The unanswered question of Fairweather’s remarkable work–a question that should give every historian pause–wraps itself around the historical events, but according to who? For decades, we have paid tribute to those who suffered and died during the Holocaust without knowing the untold story of the man who volunteered to go to Auschwitz, spy and report on the activities there, and plot to destroy the camp long before it became the epicenter for systematic slaughter. Witold Pilecki, an agent for the Polish underground, continuously smuggled out reports of the gasings, the crematoriums, the thousands killed on a daily basis only to be dismissed as incredible. Nevertheless, his early reports were later corroborated by other independent witnesses who managed to get out of the death camp alive.
In the end, amid the chaotic aftermath of Soviet takeover, Witold’s reports and notes were sealed to rewrite history from a communistic slant. Witold himself, the central witness to the actual facts, was denounced in one of the very first show trials, and then executed as a traitor to communist rule. Only after the collapse of the Soviet empire were Witold’s records unsealed and published.
Fairweather organizes the material in such a way that this narrative reads more like an action thriller than a documentary, complete with combat, espionage, prison escapes, and political upheavals. And yet, the reader must continually wonder who is warping the rest of history, and how long it might take to unearth the truth.
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