Escape from Auschwitz - main gate

Escape From Auschwitz

Did you know that, in the midst of World War II, one of the most daring prison escapes in history took place in the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz?  Thirty-seven miles west of Krakow, Auschwitz was the biggest camp of its kind.  Auschwitz was broken up into three separate sections: Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II, and Auschwitz III. During World War II, over 1.1 million people were murdered at the complex.  Auschwitz is renowned for its strict security and cruel guards. So how was it that on June 20th 1942, four prisoners were able to escape from Auschwitz right before the Nazi’s eyes?

A Plan is Hatched to Escape from Auschwitz

Kazimierz Piechowski was a Polish man captured on his way to the France border.  Piechowski was motivated to join up with the Free Polish forces, after Germany invaded his town in 1939. He was part of the 2nd group to be transported to Auschwitz, who were used as forced labor to build and expand the camp.

Kazimierz first began to plan his escape when he found out his friend, a mechanic named Eugeniusz Bendera, was listed to be killed. Coincidentally, Kazimierz was working in the store block of Auschwitz where items such as uniforms and ammunition were held. To aid the escape, Kazimierz and Eugeniusz recruited two more people; Gustaw Jaster and Jozef Lempart.

Steyr 220 – Similar to the one used to escape from Auschwitz

Eugeniuz was able to acquire the Steyr 220, a car reserved for the commandant of Auschwitz. It was the fastest car available, and they needed it to be able to outrun any pursuit from the guards.

Meanwhile, Kazimierz, Gustaw, and Jozef broke into the store room and retrieved SS officer uniforms.

Worthy of an Oscar

Now under disguise as SS officers, the escape crew were ready to face the final challenge: the front gate. According to Kazimierz:

“We just planned that I would play the role of an SS officer so well that the guards would believe me.”

Upon reaching the exit, Kazimierz did just that.   He began yelling at the guard in German, putting on such a convincing performance that all four were allowed to drive straight through the gates to freedom.

Escape from Auschwitz: Front gate current day
Main gate of Auschwitz By Michel Zacharz AKA Grippenn[1] (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
Together, they were four prisoners out of 144 that were known to successively escape Auschwitz. Out of these four who escaped, Kazimierz is the only one who is still living at the time of publishing.

Although it might seem like a small feat to some, the actions of these four men showed the extent of their bravery and fortitude. They stood up against the brutal force of the Nazis, and they won!  The men who made this daring escape from Auschwitz are truly heroic!

Want to learn more? Watch 22 Surprising Facts About Nazi Germany