Witold Pilecki - Instytut Pileckiego

Witold Pilecki (born 1901 in Ołoniec, Karelia) is the only known person, who, of his own free will, allowed himself to be captured and transported to the German Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, in order to discover the truth about the camp and tell the world about it. Pilecki was imprisoned there from mid-1940 until his escape in the spring of 1943, during which time he organized a resistance movement and operated under extremely repressive conditions. The result of his mission provided the outside world with the first eyewitness accounts of the incipient Holocaust. The gathered intelligence (the so-called Pilecki's Report) was passed orally outside the camp to the leaders of the Polish Underground State. Later on, couriers delivered the news to London. In this way the Allies learned about the repressions against the Polish intelligentsia, about the gassing of Soviet prisoners of war and the extermination of European Jews. 


After escaping from Auschwitz on the night of 26 April 1943, Pilecki wrote down his reports as required by his role as an eye witness. He fought in the Warsaw Uprising from August 1944, and he found himself captive in oflag VII A Murnau after the capitulation of the city. After the camp was liberated by American troops, he made his way to Italy in 1945, wrote down his reports from the camp for a second time, and returned to Poland to gather intelligence on the Communist regime. He was arrested in 1947, and after a brutal investigation was sentenced to death by the Communist authorities in a show trial during which he was falsely charged with treason and espionage. The sentence was carried out on 25 May 1948 in Mokotów prison in Warsaw.


The Communist authorities consistently erased all memory of Pilecki. The location of his remains are unknown to this day, and his Sukurcze estate, located on the territory of present-day Belarus, was razed to the ground. His wife Maria and their children all faced repressions. Andrzej and Zofia Pilecki were unable to study, and had difficulty finding a job. Nevertheless, the memory of Pilecki survived among his closest family and friends. In this way, Witold Pilecki was officially rehabilitated after 1989, and his reports were rediscovered.


Witold Pilecki represents universal values: patriotism, courage and a love of freedom. He lived in an age of two totalitarian regimes, challenged them by refusing to accept the violation of fundamental human rights, and by believing in supranational solidarity. Despite many adversities, he did not give in, and persisted in exercising his values, to the point of giving his own life for them.