10 Amazing Courageous People In History
Witold Pilecki intentionally goes to Auschwitz to expose concentration camp horrors
Early in the Second World War, the existence of concentration camps was not well known. Poland had been steamrolled by the Germans, with only a few underground organizations continuing to fight. The leader of the Secret Polish Army, Witold Pilecki, had been fighting and had learned of a camp nearby, at Oswiecim. At this time, it was thought of to simply be an internment camp or prison, so he thought he would investigate and gather intelligence, deliberately walking in to a street roundup in Warsaw.
Pilecki was sent to the nearby camp, where he soon discovered the horrors that were going on behind the gates sitting under the sign “Arbeit Macht Frei” – Auschwitz. Pilecki organized an underground in the camp, gathering intelligence and transmitting it to the Allies for two years. In 1943, he escaped the camp, and authored a detailed report on the conditions. He would go on to fight in the Warsaw uprising, and then return to collecting intelligence when the Polish government was exiled, collecting evidence on Soviet atrocities against the Poles. He was eventually captured and executed, his name sullied. It wasn’t until the fall of Communism that Pilecki’s honor was restored, receiving posthumous Orders and decorations in 1995 and 2006.
Alia Muhammad Baker saves one of the largest collections of books in Iraq
During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the city of Basra came under siege. Constantly bombarded by Australian, American and British forces, nothing in the city was safe, including the historical artifacts. The Al Basrah Central Library held some of the most important texts in the Middle East, but with anti-aircraft guns on top, was also a prime target.
Head librarian Alia Muhammad Baker braved the fire and, recruiting whoever she could find, managed to rescue 70% of the books before the library was consumed by a fire, including irreplaceable centuries-old manuscripts. Braving a war zone, and acting directly against the governor of Basra who had denied permission to move books, Baker saved integral parts of Iraq’s culture.