Warsaw’s mayor has unveiled a monument to a Second World War hero who volunteered to go to the Auschwitz Nazi death camp, informed first hand on the atrocities there, and was later killed by the communist regime.
The stone-and-metal memorial for Captain Witold Pilecki is located near the place where in September 1940 the clandestine army fighter let himself be caught by the occupying Nazi Germans.
It was a step towards becoming an inmate of Auschwitz, which the Nazi Germans operated in southern occupied Poland.
Capt Pilecki’s son and daughter and other descendants joined hundreds of Warsaw residents and authorities at Saturday’s ceremony.
Deputy prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Capt Pilecki was twice victorious, first when he was ready to sacrifice his life in the defence of Poland and second when the memory of him and other resistance fighters survived the communist regime.
Capt Pilecki wrote and smuggled out secret reports from Auschwitz to his superiors before fleeing in 1943. As a freedom fighter, he was caught and executed by the communist government imposed on Poland after the war.
His body was dumped in a mass grave and his name was taboo, as the regime wanted to erase the memories of freedom fighters. Historians are still looking for his remains.
Democratic Poland is making efforts to fill in such blank pages from the nation’s past with ceremonies honouring wartime and anti-communist heroes.