1940 – Witold Pilecki is voluntarily captured and sent to Auschwitz to smuggle out information and start a resistance.
Witold Pilecki (13 May 1901 – 25 May 1948; Polish pronunciation: [ˈvitɔlt piˈlɛt͡skʲi]; codenames Roman Jezierski, Tomasz Serafiński, Druh, Witold) was a Polish cavalryman and intelligence officer. He served as a Rittmeister with the Polish Army during the Polish-Soviet War, Second Polish Republic and World War II. Pilecki was also a co-founder of the Secret Polish Army (Tajna Armia Polska) a resistance group in German-occupied Poland and was later a member of the underground Home Army (Armia Krajowa). He was the author of Witold’s Report, the first comprehensive Allied intelligence report on Auschwitz concentration camp and the Holocaust. He was a devout Catholic.
During World War II, he volunteered for a Polish resistance operation that involved being imprisoned in the Auschwitz death camp in order to gather intelligence and later escape. While in the camp, Pilecki organized a resistance movement and, as early as 1941, informed the Western Allies of Nazi Germany’s Auschwitz atrocities. He escaped from the camp in 1943 after nearly two and a half years of imprisonment. Pilecki took part as a combatant in the Warsaw Uprising in August–October 1944. He remained loyal to the London-based Polish government-in-exile after the Soviet-backed communist takeover of Poland and was arrested for espionage in 1947 by the Stalinist secret police (Urząd Bezpieczeństwa) on charges of working for “foreign imperialism”, thought to be a euphemism for British Intelligence. He was executed after a show trial in 1948. Until 1989, information about his exploits and fate was suppressed by the Polish communist regime.
As a result of his efforts, he is considered as “one of the greatest wartime heroes”. In the foreword to the book The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery, Michael Schudrich, the Chief Rabbi of Poland, wrote as follows: “When God created the human being, God had in mind that we should all be like Captain Witold Pilecki, of blessed memory.” In the introduction to that book Norman Davies, a British historian, wrote: “If there was an Allied hero who deserved to be remembered and celebrated, this was a person with few peers.” At the commemoration event of International Holocaust Remembrance Day held in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum on 27 January 2013 Ryszard Schnepf, the Polish Ambassador to the US, described Pilecki as a “diamond among Poland’s heroes” and “the highest example of Polish patriotism”.
1889 – Sarah Louise Delany, American physician and author (d. 1999)
Sarah Louise “Sadie” Delany (September 19, 1889 – January 25, 1999) was an African-American educator and civil rights pioneer who was the subject, along with her younger sister Elizabeth “Bessie” Delany, of the New York Times bestselling oral history, Having Our Say, by journalist Amy Hill Hearth. Sadie was the first Black person permitted to teach domestic science at the high-school level in the New York public schools, and became famous, with the publication of the book, at the age of 103.
Delany was the second-eldest of ten children born to the Rev. Henry Beard Delany (1858–1928), the first Black person elected Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, and Nanny Logan Delany (1861–1956), an educator. Rev. Delany was born into slavery in St. Mary’s, Georgia. Nanny Logan Delany was born in a community then known as Yak, Virginia, seven miles from Danville.
Sadie Delany was born in what was then known as Lynch’s Station, Virginia, at the home of her mother’s sister, Eliza Logan. She was raised on the campus of St. Augustine’s School (now University) in Raleigh, North Carolina, where her father was the Vice-Principal and her mother a teacher and administrator. Delany was a 1910 graduate of the school. In 1916, she moved to New York City where she attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, then transferred to Columbia University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1920 and a master’s of education in 1925. She was a New York City schoolteacher until her retirement in 1960. She was the first black person permitted to teach domestic science on the high school level in New York City.
Delany died at the age of 109 in Mount Vernon, New York, where she resided the final decades of her life. She is interred at Mount Hope Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Delany Sisters
Main article: Having Our Say
In 1991, Delany and her sister Bessie were interviewed by journalist Amy Hill Hearth, who wrote a feature story about them for The New York Times. A New York book publisher read Hearth’s newspaper story and asked her to write a full-length book on the sisters. Ms. Hearth and the sisters worked closely for two years to create the book, an oral history called Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years, which dealt with the trials and tribulations the sisters had faced during their century of life. The book was on The New York Times bestseller lists for 105 weeks. It spawned a Broadway play in 1995 and a television film in 1999. Both the play and film adaptations were produced by Judith R. James and Dr. Camille O. Cosby.
In 1994, the sisters and Hearth published The Delany Sisters’ Book of Everyday Wisdom, a follow-up to Having Our Say. After Bessie’s death in 1995 at age 104, Sadie Delany and Hearth created a third book, On My Own At 107: Reflections on Life Without Bessie.
Her siblings were:
Lemuel Thackara Delany (1887–1956)
Annie Elizabeth (“Bessie”) Delany (1891–1995)
Julia Emery Delany (1893–1974)
Henry Delany, Jr. (1895–1991)
Lucius Delany (1897–1969)
William Manross Delany (1899–1955)
Hubert Thomas Delany (1901–1990)
Laura Edith Delany (1903–1993)
Samuel Ray Delany (1906–1965)
Delany was the aunt of science fiction writer Samuel R. Delany Jr., the son of her youngest brother. Living Relative Families: Delany, Mickey, Stent, and Graham Families
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