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UPDATE: Poland’s ‘Auschwitz volunteer’ remembered, 75 years after his death

25.05.2023 22:30
Officials and historians have paid tribute to Witold Pilecki, a Polish World War II resistance fighter and Auschwitz survivor who died at the hands of the communists 75 years ago.
President Andrzej Duda attends a ceremony to honour Witold Pilecki in Warsaw on Thursday.
President Andrzej Duda attends a ceremony to honour Witold Pilecki in Warsaw on Thursday.Photo: PAP/Mateusz Marek

Polish President Andrzej Duda said at a remembrance event in Warsaw on Thursday that Pilecki was "one of the greatest wartime heroes, not only in his own country, but anywhere."

Duda laid flowers at the so-called Wall of Death in the former Rakowiecka Prison in the Polish capital to mark 75 years since Pilecki's death.

Also taking part in the ceremony was Pilecki’s daughter, Zofia Pilecka, Polish state news agency PAP reported.

The Wall of Death was a site where Poland’s communist-era regime executed prisoners, officials said.

Pilecki, who was born on May 13, 1901 and died on May 25, 1948, is remembered as "the Auschwitz volunteer" and a victim of two totalitarian systems.

In 1940, he volunteered to be captured and sent to the Auschwitz Nazi German concentration camp on an intelligence mission.

His reports from Auschwitz provided an insight into the conditions at the camp and warned the world about German plans to exterminate European Jews.

Pilecki escaped from Auschwitz in 1943. He reached Warsaw where he fought in the city's 1944 uprising against the Germans.

After the war, Pilecki went to Italy and joined the Polish armed forces in the West. He then returned to communist-ruled Poland as an intelligence agent.

He was captured and executed by Poland’s communist authorities three years after the end of World War II, following a show trial in which he was charged with espionage and plans to assassinate several communist security service officials.

Pilecki was handed a death sentence by a Warsaw court on March 15, 1948. He was executed less than two months later.

In 1990, he was rehabilitated and in 2008 posthumously awarded the Order of the White Eagle, the highest Polish state decoration. In 2013, he was posthumously promoted to the rank of colonel.

May 25 is the International Day of Heroes of the Fight against Totalitarianism, established by the European Parliament in 2019 to mark the anniversary of Pilecki’s execution. 


Source: IAR, PAPprezydent.pl