He was the only prisoner to voluntarily enter Auschwitz

75 years since the execution of Witold Pilecki, Polish anti-nazi and anti-communist hero

Poland remembers one of its greatest heroes of the 20th century: Witold Pilecki, an officer in the Polish Army during World War II.

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Pilecki is known worldwide because he was the only person who voluntarily entered the German death camp of Auschwitz, during a mission to investigate what was happening there. For this he exposed himself during a nazi raid in Warsaw on September 19, 1940. Once in Auschwitz, he was tattooed with the number 4859.

Before that, in November 1939, Pilecki had been one of the founders of the Tajna Armia Polska (Polish Secret Army) , one of the first resistance organizations of World War II, which in 1942 would become the Armia Krajowa (AK, Home Army), the main organization of the Polish resistance and the largest organization of resistance to nazism. Inside Auschwitz, Pilecki founded another resistance group, the Związek Organizacji Wojskowych (ZOW, Union of Military Organizations).

Witold Pilecki with his wife, Maria, and their son Andrzej.

Pilecki spent 949 days in Auschwitz, between 1940 and 1943. He escaped on the night of April 26-27, 1943. Once out, he wrote the "W Report" (Raport Witolda) , which was sent to the Polish government in exile, based in London. He in turn forwarded it to the British government, which considered the report "exaggerated".

At the beginning of 1944, the Polish officer joined the Niepodległość (NIE), a secret branch of the AK formed to deal with the foreseeable Soviet occupation of Poland. In August 1944, Pilecki participated in the Warsaw Uprising organized by Armia Krajowa.

Witold Pilecki before the communist court that sentenced him to death (Photo: Mikołaj Kaczmarek - Kolor Historii).

At the end of the war, he joined the Wolność i Niezawisłość (WiN, Freedom and Independence) group, an anti-communist resistance organization made up of former AK members. On May 8, 1947, Pilecki was arrested by the Polish communists and sent to Mokotów prison. On March 15, 1948, he was sentenced to death. He was executed with a shot to the head on May 25, 1948.

Pilecki was rehabilitated by the Polish Government after the fall of communism. he Today he is recognized as a national hero and as a symbol of Poland's struggle for Freedom against Nazism and communism. On September 19, 2019, the European Parliament quoted him at its resolution condemning the crimes of nazism and communism, asking "for 25 May (the anniversary of the execution of the Auschwitz hero Rotamaster Witold Pilecki) to be established as International Day of Heroes of the Fight against Totalitarianism, which will be an expression of respect and a tribute to all those who, by fighting tyranny, demonstrated their heroism and true love for humankind, and will also provide future generations with a clear example of the correct attitude to take in the face of the threat of totalitarian enslavement."

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