Kazimierz Piechowski had to escape when a friend’s name appeared on a death list.
An audacious deception saved the lives of four men.
On 20 June 1942, the SS guard stationed at the exit to Auschwitz was frightened. In front of him was the car of Rudolph Hoss, the commandant of the infamous concentration camp. Inside were four armed SS men, one of whom – an Untersturmfuhrer, or second lieutenant, was shouting and swearing at him.
"Wake up, you buggers!" the officer screamed in German. "Open up or I’ll open you up!" Terrified, the guard scrambled to raise the barrier, allowing the powerful motor to pass through and drive away.
Yet had he looked closer, the guard would have noticed something strange: the men were sweating and ashen-faced with fear. For far from being Nazis, the men were Polish prisoners in stolen uniforms and a misappropriated car, who had just made one of the most audacious escapes in the history of Auschwitz. And the architect of the plot, the second lieutenant, was a boy scout, to whom the association’s motto "Be prepared" had become a lifeline.
I escaped from Auschwitz – Kazimierz Piechowski is one of just 144 prisoners to have broken out of the notorious Nazi camp and survive. Today aged 91, he tells his extraordinary story, Guardian UK>>