Friday, October 19, 2012

Fullbore Friday

There are some men whose true story should give all a pause to ask, "Am I as dedicated to my cause?" "What risk will I take?" "What is the level of my dedication?"

Simply an amazing man. You need to read it all.
Witold Pilecki, a 39-year old veteran of the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1921 who fought against the initial Nazi invasion and a member of the Polish resistance, volunteered himself in 1940. Pilecki's mission was to allow himself to be arrested and, once inside Auschwitz, to collect intelligence for the Polish resistance in the country and the government-in-exile in London, and to organize a resistance from inside the camp. "I think he knew, he realized what he was getting himself into," said Jacek Pawlowicz, a historian at Poland's Institute of National Remembrance. "But even so, he was not prepared for the things he was actually able to witness."
During the next three years, Pilecki was involved in one of the most dangerous intelligence-gathering and resistance operations of the war. He authored three reports about life inside the camp for the Polish resistance. During his incarceration, Pilecki witnessed from the inside Auschwitz's transformation from a detention facility for political prisoners and Soviet soldiers into one of the Nazis' deadliest killing machines. An English translation of Pilecki's third and most comprehensive report -- a primary source for this article -- was recently published as a book titled The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery .
It is a fascinating first-hand account of virtually all aspects of life inside the camp. The original document is in the custody of the Polish Underground Movement Study Trust in London. ... By early 1943, Pilecki began considering his escape from the camp. He had gone in and accomplished his objective of organizing a resistance within the camp, at which point he thought the logical thing to do was wait for an attack on the camp by the Polish resistance from the outside so they could rise up from within. On top of this, the Gestapo was clamping down on security in the camp and many of Pilecki's recruits had been lost.
Pilecki ultimately made the decision to escape on April 13, 1943. The reason behind this was so he could make the argument for an armed assault on Auschwitz in person to the resistance leadership. He began handing over his network contacts and responsibilities to top deputies as a gradual transition process. After approximately 2,500 roll calls and 947 days inside the camp by his own calculations, Witold Pilecki and two other inmates escaped Auschwitz.
On the night of Monday, April 26 -- the day after Easter Sunday -- the three men were assigned to work in the bakery, which was located outside the camp grounds. They took advantage of a moment when the SS guard wasn't paying attention to cut a telephone wire, force open a door and made a run for it. Pilecki eventually made his way back to Warsaw and reported to the Home Army's headquarters on August 25, 1943

There is not a happy ending though. Just another card to put in the stack next time someone tries to excuse the evil of Communism.
Pilecki was arrested by communist authorities not long after, on May 5, 1947. According to Pawlowicz, "His fingernails were ripped off, ribs broken, nose broken. His interrogation was very difficult and he was tortured badly." He, and others, were given a show trial for activities against the state the following March.
On March 15, he was found guilty on several charges. The court declared, "As a paid agent of General Anders' Intelligence Service, he organized a spy network on Polish territory, collecting information and sending it abroad,' and in doing so 'betraying state secrets.' Pilecki was sentenced to death. A typical capital punishment sentence was carried out within 95 to 105 days of the sentence. The order for Pilecki's execution was given on May 22, two months after his trial.
The final account of anyone seeing Pilecki alive comes from father Jan Stepien, a Home Army chaplain whose own capital punishment was later changed to a 15-year prison sentence. His description of Pilecki as he was being led to his execution at the Mokotow prison in Warsaw: "He had his mouth tied with a white bandage. Two guards led him by his arms. He could hardly touch the ground with his feet. I don't know if he was conscious then. He seemed completely faint."
The exact location of where Pilecki was buried is unknown. His remains are believed to be either in a meadow next to the Sluzewiec cemetery, or in an area of the Powazki Military Cemetery in Warsaw, also called the meadow, in a mass grave with others who were executed by the post-war communist regime.
Hat tip xformed.

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