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Guest Thinkers

Breaking into Auschwitz

In September 1940, a Polish army captain crept into the one place everyone wanted out: Auschwitz. His missions was to file intelligence reports on methods used at the camp.

“This weekend marks the 70th anniversary of a World War II milestone few people have heard before. It’s the story of a Polish army captain named Witold Pilecki. In September 1940, Pilecki didn’t know exactly what was going on in Auschwitz, but he knew someone had to find out. He would spend two and a half years in the prison camp, smuggling out word of the methods of execution and interrogation. He would eventually escape and author the first intelligence report on the camp. … Pilecki wanted to infiltrate the Auschwitz camp, but he had difficulty getting commanders to sign off on the mission. At the time, it was thought of as POW camp. ‘They didn’t realize the information from inside the camp was that vital,’ says Ryszard Bugajski, a Polish filmmaker who directed the 2006 film The Death of Captain Pilecki.”


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