Category Archives: Holocaust
2019 Costa Book of the Year. The Volunteer: The True Story of the resistance hero who infiltrated Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather
The Volunteer: The True Story of the resistance hero who infiltrated Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather
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This is the first major account to draw on unpublished family papers, newly released archival documents and exclusive interviews with surviving resistance fighters to show how he brought the fight to the Nazis at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.
WINNER OF THE 2019 COSTA BOOK OF THE YEAR
I have read so much about the Holocaust and then I come across the incredible story of Witold Pilecki who volunteered to enter Auschwitz Concentration Camp to organise an escape and also obtain as much information about what was really going on at Auschwitz. Volunteer: The True Story of the Resistance Hero Who Infiltrated Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather recently won the 2019 Costa Book of the Year award.
Poland has been defeated by the Nazis and now they rounding the Jewish men, woman and children, sent them to the ghettos before they were sent in cattle trucks to Auschwitz Concentration Camp.
Witold Pilecki was one of the bravest men of WWII. What we know now about Auschwitz, the world did not know during the war. Did anyone believe the German’s could be capable of creating death camps that killed millions? Back then no-one knew. During the Summer of 1940 Witold Pilecki a former cavalry officer in the Polish army was a member of the Polish resistance agreed to captured and sent to Auschwitz to gain as much information about what was really happening there. It was the autumn of 1940. On entering the prisoners witnessed one of the men being beaten to death by the guards. Straight away the message was given to the prisoners.
This remarkable true account of how Pilecki began work in Auschwitz on getting as much evidence on crimes being committed there as well as starting work on starting an underground network inside of Auschwitz. But the conditions were a lot worse than even Pilecki had feared. Even thinking about starting an underground network was dangerous. If caught it would have meant certain death for him and many others. This was very dangerous and courageous.
Very quickly prisoners in Auschwitz were dying at an alarming rate every day. Starvation and daily beatings were the norm by the guards but Witold Pilecki had managed to smuggle out details of what was going on there. Pilecki witnessed the first gassings by the Nazis using Zyklon B and the murders on industrial scale.
With reports passed to the Warsaw resistance who then passed to the Polish Government, they hoped at last the Allies would act, despite repeated calls for the British and American air force to bomb Auschwitz no help was forthcoming.
In April 1943 Witold Pilecki managed to escape Auschwitz in April 1943 and found his way back to Warsaw. It was not until after D-Day when the allies landed in France that the allies began to discuss Auschwitz. Pilecki had believed he had failed those he left behind in Auschwitz.
Following the war Pilecki was arrested by Poland’s the secret police and was accused of treason and then was interrogated over 150 times and was executed in May 1948.
Witold Pilecki’s brave story was lost to history but now thanks to the incredible research by Jack Fairweather Pilecki’s courageous story has finally been told. A deserved winner of the 2019 Costa Book of the Year. Highly Recommended.
528 Pages. (Paperback)
The Volunteer: The True Story of the resistance hero who infiltrated Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather was published by WH Allen and was published in Paperback on 9th January 2020 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
The Long Night – Ernst Israel Bornstein
I am so very grateful to Noemie Lopian. Noemie is the daughter of Ernst Israel Bornstein and back in December she contacted me about her father’s book The Long Night. This is his first-hand account of what Ernst endured and witnessed in seven concentration camps. January 27th 2019 is Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom HaShoah) and a day we remember the six million of Jewish men, women and children who were murdered at the hands of the Nazis.
Ernst was just 17-years-old when the Nazis arrived at their Polish home in March 1941 and arrested him and in front of his fearful mother he was beaten and marched off to a labour camp. Glancing up at the window of their home was his mother. He was not sure when he would see her again. For Ernst this was the start of years of one concentration camp to another and the death marches were many were murdered while being marched from one camp to another.
The vision of seeing his tearful mother from the window of their home stayed with him. He was never to see his mother again. I read that from an extended family of 72 only six survived the Holocaust one was his sister.
To survive seven concentration and the murderous death marches was nothing short of a miracle for Ernst. Witnessing those close to him and the friends he made being killed would live with him forever. Ernst learnt how to survive in the concentration camps from one day to another it was a strategy that kept him alive. Keeping alive deep within him his love for his family. A burning desire deep inside to survive and see them again. But as time passed and stories of mass murder at other camps he was never sure were his family was or if they were still alive.
Gross-rosen Concentration Camp, Lower Silesia
I have over the years read many books on the Holocaust and also survivors own stories. The Long Night deserves a place in history purely because of how Ernst Israel Bornstein describes in his own emotional words. It is the historical accounts from survivors of the Holocaust that are important as they tell the reader what it was actually like because they were there and witnessed the horror on a daily basis not knowing that as a new day dawned if they would ever see the sun go down that evening. These are their words.
The Long Night for Ernst lasted from the time the Nazis invaded Poland until he was liberated by the American Army. It was a Long Night that lasted over 5 years. Ernst Survived and lived to tell the world his story. It is hard to imagine how anyone could remember so much and in great detail. How he watched those around him being cut down or reduced to just nothing as they were given so little to eat yet treated brutally day and night.
It was survival of the fittest and they would fight for a scrap of food not knowing when they would get to eat again. Some reduced to eating blades of grass to try and survive.
Survive Ernst did and after the war he went to medical school and became a loving father. Survivors of the Concentration Camps have to then survive life after the camps and learn in their own way to survive. Many cannot speak of the time in the camps until many years later. It was in 1967 that Ernst published his account of life at the hands of the Nazis with ‘Die Lange Nacht’ in Germany.
Ernst Israel Bornstein died in 1978 of a heart condition. His daughter Noemie with the help of a translator published the English edition The Long Night (The Toby Press) in 2015 with a prefaced later by the then Prime Minister David Cameron.
Both Ernst’s parents and two sisters perished at Auschwitz.
I will continue to share the stories of Holocaust survivors through my blog as I have always beleived it is important to keep their stories alive for future generations.
Thank you Noemie Lopian for a copy of your father’s book The Long Night.
The Long Night by Ernst Israel Bornstein was published on 21st January 2015 by Toby Press LLC and is available through to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
The Choice: A True Story of Hope – Edith Eger
Edith Eger is a survivor, but no ordinary survivor as she survived the worst hell on earth imaginable.
The Choice by Edith Eger is her memoir of surviving Auschwitz and how she used this to help others. But the one thing that struck me about this incredible book is that it does not begin with Auschwitz but it starts in 1980 in the USA.
It was 1944 and 16-year-old Edith Eger and her Hungarian family were rounded up and sent with other Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz Concentration Camp where she and her sister was separated from her parents. Her parents were sent straight to the gas chambers with others. Edith was a ballerina and had hopes of making the Olympic Games. Soon after arriving at Auschwitz she was made to dance for evil camp doctor Josef Mengele. At any moment a wag of his finger meant you would face death in the gas chamber. What Edith endured and witnessed over the course of the next year is nothing short of horrific. Edith was then transferred then onto the notorious Mauthausen Concentration Camp then later rescued by American soldiers as she was close to dying.
What Edith does for many years is to keep her story of her time in Auschwitz to herself not wanting to tell anyone of the horrors she endured and witnessed. But it was time to tell the world her story and in turn this keeps the stories of survivor’s alive forever. The Choice is not just a story of Edith’s survival of the Holocaust but it is also one of hope and also at the same time one of helping others come to terms and help to heal wounds of the past. Learning to live again and indeed Edith did just that by being a mother to three children and pursuing a career in psychology.
An incredible book that left me numb at the horrors Edith went through but also the hope that The Choice brings to the reader. Highly Recommended.
The Choice: A True Story of Hope by Edith Eger was published (Paperback version) by Rider and was published on 16th August 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Holocaust Memorial Day 2019 takes place on January 27th and it is the day the Russian army liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp in occupied Poland. A day for everyone to remember the six million Jewish people murdered in the Holocaust. #HolocaustMemorialDay #HMD2019
The Jewish Book Week takes place in London from 2-10th March 2019. Tickets for around 80 events including book talks and discussions are available to book. See the official website for more details: Jewish Book Week I am delighted to be named as one of the Blog Partners for this year’s event. #JBW2019