The Volunteer by Jack Fairweather

Quick synopsis of The Volunteer:

The story of Polish World War II hero, Witold Pilecki.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

The dude VOLUNTEERED to be sent to Auschwitz to foment rebellion in the camp. Yes, THAT Auschwitz.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

Dude then BROKE OUT OF AUSCHWITZ.

My Take on The Volunteer:

Well, if the fun facts didn’t already tell you what you need to know then I am not sure how much more I can say.

Witold Pilecki was basically the Captain America of Poland. He never met a job he wouldn’t do for his country. Including, but not limited to, volunteering to be placed in Auschwitz during World War II. You know, when the whole Holocaust happened. (History Nerd Reminder: If you think the Holocaust didn’t happen, you are stupid.) Of course, Pilecki didn’t know about the Holocaust, but he sure found out firsthand.

What I found very powerful about the book is how it really crystallizes the wanton randomness of Nazi atrocities. Many people don’t realize the Nazis hated a lot of people and put them to death, including ethnic Poles, Catholics, and Russians. Pilecki’s reports frame it in a way which, for me, made the horror understandable. Six million dead in the Holocaust is too big a number for someone to truly comprehend. When Pilecki talks about how at morning formation a hundred names would be read and those people would be executed, it contextualizes the sadism. How do you function when every morning you wonder if your name will be called and it’s all over?

Fairweather writes this story straightforward and to the point. It was a great read, but don’t expect a happy ending. When your choices are Hitler or Stalin, you always lose.

Verdict:

A great book. Read it. Buy it here!

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The Volunteer by Jack Fairweather