The Volunteer: One Man, an Underground Army, and the Secret Mission to Destroy Auschwitz

Front Cover
HarperCollins, Jun 25, 2019 - History - 528 pages

“Superbly written and breathtakingly researched, The Volunteer smuggles us into Auschwitz and shows us—as if watching a movie—the story of a Polish agent who infiltrated the infamous camp, organized a rebellion, and then snuck back out. We are squarely confronted with the other human truth: ordinary people will happily risk their lives to help others. Fairweather has dug up a story of incalculable value and delivered it to us in the most compelling prose I have read in a long time.” —Sebastian Junger, bestselling author of The Perfect Storm and Tribe

The incredible true story of a Polish resistance fighter’s infiltration of Auschwitz to sabotage the camp from within, and his daring escape to warn the Allies about the Nazis’ true plans for a “Final Solution.”

To uncover the fate of the thousands being interred at a mysterious Nazi camp on the border of the Reich, a young Polish resistance fighter named Witold Pilecki volunteered for an audacious mission: intentionally get captured and transported to the new camp to report back on what was going on there. But gathering information was not his only task: he was to execute an attack from inside—where the Germans would least expect it. 

The name of the camp was Auschwitz.

Over the next two and half years, Pilecki forged an underground army within Auschwitz that sabotaged facilities, assassinated Nazi informants and officers, and smuggled out evidence of terrifying abuse and mass murder. But as the annihilation of innocents accelerated, Pilecki realized he would have to attempt another perilous mission: escape Auschwitz and somehow—with more than 900 miles of Nazi-occupied territory in the way—deliver his alert to London before all was lost. . .

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 reveals Witold’s exploits with vivid, cinematic bravura. He also uncovers the tragic outcome of Pilecki’s mission, in which the ultimate betrayal came not on the Continent, but England.

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
5
4 stars
7
3 stars
1
2 stars
0
1 star
0

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - KatrinaShawver - LibraryThing

Jack Fairweather has done a great service by thoroughly documenting the story of Witold Pilecki, so that this brave, patriotic man will not be forgotten. Witold Pilecki is a well-known Polish hero to ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - CharlesSvec - LibraryThing

It took a little while to read thru this book. I kept going to the pictures to match up with the names, and it was challenging to keep track of everyone. Even so, this is a good book to read about a first hand account of what happened in Auschwitz. Read full review

Other editions - View all

About the author (2019)

Jack Fairweather has been a correspondent for the Washington Post and the Daily Telegraph, where he served as the Baghdad and Persian Gulf bureau chief. His reporting during the Iraq War earned him Britain’s top press award. The author of A War of Choice and The Good War, he lives in Charlotte, Vermont.

Bibliographic information