In Cell Block 11 in Auschwitz there was a room on the lower lever. It was a dark and cold room about 12 feet by 12 feet with only a door for entering and a small window, maybe 1 foot by 1 foot. It was in here that Maximilian and nine other prisoners were taken to starve to death. There were no chairs or blankets or lights; only a cold, hard cement floor on which to sit or lay down and starve to death.
Maximilian not only took the place of one individual prisoner chosen to die. He stepped forward so that he could go down into the starvation bunker with the other nine condemned prisoners so that they would not have to die alone.
And so Maximilian and nine other prisoners were taken down into the lower level, stripped naked and thrown into the Starvation Bunker where the cell door was slammed shut and bolted. Standing there naked in front of each other in the small, cold, cement cell, condemned to suffer death by starvation they began to sing!
Led and inspired by Fr. Kolbe, singing and prayers were heard resounding throughout not only the starvation bunker, but the entire lower level of Cell Block 11 so that one had the impression of being in a Church. Never before had this been heard.
As the men became weaker however, the songs and prayers became whispers.
When the guards would come to take the prisoners who had died away, Kolbe was always found standing or kneeling in prayer in the center of the cell and he would look intently and directly into the eyes of the guards. The SS guards could not stand his stare, and they would tell him, "look at the ground, do not look at us."
After two weeks there were only four prisoners still alive. Three were comatose, but Maximilian was still conscious. So the SS guards decided to end it by injecting Fr. Kolbe and the remaining prisoners with carbolic acid. But when they got to Kolbe, he extended his arm as if to embrace the injection.
Like the lance that pierced the side of Jesus, Kolbe was pierced by a needle.
He died, sitting upright, with his head tilted to one side, a serene countenance, his eyes open and his face radiant.
Prayer : Turn your Face towards me O God in times of trouble and grant me your Mercy. Amen.
Meditations and Questions
1. In times of suffering what do I do?
2. Do I hunger and thirst for holiness more than for food and material things, even life itself?
3. Am I willing to suffer for and with others?
4. Do I sing or complain in times of trouble?