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Born in 1901, Witold Pilecki is best known as a Polish Cavalry officer, WWII Polish Underground intelligence operative and resistance leader.
In 1940, as the evil of the Nazi regime intensified, he volunteered for a mission which required getting himself imprisoned in the German concentration camp of Auschwitz to gather intelligence and expose its horrors to the world. In captivity he organised resistance and brought comfort to other prisoners.
As the world grows in its awareness of the heroic life of Witold Pilecki we can see clearly why he can be rightly considered one of the greatest heroes of World War II, and indeed, of the entire twentieth century.
This extensively researched account of Witold Pilecki's life shares with us the story of great adventure, one defined by a rare courage, selflessness and virtue, one that cannot help but to inspire and enthral us.
About the Author
Adam Koch was born in Zary, Poland in 1949. From 1966 to 1971 he studied at the Warsaw School of Economics.
In 1988, just thirteen months before the end of the Communist rule in Poland, he had to leave his country of birth.
In Australia he has worked as an academic, teaching and publishing extensively in the field of international business and strategic management. From 1997 Adam has been an entry into the Marquis Who is Who in the World.
He lives in Melbourne, Australia, with his wife Krystyna.
The legacy of Witold Pilecki is still not sufficiently known worldwide, so any new attempt to present it must be warmly welcome. This recent book by a Polish-born Australian author is therefore worth a special attention for two reasons: for bringing Pilecki closer to a wider reading public and for a high quality of scholarly work. No wonder then that it was strongly recommended by Professor Tracey Rowland of the University of Notre Dame.
“I strove to live such a life that at the hour of my death I would rather rejoice than be fearful, ”said Pilecki at the end of his life. Given his strong integrity and trust in God, despite tragic circumstances of his death, he would probably have not revoked this declaration to the very end.
Born in 1901, already in 1914 Pilecki became active in the pro- independence scouting movement. At the end of 1918 he volunteered to serve in the Polish Army and in January 1919 he joined the cavalry regiment led by the famous Polish major Jerzy Dąmbrowski "Łupaszka." In 1921 Pilecki graduated from a non- commissioned officer school and from 1922 to 1924 he studied agriculture at the Poznań University. In peacetime he lived a life of a loving husband and father at his family estate of Sukurcze near Lida (now in Belarus). During the German invasion in September 1939, he fought as a cavalry platoon commander. In November 1939, he helped to found the Polish Secret Army [half. Secret Polish Army]. In September 1940 he became a voluntary prisoner of the German concentration camp in Auschwitz, in order to set up an underground resistance network and to report atrocities committed by the Germans. Under the false name of "Tadeusz Serafiński" (prisoner number 4859) he founded the camp United Military Organization Union, which in 1942 became part of the Home Army [half. Home Army, AK]. In April 1943 he escaped from Auschwitz to prepare a report about the situation in the camp for the intelligence department of the AK High Command. He later fought in the Warsaw Rising under a false name of Roman Jezierski. Taken prisoner of war after the collapse of the rising, he was held in the officer POW camp at Lamsdorf (now Łambinowice, Poland) and at Murnau, Germany, until the end of the war. After liberation in April 1945, he volunteered to serve in the 2nd Polish Corps in Italy. At the end of 1945 he returned to Poland. In May 1947 he was arrested by the Communist State Security Office on charges of collecting intelligence for General Anders. Brutally tortured and sentenced to death, in March 1948 (May 1948 - amended by A J Koch) Pilecki was executed and buried in an unmarked grave.
Adam J. Koch has led the reader through these steps of Pilecki's life with deep understanding of inter- war, wartime and postwar reality. The author was also right to sketch a brief outline of earlier Polish history in order to show the mental background of his hero. Reading the book, they cannot help feeling strong emotions but the author is not only a good story-teller by a thorough scholar.
A symbol of moral resistance against Nazi and Communist barbarity, Pilecki will always remain a hero for all the people for whom freedom and human dignity are not empty words. When the European Parliament voted a resolution against totalitarianism in 2009, majority of its members rejected an amendment seeking that his name be mentioned as a symbol. This sad development is a call to all people of good will to remember and appreciate heroes such as Pilecki.
As appeared in Studia Polityczne Vol.47, No.4, 2019$44.95