Commissioner for Human Rights

Prof. Władysław Bartoszewski dies

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Prof. Władysław Bartoszewski was an outstanding politician, social activist, journalist, writer, historian and human rights defender.


He took part in the civilian defence of Warsaw in September 1939. In September 1940, after being apprehended in a round-up in the Żoliborz district of Warsaw, he was sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, wherefrom he was released in April 1941 thanks to the Polish Red Cross. In August 1942, he took the oath and joined Armia Krajowa (the Home Army) and since November 1942 also worked in the Government Home Representation organising help inter alia for Pawiak prisoners. He co-founded the “Żegota” Council to Aid Jews in Warsaw and was its member in 1942-1944. He fought in the Warsaw Uprising; promoted to the rank of sub-lieutenant by Home Army Commander General Tadeusz Komorowski “Bór”, he was promoted again to the rank of lieutenant in London for his further pro-independence activity until autumn 1945.


After the war he cooperated with the National Remembrance Institute, a body attached to the Presidium of the Council of Ministers and with the Chief Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland. In 1946, he became engaged in the activity of PSL, the Polish People's Party opposed to the communist authorities. He worked as a journalist and contributor for the following printed media: “Gazeta Ludowa” in 1946, “Stolica” in 1957-1960 and “Tygodnik Powszechny” from 1961. In 1963, he began his clandestine cooperation with Radio Free Europe, which lasted 18 years.


Since 1969, he has been a member of the Board (2001-2010 chairman) of the Polish Pen Club (currently honorary chairman). In the 1970s, due to his active oppositional activity and contacts in the West, he was prohibited from printing in Poland (until autumn 1974) and subjected to other repressions. In August 1980, he signed the letter addressed by intellectuals to the striking workers in Gdańsk. He joined the “Solidarity” trade union (NSZZ “Solidarność”). In December 1980, he co-founded the “Committee for the Defence of Those Imprisoned for their Beliefs” at the NSZZ “Solidarność” National Committee. During the Martial Law, he was interned from December 1981 until April 1982.


In 1974-1985, he was a lecturer at the KUL (Catholic University of Lublin); the title of professor was bestowed on him by the government of Bavaria, where in the 1980s he lectured Polish modern history. In 1990-1995, he served as the Polish ambassador to Austria, twice as the Polish foreign minister (1995, 2000-2001) and senator (1997-2001). He held the position of Chairman of the Council of the Polish Institute of International Affairs. Since 1991, he has been the president of the International Auschwitz Council and since 2001 - Chairman of the Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom Sites. He was also a Plenipotentiary of the Prime Minister for International Dialogue.


Distinguished with many awards, including in particular, the Cavalier's Cross of the Order of Reborn Poland for aiding Jews during the war, the Commander's Cross with Star of the Polonia Restituta Order, the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Honorary Medal of the Human Rights Defender “For Merit To Human Rights Protection”, the Righteous Among Nations medal and title of Honorary Citizen of Israel, the White Eagle Order (1995) and high decorations of Austria, Estonia, Lithuania, Spain and Hungary.