Polish ex-foreign minister Bartoszewski dies at 93

Auschwitz survivor and two-time Polish foreign minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, pictured in Berlin on November 19, 2014, died at the age of 93 (AFP Photo/Stephanie Pilick)

Warsaw (AFP) - Auschwitz survivor and two-time Polish foreign minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski died Friday at the age of 93, his biographer said.

Bartoszewski, who was held prisoner at the Nazi-German death camp because of his wartime resistance activities, died in Warsaw, according to friend and biographer Michal Komar.

Government spokeswoman Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska announced earlier Friday that he had been hospitalised.

"It's a very sad day for us," European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, tweeted in tribute.

Bartoszewski helped Jews during the war and was later jailed by Poland's post-war communist regime before going on to become the country's top diplomat after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Considered a moral authority in Poland, Bartoszewski spent his whole life trying to bring Jews, Poles and Germans together -- three groups fiercely divided by World War II.

Bartoszewski was a historian, "but he also made history," according to Father Adam Boniecki, editor in chief of the liberal Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny.

"No one else played as important a role in inspiring dialogue between Poles and Germans on the one hand and Poles and Jews on the other."

Born in Warsaw on February 19, 1922 into a family of civil servants, Bartoszewski liked to recall that he lived on a street next to Warsaw's largest synagogue and right by a detention centre.

"These two things, the synagogue and the penitentiary, later marked my life," he once said.

In 1966, Bartoszewski received the Righteous among the Nations honour, the title granted by Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial authority to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

He also fought the occupying Nazis during the ill-fated Warsaw Uprising of 1944, one of the war's bloodiest episodes.

Bartoszewski began his diplomatic career at the age of 68 as Poland's ambassador to Austria before serving as foreign minister in 1995 and 2000-2001.

He remained active well into his old age, serving as an advisor to Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz until his death.

In January, Bartoszewski attended ceremonies marking 70 years since the Red Army liberated Auschwitz, where he said: "What the Nazis wanted to destroy, we will rescue from oblivion."