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Archaeologists hope to identify remains of Auschwitz hero

Archaeologists in Poland are excavating a mass grave, containing the remains of hundreds of Polish resistance fighters, in hopes of identifying the remains of Witold Pilecki, who infiltrated Auschwitz to witness the terrible things that were going on in the infamous Nazi death camp.

It could hardly have been a riskier mission: infiltrate Auschwitz to chronicle Nazi atrocities. Witold Pilecki survived nearly three years as an inmate in the death camp, managing to smuggle out word of executions before making a daring escape. But the Polish resistance hero was crushed by the post-war communist regime — tried on trumped-up charges and executed.

Six decades on, Poland hopes Pilecki’s remains will be identified among the entangled skeletons and shattered skulls of resistance fighters being excavated from a mass grave on the edge of Warsaw’s Powazki Military Cemetery. The exhumations are part of a movement in the resurgent, democratic nation to officially recognize its war-time heroes and 20th century tragedies.

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Story: Monika Scislowska, AP | Photo: Alik Keplicz / AP

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