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Antoni Dobrowolski during a 2009 interview. (TVB24)

Oldest Auschwitz Survivor, A Teacher Who Defied Nazis, Dies At 108

Oct 22, 2012

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Antoni Dobrowolski, who was put in the Auschwitz concentration camp because he defied Nazi orders not to teach young Poles, has died. He was 108 and was the oldest known survivor of that World War II Nazi death camp.

The Associated Press says Dobrowolski "died Sunday in the northwestern Polish town of Debno, according to Jaroslaw Mensfelt, a spokesman at the Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum."

After Germany invaded Poland in 1939, the Nazis outlawed teaching beyond elementary age. Dobrowolski, according to Polska Times, became a leader of a secret organization that kept trying to educate young Poles, especially about their country's culture and history.

In June 1942, he was arrested and sent to Auschwitz. The camp was "worse than Dante's hell," he said in a 2009 video interview, according to AP (we'll embed a clip from 2009 that we found on YouTube; if you can help translate, please do so in the comments thread).

Later in the war, the AP reports, Dobrowolski was "moved to the concentration camps of Gross-Rosen and Sachsenhausen. ... After the war, he moved to Debno, where he worked as a Polish-language teacher and as principal at an elementary school and later at a high school for many years."

As Reuters reminds us, "during Nazi Germany's World War II occupation of Poland, the Nazis killed some 1.5 million people in Auschwitz, located near the Polish village Oswiecim. Most those killed were Jewish." Dobrowolski was not Jewish.

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