President pays tribute to Polish wartime hero Witold Pilecki

PAP/Adam Guz

Polish WWII hero captain Witold Pilecki was the personification of the struggle for an independent Poland, President Andrzej Duda said on Friday.

President Duda laid a wreath at the execution wall in the former pre-trial detention centre in Warsaw's Mokotów district to mark the 70th anniversary of the death of Witold Pilecki, a Polish wartime hero executed by the communist authorities after WWII.

The president was accompanied by Pilecki's daughter, Zofia Pilecka-Optułowicz.

"I am honoured to pay tribute to the memory of Witold Pilecki, together with his daughter. It was a man about whom one could say a lot, but briefly speaking, he was a man who was the personification of the struggle for an independent Poland," President Duda said.

"Captain Pilecki is a man who should, undoubtedly, be a model for the present and future generations of Polish youth," Duda stressed.

Witold Pilecki was a Polish soldier in the pre-war Polish cavalry who in German-occupied Poland founded a Secret Polish Army resistance group in November 1939, subsequently joining the 1942-formed underground Home Army (AK). Pilecki is best known for having deliberately let himself be captured by the Nazi Germans and sent to Auschwitz. He was the author of the so-called Witold's Report - the first comprehensive account of what was going on in the German Auschwitz concentration camp. After escaping from Auschwitz, Pilecki informed the Western Allies about atrocities taking place in the camp. Arrested on May 8, 1947, by Poland's then communist authorities on charges of working for "foreign imperialism," he was sentenced to death after a show trial. Pilecki's burial site remains unknown.

Earlier in the day, the head of the Council for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression (UDsKiOR), Jan Kasprzyk laid a wreath at a monument to Pilecki in the Warsaw's district of Żoliborz. (PAP)