The True Story of the Resistance Hero who Infiltrated Auschwitz
The first account of one of the greatest heroes of WWII, and a gripping story of defiance, rebellion, sabotage and escape from a Nazi death camp
How do you keep fighting in the face of unimaginable horror?
This is untold story of one of the greatest heroes of the Second World War.
In the Summer of 1940, after the Nazi occupation of Poland, an underground operative called Witold Pilecki accepted a mission to uncover the fate of thousands of people being interred at a new concentration camp on the border of the Reich.
His mission was to report on Nazi crimes and raise a secret army to stage an uprising. The name of the detention centre -- Auschwitz.
It was only after arriving at the camp that he started to discover the Nazi’s terrifying designs. Over the next two and half years, Witold forged an underground army that smuggled evidence of Nazi atrocities to the West, culminating in the mass murder of over a million Jews. His reports from the camp were to shape the Allies response to the Holocaust - yet his story was all but forgotten for decades.
This is the first major account of his amazing journey, drawing on exclusive family papers and recently declassified files as well as unpublished accounts from the camp’s fighters to show how he saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
The result is a enthralling story of resistance and heroism against the most horrific circumstances, and one man’s attempt to change the course of history.
“Superbly written and breathtakingly researched … a story of incalculable value delivered in the most compelling prose I have read in a long time”
Sebastian Junger, #1 New York Times bestselling author and award-winning journalist
“Totally gripping … A fascinating, revelatory and surreal WWII story of almost incredible courage and unspeakable horror – how a Polish resistance fighter helped reveal the secret of the final solution from inside Auschwitz”
Simon Sebag Montefiore
“Impossible to believe if it were not so meticulously researched … a page-turner, a remarkable inside-view of the Holocaust, and also as a testament to all that is best in the human spirit”
Mark Bowden, bestselling author of BLACK HAWK DOWN
“Times of truly monstrous evil bring forth people of remarkable courage, and there is no more extraordinary example of this than the story of Witold Pilecki. Well-researched, well-written and searingly memorable, Jack Fairweather’s book reminds us of the capacity for nobility in the human soul in times of unimaginable peril”
Andrew Roberts, bestselling author of ‘Churchill: Walking with Destiny’
“A remarkable book. Fairweather’s account is often harrowing; but it is an important account of the suffering and tragedy in Nazi death camps, told using many previously unpublished sources - and from a new perspective.”
“As riveting as any page-turner and as profound as any great work of literature as it reveals humanity’s capacity for both courage and savagery”
Elliot Ackerman, ex-Marine, novelist and finalist for the National Book Award
“An outstanding achievement ... a harrowing tale, revealing the depths of human depravity, redeemed by the shining courage and nobility of one of humanity's heroes.”
Patrick Bishop, bestselling author FIGHTER BOYS
“A riveting account of human heroism in the face of overwhelming odds … Fairweather’s storytelling is simply masterful”
Jon-Lee Anderson, writer for the New Yorker
“Few books have enthralled, incensed and haunted me as “The Volunteer” has done. There were times I felt compelled to set it aside. There were others when hours of reading passed in what felt like moments … This is a story that has long deserved a robust, faithful telling, and he has delivered it”
Neal Bascomb, Wall Street Journal
“An extraordinary story”
“Witold Pilecki is one of the unsung heroes of World War II. Jack Fairweather has brought Pilecki's story to life with a rich array of primary sources that reveal his role alerting the world to Auschwitz's horrors and its transformation from a concentration camp to the epicenter of the Holocaust. In doing so, Fairweather reminds us that the Nazi leadership didn't start the war with the idea of the Holocaust fully formed - its policy emerged through a series of experiments in mass murder, which Pilecki was able to witness and report on with remarkable courage and tenacity.”
Antony Polonsky, Chief Historian, Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews
“What distinguishes The Volunteer is Fairweather’s meticulous attention to accuracy … if it sometimes seems as though there is nothing left to uncover about the Holocaust, Fairweather’s gripping book proves otherwise”
Caroline Moorehead, The Spectator
“A forceful narrative with unstoppable reading momentum, Fairweather has created an insightful biography of a covert war hero and an extraordinary contribution to the history of the Holocaust.”
Starred booklist review
“A searing account … a fitting memorial to one of Poland’s greatest war heroes and a shaming indictment of the western allies’ failure to act”
Giles Milton, Sunday Times
“combines the verve of a thriller with the detailed evidence of the sober, hideous truth”
Anne de Courcy, The Telegraph
“Witold Pilecki is one of the great—perhaps the greatest—unsung heroes of the second world war ... Jack Fairweather's meticulous and insightful book is likely to be the definitive version of this extraordinary life”
“Full of vignettes and deftly drawn characters ... the story of Witold Pilecki has long been crying out for a sensitive, circumspect retelling, which would do just to the man and the to the trying times in which he lived. The Volunteer fulfils those criteria admirably”
Roger Moorhouse, History Today
“Jack Fairweather's remarkable book shows why [Pilecki's] courageous efforts to alert the world to what was happening in Auschwitz deserve to be remembered everywhere”
“Picked as one of the best books of 2019 so far”
“An inspiring story beautifully told”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Fairweather tells this tragic tale in gripping fashion, bringing a new angle to the literature of the Holocaust”