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I UNDERSTAND
English Section

Tribute to Poland’s ‘Auschwitz Volunteer’

27.01.2020 11:52
As the world commemorates 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, various media outlets have paid tribute to Witold Pilecki, a Polish World War II resistance fighter who alerted the world to the horrors of Nazi Germany’s deadliest Holocaust site.
Witold Pilecki (1901-1948). Photo: [Public domain]
Witold Pilecki (1901-1948). Photo: [Public domain]via Wikimedia Commons

On the eve of the anniversary, The Washington Post published an article about Pilecki, saying the Polish resistance fighter “voluntarily went to Auschwitz to start a resistance, and sent secret messages to the Allies, becoming the first to sound the alarm about the true nature of Nazi Germany’s largest concentration and extermination camp.”

The US daily interviewed Jack Fairweather, the author of The Volunteer: One Man, an Underground Army, and the Secret Mission to Destroy Auschwitz.

The book’s writer is quoted as saying: “The French resistance is so famous, but in actual fact, over half of all the intelligence from continental Europe to reach London came from the Polish underground. It was the biggest operation in Europe, and they provided the highest-quality intelligence—much prized by the Allies—about German capacity and war production.”

Pilecki remained in Auschwitz for two-and-a-half years in the 1940s.

In his interview with The Washington Post, Fairweather said: “As Pilecki and other prisoners starved, lice and bedbugs feasted on them. Typhus outbreaks regularly ranged through the camp. Work assignments were exhausting. Guards delighted in punishing them. Prisoners, in desperation, stole from and betrayed one another for scraps. Many killed themselves by leaping into the electrified fence.”

Pilecki's messages from Auschwitz were sent to London "via risky escapes by his men and notes passed to Polish farmers neighboring the camp." He wrote in them about the trainloads of Jews sent to death in the gas chambers, the mass executions of prisoners and the pseudo-medical experiments conducted on patients in the camp hospital.

 “Pilecki, by recording every step of the camp’s evolution towards the Holocaust, was in some ways grappling with the very essence of the Nazi’s evil before anyone else,” Fairweather told The Washington Post.

In its article, the US newspaper traces the history of Pilecki’s escape from Auschwitz on April 27, 1943, his participation in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against Poland’s Nazi German occupiers, his arrest by the Polish communist authorities, and his execution as an enemy of the Polish state in 1948.

The Washington Post noted that it was not until the 1990s that Pilecki’s children, Zofia and Andrzej, who are now 86 and 88, found out that their father was a hero.

“As teens in postwar Poland, they had been told he was a traitor and an enemy of the state, and they listened to news reports about his 1948 trial and execution on the school radio,” The Washington Post article said.

(mk/gs)

Source: The Washington Post