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MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

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67th anniversary of the death of Cavalry Captain Witold Pilecki

25-05-2015

67 years ago, on 25 May 1948 Cavalry Captain Witold Pilecki, one of the founders of the underground activities in the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz, was executed by the communist authorities. On the anniversary of that unfaithful event, the deputy director of the Museum Andrzej Kacorzyk laid a wreath by the walls of the prison on Rakowiecka Street Warsaw, where the Cavalry Captain was murdered, paying tribute to Witold Pilecki on behalf of all employees of the Auschwitz Memorial.

 

'The life of Witold Pilecki – beside his activities in the camp – was an example of a pro-state attitude of the highest order. After a year in the prison on Rakowiecka, undergoing torture, among others in the hands of his captor the secret police officer – Eugeniusz Chimczak, he was sentenced to death by a military court composed of Jan Hryckowian and Józef Badecki and was killed by a shot in the back of the head by the executioner Piotr Śmietański, at the age of 47,' said Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński, director of the Museum.

'For decades, his name was erased by the communists from Polish history, the memory of this hero, however, survived among emigrants. The first monographs on Calvary Captain Pilecki were published by Dr. Adam Cyra and Prof. Wiesław Wysocki in the nineties,' Cywiński added. 

A wreath was laid by the delegation of the Memorial Site along with representatives of the Central Board of the Prison Service, the Regional Director of the Prison Service in Warsaw and employees of the detention center on Rakowiecka Street in Warsaw.

Witold Pilecki was transported to Auschwitz on 22 September 1940 in what was known as the second Warsaw transport. He was entered into the camp registry under the name Tomasz Serafiński, which he used in the conspiracy. Upon registration, he was given the number 4859.

He was one of the founders of the camp resistance movement. On the night of 26/27 April 1943, under the threat of being unmasked, Witold Pilecki along with two other colleagues escaped from the camp.  In June 1943 while in hiding, he drew up a report that was subsequently forwarded to the General Headquarters of the Home Army. In it, he described his experiences, underground activities and also included information on the terror prevailing in the camp, methods of killing prisoners, extermination of Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, extermination of Jews, as well as the creation of a camp for the Romani people. Pilecki also presented his plan of attack on the camp to the Home Army, which, however, did not receive the approval of the Command Headquarters.

The history of the Polish military resistance movement in the Auschwitz concentration camp, co-founded by Calvary Captain Witold Pilecki is presented in the new exhibition prepared by the Museum in the Google Cultural Institute.

In August of 1944, Witold Pilecki fought in the Warsaw Uprising, after the collapse of which he was taken captive (Stalag Lamsdorf, then oflag Murnau). Liberated by American troops he escaped to Italy where he joined the Polish II Corps. Upon returning to the country in the autumn of 1945, he conducted intelligence activities for the Polish II Corps. Two years later he was arrested by the communist authorities.  15 March 1948 he was sentenced to death for alleged espionage and executed in a prison in Mokotów on 25 May 1948. He was only vindicated in 1990. On 30 July 2006, Witold Pilecki was posthumously awarded Order Orła Białego (the Order of the White Eagle), and 6 September 2013 was posthumously promoted to the rank of colonel.