THE HOLOCAUST

Oldest Auschwitz survivor dies at 108

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2012, 4:31am

The oldest known survivor of the Nazi German death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, Antoni Dobrowolski, has died at the age of 108.

Adam Cyra, who works at the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and museum, said Dobrowolski died in the town of Debno, northwest Poland.

Primary school teacher Dobrowolski ran secret classes during Germany's brutal occupation of Poland, when the local population was barred from receiving an education.

Arrested in 1942 by the Nazis' Gestapo secret police, he was first sent to Auschwitz, in annexed Polish territory and later transferred to Gross Rosen and Sachsenhausen, both in Germany.

He survived until the latter camp was liberated by Soviet and Polish forces in 1945.

Returning to Poland after the war, he first ran a primary school in Debno and then a secondary school.

Auschwitz-Birkenau is the most enduring symbol of the Holocaust, Nazi Germany's second world war campaign of genocide against Europe's Jews. After the war's end in 1945, it was transformed into a memorial and museum by Poland.

A year after invading Poland in 1939, the Nazis opened what was to become a vast complex on the edge of the southern town of Oswiecim - Auschwitz in German - initially to hold and kill Polish prisoners such as Dobrowolski.

They later expanded it to the nearby village of Brzezinka, or Birkenau, as they took the Holocaust to an industrial scale.

Of the six million Jews killed by the Nazis during the war, one million were murdered at the camp, mostly in its notorious gas chambers, along with tens of thousands of others including Poles, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war.