Saint Maximilian Kolbe: Roman Catholic Priest.
Saint Kolbe of Poland was killed at Auschwitz concentration camp during WW II on August 14, 1941.If asked to reflect upon the horrors of the Holocaust, what would you think of first? Perhaps you will automatically call to mind Nazis, Hitler, or the Diary of a Young Girl. Maybe you’ll recall stories of the infamous concentration camp, Auschwitz, a waking nightmare to those forced to suffer through the daily toil, shaded by the patient wings of death. You may not think, however, of a particular member of that camp, branded with the number 16670 in place of his name. Maximilian Kolbe.
Ironically, this man who suffered and died at the hands of soldiers once aspired to be part of the military himself, dreaming to save Poland from oppressors by serving as a soldier. St. Maximilian was born as Raymond Kolbe on January 8th, 1894, in Zdunska Wola, Poland.
During World War II back in Poland, Maximillian continued to shelter refugees from Poland and hide Jews from the Nazis while vilifying the Nazis in his amateur radio reports and letters. The Gestapo imprisoned him in the Pawiak prison in Warsaw on February 17th, 1941, singling him out for special abuse before transferring him to Auschwitz May 25th as prisoner #16670. Despite the terrors he was forced to endure, Maximillian radiated God’s love and generosity, opening his heart to tell the other prisoners of the endless reach of his God’s love and fighting for the souls of those imprisoned.
In July 1941, a prisoner escaped from the camp. In an effort to discourage this, the Nazi guards would put ten men to death for every one that escaped. The Nazis chose the ten who would die on account of this particular escaped prisoner. Among them was a young man who was a husband and father to young children. St. Maximilian Kolbe offered to die in his place, so that the man may live. The Nazis agreed to this trade. St. Maximilian Kolbe and the others chosen to die were denied food and water. They sang hymns and praised God throughout this time, as slowly each passed away. After three weeks, St. Maximilian Kolbe was the only one still living. He was executed on August 14, 1941 by lethal injection. His body was burned in the ovens and the ashes were scattered on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.