On Sunday the world lost Antoni Dobrowolski, the oldest known survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Mr. Dobrowolski passed away in the Polish town of Debno at age 108.
Antoni Dobrowolski was imprisoned by the Germans in 1942 after being arrested by the Gestapo. Prior to being moved to Auschwitz, he was imprisoned in the concentration camps of Gross-Rosen and Sachenhausen, according to the Auschwitz museum.
In Dobrowolski’s case he was sent to Auschwitz, the notorious death camp also known as Birkenau. His fate was rare, as an estimated 1.1 million people were killed in the camp between 1940 and 1945.
Dobrowolski’s capture and imprisonment was a part of a much larger effort to arrest those caught educating Polish children.
When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, sparking WWII, the German occupiers banned all education of the Poles beyond four years of elementary education. The tactic was a portion of a larger strategy to use the Poles as a slave race.
Immediately an underground movement began to teach Polish children and those involved in teaching the students were sent to concentration camps or prisons.
Dobrowolski was arrested for educating young students, but returned to teaching after the war ended.
Following the war, Antoni Dobrowolski moved to Debno where he worked as a Polish-language teacher and principal at an elementary school and later at a high school.
He will be buried in Debno on Wednesday.