Witold Pilecki – unsung hero of World War II

Ken Dawson March 12, 2015 0
Witold Pilecki – unsung hero of World War II

He was one of the biggest heroes of World War 2. He was the man who volunteered to get captured and be sent to Auschwitz where he spent over 2 years in the concentration camp, gathering information and organizing resistance. He was the man, who informed the Allies of Nazi atrocities and German plans to exterminate the Jews. He was a captain of the Polish Army and his name was Witold Pilecki.

Allied governments were given the information as early as 1941-1942, but they, especially Winston Churchill, did nothing. When Pilecki’s group had discovered existence of the Gas Chambers, they started to work on plans to liberate Auschwitz, but Polish resistance had no strength to do so.  As, the Allies had no intention of doing it, Pilecki escaped from Auschwitz. He fought in the Warsaw Uprising, where he was captured by Nazis. After the war ended, he returned to Poland, in 1945, to gather intelligence on Soviet regime. He was arrested by the Communists and they tortured him for six months, subjected him to a ridiculous trial and sentenced him to 3 death sentences. He was murdered on May 25th, 1948.

“Witold Pilecki was born 13 may 1901, in the town of Olonets, in Russia. His family was forced to resettle there by Imperial Russian authorities. In 1910, his family moved to Wilno, where young Pilecki joined a secret scouts organization. He fought in the Polish-Soviet War, 1919- 1920 within the Polish Regular Army. His gallantry was awarded twice with the Cross of Valor medal.  After the war ended, he continued his education, graduating from High School and starting to study at the University in Wilno, while serving as a second lieutenant of the reserves in a cavalry regiment.

5 days before the outbreak of the WWII he was mobilized and assigned to the 19th Infantry Division. He fought against advancing Nazis, as they attacked Poland. After the Soviets attacked Poland from the East, his division was involved in fighting on both fronts, eventually being disbanded. Pilecki returned to Warsaw and became one of the founders of The Secret Polish Army, an underground resistance organization.

By the 1940’s  Auschwitz was believed to be a POW camp or large prison and no one knew what the Germans were planning to do there. Pilecki created a plan to enter the concentration camp in Auschwitz, gather intelligence and organize resistance.

Once inside, he was assigned prisoner number 4859, and immediately started to organize the resistance network, which by March of 1942, consisted of about 500 prisoners. Pilecki started to write reports by hand. They were smuggled to London, to the Polish government-in-exile.

In 1942, the inmates were even able to build a secret radio station in Auschwitz, broadcasting the condition of prisoners and the number of arrivals and deaths.

As the organization was established and intelligence was being gathered, Pilecki decided to break out.  On the night of 26th April 1943, he and 2 other prisoners successfully escaped.

He returned to Warsaw, the capital of Poland and reported to the polish Home Army but the Army had insufficient strength to assault and capture the camp. Pilecki’s report was sent to London, but his claims of German atrocities and murdering 2 million people, were not believed and considered “grossly exaggerated”.

He fought in the Warsaw Uprising in ’44.  After its defeat, he surrendered to Germans and was taken to Marnau in Germany, where he was liberated from a POW camp by the US Army in April, 1945.

He was ordered by General Anders, the commander of 2nd Polish Corps, to return to now Soviet-controlled Poland and gather intelligence for the Polish government-in-exile.

Pilecki was arrested by the Communists on May 5, 1947.  He was tortured, having his ribs and nose broken and fingernails ripped out. He was accused of activities against states and put on trial with others.  He was sentenced to death by the puppet court and executed in May 1948. It is not known where he was buried.

Pilecki was rehabilitated in 1990, when Poland regained its independence from the Soviet Union. In 2006, he received posthumously the highest Polish decoration, the Order of the White Eagle.

 

Info:

Featured image : Wikipedia

Body image: Wikipedia

Both images are licensed under PD licence.

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