On Wednesday, November 17, the Royal Castle in Warsaw hosted the gala of the first edition of the International Witold Pilecki Book Award. The best historical and reportage books describing the Polish experiences of two totalitarian regimes of the 20th century were awarded.
Wojciech Kozłowski, the head of the Pilecki Institute, emphasised that the nominees and laureates are, in a sense, the continuators of the activities of the patron of the award, who described his volunteer mission to Auschwitz concentration camp in “Pilecki's Report.”
“People with similar courage and determination are needed in various places around the world. People who research history, describe it, find the truth. People who see history with their own eyes and tell the world about it. That is why we made the decision to make Witold Pilecki the patron of this award and I am grateful to his family for agreeing to it,” Mr Kozłowski said during the ceremony.
“For me, the award… embodies so much of what Pilecki himself stood for - his courage, his bravery, his desire to document the horrors of the nazi regime,” Jack Fairweather, member of the Pilecki Book Awards commitee, said.
The winner in the historical reportage category was the “Jan Sehn. Nazi Tracker,” book by Filip Gańczak, which tells about an outstanding Auschwitz expert fighting for the settlement of German crimes.
“Immediately after WWII, he took up the pursuit of German crimes with great commitment... he emphasised human and humanistic motives that require seeking justice and trying to bring about the just punishment of the perpetrators of the crimes of the WWII,” Mr Gańczak said, describing the protagonist of his book.
Christina Lamb’s publication “Our Bodies, Their Battlefield: What War Does to Women” won the special category for war correspondents.
“Very often such books are perceived as a pacifist manifesto. I believe that it is not so. I myself am the author of a book devoted to women and I believe that this experience of women, the civilian population, shows us fully what an armed conflict is, what wars are,” Prof. Magdalena Gawin, Deputy Minister of Culture and National Heritage said, praising the awarded book.
Eliyana Adler won the scientific history book award for her publication “Survival on the Margins” about Polish-Jewish war refugees in the USSR.
However, the American author refused to accept it, accusing the Pilecki Institute of participating in “censoring the works of historians” of the Holocaust.
Wojciech Kozłowski replied to her in an open letter, stressing that these allegations were groundless and not supported by any example of such alleged actions of the Institute. The winners of the International Witold Pilecki Award received PLN 75,000 (EUR 16.009) and commemorative statuettes each.
This year marks the 120th anniversary of the birth of the patron of the award - Captain Witold Pilecki, a hero of WWII, a volunteer at the Auschwitz concentration camp and a victim of communist terror.