A Rebel in Auschwitz

Jack Fairweather (Scholastic)

A Rebel in Auschwitz

Review by Alice
This is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read. This book is unbelievably informative and represents the true horrors of the hol­ocaust in a very deeply personal light. What I like most is that there are no filters: the story is told in detail with real statistics and information. It follows the journey of the Auschwitz expansion and what it was truly like to be inside from the very start, through the perspective of an underground operative named Witold, aiming to free his country from the Nazis. His character shows determination and resilience, even when faced with the camp's cruel conditions. The book even includes pictures of real prisoners in the camp, illustrations of the images experienced and maps of the camps and surrounding areas. This helps the reader to truly connect with the story, leaving them on edge after every chapter. I would definitely recommend this to someone who is interested in this period of time.

Review by Mischa
I found ‘A Rebel in Auschwitz’ to be a compelling read. It does a fantastic job of transporting one into the shocking world of Witold Pilecki and his horrific discoveries during his time in Poland’s largest concentration camp: Auschwitz.

I found the protagonist, Witold Pilecki, to be a very intriguing character, who puts himself in immense amounts of danger and in unimaginably atrocious situations, for the liberty of others. It is impossible to think of anybody choosing to be a prisoner in Auschwitz, which is exactly what Witold does. Though, there are points in the book which, in themself, do not appear to be the most moral decisions that Witold could have made. For example, ordering the murder of a poor Jewish blackmailer. This was quite shocking for me to read because it was the first point in the book where it shows Witold under responsibility for another’s death, although it was for the good of the many and to save the life of the character of Barbara. This makes Witold even more interesting.

It is impossible to pinpoint just one unattractive character in ‘A Rebel in Auschwitz,’ as it is littered with them; littered with despicable and cruel SS soldiers, who ordered the barbaric deaths of six million Jews, and many other groups that were discriminated against by the Nazis. However, I will write about the frustration I, and any other reader, must feel towards Jozef Cyrankiewicz, the Polish prime minister at the time, as Witold Pilecki had suffered and lived through so much for the benefit of Poland, that for his execution to still go through, is truly heart-breaking and maddening.

After reading ‘A Rebel in Auschwitz,’ I feel I have learned a lot about life inside a Nazi concentration camp, and it only greatens my anger and sympathy for the victims. I also learned about the true scale of Nazi operations and ambitions: colossal.

Modern history interests me because of how relevant and real it still feels, today. When looking at medieval history, for example, I feel very distant and alien, but the holocaust was less than a hundred years ago, which makes it feel even more shocking.

I knew a little about the holocaust before, as it has previously caught my interest, but after reading ‘A Rebel in Auschwitz,’ I am most definitely motivated to expand my knowledge on the second world war, and of Nazi Germany.

‘A Rebel in Auschwitz’ is a very intense book to read, that most certainly keeps you on your toes; especially knowing that it is a true story. This makes for a very gripping read that never fails to surprise.

‘A Rebel in Auschwitz’ has made me want to know even more about the holocaust, as there were many characters and plot lines mentioned in the book, which hinted at having great and complex stories of their own.

Overall, I would certainly recommend ‘A Rebel in Auschwitz’ to other students as it think it gives a thrilling insight into Poland in the second world war and the stirring world of Witold Pilecki and his effort to help victims of Nazi hate and genocide, as well as being a true story, so something to gain factual knowledge from. Additionally, it includes chilling images to help bring the story to life, and footnotes, which I personally found very helpful in expanding my understanding!

Review by Kate
I really enjoyed “A Rebel in Auschwitz”. I’ve always been interested in Nazi Germany and concentration camps so I was excited to hear an authentic first-hand story. To me the most interesting character was Witold Pilecki – his journey to Auschwitz was very unique and not told often. How he almost voluntarily went in to help others.

One of the new things I learned about the book was the insane mistreatment of the people in the camp. I knew things like gassings and beatings but I had no idea about tricks/‘pranks’ the Nazis would play and how they were just so inhumane. I was always interested in Auschwitz and this book showed so many terrifying things that I hadn’t known before. They were also so impactful as it was told from a sort of ‘first hand’ experience which makes it so chilling.

This book was very upsetting but definitely worth the read. As someone who’s never experienced something like this, Witold’s journey was so powerful and inspiring to read. I definitely would recommend this book as it is very educational and the photographs in it are truly chilling. Great book 10/10.

Review by Camille
5 stars. I really enjoyed this book. It was harrowing and very difficult (emotionally) to read but also extremely interesting. I certainly learnt a lot about concentration camps during World War Two and the history of Poland which I did not know before. Witold is such a brave character and it is people like him, who are not scared to do what is right, that keep this world wonderful. I am sure that I cannot begin to imagine what it was like to be in a camp like Auschwitz but this book brought me a step closer. I loved all the photos, maps and art included in the book as they reminded you that the characters are pulled from real life. I also found the way it was written very interesting – you're not really told how the characters are feeling most of the time and it is left for you to have your own emotions. In a way I liked this because it is such a thought-provoking book. I would recommend this to anyone 12+ who is not scared to have a little cry.

Review by Rose
I personally loved the book. It was not only educational but allowed me to learn more about what happened to my own family who were in Auschwitz.

It explored new ideas that I was able to use within the context of the media and in my lessons. The book was very humanising and gave stories to victims of the Holocaust.

I would definitely recommend this book to students who come from a similar background as me or those who are interested in past historical events which changed society and course of history forever.

I only hope that others will enlighten themselves with the same book; perhaps even more that are like this one.

It truly brings to light the true influence that mankind has on one another – whether certain events show their gentle, loving qualities, or turns them towards a path of evil and deceit.

Review by Zahra
I am currently learning about Nazi Germany which piqued my interest in this book, I wanted to learn more about how the Nazis treated everyone and what happened to the remaining countries that were attacked. Witold Pilecki is my favourite character as he shows heroism but not in an exaggerated way. Even though he failed he still is seen as a martyr. There were not any specific characters [I] hated but more a group, the Kapos (the Nazi supervisors of the camp). They showed me the treatment of the victims and how much they supported and trusted Hitler to be exerting extreme labour and torture on those who were prisoners.

The book helped me to learn about the aftermath of the war, what happened to those who were not prisoners and what happened to those who survived the camp and the war. It also taught me about how the country survived after the war. The peak of my interest after reading the book is why the Polish officials had arrested and executed Witold after his bravery. It makes me want to look into the subject more and makes me want to find out more about what actually happened to people like Witold.

Overall the book was interesting, captivating and inspiring. It helps a person to understand the conditions of the camp and how horribly they were treated. It also teaches a person about the uprising of the holocaust and what happens after the war is sometimes just as horrible. The book has a mixture of emotions, it is exciting and very intriguing.

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