Witold Pilecki

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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.)

4 Comments

  1. I thought they were lining up workers 24/7 for death, to even come close to the 6 million figures. In real life they used the prisoners for slave labour and they only died becose of hunger and diseases.

  2. The saddest thing is that this unbelievable brave man after the war was arrested by the communists, sentenced to death and executed, his body never to be found. Have you ever heard about unfairness so great?

    Being tortured at prison he didn’t give out any information.

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