One of the Sunday Times paperbacks of the Year 2020
One of the Financial Times best books of 2020
'Totally gripping'-- Simon Sebag Montefiore
'Pilecki is perhaps one of the greatest unsung heroes of the second world war ... this insightful book is likely to be the definitive version of this extraordinary life' -- Economist
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This is the first major account to draw on unpublished family papers, newly released archival documents and exclusive interviews with surviving resistance fighters to show how he brought the fight to the Nazis at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.
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
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harrowing; but it is an important account of the suffering and tragedy in Nazi death camps, told using many previously unpublished sources - and from a new perspective.
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
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
An extraordinary story
The awards, which recognise the most outstanding books of the year written by authors based in the UK and Ireland have awarded 'The Volunteer' by Jack Fairweather with the Book of the Year Award.
The author of 2019's Costa Book of the Year Award reflects on the literature that helped him understand one of history's darkest periods.