"We are paying farewell today to a great man"
Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, Poland's former foreign minister, former Auschwitz prisoner, soldier of Poland's WW2 underground Home Army, member of the Zegota resistanceunit devoted to saving Jews and democratic opposition activist, was buried in Warsaw on Monday.
President Bronislaw Komorowski, PM Ewa Kopacz and cabinet ministers as well as European Council President Donald Tusk and German President Joachim Gauck attended the state funeral ceremonies for Wladyslaw Bartoszewski. Present were also Sejm (lower house) and Senate Speakers Radoslaw Sikorski and Bogdan Borusewicz, former presidents Aleksander Kwasniewski and Lech Walesa as well as Bartoszewski's widow, his son, family members and friends.
The funeral mass was said at Warsaw's St. John Arch-Cathedral, with soldiers standing guard by Bartoszewski's wooden coffin covered with Poland's white-and-red national flag.
"We are paying farewell today to a great man who for many generations of Poles has been and will continue to be an example of true civic and patriotic values," President Komorowski said and stressed Bartoszewski was a great friend and an outstanding teacher, and added the deceased was also his dear friend and mentor.
President Gauck said that "we have lost a friend, a person worth of emulating, a wonderful person" and stressed that being an unquestionable authority, Bartoszewski made the Polish and German nations get close and finally reconcile. Gauck ended with a "thank you" in Polish.
Bartoszewski was later buried with state honours, to the sound of the national anthem, at Warsaw's military Powazki cemetery. Funeral ceremonies were led by Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz, a prayer was said by Poland's chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich.
Bartoszewski died in Warsaw on April 24 at the age of 93.
In 1939 Bartoszewski fought in the defence of Warsaw against the Germans, who invaded Poland in September 1939. Caught in a street roundup in Warsaw in 1940, he was sent to Auschwitz where he was given the prison number 4427.
He was released in April 1941 thanks to the efforts of the Polish Red Cross, which he had worked for before his arrest. After his release, he wrote a detailed report about the Nazi German death camp, the first known written witness account from Auschwitz. Shortly later he joined Poland's underground Home Army. He also joined a resistance unit devoted to saving Jews, known as Zegota. For his efforts to help the Jews he was honoured by the Yad Vashem Institute as "Righteous Among the Nations" in 1965 and was granted the honorary citizenship of Israel. He also fought in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.
After the war, Bartoszewski was imprisoned in communist Poland and spent over six years in prison. In the 1980s he was an active Solidarity activist.
After Poland regained independence in 1989, Bartoszewski was Poland's ambassador to Austria (1990-1995), a foreign minister in the Jozef Oleksy cabinet, a senator (1997-2001), a foreign minister in the Jerzy Buzek government (2000-2001) and chairman of the International Council of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and then of the International Auschwitz Council established in the year 2000.
In 2007 he was appointed the prime minister's aide for international dialogue and focused chiefly on the development of Polish-German relations and contacts with the Jewish Diaspora and Israel.
Bartoszewski was awarded many foreign and Polish distinctions, including Poland's highest honour, the Order of the White Eagle. He was an author of ca. 1,500 articles and 40 books. (PAP, own information)