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Polish refugee who escaped Auschwitz dies aged 85

By This is Lincolnshire  |  Posted: December 17, 2008

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A POLISH man who escaped a Nazi firing squad before making a new life in Lincolnshire has died.

Stefan Sajdak was forced to work for the Germans in 1939 and was deployed to work on the train line between Germany and Russia near the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp.

After nearly being shot for refusing to work seven days a week with little food, the young Pole eventually escaped in 1942. He ended up as a refugee in England where he joined the Polish Free Forces and trained as a paratrooper, taking part in the ill-fated Arnhem operation in 1944.

He subsequently signed up for an intelligence job with the Polish paras which meant that he was not safe to return to Poland under Communist rule. Instead, he ended up in a Polish camp in Woodhall Spa before eventually settling in the nearby village of Bucknall in 1969.

He remained in Bucknall until his death aged 85 on December 6 and his funeral was held at St Margaret's Church in the village at 11.30am yesterday.

Despite his extraordinary story, his son Jan Sajdak (48) said he could never be persuaded to write his experiences down.

Mr Sajdak, of Louth, said his father knew exactly the horrors of Auschwitz concentration camp when he left the town for the last time.

"When he came home from working on the land he saw Auschwitz developing," he said.

"He knew the situation because the Germans shaved the Jews' hair to make blankets and doused their bodies in fuel and used the fat from them to produce greasing soap.

"Then they finally ground the bones down to make fertiliser."

Jan Sajdak was named after his grandfather, who helped a number of Jews escape from Auschwitz.

But, after a letter sent from a Jewish man to his wife in Krakow telling of Jan Sajdak's heroism was intercepted in 1943 by the Nazis, he was hanged at Auschwitz.

"You can't comprehend what it was like for my father hearing that and he never really spoke about his dad as a result," said Mr Sajdak.

"But what people will remember him for is for his vegetable garden and orchard at Bucknall and spending hours in his workshop."

John Kania (50), of Nocton, got talking to Mr Sajdak 10 years ago and, because Mr Kania's father was Polish and came to England in the war, immediately bonded with Mr Sajdak.

At the funeral he walked in front of the hearse carrying the standard of the Polish war veterans, fulfilling Mr Sajdak's final request to him.

"Whenever I went round to see him he'd be in his chair and say 'a drop of Poland, John?' referring to the vodka," he said.

Stefan Sajdak as a soldier and (inset) with his wife Molly.

Horror: The main gate of Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland.

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