Young Jews place signed memory plaques on railway tracks at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, April 19.(Photo: Janek Skarzynski, AFP/Getty Images)
WARSAW, Poland -- The oldest known survivor of the Auschwitz
concentration camp - a teacher who gave lessons in defiance of his
native Poland's Nazi occupiers - has died at the age of 108, an official
Antoni Dobrowolski died Sunday in the northwestern
Polish town of Debno, according to Jaroslaw Mensfelt, a spokesman at the
Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum.
After invading Poland in 1939,
sparking World War II, the Germans banned anything beyond four years of
elementary education in a bid to crush Polish culture and the country's
intelligentsia. The Germans considered the Poles an inferior race and
the education policy was part of a plan to use Poles as a "slave race."
underground effort by Poles to continue to teach children immediately
emerged, with those caught punished by being sent to concentration camps
or prisons. Dobrowolski was among the Poles engaged in the underground
effort, and he arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Auschwitz in 1942.
who was born Oct. 8, 1904 in Wolborz, a town in central Poland, was
later moved to the concentration camps of Gross-Rosen and then
Sachsenhausen, where he was liberated in the spring of 1945 at the war's
end, according to information provided by the Auschwitz memorial museum
in southern Poland.
At least 1.1 million people were killed by
the Germans at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Most of the victims were Jews, but
many non-Jewish Poles, Roma and others were also killed there.