inches
Product Weight: 22.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
I am a WWII nut , but not so much a holocaust reader . But I must say this book , actually a report was such a good read I thought I was reading fiction . It reads very fast as it is so interesting . Probably one of the few books written by a survivor so soon after his getting free while the war still raged. A unique perspective for readers ,of the inside workings of a Death Camp. A must have for any historian of the Big One in Europe.I just wish that his futher mission and death were delved into more deeply.
Reviewer: Tim M