The Non-Jewish Pole Who Snuck Into Auschwitz to Document Its Horrors

Intentionally incarcerated there from 1940 to 1943, Witold Pilecki saw its transformation from a particularly brutal prison into the death factory it is now notorious for being.

December 4, 2019 | Jared Sorhaindo
About the author: Jared Sorhaindo is a New York-based writer. He holds an MA in international relations and international economics from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.


In 2008, PBS aired a documentary about Jewish prisoners who somehow managed to escape from Auschwitz. Some 144 people—out of many hundreds of thousands of inmates—are thought to have snuck out of the camp alive. But perhaps even more daring, and less well known, is the story of Witold Pilecki, a non-Jewish Pole who deliberately made his way into Auschwitz and remained there, despite opportunities to escape, in order to document the camp’s horrors. As detailed in The Volunteer, a recently published book by the British journalist Jack Fairweather, there was nothing in Pilecki’s early life to suggest such heroism.

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register Already a subscriber? Sign in now