MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

The first covert contacts with prisoners

As early as June 1940, civilian workers who belonged to the Union of Armed Struggle (Związku Walki Zbrojnej − ZWZ, the Polish underground military organization that was the predecessor of the Home Army – Armii Krajowej − AK) made the first contact with prisoners. They helped them by giving them food and relaying correspondence with their families.

On July 6, civilian workers organized the first prisoner escape from Auschwitz, by Tadeusz Wiejowski. The authorities soon identified the conspirators and sentenced them to death, later commuted to flogging and imprisonment in the camp. This did not deter civilians in Oświęcim and the vicinity from trying to help. They left bread and medicine for prisoners to find on their way to labor. Risky as it was, they sometimes bribed SS guards to let them meet with prisoners and give them food parcels or hot meals.

Soon, underground Polish organizations—the Peasant Battalions (BCh), the PPS Brzeszcze organization, and the ZWZ-AK Prisoner Aid Committee—set up special aid units or committees.

As covert contacts with the camp grew, there were regular supplies of food and medicine for the prisoners. Clandestine groups outside the camp also began organizing escapes, receiving escapees, giving them shelter and protection and, often, sending them to partisan units.