Kazimierz Piechowski

Kazimierz Piechowski

In 1942, four Auschwitz inmates successfully escaped by stealing SS officer uniforms and driving a stolen Nazi car through the camp's front gate.

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Kazimierz Piechowski was a teenage member of the Polish Boy Scouts before he became one of the first prisoners at Auschwitz. He went on to lead a daring escape from the Nazi death camp, helping to steal the commandant's car.

In an effort to spare his cellmates from retribution, Piechowski devised a plan in which he, Bendera, and two others – Stanislaw Gustaw Jaster, a former Scout, and Jozef Lempart, a priest – would leave the main camp area by pretending to be part of a four-person work unit.

On a quiet Saturday morning, they pushed a garbage cart through the first camp gate, under the infamous sign bearing the legend, Arbeit Macht Frei (Work sets you free). Three of the men scurried through a coal hatch inside the warehouse, and Piechowski led them to a room where they nabbed SS uniforms, four machine guns, and eight grenades

They stepped inside a speedy Steyr 220 – the fastest car on the base, belonging to commandant Rudolf Höss – and drove toward the camp's main gate, greeting SS officers with a "Heil Hitler!" along the way, Piechowski later said. They had good luck pushing their garbage cart and taking the uniforms out of the warehouse, where SS officers failed to identify them, but at the camp's outermost gate they were met with a closed barrier.

"Wake up, you buggers!" Piechowski yelled in German to the men manning the gate, he later told the Guardian. "Open up, or I'll open you up." The gate opened, and the escapees drove to freedom.


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