Witold Pilecki, Hero of the Holocaust

April 21, 2009
by findingDulcinea Staff
In 1940, Polish resistance leader Witold Pilecki allowed himself to be arrested by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz, all part of his plan to supply Allied forces with information about the concentration camp. As we observe the Holocaust Days of Remembrance, findingDulcinea looks at Pilecki’s brief, brave life.

At a time when people were doing anything they could to avoid falling into Nazi hands, Witold Pilecki, an officer in the Polish resistance, intentionally inserted himself into a group of captives on September 19, 1940. His papers identified him as “Tomasz Serafinski,” and he, along with 2,000 others, were sent to Auschwitz. His mission was to both gather intelligence on the camp and organize a secret resistance movement.
Until Pilecki started sending his reports, most of the world thought Auschwitz was simply an internment camp. The ghastly horror of the torture, abuses and killings helped cement anti-Nazi sentiment and incited several governments to begin to plan liberation of the camps.

Late on the night of April 26, 1943, Pilecki and two members of his organization took advantage of an off-camp assignment and escaped from the bakery where they were working and eventually all three made it safely back to the Polish resistance.
After the war, Pilecki began collecting evidence of atrocities in Soviet gulags. The Polish police arrested him on May 8, 1947. Accused of espionage, among other crimes, he was found guilty and sentenced to death in a show trial. He was executed on May 25, 1948.

Years later, Pilecki was posthumously granted the highest Polish military honor, and in 2008, a campaign began to declare  the May 25 anniversary of Pilecki’s death the Day of Heroes who Fought against Totalitarianism.

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