Witold's Report

Witold Pilecki

Witold's Report, also known as Pilecki's Report, is an official report of over 100 pages (in its final version) written in 1943 by Witold Pilecki, a soldier in the Polish Army and a secret agent of the Polish resistance, who entered and escaped from the Auschwitz concentration camp. It was the first comprehensive record of a Holocaust death camp to be obtained by the Allies.

The report includes details about the gas chambers, "selektion", and the sterilization experiments. It states that there were three crematoria in Birkenau able to burn 8000 people daily. Raul Hilberg wrote that the Office of Strategic Services in London, which received the report, filed it away with a note that there was no indication as to its reliability.[1]

Pilecki's Report preceded and supplemented the "Polish Major's Report" by Jerzy Tabeau (who escaped with Roman Cieliczko on 19 November 1943 and compiled the report between December 1943 and January 1944),[2] which chronologically comprises the first of the three eyewitness reports that warned about the mass murder and other atrocities that were taking place inside the camp, known jointly as the Auschwitz Protocols, but was presented in the Protocols as the 19-page "No 2. Transport (The Polish Major's Report)". The other Auschwitz Protocol reports are the "Vrba–Wetzler report" by Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler (Slovak prisoners who escaped on 10 April 1944 and compiled the report between 25 and 27 April 1944), presented in the Protocols as the 30-40-page "No 1. The Extermination Camps of Auschwitz (Oswiecim) and Birkenau in Upper Silesia", and the "Rosin-Mordowicz report" by Arnost Rosin and Czesław Mordowicz (Slovak prisoners who escaped on 27 May 1944). The text of the Protocols is held by the War Refugee Board at the F.D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, New York.[3]

Background of Witold's Report

"The Mass Extermination of Jews in German Occupied Poland", by the Polish government-in-exile addressed to the wartime allies of the then-United Nations, 1942

On November 9, 1939, after the Polish Army was defeated in the Invasion of Poland, the cavalryman Witold Pilecki together with his commander Major Jan Włodarkiewicz founded the Secret Polish Army (Tajna Armia Polska, TAP), one of the first underground organizations in Poland.[4] In 1940, Pilecki presented to his superiors a plan to enter Germany's Auschwitz concentration camp, gather intelligence on the camp from the inside, and organize inmate resistance.[5] At that time little was known about the Germans' running of the camp, and it was thought to be an internment camp or large prison rather than a death camp. His superiors approved the plan and provided him with a false identity card in the name of "Tomasz Serafiński".[6] On September 19, 1940, he deliberately went out during a Warsaw street roundup (łapanka), and was caught by the Germans along with some 2,000 innocent civilians. After two days' detention in the Light Horse Guards Barracks, where prisoners suffered beatings with rubber batons,[7] Pilecki was sent to Auschwitz and was assigned inmate number 4859.[6]

In Auschwitz

Inside the camp Pilecki organized the underground Union of Military Organizations (Związek Organizacji Wojskowej, ZOW),[8] which was connected with other smaller underground organizations.[9] Pilecki planned a general uprising in Auschwitz and hoped that the Allies would drop arms or troops into the camp (most likely the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade, based in Britain), and that the Home Army would organize an assault on the camp from outside. In 1943, the Gestapo redoubled its efforts to ferret out ZOW members, succeeding in killing many of them.[10] Pilecki decided to break out of the camp, hoping to personally convince Home Army leaders about his idea of uprising in Auschwitz. On the night of April 26/27, 1943, Pilecki made a daring escape from the camp, but the Home Army did not accept his plan, as the Allies considered his reports about the Holocaust exaggerated.


ZOW's intelligence network inside the camp started to send regular reports to the Home Army from October 1940. Starting in November 1940, the first information about the genocide that was occurring in the camp was sent via ZOW to Home Army Headquarters in Warsaw.[11] From March 1941 Witold Pilecki's reports were forwarded to the Polish government in exile and through it, to the British government in London and other Allied governments. These reports informed the Allies about the Holocaust and were the principal source of intelligence on Auschwitz-Birkenau for the Western Allies.[12]

On June 20, 1942, four Poles, Eugeniusz Bendera,[13] Kazimierz Piechowski, Stanisław Gustaw Jaster and Józef Lempart made a daring escape from Auschwitz camp.[14] Dressed as members of the SS-Totenkopfverbände, fully armed and in an SS staff car they drove out the main gate in a stolen automobile, a Steyr 220 belonging to Rudolf Höss. Jaster, a member of ZOW, carried with him a detailed report about conditions in the camp, written by Pilecki. The Germans never recaptured any of them.[15]

After a daring escape from Auschwitz on April 27, 1943, Pilecki wrote "Raport W". The report was signed by other members of the Polish underground who worked with ZOW: Aleksander Wielopolski, Stefan Bielecki, Antoni Woźniak, Aleksander Paliński, Ferdynand Trojnicki, Eleonora Ostrowska and Stefan Miłkowski, and it included a section called "Teren S" that contained a list of ZOW members. Later, after his release from the German prisoner-of-war camp at Murnau in 1945, Pilecki prepared a version of the report that was over 100 pages long.[16]

The first publication of Witold's Report took place in 2000, 55 years after the war.

Cultural references

See also


  1. Hilberg, Raul (1961). The Destruction of the European Jews (2003 republication ed.). Yale University Press. p. 1212.
  2. London has been informed--: reports by Auschwitz escapees - Page 94 Henryk Świebocki - 1997 "The chronological order begins with the "Polish Major's Report," Jerzy Tabeau's text from his Polish manuscript, which the ... still in the camp, the memoirs of August Kowalczyk, or the accounts of the late Stanisiaw Chybinski and Witold Pilecki."
  3. Conway, John (Note) & Vrba, Rudolf (2002). "The Significance of the Vrba-Wetzler Report on Auschwitz-Birkenau". I Escaped from Auschwitz. pp. 292–293publisher= Barricade Books. Appendix I, footnote 3.
  4. Kazimierz Malinowski, Tajna Armia Polska. Znak. Konfederacja Zbrojna. Zarys genezy, organizacji i działalności, Warszawa 1986. ISBN 83-211-0791-5
  5. Jacek Pawłowicz, Rotmistrz Witold Pilecki 1901-1948, 2008, ISBN 978-83-60464-97-7
  6. 1 2 Lewis 1999, p. 390
  7. Pilecki, Witold (2012). The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery. USA: Aquila Polonica (US) Ltd. p. 460. ISBN 978-1-60772-010-2.
  8. Świerczek, Lidia. "Rotamaster Witold Pilecki 1901-1948". The Institute of National Remembrance. Retrieved March 14, 2009.
  9. Foot, Michael Richard Daniell (2003). Six Faces of Courage. Secret agents against Nazi tyranny. Witold Pilecki, Leo Cooper. ISBN 0-413-39430-1.
  10. Garlinski, Jozef (1975). Fighting Auschwitz: The Resistance Movement in the Concentration Camp. Fawcett. pp. 191–197.
  11. Adam Cyra, Ochotnik do Auschwitz - Witold Pilecki 1901-48 [Volunteer for Auschwitz], Oświęcim 2000. ISBN 83-912000-3-5
  12. Norman Davies, Europe: A History, Oxford University Press, 1996, ISBN
  13. Wojciech Zawadzki (2012), Eugeniusz Bendera (1906-po 1970). Przedborski Słownik Biograficzny, via Internet Archive.
  14. "Byłem Numerem: swiadectwa Z Auschwitz" by Kazimierz Piechowski, Eugenia Bozena Kodecka-Kaczynska, Michal Ziokowski, Hardcover, Wydawn. Siostr Loretanek, ISBN 83-7257-122-8
  15. "en.auschwitz.org.pl". auschwitz.org.pl. 2009-01-13. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
  16. Pilecki, Witold & Kucharski, Jacek (Translator). "Witold's Report". Volunteer for Auschwitz (Full Text Online, Translated from Polish for the “LET'S REMINISCE ABOUT WITOLD PILECKI” ("PRZYPOMNIJMY O ROTMISTRZU") initiative ed.). Retrieved August 12, 2015.

Further reading

  1. Adam Cyra, Ochotnik do Auschwitz. Witold Pilecki 1901-1948, ISBN 83-912000-3-5, Chrześcijańskie Stowarzyszenie Rodzin Oświęcimskich, Oświęcim 2000
  2. Cyra, Adam Spadochroniarz Urban [Paratrooper Urban], Oświęcim 2005.
  3. Cyra, Adam and Wiesław Jan Wysocki, Rotmistrz Witold Pilecki, Oficyna Wydawnicza VOLUMEN, 1997. ISBN 83-86857-27-7
  4. Jacek Pawłowicz, Rotmistrz Witold Pilecki 1901-1948, 2008, ISBN 978-83-60464-97-7.
  5. Foot, Michael Richard Daniell (2003), Six Faces of Courage. Secret agents against Nazi tyranny. Witold Pilecki, Leo Cooper, ISBN 0-413-39430-1
  6. Lewis, Jon E. (1999), The Mammoth Book of True War Stories, Carroll & Graf Publishers, ISBN 0-7867-0629-5
  7. Piekarski, Konstanty R. (1990), Escaping Hell: The Story of a Polish Underground Officer in Auschwitz and Buchenwald, Dundurn Press Ltd., ISBN 1-55002-071-4
  8. Tchorek, Kamil (March 12, 2009), Double life of Witold Pilecki, the Auschwitz volunteer who uncovered Holocaust secrets, London: The Times, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article5891132.ece, retrieved March 16, 2009
  9. Wyman, David S.; Garlinski, Jozef (December 1976), "Review: Jozef Garlinski. Fighting Auschwitz: The Resistance Movement in the Concentration Camp", American Historical Review (American Historical Association) 81 (5): 1168–1169, doi:10.2307/1853043, ISSN 0002-8762
  10. Ciesielski E., Wspomnienia Oświęcimskie [Auschwitz Memoirs], Kraków, 1968
  11. Garlinski, Jozef, Fighting Auschwitz: the Resistance Movement in the Concentration Camp, Fawcett, 1975, ISBN 0-449-22599-2, reprinted by Time Life Education, 1993. ISBN 0-8094-8925-2 (see also review in The Times)
  12. Gawron, W. Ochotnik do Oświęcimia [Volunteer for Auschwitz], Calvarianum, Auschwitz Museum, 1992
  13. Patricelli, M. "Il volontario" [The Volunteer], Laterza 2010, ISBN 88-420-9188-X.
  14. Wysocki, Wiesław Jan. Rotmistrz Pilecki, Pomost, 1994. ISBN 83-85209-42-5
  15. Kon Piekarski "Escaping Hell: The Story of a Polish Underground Officer in Auschwitz and Buchenwald", Dundurn Press Ltd., 1989, ISBN 1-55002-071-4, ISBN 978-1-55002-071-7
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