Former Polish minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski dies

The 93-year-old, who survived Auschwitz, was also a writer and activist

Polish politician, writer and activist Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, who was persecuted both by the Nazis and Polish communists before serving two terms as foreign minister, has died aged 93.

Mr Bartoszewski referred to himself as a “utopian idealist” and was one of Poland’s most respected figures, his eventful life a mirror image of Poland’s own eventful history in the past century.

"It's a huge loss, a great Pole has left us," said president Bronislaw Komorowski while former prime minister Donald Tusk, now head of the European Council, said Mr Bartoszweski's death was a "sad day".

Born in Warsaw in 1922 to a Catholic family, he was 17 when the Nazis marched across the border to occupy his homeland, triggering the second World War.



As a

Red Cross

volunteer he was one of 2,000 people rounded up in 1940 and served nine months in Auschwitz as prisoner 4427.

On his release he risked returning by joining the Polish Home Army in its doomed battle to liberate the country. As a member of the “Zegota” underground movement he saved an estimated 4,000 Jews from certain death.

Mr Bartoszewski worked for several Catholic underground magazines and continued writing after the war. But his wartime record proved no protection in the new era. Quite the opposite: his fearless writings about the truth of the uprising attracted the ire of the new communist regime, which preferred to paint Moscow as the saviour of the Polish nation.

Reform wave

In 1946 Mr Bartoszewski was accused of being a spy, arrested and imprisoned twice. It was 1954 when he was released, during a post-Stalinist reform wave and informed that he had been wrongly sentenced. He moved to


in the 1960s and awarded the “Righteous Among Nations” title. Returning to Europe he divided time between


and western Europe where he lectured from


to Bavaria, challenging the official line on wartime Poland.

As an early member of the Solidarity trade union and ally of its leader Lech Walesa, he played his part in the transition to democracy in 1989 .

In the new era he served as ambassador to Vienna and two short terms as foreign minister. In later years he dedicated his life to reconciliation between Germany and Poland.

German chancellor Angela Merkel paid tribute to Mr Bartoszewski's "tireless engagement for freedom and reconciliation".

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin