• The Volunteer

  • One Man, an Underground Army, and the Secret Mission to Destroy Auschwitz
  • By: Jack Fairweather
  • Narrated by: David Rintoul
  • Length: 9 hrs and 44 mins
  • Categories: History, Europe
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (341 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The incredible true story of a Polish resistance fighter’s infiltration of Auschwitz to sabotage the camp from within, and his daring escape to warn the Allies about the Nazis’ true plans for a “Final Solution.”

To uncover the fate of the thousands being interred at a mysterious Nazi camp on the border of the Reich, a young Polish resistance fighter named Witold Pilecki volunteered for an audacious mission: intentionally get captured and transported to the new camp to report back on what was going on there. But gathering information was not his only task: he was to execute an attack from inside - where the Germans would least expect it. 

The name of the camp was Auschwitz. 

Over the next two and half years, Pilecki forged an underground army within Auschwitz that sabotaged facilities, assassinated Nazi informants and officers, and smuggled out evidence of terrifying abuse and mass murder. But as the annihilation of innocents accelerated, Pilecki realized he would have to attempt another perilous mission: escape Auschwitz and somehow - with more than 900 miles of Nazi-occupied territory in the way - deliver his alert to London before all was lost....

Completely erased from the historical record by Poland’s Communist government, Pilecki remains almost unknown to the world. Now, with exclusive access to previously hidden diaries, family and camp survivor accounts and recently declassified files, Jack Fairweather reveals Witold’s exploits with vivid, cinematic bravura. He also uncovers the tragic outcome of Pilecki’s mission, in which the ultimate betrayal came not on the Continent, but in England.

©2019 Jack Fairweather (P)2019 HarperAudio

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What listeners say about The Volunteer

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

It is impossible to hear of the atrocities of Auschwitz without being. Forced to consider man’s infinite cruelty

It is the true story of a heroic effort to fight against insurmountable horror. The hero. Is not a Superman but someone whose capacity for compassion endures against all odds. One can hardly imagine what it must have been like to daily risk your life to provide information to the outside world about what went on in the camp. To be responded to with silence, denial and inaction would undermine and undo the efforts of the best of us. Such was not so of the man who voluntarily allowed himself to be arrested and confined to Auschwitz. This memoir leaves unanswered the core question of how the holocaust could happen and the so-called civilized world remain silent. Instead we meet a just man who maintains his moral compass. In today’s world we are desperately in need of more men and women similarly made.

6 people found this helpful

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Fabulous Book

I've read over 100 books on WWII and the Holocaust but I sure never came across this story. Tons of new information I had never read/heard before

3 people found this helpful

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  • C
  • 11-06-19

My best book of 2019

What a story of a man who loved his country lived through the Nazis at Auschwitz, but killed by the Russian communist he hoped would liberate his country.

2 people found this helpful

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An important history

This provides an extremely important aspect of history that should be remembered and learned by all. The courage involved in his choices and the struggle to alert others is worth hearing about. The book is well read and relates a compelling part of history that shouldn’t be forgotten.

2 people found this helpful

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Sobering, heroic story

Having heard a review of this book, I decided I needed to hear it. Volunteering to go into Auschwitz? Incredible. The reading of the book was excellent, the writing even better. This book stirred many feelings: admiration, pity, revulsion, and more. For a student of history, this is an informative read, as most of it was taken from papers newly found after 2000. Highly recommend, though be prepared to be saddened in numerous parts.

2 people found this helpful

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True Courage

This story would not be believable if it was a work of fiction. The sickening descriptions of the terror and murder. The unbelievable yearning to protect your homeland. The constant near misses and then the cruel destiny that Witold suffers at the end. There are some scenes I keep revisiting for their power. "Aushwitz was just a game compared to this" regarding the new reality of the Soviet takeover. And, despite all the trauma and hardship, Witold concludes that the only thing that lasts is what you give to others. I am grateful that Jack Fairweather has brought these multiple acts of heroism back to life. This is a great read.

2 people found this helpful

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It just takes one man

This is an extremely powerful biography of an heroic individual who once again has been forgotten. This will be a movie and our children will learn what real people are made of.

2 people found this helpful

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Great historical book

Great book based on historical information. I find it totally amazing how dedicated and brave some people can be. I only wish more people would read this book

2 people found this helpful

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Stellar, and upsetting

I've listened to a lot of stories about death camps, and this one definitely moved me and connected in ways that others haven't.

2 people found this helpful

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  • RP
  • 09-17-19

An unknown hero.

It is a book that tells the story of a man that loved his country so much that he volunteered for the horrors of Auschwitz. He could not close his eyes to the developing horrors he saw. You have to read it to know about a hero history books did not tell about.

1 person found this helpful