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He refused.

He was one of those people found only in newspapers and newsreels in the 1930s. Bronislaw Czech was young, good-looking, a three-time Olympian, the kind of guy who flashed down mountains in exotic locations like St. Moritz and Lake Placid and Garmisch. That all ended when the Nazis invaded his homeland of Poland in September of 1939. He spent that winter skiing as he had in years past, but this time as a courier for the Resistance. It took several months, but the German secret police ultimately arrested him and sent him to Tarnow prison.

Then came the day in June of 1940 when he and 727 other young Polish men were sent to a new prison camp, still under construction. It was there on the outskirts of the little town of Oswiecim, Poland that he became Auschwitz Prisoner No. 349. It seemed, however, that a famous, accomplished guy like him had a “get out of jail free” card. You see, he could be useful to the Nazis elsewhere. He was offered the distinct honor of coaching the German Olympic ski team in exchange for his freedom. Not for him, though, helping the hated enemy! No, he would stay in hell before he turned his back on his own people, his own country. He survived for almost four years, dying of illness and starvation on June 5, 1944 at the age of 36. Bronislaw Czech – Olympian, patriot, and freedom fighter – we remember.


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