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On this day 75 years ago Communists murdered Polish national hero Pilecki

Thursday marks the 75th anniversary of the communist regime in Poland murdering Witold Pilecki, a cavalry captain who wrote a report on the crimes committed at the Auschwitz German death camp. The day is also remembered as the International Day of Heroes of the Fight against Totalitarianism.

Poland honours memory of WWII-era hero Pilecki

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Witold Pilecki was born in 1901 and served as a 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 organize a resistance movement and to prepare a report on the situation in the camp. The information was presented to the Western Allies as early as 1941.

In the spring of 1943, the Germans began uncovering members of underground organizations in the camp. More and more people belonging to the resistance movement were being executed. After a decision was made by the Germans to deport the “old-timers” into the Reich, Pilecki decided to escape which he managed to do together with two fellow prisoners on April 26, 1943.

25 May 1948 | Witold Pilecki was executed in Warsaw. A Polish soldier in 1920 & 1939 wars, volunteer prisoner of the German #Auschwitz camp, co-founder of camp resistance. He escaped in April 1943 & wrote a report about the crimes in the camp.

— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) May 24, 2023

After his escape, he continued his espionage work and later on participated in the Warsaw uprising.

In 1944-45 he was in German captivity in Murnau, until the liberation of the camp. He then joined the 2nd Polish Corps in Italy. In October 1945, on the personal orders of General Anders, he returned to Poland to conduct intelligence activities for the 2nd Corps. In the autumn of 1945, he organized a network and began collecting intelligence on the situation in Poland, including on the Home Army (AK) and 2nd Corps soldiers imprisoned in NKVD camps and deported to Russia.

On May 8, 1947, Witold Pilecki was arrested, accused of anti-state activities in a show trial. He was executed by Communist authorities on May 25, 1948.

"I've been trying to live my life so that in the hour of my death I would rather feel joy, than fear." (Witold Pilecki)

— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) May 24, 2023

Despite concerted efforts by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), his body has never been found.

International Day of Heroes of the Fight against Totalitarianism

“On the 80th anniversary of the start of the Second World War, Parliament insists on the importance of remembering Europe’s tragic past to safeguard Europe’s future,” the European Parliament wrote in a press release in 2019.

According to the EP, the day was established “as a way of fostering Europeans’ resilience to modern threats to democracy.”

In the explanation for the date of the commemoration the European Parliament pointed out that May 25 is the “anniversary of the execution of the Auschwitz hero Rotamaster Witold Pilecki.”

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