120 years ago, on May 13, 1901, Witold Pilecki – Polish war-time hero, was born in Olonets in the north of Russia.
Witold Pilecki served as cavalry captain during the Polish-Soviet War and WWII. He was also a co-founder of the Secret Polish Army, a resistance group in German-occupied Poland. In 1940, he volunteered to be arrested by Germans and deported to Auschwitz concentration camp in order to organise a resistance movement there and to prepare a report on the situation in the camp. The report was presented to the Western Allies as early as 1941.
In 1944 Witold Pilecki took part in the Warsaw Uprising. After WWII, he fought in the anti-communist underground, he also collected reports on the repression of Home Army soldiers by the interior ministry of the Soviet Union (NKVD).
In 1947 he was arrested. Accused of anti-state activities in a show trial, he was executed in secret by the Communist authorities a year later.
Witold Pilecki’s conviction was quashed in 1990 by the Supreme Court. In 2006 he was posthumously awarded the Order of the White Eagle , and promoted to the rank of colonel in 2013.
Despite concerted efforts by the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), the body of Witold Pilecki has not been found to this day. After the exhumations carried out in 2012, it was found that he was most likely buried in a mass grave in Powązki cemetery in Warsaw. The exploration work is ongoing.
British historyi an professor Michael Foot included Witold Pilecki in his six bravest people of the resistance movement during World War II.