Leonard Zawacki (1916-2001)
Born January 20, 1916, Leonard Zawacki was a Polish Catholic serving as a lieutenant in the Polish army at the time of the German invasion. In September 1939, he was taken as a prisoner of war but escaped. He immediately began working with the underground resistance movement in Warsaw until he was arrested again, this time by the Gestapo in 1940.
On April 4, 1941 he was transported to Auschwitz where he was given a prisoner number, a barrack number, and assigned work duties. Surviving in the camp longer than most, he and five other prisoners planned and successfully executed an escape from Auschwitz on September 28, 1944. He again joined the resistance, this time as a partisan, and fought with them until the Russian army liberated the town of Oswiecim.
He immigrated to the United States, landing first in New York City before settling for a time in Connecticut, where he married Freda Levy of London, a Red Cross aid worker he met following the war. Leonard was an insurance executive, retiring in 1981 and moving to Ashland, Oregon in 1984. He spoke at numerous high schools and civic organizations around Oregon about his personal experience of the terrors of war, and its consequences. Leonard was a member of Death Camp Survivors, the Polish Officers Corps, Oregon Retired Officers, Rotary International and many other international and Polish organizations.
Leonard died in Ashland on July 8, 2001 at the age of 85.