Interview: I realised Witold Pilecki’s story had to be told

Jack Fairweather, war correspondent for the Washington Post and the Daily Telegraph, spoke about his most recent book about the Auschwitz German death camp volunteer, Witold Pilecki, the first biography of Poland’s war hero in English.

Trial of great Polish hero commenced 71 years ago

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Jack Fairweather said that a direct impulse for him to write Witold Pilecki’s biography, was him reading an English translation of Pilecki’s longest intelligence report on the conditions of the Auschwitz camp. “I read it and I realised it was a story that had to be told,” Mr Fairweather said. The work is titled simply “The Volunteer”.

He also discussed the circumstances of Pilecki’s decision to be imprisoned in Auschwitz in order to gain information about the camp and the conditions there. However, Mr Fairweather emphasised that “Pilecki quickly realised that the first challenge was simply to survive.”

With Witold Pilecki’s birthday falling today, on May 13, Mr Fairweather indicated that the actions of Pilecki were deleted from the history record by the Communist government in Poland following the war and “it took until the fall of Iron Curtain to finally speak of him.”

Click here to watch the full interview with Jack Fairweather.

Story of Auschwitz volunteer to be published in English

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“The Volunteer” out in June

Poland’s Pilecki Institute, whose mission “is to preserve memory and to document and research the history of the 20th century, with a special focus on the Polish experience and the wartime fate of Polish citizens”, announced the publication of Mr Fairweather’s “The Volunteer” on April 26.

Harper Collins will publish the book by June 25, 2019, whereas Penguin Random’s publication is set for June 27, 2019.

The announcement coincided with the anniversary of Witold Pilecki’s escape from Auschwitz on the night of April 26/27, 1943. Witold Pilecki “remains virtually unknown to the Western world. Fascinated with Pilecki’s story, Jack Fairweather delivered it in immensely thrilling and compelling prose. The upcoming book tour will take place in the USA and Great Britain,” tweeted Pilecki Institute.

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.