Author and blogger Mark Manson in his newest book writes about the great war hero from Poland, Witold Pilecki. He was a decorated officer in the Polish-Soviet War of 1918. And this dude was a stud.
When the war ended, he retired to the Polish countryside, married a school teacher, and had two kids. He rode horses, wore fancy hats, and smoked cigars. A man after my own heart. Life was good for Pilecki.
Then Hitler happened. In just over a month Poland lost its entire territory.
Nazis invaded in the West, the Soviets invaded in the east. Both were ruthless to the Polish people. Poland was between a rock and a hard place. Pilecki fought against both the Nazis and the Soviets. And Poland was defeated.
But Pilecki and his fellow Polish officers refused to raise the white flag. Rather they raised the white and red flag of Poland high in their hearts and they formed the Secret Polish Army.
In the spring of 1940, the Secret Polish Army had heard rumors of a massive prison complex that would later be known as Auschwitz. As more and more Polish people went missing that summer, Pilecki and his fellow officers suspected they were being sent to Auschwitz.
Pilecki volunteered to sneak INTO Auschwitz.
Not OUT OF Auschwitz, but INTO Auschwitz.
He would allow himself to get arrested, and once in the camp, would organize with other Polish soldiers to coordinate a mutiny and concoct a prison break. His superiors told Pilecki he was crazy and didn’t let him go.
But things kept getting worse and worse.
The officers relented and let Pilecki engineer his prison break-in and prison break-out of Auschwitz.
Pilecki is the only known man to ever enter a Nazi concentration camp willingly.
It didn’t take long to see that things in Auschwitz were much worse than anyone imagined. The shootings and manual labor were literally hell on earth.
Yet despite the odds Pilecki formed:
- An intelligence network by embedding messages in laundry baskets.
- Built a transistor radio out of spare parts and stolen batteries.
- Created smuggling rings to bring food, medicine, and clothing to prisoners.
- And was able to communicate his escape plans to the outside world.
Over a two-year period, Pilecki built an entire resistance movement within the camp—with chains of command, ranks and officers, a logistics network, and lines of communication outside the camp. His plan was to raise up a revolt within the camp.
And then the Jews started coming in to Auschwitz.
Tens of thousands Jews murdered each day. Pilecki radioed to the Secret Polish Army to liberate the camp. At least bomb the gas chambers. Do something!
The authorities got his message and assumed he was exaggerating. They thought that nothing could be that jacked up. Nothing could be so evil. Nothing.
Pilecki was the first person to sound the alarm to the world about the Holocaust. His reports eventually made it to Eisenhower and Churchill. These leaders also thought he was exaggerating. Surely no one could do something so dastardly. Surely.
Pilecki realized no one was going to believe him. Not the Secret Polish Army. Not the British. Not the Americans. He decided it was time to escape. He made it look effortless. He faked an illness and got admitted into the camp’s hospital.
He then lied to the doctors about the work group he was supposed to return to, saying he worked in the bakery, which also happened to be at the edge of the camp, near the river.
He worked at the bakery until 2:00 am, until the last batch came out of the oven. From there, he cut some wires, pried open the back door, changed into stolen civilian clothes, sprinted to the river and was able to dodge the guard’s flying bullets that whizzed past his head. Pilecki navigated his way back to civilization.
And he was one of the bravest men to ever walk the earth.
Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, give us:
A Spirit of boldness. A courageous confidence.
The Pentecostal power of the Holy Spirit helps us do what needs to be done. What must be done. What no one else wants to do. To witness to what nobody yet believes. To be willing to be thought crazy by others as we witness to the truth.
With the Holy Ghost, you not only can face your giants. You can face your inner and outer demons, even when your stomach is in knots because you’re scared spitless.
Witold Pilcki kind of reminds me of the Greek Orthodox artwork that depicts hell. In nearly every piece of art containing hell, you see Jesus right there—snatching people out of the flames.
Jesus, saving people from the fire!
Not consigning them to the fire, but rescuing them!
Immanuel, that’s my Jesus.
The Holy Spirit empowers Christ to minister through us and pluck people out of the flames through us. The Spirit inspires us to seek and save the lost sheep on a rescue mission.
As the great missionary and cricket player C.T. Studd once said,
“Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop, within a yard of hell.”
Jots and Tittles Blog
Immanuel Presbyterian Church
December 12, 2019
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