WARSAW, Poland (JTA) – Former Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, a former prisoner of Auschwitz who was named Righteous Among the Nations, has died.
Bartoszewski, who was also a social activist, journalist and historian, died Friday. He was 93.
In 1940, Bartoszewski was sent to Auschwitz because of his social activism. He was released in 1941 following efforts by the Polish Red Cross. In 1942, he became involved in the work of Zegota-The Committee for Aid to Jews, a Polish World War II resistance organization set up to help Jews during the Holocaust.
He served twice as the minister of foreign affairs in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and as ambassador to Austria for five years beginning in 1990. In 2007 he became secretary of state in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Flags on the Polish Parliament and the Presidential Palace were lowered to half-mast in his honor.
On April 19, Bartoszewski participated in the celebration of the 72nd anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, and three days later he took part in the celebration of the anniversary of the independence of Israel.
“It is the end of the twentieth century,” Piotr Cywinski, director of the Auschwitz Museum, wrote on his Facebook page.
Piotr Kadlcik, a former chairman of the Union of Jewish Communities in Poland told JTA, echoed the same sentiments.
“It is the end of an era,” Kadlcik wrote. “Without these people it will be much more difficult to remember all aspects of our common history and to talk about it with dignity, without vindictiveness and stereotypes.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued his condolences in a statement on Saturday night.
“In Israel he will remain forever in our hearts as one of the Righteous Among the Nations who risked his life to rescue Jews from the Nazis,” Netanyahu said, noting the designation from the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. “In my meetings with him, I was deeply impressed by his humanity and erudition. His light will continue to shine.”
Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said on Saturday that Bartoszewski “was a very brave and effective ambassador of reconciliation of states, nations and societies, Polish-German and Polish-Israeli reconciliation.”