The Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies would like to pay homage to the memory of Mr. Michael Preisler (1919 – 2014), who passed away on September 29, 2014, in Richmond Hill, NY. Mr. Preisler was a Polish Christian survivor of the Auschwitz-Birkenau German death camp and, in 1982 – 1990, the president of the Downstate New York Division of the Polish American Congress.
Following the Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939, Mr. Preisler – who was only twenty at the time – joined Poland’s growing anti-German, anti-Communist underground. He was eventually caught by the Gestapo and shipped to the Auschwitz camp (in October 1941), which was initially built to facilitate the two occupiers’ plans for the destruction of the Polish elites. He spent almost four years incarcerated in the infamous and hellish extermination and forced labor camp. The fact that Mr. Preisler managed to avoid death could be seen as a “miracle,” particularly since he survived typhus (which reduced his weight to a meager 85 pounds) and the forced “evacuation” (i.e. death marches) from Auschwitz to Mauthausen and camps in Austria. He was convinced that only Divine intervention saved him. Afterwards, as a result of the Soviet occupation of Poland and other Central and Eastern European countries, Mr. Preisler chose freedom and remained in the West.
His traumatic experiences in Auschwitz and other German death camps persuaded Mr. Preisler to dedicate his life to educating the American public about the plight of Polish Christians – up to 3 million of whom perished – during the Second World War and simultaneously countering Holocaust revisionism. He believed that “Nowhere else is Holocaust history as distorted and as misrepresented as it is about Poland.” To remedy this problem, he founded the Holocaust Documentation Committee and spoke about his ordeals at schools and other American organizations. As an Auschwitz survivor, he opposed the campaign to remove a cross – originally erected in a gravel pit by the camp site to commemorate the visit of Pope John Paul II – and to evict the Carmelite Nuns from a nearby convent. The Kościuszko Chair recognizes Mr. Michael Preisler’s efforts to propagate the historical truth about Poland.
During the 1980s – a time when the communist regime occupying Poland attempted to crush the Solidarity mass opposition movement – Mr. Preisler attempted to help his homeland by organizing pro-Solidarity demonstration in New York City and raising money to send clothing and medicine to the Polish people.
Mr. Preisler was buried at the cemetery of the Shrine of Our Lady of Częstochowa in Doylestown, PA.
To watch a short video of Mr. Preisler retelling his experiences, please click here.
To read Mr. Preisler’s testimony as a Holocaust survivor, please visit the website of the DC Division of the PAC.