NEW YORK, April 25, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC mourns the death of Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, a member of the Polish resistance movement and survivor of Auschwitz, who decades later served twice as Poland's foreign minister.
"Bartoszewski was a Polish hero, defending his nation against Nazi invaders, helping re-establish a democratic country after four decades of Soviet occupation, and building post-war relations, on the one hand, with Germany and, on the other hand, with Israel," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. He met many times with Bartoszewski during AJC diplomatic missions to Poland and in the context of the International Auschwitz Council.
Bartoszewski, a Catholic who, as a young man, fought to defend his native Warsaw from the Nazis, was captured and sent to Auschwitz in 1940. Released a year later, he joined up with a resistance group protecting Jews in Poland. Israel's Yad Vashem later recognized Bartoszewski as a "Righteous among the Nations."
He served as foreign minister in 1995 and again between 2000 and 2001. He often joked that, while he was in this position, "Israel was the only country in the world that had two foreign ministers."
He served since 2001 as chair of the Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom Sites. AJC also had contact with him in this post because of our joint project with the Polish government to preserve, protect, and memorialize the site of Belzec, the Nazi death camp in which an estimated 500,000 Jews were murdered in the span of less than a year.
"Preserving the memory of Jews and others who perished at the hands of the Nazis was central to Bartoszewski's life mission," said Harris. "As in everything else he did, he brought enormous passion, energy, and determination to this effort. He was a man of high principle and a constant source of inspiration. We are thankful for the gift of his unique life, even as we will miss his singular voice and abiding friendship. What an extraordinary individual he was!"