The Volunteer opening line: Witold stood on the manor house steps and watched the car kick up a trail of dust as it drove down the lime tree avenue toward the yard and came to a stop in a white cloud before the gnarled chestnut.
“I do not know how history will judge us, but I feel that millions of people in Poland cannot believe, cannot grasp, that we are not in a position to move world opinion here or to do something to end the inhumane suffering”. These words about Auschwitz from a statement made in 1942, will echo for generations to come. How different would our world be had people realized just what was going on in Auschwitz? Before the term final solution entered into the Nazi vocabulary?
Would you sacrifice yourself to save thousands of others?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 interned 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 plans. Over the next two and half years, Witold forged an underground army that smuggled evidence of Nazi atrocities out of Auschwitz. 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response to the Holocaust – yet his story was all but forgotten for decades.This is the first major account to draw on unpublished family papers, newly released archival documents and exclusive interviews with surviving resistance fighters to show how he brought the fight to the Nazis at the heart of their evil designs.The result is an enthralling story of resistance and heroism against the most horrific circumstances, and one man’s attempt to change the course of history.
This is one of the toughest books I have ever read. The story is written in such a factual way that it took me a long time to wade through it. And, I am horrified at what information was ignored that came from Auschwitz to the Polish Government in Exile as well as the leaders of the USA and the UK. The very notion that the Shoah could have been stopped would have meant millions of lives would have been saved. Our world would look different and history would have been altered. Instead, those in power chose to ignore the wilful and deliberate murder of so many people. Not only of the Jews, but every one else killed by the Nazis in their ethnic cleansing regime. Their hands too should be washed in blood!
Publishing information for The Volunteer:
Penguin Random House South Africa sent me this novel to review.