Kazimierz Smolen, a survivor of Auschwitz who became director of the memorial site there after World War II, died Jan. 27, the 67th anniversary of the death camp’s liberation. He was 91.
Mr. Smolen died in a hospital in Oswiecim, the southern Polish town where Nazi Germany operated the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp during World War II, said Pawel Sawicki, a spokesman for the Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum. The cause of Mr. Smolen’s death was not disclosed.
Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau on Jan. 27, 1945. The date was designated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day by the United Nations in 2005.
Two years after the war ended, Auschwitz-Birkenau became a museum. Mr. Smolen served as its director from 1955 to 1990. He continued to live in Oswiecim after his retirement and often attended the memorial ceremonies marking the camp’s liberation.
Sawicki said the news of Mr. Smolen’s death was announced to Holocaust survivors commemorating the anniversary in Oswiecim. They fell silent for a minute in his honor.
Mr. Smolen, a Catholic, was born April 19, 1920, in the southern Polish town of Chorzow Stary. He was involved in the anti-Nazi resistance and was arrested by the Germans in April 1941 and taken to Auschwitz in one of the early shipments of prisoners there. He left the camp on the last transport of prisoners evacuated by the Germans on Jan. 18, 1945, nine days before its liberation. He later attributed his survival to good health and extreme luck.
He once explained his decision to return to the camp to manage it as a way of honoring those who were killed there.
“Sometimes when I think about it,” he said, “I feel it may be some kind of sacrifice, some kind of obligation I have for having survived.”
— Associated Press