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Boy Scouts’ Escape From Auschwitz

June 20: A Polish Boy Scout led the most audacious escape from the Auschwitz death camp on this day in 1942 – after stealing SS uniforms, guns and a top-ranking Nazi’s car.

Kazimierz Piechowski and three other inmates dressed as a transport crew to leave the inner high-security zone marked by the notorious ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ gate – German for ‘work makes you free’.

After walking beneath the sinister, wrought iron message the non-Jewish group of four ditched the cart they had stolen and split up.

Piechowski and two fellow Poles – priest Jozef Lempart and army officer Stanislaw Jaster – went to the warehouse where uniforms and weapons were stored.

They entered via a coal bunker that Piechowski, then aged 22, had ensured would open by unscrewing the latch during a forced labour assignment days earlier.

Inside, they dressed as SS-Totenkopfverbände – or ‘Death’s-Head Unit’ – guards and armed themselves with four machine-guns and eight grenades.

Meanwhile, fellow ecapee Eugeniusz Bendera, a Ukrainain mechanic, went to the motorpool and stole SS Hauptsturmführer Paul Kreuzmann’s Steyr 220 saloon car.

Piechowski – who wore the uniform of an SS Untersturmführer, or second lieutenant – sat in the front passenger seat as Bendera drove to the main exit.

The group of political prisoners, who had forged papers, panicked when the guards manning the gate didn’t instantly raise the barrier.

But Piechowski, the only member who spoke good German, calmly leant out the window and screamed: “Wake up, you buggers! Open up or I’ll open you up!”

The terrified guards scrambled to raise the barrier, allowing the prisoners to escape and prompting all future inmates to have a number tattooed on their arms.

The four men all survived the war, except Jaster, who is thought to have been killed by the Gestapo after helping to free 49 prisoners on a train to Auschwitz in May 1943.

He was one of 4.9million Poles – of whom 3million were Jewish – killed during the occupation of Poland, where Auschwitz and five other deaths camps were located.

Piechowski, whose membership of the banned Boy Scout movement and bid to join the Free Polish forces led to his 1939 arrest, became a resistance fighter after fleeing.

In response to his escape, Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss ordered future inmates to have their prisoner number tattooed on their arms.

Ironically, his Home Army membership led to him being imprisoned for seven years after the war by Poland’s new communist rulers, who feared an insurgency.

Yet Piechowski, who today lives in Gdasnk, refused a bravery award following the end of communism in 1989 by humbly saying: “I do not feel this honour is owed me.”

June 20, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz, This Day In History | , , , , | Leave a comment

Volkswagen donating $1.3 million to Auschwitz youth center

KRAKOW TOURS: Volkswagen, Automaker, which used concentration camp prisoners as slave labor in its factories during the Holocaust, says work at site is an ‘important undertaking’ for staff.

hitler-and-volkswagen-beetle

Volkswagen said Tuesday it was donating $1.3 million to the Auschwitz International Youth Meeting Center.

The automaker made the announcement at a meeting at the company’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn said in a statement that the money will be used for educational work and modernization of the facility.

He said Volkswagen has been involved with the center, an educational site located next to the Nazi death camp in Poland, for more than 20 years.

”The work on this site, which has become so deeply ingrained in the collective memory, has become for our employees an important undertaking,” Winterkorn said.

“These experiences shape us all. They have become a key element in our corporate culture. Above all, our donation expresses our gratitude for these experiences. ”

Volkswagen used concentration camp prisoners as slave labor in its factories during World War II. It has since contributed to a compensation fund for slave laborers.

via Volkswagen donating $1.3 million to Auschwitz youth center – Jewish World News – Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper.

June 11, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz, News | Leave a comment

Fiona Pennie wins European K1 canoe slalom gold in Krakow

Fiona PennieBritain’s Fiona Pennie became European champion in the women’s K1 canoe slalom as she held off strong competition in Krakow, Poland.

The 30-year-old, who competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has been a European bronze medallist on three previous occasions.

She completed the course in 92.01 seconds with no penalties, 1.18 secs ahead of Italy’s Stefanie Horn.

British pair David Florence and Richard Hounslow came ninth in the C2 final.

Florence and Hounslow won silver medals at the London Olympics but they picked up a two-second penalty at gate 21 which cost them.

The gold medallists in London, Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott, finished 19th in the heats and did not make the final.

via BBC Sport – Fiona Pennie wins European K1 canoe slalom gold in Krakow.

June 10, 2013 Posted by | Sport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bad Memories of Krakow for Olympic Champs

OLYMPIC champions they may be, but Etienne Stott and Tim Baillie insist that counts for nothing as they return to international action this weekend for the first time since London 2012.

Stott & Bailie

The canoe slalom C2 stars have competed in a series of races at Nottingham’s National Water Sports Centre and at the Olympic course in Lee Valley in the past few months.

But the European Championships in Poland mark the first time they will have squared off against many of the same canoe double pairings they saw off to win Olympic gold last August.

“Some people think that because we have won the Olympics anything other than a podium finish would be a huge disappointment for us, but the reality is quite different,” Baillie said.

“Don’t get me wrong, we’d love to medal (at the Europeans) and we will be doing our best to get up there, but there are a whole lot of fast crews with the potential to podium and it’s a very difficult sport to be consistent.

“Our greatest achievement at the Olympics was that we managed to break free from any perceived pressure or expectation and focused instead entirely on our performance and just trying to get our best effort down regardless of what anyone else did.

“For the race this weekend our approach will be identical; we’ll be preparing meticulously to try to execute our best performance and if we manage to do that in an uninhibited way we’ll be satisfied, It’d be great if that meant we had a good result as well.”

Stott echoed the thoughts of his whitewater rapids partner, adding: “Anyone who knows the sport of canoe slalom realises that it is unpredictable and therefore if it didn’t go well, it wouldn’t mean our reputation was ruined.

“The focus and process that we go through will be the same as for the Olympics; it’s just that the situation is a bit different, that’s just part of the challenge of sports and what I enjoy.”

Pending the event going ahead in Krakow as planned – with flooding problems at the course shifting the start of the Europeans back a day to tomorrow – the duo will also be looking to avenge a bad memory from five years ago.

They may have a European bronze medal to their name from the C2 discipline from when it was staged in Nottingham in 2009, but it was a very different situation for Stott and Baillie the year before.

At the 2008 European Championships, which was staged at the Krakow course they will compete on tomorrow, the pair managed only 16th and this meant they missed out on qualifying for the Beijing Olympics that year.

“This will only be the second race we have done there,” said Stott.

“In 2008, our performance was poor and led to us missing out on qualifying a place to the Beijing Games.

“So it doesn’t have loads of happy memories. But we are much improved as athletes now, and to me it seems like a totally different situation, a blank slate.

“The river is very tough, challenging and unforgiving, which suits our style to some degree, so I am excited to race and see how fast we can go.”

That bad memory was compounded for Baillie, who added: “Krakow hasn’t been especially kind to us. In 2008, the race was actually on my birthday.

“It’s a particularly painful memory because we completely failed to paddle up to our potential because we were too nervous and didn’t have the mental strategies to deal with it.

“Missing the Olympics was devastating for us at that point but looking back now it’s a bitter-sweet memory.

“In many ways that experience proved to be an important catalyst for our eventual success in London.

“It highlighted what we needed to improve and we spent the intervening four years working on our race-day composure and mental toughness.”

Training ahead of the event has not gone according to plan for the Nottingham-based pair, with the course in Krakow closed due to flooding much of this week due to heavy rain that has swelled the river levels.

But Stott says they feel in good shape, and said: “We have worked as hard as we can on the important parts of our training.

“Being the first race of the new Olympic cycle means everyone will be feeling out their form and that of the opposition, so we’ll just have to wait and see. But the way we are paddling and the way we feel physically is pretty good.

“It will come down to how we handle the race course on the race day.”

June 8, 2013 Posted by | Events, Sport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Netanyahu to Inaugurate New Auschwitz Exhibition

KRAKOW TOURS: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will visit Poland on June 13 for the opening of a new exhibition at the museum of the former Nazi German death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, organizers said Monday.

In the works for four years, the exhibition will present “the murder at Auschwitz in the larger context of the Nazis systematic attempt to exterminate the Jewish people,” said curators at Yad Vashem Holocaust institute.

The “Shoah” display will be located in Block 27, the oldest part of the camp set up by Nazi Germany in the southern town of Oswiecim in occupied Poland.

The unveiling was originally due on May 9 but had to be pushed back because of Netanyahus schedule.

Around 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, were killed between 1940 and 1945 at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most notorious of the death camps run by Nazi Germany.

June 5, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz, Events, News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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