Polish Resistance member became prisoner to expose Auschwitz horror
But despite his extraordinary role, Witold Pilecki was unheeded abroad and, more than six decades after his execution by Poland’s communist regime, he has been largely forgotten outside the country.
The first prisoners arrived at Auschwitz on June 14, 1940, nine months after Nazi Germany invaded Poland and sparked World War II.
The camp was based in a former Polish army barracks in the southern city of Oswiecim, or Auschwitz in German.
Although it is an enduring symbol of the Nazis’ genocide of Jews – who made up a million of its 1.1 million victims – it initially was used to hold Polish resistance members who were subsequently killed.
Army officer Pilecki deliberately got himself arrested by the Nazis in the Polish capital Warsaw on September 19, 1940 and two days later found himself in Auschwitz.
In reports smuggled out to the Resistance he described “another planet”.