The awards ceremony of the first edition of the Witold Pilecki International Book Award - Instytut Pileckiego

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17.11.2021 (Wed) 19:00

The awards ceremony of the first edition of the Witold Pilecki International Book Award

The awards ceremony of the first edition of the Witold Pilecki International Book Award was held on 17 November 2021.

The objective of the competition, launched as part of the celebrations of the 120th anniversary of the birth of Captain Witold Pilecki, is to recognize the best academic and journalistic books published in 2020 that touch on the Polish experience of two totalitarianisms. A special prize is awarded to war correspondents describing contemporary armed conflicts.

By awarding the Witold Pilecki International Book Award we aim to recognize the significance of the universal message stemming from the experience of the 20th-century totalitarianisms. We wish to acknowledge texts which promote the fundamental values of human dignity, striving for the truth, willingness to sacrifice, and solidarity with the persecuted. The special prize awarded to war correspondents will highlight the present and future value of their work. 

The awards ceremony of the first edition of the Witold Pilecki International Book Award was held on 17 November 2021 in the Kubicki Arcades in Warsaw.

Witold Pilecki took on a mission at a German concentration camp in Auschwitz. […] For nearly three years he organized the underground resistance in the camp, gathered intelligence, and most importantly sent reports outside the camp. With the help of couriers the reports reached the Allies. Having escaped from the camp, Pilecki wrote his famous report, and then another one. […] The world needs people of his courage and determination – those who research and describe history, and who get to the truth. Those who witness history with their own eyes and tell the world about it. This is why we chose Witold Pilecki as the patron of this award, and I am very grateful to his family for their permission to do so, stressed Dr. Wojciech Kozłowski, director of the Pilecki Institute.

Here are the winners:

The prize in the “historical reportage” category was awarded to Filip Gańczak for the book Jan Sehn. Tropiciel nazistów. Professor Sehn was a fascinating character – a descendant of German colonists, he became a prominent expert on Auschwitz in the post-war era and one of the greatest advocates for the accountability of the Nazi atrocities. Filip Gańczak is a journalist and political scientist, working at the Institute of National Remembrance. He is the author of, i.a., Polski nie oddamy. Władze NRD wobec wydarzeń w PRL 1980–1981

The special prize for war correspondents was awarded to Christina Lamb for the book Our Bodies, Their Battlefield: What War Does to Women, based on the personal testimonies of victims of armed conflicts that took place in the 20th and 21st centuries. The book describes the crimes to which women are exposed in the course of warfare. Christina Lamb is one of the most famous British correspondents, “Sunday Times” correspondent, author and winner of numerous awards. She is the author of several books, including Farewell Kabul: From Afghanistan to a More Dangerous World. 

The prize in the academic historical book” category was awarded to Eliyana R. Adler for the book Survival on the Margins: Polish Jewish Refugees in the Wartime Soviet Union. The author decided not to accept the award (see the open letter from the director of the Pilecki Institute and the statement of the Awards Committee of the Witold Pilecki International Book Award and the Pilecki Institute).

The authors of the best books in each category received PLN 75,000 (ca. EUR 17,000) and a commemorative statuette which was designed by Zofia Strumiłło-Sukiennik in cooperation with Karolina Sulej, Natalia Tarnowska and Wojciech Wróż. 

Congratulations to the winners and to all nominees! The partner of the award is Auschwitz Memorial / Muzeum Auschwitz, and the event was co-financed by Ministerstwo Kultury i Dziedzictwa Narodowego.


Listen to our interviews with the winners:

Christina Lamb

Filip Gańczak

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