In 1940, the Polish Underground wanted to know what was happening inside the recently opened Auschwitz concentration camp. Polish army officer Witold Pilecki volunteered to be arrested by the Germans and report from inside the camp. His intelligence reports, smuggled out in 1941, were among the first eyewitness accounts of Auschwitz atrocities: the extermination of Soviet POWs, its function as a camp for Polish political prisoners, and the 'final solution' for Jews. Pilecki received brutal treatment until he escaped in April 1943; soon after, he wrote a brief report. This book is the first English translation of a 1945 expanded version. In the foreword, Poland's chief rabbi states, 'If heeded, Pilecki's early warnings might have changed the course of history.' Pilecki's story was suppressed for half a century after his 1948 arrest by the Polish Communist regime as a 'Western spy.' He was executed and expunged from Polish history. Pilecki writes in staccato style but also interjects his observations on humankind's lack of progress: 'We have strayed, my friends, we have strayed dreadfully.... We are a whole level of hell worse than animals!'
Run time: 10 hours
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Captain Witold Pilecki
Captain Witold Pilecki (1901–1948), a cavalry officer in the Polish Army, was one of the founders of a resistance organization in German-occupied Poland during World War II that quickly evolved into the Polish Underground Army. Pilecki is the only man known to have volunteered to get himself arrested and sent to Auschwitz as a prisoner. After escaping from Auschwitz in April 1943, he continued his work in the Polish Underground Army High Command. He fought in the Warsaw Uprising (August–October 1944), was taken prisoner by the Germans and ended the war in a German POW camp. In late 1945, Pilecki, who was married and the father of two children, volunteered to return undercover to Poland, where conditions were chaotic at war’s end as the communists were asserting control. His mission: to liaise with anti-communist resistance organizations and report back on conditions within the country. He was captured by the postwar Polish communist regime, tortured and executed in 1948 as a traitor and a “Western spy.” Pilecki’s name was erased from Polish history until the collapse of communism in 1989. Pilecki was fully exonerated posthumously in the 1990s. Today he is regarded as one of Poland’s heroes.
Ken Kliban has worked as a professional actor since 1966 when he appeared in the Judith Anderson revival of Elizabeth the Queen at City Center. He has since been in many Broadway, off Broadway and regional productions including 15 years with the famed Circle Rep Company, the award winning As Is which ran for a year at the Lyceum Theatre, and as one of five American actors asked to participate in the National Theatre's Stanley with Antony Sher. He has been a professional narrator of audio books since 1973 at Talking Books For the Blind; Audible.com; Benefit Media; Visual EFX and other studios. Ken is conversant in French, Spanish and Russian.