Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, a former Auschwitz prisoner and member of Poland’s underground World War II resistance who helped save Jews and later served twice as the country’s foreign minister, died April 24 in Warsaw. He was 93.
His death was confirmed by a number of leaders, including President Bronislaw Komorowski and Poland’s former prime minister Donald Tusk, now European Council president, for whom Mr. Bartoszewski was deputy minister in charge of international dialogue, chiefly with Germany and Israel. No cause was disclosed.
The Polish media also paid homage to him, remembering his achievements and some of his notable quotes, including: “It is worth being honest, though it doesn’t always pay off. It pays off to be dishonest, but it isn’t worth it.”
Very much present in public life, Mr. Bartoszewski was widely respected not only for his wartime resistance, but also as a historian, author of books on World War II history, social activist and politician. He spent a large part of his life working for Polish-German reconciliation, making it a focus of his writings and speeches in Poland and in Germany.
A Polish Catholic, Mr. Bartoszewski was born in 1922 in Warsaw. The son of a bank clerk, he grew up next to Warsaw’s Jewish district and had many Jewish friends.
When he was a teenager he fought in the defense of Warsaw against the Germans, who invaded the country in September 1939. Caught in a street roundup in Warsaw in 1940, he was sent to Auschwitz, which was first used by the Nazis for Polish resistance fighters. There he was given the prison number 4427.
In a rare occurrence, he was released in April 1941 thanks to the efforts of the Polish Red Cross, which he had worked for before his arrest.
Back in Warsaw, he wrote a detailed report from his time at the camp, the first known written witness account from Auschwitz. He also reported on Auschwitz to Poland’s clandestine resistance Home Army, commanded from London by Poland’s government in exile. He joined the Home Army and organized secret help to the prisoners of the Pawiak prison, where the Germans held and tortured Polish resistance members and ordinary people.
He also joined a resistance unit devoted to saving Jews, known as Zegota. For his efforts to help the Jews he was honored by the Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, as a “Righteous Among the Nations” in 1965. He was also an honorary citizen of Israel.
Before the war was over, however, he took up arms yet again against the Germans, fighting in the ill-fated Warsaw Uprising of 1944.
The war’s end meant new hardship for Mr. Bartoszewski, who became the target of the new, imposed communist regime, which considered all Home Army independence fighters a threat, because they opposed the Soviet-backed communist rule.
For his independent thinking and pro-democracy writings Mr. Bartoszewski was imprisoned — on fabricated espionage charges — and spent nearly seven years locked up before a court finally ruled in 1955 that he had been unfairly arrested.
He found work as a lecturer at a Catholic university, and also wrote for Radio Free Europe and lectured in Germany.
In the 1980s he was active in Solidarity, the movement that eventually helped topple communism, but that earned him about four months of confinement under martial law.
Mr. Bartoszewski was an animated and exhaustive speaker who met often with young people, hoping to encourage them to embrace peace and tolerance. He said he saw it as an obligation to bear testimony to the decades of cruelty he witnessed during the war and under communism.
His first marriage, to Antonina Mijal, ended in divorce. Survivors include his second wife, Zofia, and a son from his first marriage, Władysław Teofil Bartoszewski, a historian.