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Polish statesman Bronislaw Geremek was remembered as “a great man” following his death in an automobile accident.

The Jewish-born Geremek, a hero of the anti-communist Solidarity movement in the 1980s and a key architect of post-communist democracy in Poland, died Saturday. He was 76.

Geremek, a a pipe-smoking, bearded medieval historian, served as foreign minister from 1997 to 2000 and was a member of the European Parliament.

Born to Jewish parents in Warsaw, Geremek lost his father in Auschwitz. As a child he was smuggled out of the Warsaw Ghetto and raised in a Roman Catholic family.

“Polish science and politics have lost a great man,” Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said in a statement. “Many of us have lost a friend.”

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