• CMTU History

Episode 23: The Volunteer




We are all familiar with the story of the Holocaust and the mass genocide committed by the Third Reich. What you may have never heard of, however, is the story of the Polish patriot Witold Pilecki, who volunteered to enter the Auschwitz concentration camp as a prisoner in order to observe and report on the atrocities he witnessed.


My guest today is Jack Fairweather, a journalist and former war correspondent, whose new book, The Volunteer: One Man, An Underground Army, and the Secret Mission to Destroy Auschwitz, shines a light on Witold Pilecki's first hand reporting that had previously been hidden in Soviet Union archives for decades. 


I just want to give a word to like to listen to the show with little ears around. You might want to consider putting on a different episode and come back to this one later. Since we are talking about the Holocaust today and the conversation does get a little grim at times.


Lastly, I'd like to invite you to help the show. We don't do any kind of advertising here at the Can't Make This Up History Podcast. So the way we build the audience is all word of mouth. If you can spare a few seconds, please open up your Apple podcasts, Stitcher, or whatever you're using to listen to this and give the show a positive rating. If you're feeling really ambitious you can even leave a review and share what you like about the show. I'd love to give your review a shout out on a future episode. 




Key Points in Today's Podcast

Some of the major topics I discuss with Jack in this episode are:

  • Witold's efforts to repel the Nazi Blitzkrieg into Poland

  • How Witold voluntarily entered into Auschwitz as a a member of the Polish Underground

  • The brutality Witold witnessed in the concentration camp

  • How he built an information network within Auschwitz and how they smuggled reports to the Allies

  • When Witold and the Underground began to piece together the horrific scope of the Nazis "Final Solution"

For the Ever Curious

If you are interested in learning more about Jack Fairweather, Witold Pilecki, or the Holocaust, consider checking out these resources:


  1. Witold Pilecki in World War I Dress Uniform

  2. Witold Pilecki shortly after entering Auschwitz


Books by Jack Fairweather

JackFairweather.com - Jack's website features additional information about Witold Pilecki as well as an extract from his book "The Volunteer." You can also find reviews of his work and a small biography Jack will be going on a speaking tour through April 2020, and here you can find the venue nearest you.


United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - "The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is America’s national institution for the documentation, study, and interpretation of Holocaust history, and serves as this country’s memorial to the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust.


Chartered by a unanimous Act of Congress in 1980 and located adjacent to the National Mall in Washington, DC, the Museum strives to broaden public understanding of the history of the Holocaust through multifaceted programs: exhibitions; research and publication; collecting and preserving material evidence, art and artifacts related to the Holocaust; annual Holocaust commemorations known as Days of Remembrance; distribution of education materials and teacher resources; and a variety of public programming designed to enhance understanding of the Holocaust and related issues, including those of contemporary significance."


Currently the museum features exhibitions on the Holocaust from the first American soldiers to experience it as well as what the experience looked like through the eyes of children at the time.

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