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Maximilian Kolbe

On July 30, 1941, seventy two years ago, a rumour spread through cell block of 14 of the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz, Poland, that someone had escaped. The prisoners knew what that meant and were terrified with anxiety over what would happen to them as a result.

Maximilian Kolbe

At six o’clock that evening they were all lined up at attention while the commandant of the camp scrutinized them one by one without saying a word, but they all knew what he would likely do to retaliate and punish.

The next morning they were again assembled and told that the fugitive had not been discovered so ten of them would have to die in the starvation bunker. They were then dismissed except those in cell block 14.

After a brutal day standing in the blazing sun the selection of the 10 innocent men condemned to die began. The commandant again walked the lines and stopped suddenly before a trembling victim and pointed at him the finger of death with the order to step forward and march to the under ground bunker to die of hunger and thirst.

At one point in this gruesome process the victim of random choice cried out: “I have a wife and children whom I love dearly. I am leaving them orphans.” His name was Francis Gajowniczek. Then the unexpected happened . One of the other prisoners broke ranks,, came forward, dared to kiss commandant’s hand and said: “I want to die in the place of the condemned.” And who are you the commandant demanded: “I am Maximilian Kolbe. I am a Catholic priest, a Franciscan Friar.”

This whole sad story came to an end two weeks later when only four survivors remained in the cell now needed for others. They were injected with carbolic and died on August 14, 1941.One of them was Maximilian Kolbe. Now St. Maximilian Kolbe, a martyr of charity.

This is the testimony that Fancis Gajownicezk gave some thirty years later to the heroic virtue of his savior, Fr. Maximilian Kolbe: “At that moment it was hard for me to realize the immensity of what had happen-ed to me. I, the condemned, was to live on because someone else willing ly offered his life for me. Was it a dream or a reality? Among my companions in shared adversity in Auschwitz there was unanimous wonder and astonishment at the heroic sacrifice of his life for me on the part of this priest. His consistent love for those around him was extraordinary, but the most splendid confirmation of his heroic love came at the end, when he offered his life for me, almost a total stranger to him.”

July 29, 2013 - Posted by | Auschwitz, News, This Day In History | , , ,

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