Book about Captain Pilecki awarded in UK

“Volunteer” by Jack Fairweather, telling the story of Captain Witold Pilecki was recognised as the best biographical book by the jury of Costa Book Awards.

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“Deeply moving and terrifying. Masterful biography,” Suzannah Lipscomb, the head of the jury told British public broadcaster BBC. She also added that the story of Captain Pilecki was not known outside Poland.

“We know well what Auschwitz was. We think about the industrial, mass genocide of Jews. But there are not many people who know the early history of the camp, where Polish political prisoners were kept,” the author of the book said after receiving the award.

Among the winners of all categories, the jury will choose the book of the year. Their verdict will be announced on January 28.

Witold Pilecki was born in 1901 and served as cavalry captain during the Polish-Soviet War of 1920 and WWII. Pilecki was also a co-founder of the Secret Polish Army, a resistance group in German-occupied Poland. In 1940, he volunteered to be arrested by Nazi Germans and deported to Auschwitz concentration camp with a view to organising a resistance movement there and to prepare a report on the situation in the camp. The report was eventually presented to the Western Allies as early as 1941. Mr Pilecki also fought in The Warsaw Rising in 1944.

After WWII, Witold Pilecki was arrested, accused of anti-state activities in a show trial, and executed in secret by the Communist authorities in 1948. Despite concerted efforts by the Institute of National Remembrance, his body has not been found so far.