The forgotten victims of Dachau-The Christian Clergy.

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(picture above:The Blessed Antoni Zawistowski was tortured and died at Dachau in 1942,courtesy Falco van Delft)

Dachau became the camp where 2,720 clergymen were sent, including 2,579 Catholic Priests. The priests at Dachau were separated from the other prisoners and housed together in several barrack buildings in the rear of the camp. There were 1,780 Polish priests and 447 German priests at Dachau. Of the 1,034 priests who died in the camp, 868 were Polish and 94 were German.(Source: “What was it like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau?” by Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler)

Other clergymen at Dachau included 109 Protestant ministers, 22 Greek Orthodox, 2 Muslims and 8 men who were classified as “Old Catholic and Mariaists.”

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Many clergy were imprisoned at Dachau. The first Churchman arrived at Dachau in 1935, but from 1940, Dachau became the concentration point for clerical prisoners of the Nazi regime.

 

According to Ronald Rychlak( an American lawyer, jurist, author and political commentator) the clergy prisoners were treated marginally better than other prisoners, however treatment worsened in the wake of Papal or episcopal announcements critical of the Nazi regime, such as Pope Pius XII’s 1942 Christmas address.

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One Easter, the guards marked Good Friday by torturing 60 priests. Tying their hands behind their backs, chaining their wrists, and hoisting them up by the chains – tearing joints apart and killing and disabling several of the priests. The threat of further torture was used to keep the priests obedient. Food was so lacking, that prisoners would retrieve scraps from the compost pile.

The Nazis introduced a racial hierarchy – keeping Poles in harsh conditions, while favouring German priests. 697 Poles arrived in December 1941, and a further 500 of mainly elderly clergy were brought in October the following year. Inadequately clothed for the bitter cold, of this group only 82 survived. A large number of Polish priests were chosen for Nazi medical experiments. In November 1942, 20 were given phlegmons. 120 were used by Dr Schilling for malaria experiments between July 1942 and May 1944.

Klaus_SCHILLING_arzt_KZ_dachauSeveral Poles met their deaths with the “invalid trains” sent out from the camp, others were liquidated in the camp and given bogus death certificates. Some died of cruel punishment for misdemeanors – beaten to death or run to exhaustion.

Polish priests were not permitted religious activity. Anti-religious prisoners were planted in the Polish block to watch that the rule was not broken, but some found ways to circumvent the prohibition: clandestinely celebrating the mass on their work details. By 1944, conditions had been relaxed and Poles could hold a weekly service. Eventually, they were allowed to attend the chapel, with Germany’s hopes of victory in the war fading.

Amid the Nazi persecution of the Tirolian Catholics, the Blessed Otto Neururer, a parish priest was sent to Dachau for “slander to the detriment of German marriage”, after he advised a girl against marrying the friend of a senior Nazi. He was cruelly executed at Buchenwald in 1940 for conducting a baptism there. He was the first priest killed in the concentration camps

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Father Hermann Scheipers was saved from the gas chamber by his twin sister on 13th August 1942. After a secret meeting with her brother in Dachau she made a private visit to the civil servants in the Central Reich Security Office in Berlin who were responsible for the imprisoned priests. Following a dramatic conversation she received a promise from the civil servants that her brother would not be gassed. This promise also applied to all the other priests. Indeed, from that moment on, no priests were sent to the gas chamber. Thus Anna Scheipers not only saved her brother’s life but those of more than 500 other priests.

 

In Dachau Scheipers constantly witnessed the cruel treatment and deadly human experiments on the prisoners. Many of them were immersed in cold water to test the limits of hypothermia. The experiments were needed in order to develop special clothing for the Armed Forces. According to Scheipers: “All of them died when their body temperature sank to 27°. Only one Russian held out to 17°”. Nonetheless Scheipers’ faith and reinforced inner conviction prevented his feelings from being deadened. Indeed the opposite was true. He remained constantly full of hope and gave aid to his co-prisoners, in particular the Polish priests, wherever he could. He also began to take an interest in the Russian language.

Scheipers said  at one stage his “death certificate” was signed when he was feeling faint during a role  call session one morning in 1942, because he had become “completely exhausted from all the work” in the camp, not because he was sick.

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Sister Maria Restituta Kafka and Sister Élise Rivet-Defiant WWII Heroes

 

Sr Maria Restituta Kafka:

Born on 1 May 1894 [at Hussowitz bei Bruenn in the Austria-Hungary Empire, today] Brno-Husovice, in modern day Czech Republic, of humble background, Helene Kafka grew up in the Austrian capital where she worked in the Lainz hospital with the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. In 1914 she entered the convent and received the name Maria Restituta. From 1919 until 1942 she served in the hospital in Moedling, Vienna, where she became a surgical nurse and an anaesthetist, esteemed for her professional competence, beloved for her sensitivity and respected for her energetic character, so much that she soon earned the nickname ‘Sister Resoluta’.

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After Germany annexed Austria, the religious worked for justice and the dignity of every human being. Faced with the anti-religious suppression of the Nazis, she responded by reaffirming religious freedom and by refusing to remove the crucifixes in the hospital. She also countered Hitler’s swastika with the Cross of Christ. She also spread ‘A soldier’s song’ that spoke of democracy, peace, and a free Austria. Spied on by two ladies, she was denounced by a doctor close to the SS, who for some time sought an opportunity to distance her from the hospital

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A Viennese cannot keep her mouth shut, she said. When a new hospital wing was constructed, Kafka kept to traditional Catholic practice and hung a crucifix in every room.

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The Nazi authorities demanded that the crosses be taken down, threatening her dismissal, but she refused.The crucifixes were not removed, nor was Kafka, since the Franciscan community said that they could not replace her.

Kafka continued in her vocal criticism of the Nazi government and several years later was denounced by a doctor who strongly supported the regime. On Ash Wednesday 1942 (18 February of that year), while coming out of the operating theater, Kafka was arrested by the Gestapo and accused, not only of hanging the crucifixes, but also of having dictated a poem mocking Hitler.On 29 October 1942 she was sentenced to death by the guillotine by the Volksgerichtshof for “favouring the enemy and conspiracy to commit high treason”. The authorities offered to release her if she would leave the convent, but she refused.

When a request for clemency reached the desk of Martin Bormann, head of the Nazi Party Chancellery.

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He replied that her execution would provide “effective intimidation” for others who might want to resist the Nazis.Kafka spent the rest of her days in prison, where she was noted for caring for other prisoners. During this period, she wrote in a letter from the prison:

It does not matter how far we are separated from everything, no matter what is taken from us: the faith that we carry in our hearts is something no one can take from us. In this way we build an altar in our own hearts.

Kafa was sent to the guillotine on 30 March 1943.She was 48 years old.

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On 21 June 1998, on the occasion of Pope John Paul II’s visit to Vienna, Kafka was beatified by him. She was the first female martyr of Vienna.

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Kafka, the only Religious Sister to be formally condemned to death under the Nazi regime, was commemorated in Rome on the evening of 4 March 2013, in the Basilica of San Bartolomeo all’Isola on Tiber Island, with a liturgy of the word at which Cardinal Christoph Schönborn presided.

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During the service, the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity gave to basilica a small cross which Kakfa had worn on the belt of her religious habit. The relic was placed in the chapel there which remembers the martyrs of Nationalist Socialism

Élise Rivet (January 19, 1890, Draria, Algeria – March 30, 1945, Ravensbrück concentration camp, Germany) was a Roman Catholic and World War II heroine

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The daughter of a French naval officer, she joined the convent of the medical sisters of “Notre Dame de Compassion” in Lyon. In 1933 she became “Mère Marie Élisabeth de l’Eucharistie”, the convent’s Mother Superior. After the fall of the French Third Republic to Nazi Germany in World War II, she began hiding refugees from the Gestapo[citation needed] and eventually used her convent to store weapons and ammunition for the Mouvements Unis de Résistance (MUR).

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On March 24, 1944 she and her assistant were arrested by the Gestapo and taken to the prison at Fort Montluc in Lyon.

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From there she was taken to Romainville before being shipped to Ravensbrück concentration camp near Berlin, Germany. There, stripped of her religious garments, she was forced into hard labor. With the end of the War in sight, the Germans began a massive amount of killings by gas chamber, including Mother Élise, on March 30, 1945, only weeks before the war ended. Rivet volunteered to go to the gas chamber  in place of a mother only weeks before Germany surrendered unconditionally.[She was 55 years old.

In 1961, the government of France honored her with her portrait on a postage stamp and a street bearing her name in Brignais (Lyon) was inaugurated on December 2, 1979.

 

In 1997, she was posthumously awarded the Médaille des Justes and in 1999 the “Salle Élise Rivet” was named for her at the Institut des Sciences de l’Homme in Lyon.

 

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Atom Bombed Madonna- A WWII Miracle

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When the atom bomb “Fat Boy” devastated on the 9th of August 1945, one of the buildings reduced to rubble was the city’s Urakami cathedral — then among the largest churches in Asia.

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The blinding nuclear flash that would claim more than 70,000 lives in the city also, in an instant, blew out the stained glass windows of the church, toppled its walls, burnt its altar and melted its iron bell.

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But, in what local Christian followers have likened to a miracle, the head of a wooden Virgin Mary statue survived amid the collapsed columns and scorched debris of the Romanesque church flattened on August 9, 1945.

The appearance of the war-ravaged religious icon is haunting. The Madonna’s eyes have become scorched, black hollows, the right cheek is charred, and a crack runs like a streaking tear down her face.

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The remains of the statue of the Virgin Mary have found a new home inside a rebuilt church, also called St Mary’s, built on the same site, only 500 metres from the bomb’s ground zero.

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When the Pope tried to kill Hitler.

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The role of the Catholic church has often been questioned and criticized , and to en extent rightfully so.Pope Pius Pius XII. sometimes derided as ‘Hitler’s Pope’ because of his reluctance to condemn Nazi war crimes, was allegedly trying to stir up German agitators and convince them to strike down the Führer from within.
Historian Mark Riebling claims that Pius’s apparent silence on Hitler’s atrocities against Jews, minorities and even members of his own church was in fact cover while he tried to help members of the German resistance.
His recently -released book, Church of Spies, details secret conversations held by Pius’s go-betweens, who linked high-ranking Germans dismayed with Hitler’s leadership with the Allies, in the hope of securing a way out without the massive bloodshed of the Second World War

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Backed by a mass of carefully compiled documentation, Riebling shows that Pius cooperated in a variety of plots, initiated by patriotic, anti-Nazi Germans, to assassinate Hitler and replace the National Socialist regime with a government that would make peace with the West.

The Nazis, in fact, were deeply disturbed by the election of Pius XII in 1939, well aware of Pacelli’s many anti-Nazi statements and actions.

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They commissioned an assessment of the situation from Albert Hartl, a former Catholic priest, who warned that the Catholic Church would prove a serious threat to the Third Reich.

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“The Catholic Church fundamentally claims for itself the right to depose heads of state,” Hartl wrote, “and down to the present time it has also achieved this claim several times.” This statement seemed to embolden disaffected German officers who were seeking assistance to overthrow Hitler.

In 1938, several high-ranking German officers began turning against Hitler, for fear he would lead the country into a devastating war. One of these, General Ludwig Beck, was joined in this endeavor by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Abwehr (Germany’s intelligence agency), and his deputy, Colonel Hans Oster.

 

 

After the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, the German military conspirators sought to reach out to their adversaries, especially the British, to seek aid in overthrowing Hitler. In order to do this, they needed a person who could serve as an intermediary and vouch for their integrity, and so they approached Pius XII, who was highly regarded in Britain.

They asked the pope’s top assistants to ask Pius one critical question: Would he be willing to contact the British government and receive guarantees that it would back the German Resistance if Hitler was overthrown? Pius XII replied that he was willing do so, declaring, “The German Opposition must be heard.”

What followed was a series of gripping events, leading to repeated efforts to depose Hitler, all of which were foiled by unexpected turns, deceit, bombs that failed to detonate, and ones that did go off, only to miss their target. In their quest, the anti-Nazi officers received crucial moral and logistical support from Pius XII, as well as from his closest aides.

In the view of Hitler, Catholicism was incompatible with Nazism, as both asked for the whole of a man. Hitler hated Pius and the Church—Pius for his longtime stance against every element of national socialism, and the Church because it (accurately, as it turned out) couldn’t be trusted not to interfere with Nazi plans.

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From the beginning, it was no secret that Hitler hated and mistrusted pretty much everyone, but when he ordered the “liquidation” of the Polish clergy after Germany’s invasion, it shocked even his generals. “The task I give you,” Hitler said to the group, “is a Satanic one … Other people to whom such territories are handed would ask: ‘What would you build?’ I will ask the opposite. I will ask: ‘What did you destroy?’”

The chief of German military intelligence, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, witnessed the order. He already despised Hitler, but enough was enough: Hitler had to go. Canaris had known Pius XII from back in the 1920s, when then-Pacelli was a bare-knuckle Vatican diplomat in Germany. Pacelli, he knew, had three traits necessary to turn an assassination plan into action: realism, discretion, and a dislike of Hitler.

Canaris’s go-between would be a man named Josef Müeller, a lawyer, war hero, and devout Catholic known for representing Jews and opposing the Reich.

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Riebling describes him as “part Oskar Schindler, part Vito Corleone.” Müeller had once survived a personal interrogation by Heinrich Himmler, telling Himmler unapologetically that he had advised the Bavarian prime minister to have Himmler killed. (Word got around of the bold admission, which was a “manly” act, in Himmler’s words.) The SS head tried immediately, though unsuccessfully, to recruit Müeller for the SS, which needed men like him. When that didn’t work, out of apparent sheer admiration, he let the lawyer go. This made Müeller somewhat of a legend even among Hitler loyalists.

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Müeller’s law office was a clearinghouse of information for the Vatican, where the lawyer was well-connected. Because of Müeller’s position in society both as a scholar and war hero, he was able to build a spy network among “army, college, and law-school friends with access to Nazi officials—a community of the well-informed, who worked in newspapers, banks, and even … the SS itself.

German military intelligence knew of Müeller’s work with the pope, and brought him in for questioning. They first tried to recruit him, and when Müeller refused, they raised the stakes by admitting the unutterable: They didn’t want him to spy for Hitler, but for the oppositereason. “We even hope that someday you will be part of the leadership of this headquarters. The leadership of this Abwehr headquarters is, at the same time, the headquarters of the German military opposition to Hitler.”

He informed the Vatican of all this. Sensing the gravity of the plot brewing, the Vatican introduced to the German lawyer the concept of Disciplina Arcani—the “way of secrecy,” a doctrine established not long after the crucifixion of Jesus. “The faith at first survived only as a clandestine movement in Rome,” Riebling writes. “For three centuries, until Christianity became Rome’s religion, the Church concealed baptism and confirmation, the Our Father, the Holy Trinity and the Eucharist, the creeds and Scriptures—not only from heathens, but even from converts to the faith, who, as one later Church authority explained, ‘might be spies wishing to be instructed only that they might betray.’” This wasn’t an unreasonable precaution. All of the first popes were killed in ways that might only be described as gruesome, and over the centuries, 137 popes were driven from the city of Rome, dozens slain on Peter’s Chair.

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The Abwehr established a cover for Müeller. Officially, he was to be a German operative using his contacts with the Vatican to spy on the Italians. His job would be to pose as a conspirator and sound out the Italian pacifists, who might cause Mussolini to go wobbly. He would even file reports for the Reich. “To all bureaucratic appearances, Müeller would advance the war effort by pretending to talk peace [with the Italians],” Riebling writes. “But he would only be pretending to be pretending. He would actually be the plotter he was pretending to be. He would be a plotter, covered as a spy, covered as a plotter. He would do a kind of triple back flip without moving a muscle.”

 

German intelligence presented Müeller with a dossier of Nazi atrocities in Poland, asking him to present it to the pope. “No one could more discreetly and credibly link Hitler’s internal and external enemies than Pius. As perhaps the most prestigious figure in Europe, above party pressures, he had the greatest advantage a ruler could possess: he was the one trusted power amid powers nobody could trust.” The pope could broker peace and convince Germany’s foreign enemies that a German resistance existed and could be trusted.

The Church is not philosophically opposed to “tyrannicide.” Writes Riebling, “over the centuries, Catholic theologians had developed a nuanced doctrine of tyrannicide, covering virtually every conceivable context.” Political violence was not allowed, of course, but if the assassination of a tyrant, among other things, promised to improve conditions in subjugated nations while not sparking a civil war, and if peaceful means were exhausted, then yes, go to it.

Pius began working in earnest with the German resistance, quickly bringing the British into the plot. (The pope’s codename among the resistance was The Chief.) He harried the British empire to accept a “just peace” for Germany and to maintain strict secrecy over the plotter’s doings; if word got out, good men would be sent to the gallows. The Vatican even put this in writing. Neville Chamberlain thus issued guidance to be relayed to the pope: “[Great Britain] would be willing to discuss any conditions asked for if convinced that business was meant.”

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Catholic religious orders soon mobilized—especially the militaristic Jesuit and Dominican orders. They were doubly useful to the pope in that they did not report to local bishops, who might be found out or susceptible to Nazi pressure, but to order heads, who in turn reported directly to the pope.

For the expansiveness of the conspiracy to kill him, however, and the enthusiasm to see him dead, Hitler had “the luck of the devil” for surviving repeated assassination attempts and plans. He canceled speeches without knowing that positioned snipers were intended to take him out. He missed parades where bombers were set to blow him to pieces. Meanwhile, the longer it took for plotters to act, the less patience for such an act there was on the outside. Winston Churchill, upon becoming prime minister, put no faith in “decent Germans” acting to take out Hitler, and put little faith in the pope’s doings. It would be full scale war. Pearl Harbor later brought American patience to an end, and the United States into the conflict.

Plotters attempted again to kill Hitler, first by blowing up his plane (the bomb didn’t go off) and then attempting to kill him with a suicide bomb (the would-be assassin set the bomb for 10 minutes; Hitler left the area in three). A bomb sure to vaporize Hitler was brought for use during a secret meeting with the tyrant in his bunker. For no reason at all, however, Hitler changed venues to a cabin in the woods. When the bomb went off—only meters away from Hitler—those around him died, though Hitler escaped with only minor injuries. Hitler later speculated that he was immortal; in fact, he was spared because unlike a room in a sealed bunker, the cabin could not contain the blast. The fire and pressure instead blew through a nearby wall.

 

During all this, the SS zeroed in on the growing conspiracy against the Führer. Eventually, a member of German military intelligence broke, and he revealed the names of plotters involved. Müeller was placed under arrest, and his handler questioned. Worst of all, the conditions necessary for the German military to kill Hitler were discovered—printed on Vatican letterhead.

After the arrest of Mussolini on July 2, 1943, Hitler vowed revenge against the pope, and to have him kidnapped or killed.

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The pope and Vatican officials had worked feverishly to orchestrate a coup against Mussolini, connecting enemy forces internal and external, just as had been planned for Germany. In retaliation, Hitler ordered a division of paratroopers to the borders of St. Peter’s Square. “On one side stood German soldiers in black boots and steel helmets, with carbines on their shoulders and Lugers on their hips,” Riebling writes. “On the other side were the Pope’s Swiss Guards, in ruffled tunics and plumed hats, holding medieval pikes in white gloves.” (This was not a case of bringing a knife to a gunfight; the Swiss Guard were also known to carry concealed machine guns.)

For his part, Hitler was ready to get things started. “I’ll go right into the Vatican,” he raved. “Do you think the Vatican embarrasses me? We’ll take that over right away. For one thing, the entire diplomatic corps are in there. It’s all the same to me. That rabble is in there. We’ll get that bunch of swine out of there … Later we can make apologies.”

His advisors apparently talked him out of an immediate invasion, though the following month, he summoned Karl Wolff, commander of the SS in Germany for a job of “world historical importance.” Wolff wrote at the time, “He wanted a study made of how troops could occupy the Vatican, secure the archives, and remove the pope, together with the Curia, so that they could not fall into Allied hands … Hitler would then decide whether to bring these Catholic dignitaries to Germany or intern them in neutral Liechtenstein.”

Wolff discouraged the plan, warning that if the pope resisted, he might have to be killed. Hitler didn’t mind, and ordered that plans be drawn up. Any chance at its execution, however, ended when the Allies liberated Italy.

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In the end, of course, Hitler died by his own hand, but not before the SS systematically tracked down the German resistance, whose members were given the ultimate sentence. The SS interrogated them, tortured them, and sent them to concentration camps for extermination. Some were subjected to show trials before being publicly executed. Josef Müeller managed to survive multiple death sentences through happenstance, paperwork problems, and well-timed favors from well-placed allies. In the war’s aftermath, he would help found the Christian Democratic Union political party and credit the pope’s action and restraint for saving not only thousands of Catholics, but also thousands of Jews, and the resistance itself. It was the Vatican’s agents and allies who were so successful in everything from finding and leaking Hitler’s plans for German invasion of Belgium, to helping orchestrate multiple attempts on the tyrant’s life. And, as Church of Spies explains in extraordinary and well-documented detail, it all happened because Pope Pius XII had no qualms with killing the evilest man in the world.

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Maximilian Kolbe: He died, doing good.

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Reluctantly I call this remarkable hero a martyr simply because the word ‘martyr’ often has a negative connotation.But in his case he truly was a martyr for he sacrificed his live to save others rather then destroy them.

This man was simply a good man who saw evil for what it was and decided to something about it ,sacrificing his own life in the process. He wanted to ensure that evil wouldn’t flourish while he sat idly by. Bravely he saved many lives, giving up his own.

St. Maximilian Kolbe was born as Raymund Kolbe on January 8, 1894, in the Kingdom of Poland, part of the Russian Empire. He was a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar in the German death Camp of Auschwitz during World War II.

In his infancy Raymond seems to have been normally mischievous but one day, after his mother had scolded him for some mischief or other, her words took effect and brought about a radical change in the child’s behaviour. Later Raymond explained this change:‘That night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.’ 

Thus early did the child believe and accept that he was destined for martyrdom. His belief in his dream coloured all his future actions.

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One year after his vision, Kolbe and his elder brother, Francis joined the Conventual Franciscans. In 1910, Kolbe was given the religious name Maximilian, after being allowed to enter the novitiate, and in 1911, he professed his first vows.

Kolbe was sent to Rome in 1912, where he attended the Pontifical Gregorian University. He earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1915 there. From 1915 he continued his studies at the Pontifical University of St. Bonaventure where he earned a doctorate in theology in 1919[or 1922(sources vary). He organized the Militia Immaculata (Army of the Immaculate One) after witnessing demonstrations against Pope St. Pius X and Benedict XV. His goal was to work for the conversion of sinners and enemies of the Church, specifically, the Freemasons and he would so with the intercession of Mary.

In 1918, Kolbe was ordained a priest.In July 1919 he returned to the newly independent Poland, where he was active in promoting the veneration of the Immaculate Virgin Mary.He was strongly opposed to leftist – in particular, communist – movement.

In 1930 he went to Asia, where he founded friaries in Nagasaki and in India. In 1936 he was recalled to supervise the original friary near Warsaw. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, he knew that the friary would be seized, and sent most of the friars home.

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He opened up a temporary hospital to aid those in need. When his town was captured, Kolbe was sent to prison but released three months later. Kolbe refused to sign a document that would recognize him as a German citizen with his German ancestry and continued to work in his monastery, providing shelter for refugees – including hiding 2,000 Jews from German persecution. After receiving permission to continue his religious publishing, Kolbe’s monastery acted as a publishing house again and issued many anti-Nazi German publications.

Inevitably, the community came under suspicion and was watched closely. Then in May 1941 the friary was closed down and Maximilian and four companions were taken to the deathcamp Auschwitz, where they worked with the other prisoners.

On June 15, 1941, he managed to write a letter to his mother:

“Dear Mama, At the end of the month of May I was transferred to the camp of Auschwitz. Everything is well in my regard. Be tranquil about me and about my health, because the good God is everywhere and provides for everything with love. It would be well that you do not write to me until you will have received other news from me, because I do not know how long I will stay here. Cordial greetings and kisses, affectionately. Raymond.”

One day an SS officer found some of the heaviest planks he could lay hold of and personally loaded them on the Franciscan’s back, ordering him to run. When he collapsed, the SS officer kicked him in the stomach and face and had his men give him fifty lashes. When the priest lost consciousness the Nazis threw him in the mud and left him for dead. But his companions managed to smuggle him to the camp infirmary – and he recovered. The doctor, Rudolph Diem, later recalled:‘I can say with certainty that during my four years in Auschwitz, I never saw such a sublime example of the love of God and one’s neighbor”

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Continuing to act as a priest, Kolbe was subjected to violent harassment, including beating and lashings, and once had to be smuggled to a prison hospital by friendly inmates.At the end of July 1941, three prisoners disappeared from the camp, prompting SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Fritzsch, the deputy camp commander, to pick 10 men to be starved to death in an underground bunker to deter further escape attempts.

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When one of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, a Polish army sergeant ,cried out, “My wife! My children!”,

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Kolbe volunteered to take his place.Father kolbe pointed with his hand to the condemned Franciszek Gajowniczek and repeated ‘I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his place, because he has a wife and children.’

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According to an eye witness,Bruno Borgowics an assistant janitor at that time, in his prison cell, Kolbe led the prisoners in prayer to Our Lady. Each time the guards checked on him, he was standing or kneeling in the middle of the cell and looking calmly at those who entered.

“The ten condemned to death went through terrible days. From the underground cell in which they were shut up there continually arose the echo of prayers and canticles. The man in-charge of emptying the buckets of urine found them always empty. Thirst drove the prisoners to drink the contents. Since they had grown very weak, prayers were now only whispered. At every inspection, when almost all the others were now lying on the floor, Father Kolbe was seen kneeling or standing in the centre as he looked cheerfully in the face of the SS men.

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Father Kolbe never asked for anything and did not complain, rather he encouraged the others, saying that the fugitive might be found and then they would all be freed. One of the SS guards remarked: this priest is really a great man. We have never seen anyone like him”

Two weeks passed in this way. Meanwhile one after another they died, until only Father Kolbe was left. This the authorities felt was too long. The cell was needed for new victims. So one day they brought in the head of the sick-quarters, a German named Bock, who gave Father Kolbe an injection of carbolic acid in the vein of his left arm. Father Kolbe, with a prayer on his lips, himself gave his arm to the executioner. Unable to watch this I left under the pretext of work to be done. Immediately after the SS men had left I returned to the cell, where I found Father Kolbe leaning in a sitting position against the back wall with his eyes open and his head drooping sideways. His face was calm and radiant ..

After two weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe remained alive. “The guards wanted the bunker emptied, so they gave Kolbe a lethal injection of carbolic acid. Kolbe is said to have raised his left arm and calmly waited for the deadly injection. His remains were cremated on 15 August, the feast day of the Assumption of Mary.

Kolbe’s recognition as a Christian martyr also created some controversy within the Catholic Church.While his ultimate self-sacrifice of his life was most certainly considered saintly and heroic, he was not killed strictly speaking out of odium fidei (hatred of the faith), but as the result of an act of Christian charity. Pope Paul VI himself had recognized this distinction at his beatification by naming him a Confessor and giving him the unofficial title “martyr of charity”. Pope John Paul II, however, when deciding to canonize him, overruled the commission he had established (which agreed with the earlier assessment of heroic charity), wishing to make the point that the systematic hatred of (whole categories of) humanity propagated by the Nazi regime was in itself inherently an act of hatred of religious (Christian) faith, meaning Kolbe’s death equated to martyrdom.

Kolbe has also been accused of antisemitism based on the content of newspapers he was involved with, as they printed articles about topics such as a Zionist plot for world domination.Slovenian sociologist Slavoj Žižek criticized Kolbe’s activities as “writing and organizing mass propaganda for the Catholic Church, with a clear anti-Semitic and anti-Masonic edge.”However, a number of writers pointed out that the “Jewish question played a very minor role in Kolbe’s thought and work”. On those grounds allegations of Kolbe’s antisemitism have been denounced by Holocaust scholars Daniel L. Schlafly, Jr. and Warren Green, among others.

During World War II Kolbe’s monastery at Niepokalanów sheltered Jewish refugees,and, according to a testimony of a local: “When Jews came to me asking for a piece of bread, I asked Father Maximilian if I could give it to them in good conscience, and he answered me, ‘Yes, it is necessary to do this, because all men are our brothers.'”

Kolbe’s alleged antisemitism was a source of the controversy in the 1980s in the aftermath of his canonization. Kolbe is not yet recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.

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(The statue of Kolbe (left) above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey.)

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(Maximilian Kolbe, on a West German postage stamp, marked Auschwitz)

 

 

The Sins of the Father: Martin Adolf Bormann.

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How do you cope when you find out that your father was one of the most evil men in history, and worse your Godfather was the most evil man known to mankind?

Martin Adolf Bormann (14 April 1930 in Grünwald – 11 March 2013 (aged 82) in Herdecke) was a German theologian laicized Roman Catholic priest, the eldest of the ten children of Martin Bormann and a godson of Adolf Hitler.

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His father Martin Bormann was the personal Secretary to Hitler.

Preoccupied with military matters and spending most of his time at his military headquarters on the eastern front, Hitler came to rely more and more on Bormann to handle the domestic policies of the country. On 12 April 1943, Hitler officially appointed Bormann as Personal Secretary to the Führer. By this time Bormann had de facto control over all domestic matters, and this new appointment gave him the power to act in an official capacity in any matter.

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Bormann Jr was born as Adolf Martin Bormann in Grünwald, Bavaria, the oldest of the ten children of the head of the Nazi Party Chancellery and private secretary to Führer Adolf Hitler, Martin Bormann (1900–1945) and his wife, Gerda Buch (1909–1946). Nicknamed Krönzi, short for Kronprinz (German for crown prince), he was an ardent young Nazi, attending the Nazi Party Academy of Matrei am Brenner in the Tyrol from 1940 to 1945.

Until he was 15, he loved his father as any child should. Martin Bormann Sr was, by all accounts, a good family man, dutifully visiting his wife and nine children from wherever he was based, taking pains to ensure their schooling and home life was correct. When he was 10, young Martin was sent to the elite Nazi Party Academy in Bavaria (“to make me a good German,” he smiles), where he stayed for five years until the Third Reich started collapsing.

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On 15 April 1945, the school closed and young Martin was advised by a party functionary in Munich, named Hummel, to try to reach his mother in the still German-occupied hamlet of Val Gardena/Gröden, near Selva/Wolkenstein in Italian South Tyrol. Unable to get there, he found himself stranded in Salzburg where the Gauleiter provided him with false identity papers and he found hospitality with a Catholic farmer, Nikolaus Hohenwarter, at the Querleitnerhof, halfway up a mountain in the Salzburg Alps.

After Germany surrendered, his mother, Gerda, was subjected to relentless interrogation by officers of the CIC (Combined Intelligence Committee, the joint American-British intelligence body). She died of abdominal cancer  in the prison hospital at Merano on 23 April 1946.

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The following year, her teenage son Martin learned of his mother’s death from an article in the Salzburger Nachrichten and only then confessed his true identity to Nikolas Hohenwarter, who reported the information to his local priest at Weißbach bei Lofer. Subsequently the priest advised the rector of the Church of Maria Kirchtal, who then took the boy into his care.

Bormann converted to Catholicism. While serving as an altar boy at Maria Kirchtal, he was arrested by American intelligence officers and imprisoned at Zell am See for several days of interrogation before being returned to his parish. He stayed there until he joined the religious congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in Ingolstadt. He had been able to resume contact with his brothers and sisters, all of whom, except for one sister, had also been received into the Catholic Church.

After Hitler committed suicide on 30 April 1945, his fugitive father Martin Bormann suddenly vanished.

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Martin A. Bormann said he did not know what happened to his father when interrogated: he was repeatedly tested for lies but was deemed truthful. Over the coming years, several organisations, including the CIA and the West German Government, attempted to locate Bormann without success.Sightings were reported at points all over the world, including Australia, Denmark, Italy, and South America.In 1971 Bormann supported the government officials’ conclusion that the disappearance of Martin Bormann Sr. was inconclusive and the search for Bormann Sr. was officially ended in November 1971. Thereafter, on 7 December 1972, construction workers uncovered human remains near Lehrter station in West Berlin. Upon autopsy, fragments of glass were found in the jaw of the skeleton, which was identified as Martin Bormann Sr. through reconstructed dental records; the glass fragments suggested he had committed suicide by biting a cyanide capsule to avoid capture. Forensic examiners determined that the size of the skeleton and shape of the skull were identical to Bormann’s. The remains were conclusively identified as Bormann’s in 1998 when German authorities ordered genetic testing on fragments of the skull.On 16 August 1999 the remains were cremated and Martin Bormann Jr. was permitted to scatter his father’s ashes in the Baltic Sea.

On 28 July 1958, he was ordained a priest. In 1961, he was sent to the newly independent Congo (formerly the Belgian Congo), where he worked as a missionary until 1964, when he had to flee the country due to the Simba rebellion. In 1966, he returned to the Congo for a year.

Following a near-fatal injury in 1969 he was nursed back to health by a nun, Sister Cordula, who then also renounced her vows. They were married in 1971.

He became a teacher of theology and retired in 1992. As recently as 2001, he toured schools in Germany and Austria, speaking about the horrors of the Third Reich, and has even visited Israel, meeting with Holocaust survivors.

In 2011, Bormann was accused by a former pupil at an Austrian Catholic boarding school of raping him as a 12-year-old when Bormann was working there as a priest and schoolmaster in the early 1960s.

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Other former pupils alleged severe physical violence had been used against them and others. Bormann denied knowledge of the events.Father Walter Licklederer of the order in Salzburg where the abuse is alleged to have taken place said he was ‘shattered’ by the claims
Bormann died in 2013 in Herdecke, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.

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