Ten-year-old Paul Cieslar witnessed the beginning of World War II firsthand, as Germany began the invasion of Poland one glorious Autumn morning in 1939. Some six years later, he and his family—including his eight brothers and sisters—were all still alive, with remarkable stories of the protection, leading and goodness of God.
At the award presentation, one of the judges commented to me about how moved she was by the faith of one of the women in the story. This was encouraging because I had wondered how the story might be received by people outside our church.
Some 70 years later, Pastor Cieslar has shared his story in No Heil Hitler!— the award-winning new book from Signs Publishing. In 2012, his story won the inaugural National Seniors Literary Prize for an unpublished manuscript by Australians aged 50 or older, sponsored by National Seniors Australia.
“My only excuse for writing this book is that everything in it happened,” says Pastor Cieslar. “I began writing my story in Polish many years ago but Pastor Geoff Youlden encouraged me to write it in English so it would be read by a wider audience.”
Little did he expect that among the first to respond to his story would be the judge of a national literary prize. “At the award presentation, one of the judges commented to me about how moved she was by the faith of one of the women in the story,” Pastor Cieslar recalls. “This was encouraging because I had wondered how the story might be received by people outside our church.”
Pastor Paul Cieslar (right) checks the proofs of the cover of No Heil Hitler! with Signs Publishing pressman Jarrod Knight (left).
No Heil Hitler! tells the story of Pastor Cieslar’s survival during the German occupation of Poland, living in the shadow of Auschwitz and escaping from forced service in the German army. The story gives the background of his Adventist family and church, and their faithfulness and resilience in the face of great dangers and hardships.
Pastor Cieslar says he wrote the book for his family—particularly his grandchildren—and his church, primarily as a testimony of the goodness and power of God that he has seen in his life and particularly in his most difficult times.
After his experiences during World War II, Pastor Cieslar worked as an Adventist pastor in Communist Poland before serving as a departmental director in the Northern European–West African Division, based in England, in the 1970s. With his family, Pastor Cieslar moved to Australia in 1984, where he pastored Polish- and English-speaking churches until his retirement in 2002, although he continues to be active in ministry in his local church in the Melbourne suburb of Oakleigh.
No Heil Hitler! was released at the Easter camp-meetings in Victoria and Western Australia and is now available from Adventist Book Centres across Australia and New Zealand.