Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Witold Pilecki on Garrison Keillor's "Writer's Almanac"

Witold Pilecki. Source: Wikipedia 

Thanks to the inestimable Terry Teznagian, Stefan Mucha, and Aquila Polonica, the Polish-World-War-II publisher, the story of Witold Pilecki is now available to the English-speaking world. Pilecki was supremely heroic, almost unbelievably heroic – gosh – I so wish I could convey how much I admire Witold Pilecki! Aquilla Polonica recently published his almost unbelievable story in the excellent book "Auschwitz Volunteer." My Amazon review of the book is visible here. Please go to Amazon and buy this book right now!

The publication of this book proves a point I'm always hammering away at – organized and effective people can change the Bieganski, Brute Polak stereotype. We need intelligence. We need focus. We need a sophisticated knowledge of and approach to the wider culture. We need to use the media to our advantage. We need to unite, support each other, organize, and act strategically. A game plan for that is outlined at the series of blog posts linked here.

Thanks to Aquila Polonica, Witold Pilecki's story is getting out there. In fact, he is featured on today's version of Garrison Keillor's "Writer's Almanac." Here is the text of their coverage, followed by a link to the "Writer's Almanac" website.

(Fans of Polish-American poet John Guzlowski will remember that "Writer's Almanac" featured a poem by John some years back. You can see that entry here. After you buy "Auschwitz Volunteer," buy a poetry book by John Guzlowski – supporting Polonian writers is the one of the best things you can do to fight stereotyping!)


From "Writer's Almanac":

On this date in 1940, Polish soldier Witold Pilecki allowed himself to be captured by the Nazis. He was a captain in the Polish resistance, and he wanted to find out what was going on near the town of Auschwitz. His superior officers believed it was just a German camp for prisoners of war, but Pilecki suspected that something else was happening there. He hounded his commanders until they finally gave him the go-ahead to join a crowd of Polish citizens who were being rounded up by Nazi soldiers. Pilecki, who left behind a wife and two young children, was taken to Auschwitz along with the others, just as he'd planned. He was given a number — 4859 — and soon realized the true purpose of the camp.

Pilecki remained there for nearly three years, during which time he smuggled out detailed reports of the atrocities with the camp's dirty laundry. His reports of gas chambers and ovens to dispose of human remains were so horrific that no one in the Polish underground believed him. And even though his reports made their way to the British and the Americans, suggesting ways to liberate the camp, still nothing was done. Meanwhile, he did what he could to arrange escapes for his fellow inmates.

Finally, in 1943, frustrated with the lack of action, Pilecki faked a case of typhus and escaped from the hospital. After the war, the Polish underground recruited him to spy on the country's new occupiers, the Soviets. But he was captured by the Polish Communist regime and executed for espionage, in 1948. His story was suppressed until after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.


The Writer's Almanac webpage is here.

As ever, I thank the German-American friend and supporter of Polonia, Otto Gross, for this tip. Otto's fascinating story is at this blog post, "Ripples of Sin."


  1. Thanks for posting. I'll share with my FB friends.

  2. Hanna once mentioned that she would like if someone made a game about Polish Resistance. I guess sometimes wishes come true. I hope that this game will be available in other countries not just in Poland. It's time for Poles to tell our story to the world.
    Although making a PC game is a strange way to tell it.

  3. A brave and principled man. No wonder Stalin killed him.

  4. so what's the moral of the story here? The only one I see is "it ain't worth it"

  5. Hello Heinz. Interesting you say that, as, grateful - very very grateful - though I am for my father's heroic dash across Europe only just ahead of the advancing German armies, so that he could rejoin the fight against Hitler, I do note that his reward was a brutal betrayal the moment the war ended, and vilification ever since. However, had my dear aged father not been so heroic, he would never have met my English mother, and me and my siblings would never been here, on this lovely amazing earth, floating like a jewel in space.

    As the Book of Job told us, thousands of years ago, Jehovah is "hanging the earth upon nothing". And we, in our generation, have had the privilege of seeing the truth of those words in those wonderful pictures the astronauts brought back.

    Jehovah tells us to be "no part" of the world, to stay out of its factions and fightings - and to try to do good to all, even those we don't like. Its as simple - and as difficult - as that.

    However trying to follow Jehovah's law makes me happier than anything else. And it gives me a real hope that I can live here, on this beautiful earth, "to time indefinite". And I hope that Witold Pilecki will have a wonderful awakening from the sleep of death when the time comes.

    And of course I hope very much to see my dear aged parents when the time comes for the resurrection of the dead.

    I hope we will all be there.

  6. Unfortunately, to bring down any totalitarian regime, many brave souls must suffer and die. Witold Pilecki is a hero. He stood up to two of the worst totalitarian regimes.


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