Presentation of the story hitherto unknown and untold outside Poland – that of Pilecki’s mission to Auschwitz, of his death at the hands of the Communist authorities, and of the attempts made to erase him from memory.
The complicated history of Poland in the 20th century is made up not only of military campaigns, the German occupation, and the crimes of Stalinism. History has many dimensions, and one of them is predominantly human – the dimension of the individual. From amongst many heroes, oftentimes nameless, the man who stands out as a symbol of the struggle against Communist and Nazi totalitarianism is worthy of our particular attention. Logically, therefore, there was no doubt that the exhibition marking the opening of the branch of the Pilecki Institute in Berlin would be devoted to Witold Pilecki.
We have presented a story hitherto unknown and untold outside Poland – that of Pilecki’s mission to Auschwitz, of his death at the hands of the Communist authorities, and of the attempts made to erase him from memory. But the exhibition also functions in a broader context, for by presenting an extraordinary and at once real story it touches upon many key issues of 20th-century Polish, and thereby European, history.
What happened with the resistance movement which Pilecki created in Auschwitz at the risk of his own life? Why was his appeal to break the spiral of hatred not listened to? How many human lives could have been saved if the world had only done as he asked? While searching for answers to these questions, I embarked on research which resulted in the book, “The Volunteer”, and the exhibition […]. It allows you to submerge yourself in Pilecki’s world – in the items, images and sounds which he experienced daily. In consequence, we get to know him better, and this makes it possible to understand both his personality and the choices which he made – said Jack Fairweather, one of the curators of the exhibition.