Polish Independence Day in Auschwitz

11th November 1941: The SS murder 151 Polish prisoners in Auschwitz on the day they commence executions at the 'Death Wall'

Witold Pilecki, was a founder member of the Polish Resistance movement - the Tajna Armia Polska, TAP (Secret Polish Army) - in Nazi Occupied Poland. Then in 1940 he volunteered to be imprisoned in Auschwitz in order to report on conditions inside the camp and to organise a clandestine resistance movement within. He allowed himself to be captured in a round up while carrying a false identity.

In this exceptionally dangerous role he was remarkably successful, smuggling out a number of reports that were the principal intelligence for the Polish government in exile on the Auschwitz regime and the growing Holocaust.

In November 1941 Pilecki1 was working in part of the Carpenters workshop in Auschwitz:

A great fellow, always cheerful – 42 [Tadeusz Lech] sat on one side of me, on the other – a good colleague – 45 [Stanisław Gutkiewicz].

In the morning of November 11, 1941, colleague 42 approached me, and said: ‘I had a weird dream, I feel that they will blow me away today. Maybe it is a trifle, and yet, if nothing else, it makes me happy that I’ll die on November 11.’

Half an hour later his number was read out among others at the morning roll-call.

He bid me a heartfelt farewell and asked me to tell his mother that he had died in good spirits.

He was dead a couple of hours later.

The SS had introduced a new form of execution at Auschwitz, shooting people at close range in the back of the head, in front of a high wall within one of the courtyards. On the 11th November the executions were carried out by SS-Hauptscharführer Gerhard Palitzsch, a notorious sadist and enthusiastic killer.

Gerhard Palitzsch had worked in a succession of concentartion camps since 1933. He was described by Rudolf Hoss the commandant of Auschwitz: ″Palitzsch was the most cunning and slippery creature that I have ever gotten to know and experience in the many concentration camps. He literally walked over bodies to satisfy his hunger for power.″.

Palitzsch is believed to have killed 151 Polish prisoners by this method on 11th November 1941. Later he would boast that he had shot around 25,000 men, women and children at the Death Wall, also known as the Black Wall.

A modern image of the ‘Death Wall’ after reconstruction. Located in the yard between block 10 and block 11 is the "Death Wall". The condemned were led to the wall for execution by SS men who shot several thousand people. The wall was dismantled in 1944, while the camp was still in existence.

Pilecki’s Auschwitz Report 1943, rewritten 1945: