Witold Pilecki

Witold.jpg

Absolutely fascinating.

Witold Pilecki (May 13, 1901 – May 25, 1948) was a soldier of the Second Polish Republic, founder of the resistance movement Secret Polish Army (Tajna Armia Polska) and member of the Home Army (Armia Krajowa). During World War II he was the only known person to volunteer to be imprisoned at Auschwitz Concentration Camp. While there, he organized inmate resistance, and as early as 1940 informed the Western Allies of Nazi Germany’s camp atrocities. He escaped from Auschwitz in 1943 and took part in the Warsaw Uprising (August–October 1944). Pilecki was executed in 1948 by communist authorities.

Be sure to read it through the section called The Auschwitz Campaign: 945 days:

In 1940 Pilecki presented to his superiors a plan to penetrate Germany’s Auschwitz Concentration Camp at Oświęcim (the Polish name of the locality), gather intelligence on the camp from the inside, and organize inmate resistance. Until then little had been known about the Germans’ running of the camp, and it was thought to be an internment camp or large prison rather than a death camp. His superiors approved the plan and provided him a false identity card in the name of “Tomasz Serafiński.” On September 19, 1940, he deliberately went out on a street in a Warsaw street roundup (łapanka), and was caught by the Germans along with some 2,000 innocent civilians (among them, Władysław Bartoszewski). After two days of torture in Wehrmacht barracks, the survivors were sent to Auschwitz. Pilecki was tattooed on his forearm with the number 4859.

At Auschwitz, while working in various kommandos and surviving pneumonia, Pilecki organized an underground Union of Military Organizations (Związek Organizacji Wojskowych, ZOW). ZOW’s tasks were to improve inmates’ morale, provide them news from outside, distribute extra food and clothing to members, set up intelligence networks, and train detachments to take over the camp in the event of a relief attack by the Home Army, arms airdrops, or an airborne landing by the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade, based in Britain…

…By 1943, however, he realized that no such plans existed. Meanwhile the Gestapo redoubled its efforts to ferret out ZOW members. Pilecki decided to break out of the camp, with the hope of personally convincing Home Army leaders that a rescue attempt was a valid option. When he was assigned to a night shift at a camp bakery outside the fence, he and two comrades overpowered a guard, cut the phone line and escaped on the night of April 26–April 27, 1943, taking along documents stolen from the Germans. In the event of capture, they were prepared to swallow cyanide to prevent the Germans learning the extent of their knowledge. After several days, with the help of local civilians, they made good their escape from the area and contacted Home Army units. Pilecki submitted another detailed report on conditions at Auschwitz.

(Thanks Markus. Wonderful link.)

Fatal Hilarity

Can you die from laughing too hard?

According to an urban legend, there have been at least two documented instances in which people have died apparently of laughter, one in 1975 and another in 2003 [1].

On 24 March 1975 Alex Mitchell, a 50-year-old bricklayer from King’s Lynn, England, literally died laughing while watching an episode of The Goodies. According to his wife, who was a witness, Mitchell was unable to stop laughing whilst watching a sketch in the episode “Kung Fu Kapers” in which Tim Brooke-Taylor, dressed as a kilted Scotsman, used a set of bagpipes to defend himself from a psychopathic black pudding in a demonstration of the Scottish martial art of “Hoots-Toot-ochaye”. After twenty-five minutes of continuous laughter Mitchell finally slumped on the sofa and expired due to heart attack. His widow later sent the Goodies a letter thanking them for making Mitchell’s final moments so pleasant. In Bangkok in 2003, a newspaper reports that an Ice cream driver died while laughing in his sleep. He continued to laugh for two minutes, after which his wife attempted to wake him up. The autopsy showed that he suffered a heart attack, resulting in his death.

The C-Meter

cmeter.jpg

Finally you can audit yourself in the privacy of your own home.

The C-meter is a computer based version of the E-meter designed for use by Scientologists outside the “orthodox” Church of Scientology.

The meter uses an advanced high speed low noise 24 bit analog/digital converter to sample the readings from the preclear 300 times a second ensuring a smooth display with no necessity for resetting the tone arm.

The display includes a full screen width TA position bar and a graphical display of needle reactions for up to 30 seconds.

Pimp My Snack

Oreo8a.jpg

I have linked to projects from Pimp My Snack in the past but it deserves a link of its own.

PimpMySnack is a custom, banging, A1 Tip Top, jamming club fare. It’s a sandwich of fun on ecstacy bread wrapped up in a big bag like disco fudge. It doesn’t get any better than this.

We take Snacks to their limit, and show what they’re capable of with a little ingenuity, a little cash, and a lot of imagination.

Chinese Town With a 98% Divorce Rate

From the LA Times:

RENHE, China — Farmer Yan Shihai was happily married for more than 30 years. Then late last year, seemingly out of the blue, the 57-year-old grandfather and his loving wife got a divorce.

Within months, all three of his adult children and their spouses also split up. So did almost every other married person in Yan’s village of 4,000 — an astounding 98% of Renhe’s married couples officially parted, according to the local government.

It was as if a spell had been cast over this once-quiet rural community in the Chinese heartland. Everybody suddenly seemed to have fallen out of love. The oldest among them were in their 90s and barely able to move. The youngest had just tied the knot. Some had babies.

But instead of tension or tears, the couples waiting in line at the local registry to end their marriages were practically jolly. They believed they were taking advantage of a legal loophole that allowed them to get an extra apartment.

In a country where the government has seized farm after farm to feed a building boom, the villagers figured that if they were going to lose the land that had supported them for generations, they should at least try to get a better deal.

(via The Huffington Post)

The Billion-Dollar Space Pen

613a.jpg

Everybody has heard of the infamous Space Pen.

Space has its urban legends of course, and the Million Dollar Space Pen is one of the more enduring ones. It is neither as outlandish nor as unbelievable as the story about faking the Moon landings, and even though it seems more credible than a massive government conspiracy, it is probable that fewer people have heard it.

The story goes like this: in the 1960s, NASA astronauts discovered that their pens did not work in zero gravity. So like good engineers, they went to work and designed a wonder pen. It worked upside down. It worked in vacuum. It worked in zero gravity. It even worked underwater! And it only cost a million dollars!

The crafty Russians used a pencil.

This story, like most modern urban legends, has proliferated on the Internet, but it has also been passed by word of mouth.