75 Anniversary

Weekly Reflections from the 75th anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

75 Anniversary
May20

Week Forty One - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

Written by // Mission of the Immaculata Categories // 75 Anniversary

Week 41 - May 20 - May 27

Week Forty One - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

The Garden of Auschwitz

When one hears about the Garden Of Auschwitz one may wonder of what kind of garden is it referring to. The Garden of Eden? Certainly not!
Rather It refers to the Garden of Gethsemane. 

Before Maximilian could step out of line to be judged and condemned by the commandant as Jesus was by Pilate, and then proceed on his way of the cross to his Calvary in the Starvation bunker, he first, like Jesus had to enter into his Garden of Gethsemane. 

When it was discovered that a Prisoner had escaped, all of the prisoners were lined up in the street. When the prisoner was not found, their dinner was poured out into the street in front of them and they were sent back to the barrack with no food for the night. 

Maximilian's Garden of Gethsemane was Cell Block 14 in Auschwitz.

May13

Week Forty - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

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Week 40 - May 13 - May 20

Week Forty  - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

The Shoah

The death of St. Maximilian Kolbe will be forever tied to Auschwitz and the Holocaust.

The Shoah, was Nazi Germany's systematic attempt to murder every Jewish man, woman and child in Europe. By the end of the war, two out of every three Jews were dead. 

Every Catholic should become familiar with the document from the Holy See in 1998 entitled "We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah. In it one reads......

"No one can remain indifferent, least of all the Church, by reason of her very close bonds of spiritual kinship with the Jewish people and her remembrance of the injustices of the past. The Church's relationship to the Jewish people is unlike the one she shares with any other religion. However, it is not only a question of recalling the past. The common future of Jews and Christians demands that we remember, for "there is no future without memory".

"The fact that the Shoah took place in Europe, that is, in countries of long-standing Christian civilization, raises the question of the relation between the Nazi persecution and the attitudes down the centuries of Christians towards the Jews."

May06

Week Thirty Nine - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

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Week 39 - May 6 - May 13

Week Thirty Nine  - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

Hannah Arendt: Eichmann in Jeruselem

Hannah Arendt was a Jewish philosopher who attended the trial of Adolf Eichmann and wrote the famous and controversial book, Eichmann in Jerusalem : A Report on the Banality of Evil

When Hannah wrote that a small number of the Jewish leaders had in some form or another assisted in the gathering of Jews unaware of the Final Solution, She thus showed that no one has the moral high ground of innocence. No race, no religion, no culture, no country, no ethnicity can claim total and absolute innocence. 

There was as she stated a total moral collapse not just in Europe but in the world. And no race, no religion, no culture, no country, no ethnicity escaped that collapse. 

She strove all her life to find the answer to that moral collapse. 

It is easy to assume that some people are inherently evil. 
That some people plan the destruction of other people. 

This allows us to objectify evil rather than face the existential reality of it that is revealed in Original Sin. 

The ultimate Sin, the ultimate evil is the failure, the avoidance, the rejection and the denial of "existential" sin that "exists" in each of us. 

An Existential Sin that does not plan, that does not premeditate, that does not have horns and a tail, that is not filled with rage and anger and violence;
That merely exists in each individual and institution in a banal kind of way and that gets up in the morning and has breakfast and goes off to work and returns home after a long hard day and that surfaces when the individual or the institution refuses to think, refuses to dialogue with itself, refuses to face the evil not without but within oneself, and its potential for horrific destruction not of buildings or civilizations but of the human person both individually and collectively. 

The Evil, That easily goes from getting up in the morning, going off to work and returning home after a long hard day, to getting up in the morning, going off to work and returning home after a long hard day of killing millions as did Adolf Eichman and the commandant of Auschwitz. 

Did Eichmann particularly care if those he was killing were Jews?
He showed none of the rabid hatred and dislike of Jews in his trial. 
That is the banality, the absolute horror of his crime. 
Because if he did it would have made him capable of "thinking" what it means to be Jewish. 
What makes Jews different and unique. 
Why should they be eliminated?
And from this "thinking"; from this reflection and inner dialogue with himself he would at least have had the potential and the capacity to ask why??????
Why the Jews?
What makes them different?
Why should they be eliminated?
These questions at least give the Jews existence, a purpose for being hated and possibly therefore an opportunity to acknowledge their existence and value. 

The true essence of evil however is its banality. 
It's total nihilism.

Apr29

Week Thirty Eight - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

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Week 38 - April 29 - May 6

Week Thirty Eight  - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

Adolf Elchmann

Adolf Eichmann was one the most hunted and ruthless Nazi War criminals responsible for the Holocaust. 

How does one become Adolf Eichmann?
Is one born that way?
Does one learn it at home, at school or on the playground?

Eichmann was a "joiner" who never stood out in a crowd but did have the ability to organize and negotiate. His major character flaw was an almost total inability to look at anything from another person's point of view. He was always able to disassociate himself from his "emotions" and remain "objective" so that concentration camps were discussed in terms of "administration and economy" instead of extermination and genocide. 

At anytime, Eichmann could have requested a transfer without fear for his life or repercussions. He did not. Instead he chose to deport Jews to concentration camps solely for the purpose of his own advancement.
How does one do that?

There were two ways the Nazis silenced their Conscience.  
The first was rather than pity the poor Jews being murdered, and say "what horrible things I did," they turned in on themselves and said, what horrible things I had to watch in the pursuance of my duties and how heavy the task that weighed upon my shoulders!"

The second method was the war itself. Dead people were seen everywhere, so instead of using terms such as murder, they justified their actions by calling it a "hardship" and a result of war. 

At first his conscience did function as he tried to divert a shipment of Jews, but he later said that his conscience was put at ease because all of the "respectable people" around him were doing it. The irony of Hitler's Germany was that people had to be tempted "not to kill!" As he listened to those around him, Eichmann stated that he had a kind of Pontius Pilate feeling where he was free of all guilt.

Apr22

Week Thirty Seven - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

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Week 37 - April 22 - April 29

Week Thirty Seven - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

The Banality of Evil

Auschwitz was Maximilian's Calvary. 
One must therefore understand the Holocaust and Auschwitz if one truly wants to understand Maximilian and the impact his life offered not just to one man but to all of humanity. 

When we think of Adolf Eichmann, one of the chief implementors of the Holocaust, we often think of two things. First of all, an individual, a criminal;

But secondly and more importantly he is a symbol for evil in the world. 
His individuality is important only for the sake of delving deeper into the broader spectrum of evil;
Its reality, its form, its causes and manifestations in the world. 

Evil is usually thought to be something demonic, where men and women filled with pride and envy are spurred on by a powerful hatred for good. 
Eichmann was none of this. 
He was "ordinary." He was "thoughtless."  
He would do anything to advance his own selfish ends without really "thinking" about why or how or who he was hurting.  
Instead he shielded himself from his own "thoughts" and conscience. 
So much so that he could plead "not guilty" to each count of genocide. Half a dozen psychiatrists declared him as normal and a minister who visited him in prison said he had some very "positive ideas". 
No horns or tail were evident!

The danger of evil that is banal, is that it is so subtle. 
It fooled the entire country of Germany and even a few Jewish elders. 
It is not so obvious as nuclear weapons. 
Instead it slowly worms its way into the social and personal consciousness like a spiritual and moral cancer.

Apr15

Week Thirty Six - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

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Week 36 - April 15 - April 22

Week Thirty Six - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

Kolbe and Anti-Semitism

Even though Maximilian Kolbe was put to death by the Nazis in Auschwitz where millions of Jews were gassed and killed, he is accused by some of being an anti-Semite. 
Why would the Nazis kill him, if like them, Maximilian was an anti-Semite?
Is there any factual evidence or merely innuendo and accusations of false association?

One cannot help but accept and acknowledge that Jews are sensitive to any and all forms of anti-Semitism considering 5-6 million Jews were killed out of a population of 9 million in Europe.
The Jewish population in many countries was either wiped out or decimated in such a way that all that is left are empty synagogues and cemeteries reminding one of a rich and historic past. 
One can only shudder at the thought of what would have happened to the remaining 3 million Jews if Hitler had militarily won the war. 

Anti-Semitism takes many different forms from 
* religious (Jew as Christ-killer),
* economic (Jew as banker, usurer, money-obsessed),
* social (Jew as social inferior, "pushy," vulgar, therefore excluded from personal contact),
* racist (Jews as an inferior "race"),
* ideological (Jews regarded as subversive or revolutionary),
* cultural (Jews regarded as undermining the moral and structural fiber of civilization).

In none of these examples can Maximilian Kolbe be found. 

Kolbe clearly wanted to bring the world to Christ and this included "some" Jews and Masons, who were politically active against the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Apr08

Week Thirty Five - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

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Week 35 - April 8 - April 15

Week Thirty Five - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

Did Hitler Win

The Nazis were defeated, Hitler committed suicide and the concentration camps were liberated, so how can one ask if Hitler won?

Because the effects and attitudes of Hitler and the Nazis continue unabated throughout the world. 

The unborn and the terminally ill are the new Jews!
Only by remembering the Jews in the Holocaust can we remember the sacredness and sanctity of every person, born or unborn, young or elderly, healthy or terminal, minority or majority. 

Rather than turning humanity back towards God, as one would think the Holocaust would have done, the opposite happened. 
The effect the Holocaust initiated by Hitler and the Nazis was the rise of Atheism. 
For How could a Good God allow millions to die in concentration camps?

Rather than restoring the dignity of each individual human person, 
the effects of the Holocaust opened the door for the deaths of millions more faceless and nameless individuals through Abortion and Euthanasia, all in the name of preserving the "rights of the individual."
So once again, the "rights" of some individuals are preserved at the expense of the "rights" of others. 

Thus the thinking and mentality of Hitler and the Nazis continue their influence upon humankind to this day.

Through numerous acts of legislation against Jews, Hitler not only made Anti Semitism legal but also moral. 
He was able to change the morality of a nation by making certain acts legal. 
For many people believe that if something is legal, it must certainly be moral.

Apr01

Week Thirty Four - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

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Week 34 - April 1 - April 8

Week Thirty Four - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

Ashes to Ashes

Years ago Maximilian said, "I would like to be ground to dust for the Immaculate Virgin and have this dust be blown away by the wind all over the world."
Maximilian received his wish. 

On August 15, the day after Maximilian died, his body was carried to the crematorium. 
Along with the other prisoners who died with him, Maximilian's body was cremated and the ashes were spread across the farmlands and into the nearby ponds as were the ashes of of millions of other prisoners.

Every Ash Wednesday we are reminded that we are dust, and unto dust we shall return. 
For most people this is simply a yearly ritual, but for Maximilian and millions of others in Auschwitz it was a reality.

Mar25

Week Thirty Three - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

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Week 33 - March 25 - April 1

Week Thirty Three - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

The Starvation Bunker

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.

Mar18

Week Thirty Two - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

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Week 32 - March 18 - March 25

Week Thirty Two - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

Stepping Out

In Auschwitz, one no longer had a name. 
They were known only by a number. 
Even pets have names, but not in Auschwitz. 
This is how the Nazis turned the prisoners into animals;
Animals that could be beaten when disobedient;
Animals that could be put down when no longer needed or of use. 

When prisoners cleaned the latrines and carried the sewage in wheelbarrows, 
if the filth from the sewage splashed up on their face they could not stop to wipe it off. 
If they did they were beaten.
So even normal, everyday human actions and attitudes were not allowed. 
In that way their humanity was stripped from them. 

Until one day when a prisoner escaped!
All of the prisoners from his cell block were forced to stand for 8 hours in the hot summer sun with no food or water. 
If they fell over from exhaustion they were dragged away and piled on top of each other up like a pile of sticks
The rest were eventually sent to bed with no food. 
The next day they were lined up again and this time the commandant began to pick them out one by one like dogs for the starvation bunker, until one man stepped out of line to take the place of another prisoner in the starvation bunker. 
It was Maximilian Kolbe!
By his stepping out of line it was the ultimate statement that he was not an animal. 
He was a human being with free will who inspite of the hatred and the beatings and threat of starvation still chose to Love!

What in the world wants to take away our humanity and turn us into animals?
Advertising treats us like animals who cannot control our appetites. 
Pornography treats us like animals who cannot control our passions. 
Everytime we give into our basest desires and instincts we are no more than an animal. 

But We have a far greater dignity that no one can take from us.
For we are made in the image and likeness of God! 
In the words of Thomas Merton, "To say that we are made in the image and likeness of God is to say that Love is the reason for our existence for God is Love. 
Love is our true character. 
Love is our true self. 
Love is our name!"

Mar11

Week Thirty One - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

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Week 31 - March 11 - March 18

Week Thirty One - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

Auschwitz

On May 28, 1941 the prisoners from Pawiak prison were transported to Auschwitz. 
Stuffed into a windowless car, the crowding made the atmosphere almost impossible to breath along with the knowledge they were going to a concentration camp filled everyone with despair and depression. 

Until someone started singing. 
It was Maximilian. 
By his religious and patriotic songs their spirits were lifted. 

After his arrival, Maximilian and the others were locked up for the night. 

The next morning they were taken to the icy showers, given their prison uniforms and their heads were shaved and Maximilian was given the number 16670 and assigned to cell block 18. At the time there were no bunks. The prisoners slept on bagged straw on the floor.

Mar04

Week Thirty - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

Written by // Mission of the Immaculata Categories // 75 Anniversary

Week 30 - March 4 - March 11

Week Thirty - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

Auschwitz

Auschwitz was the German name for the then Polish city of Oswiecim, located in southern Poland west of Kraków. 

The area had few inhabitants and was a crossroad of rail transportation and was situated at the fork of two rivers making it an ideal place for genocide. 
The farmers and other people were given one hour to vacate their home before they were taken over by the Nazis. 

It was originally an abandoned Austrian military barracks when Poland had been partitioned.
There were 14 single story and six two story buildings which were surrounded by concrete posts and barb wire which was electrified. 
Auschwitz was a concentration camp to house prisoners and support the war machine and an extermination camp to kill primarily Jews and anyone who was an enemy of the Reich. 
The camps were infested with lice and other vermin and latrines were not installed until 1943 and the average calorie intake was around 700 calories. 
One quarter pounder (545) and a 12 oz can of Coke (140) is 700 calories. 
That is the total number of calories the average prisoner ate the ENTIRE day EVERY day with 12 hours of manual labor.

Feb26

Week Twenty Nine - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

Written by // Mission of the Immaculata Categories // 75 Anniversary

Week 29 - Feb. 26 - March 4

Week Twenty Nine - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

Pawiak Prison

Auschwitz was not the only prison, nor was it the first prison Maximilian faced. 

On February 17, 1941, the Gestapo came to arrest Maximilian and he greeted them by saying, "Praised be Jesus Christ!"
Like Pilate and the Sanhedrin, the Gestapo began to interrogate Maximilian about his teaching and he gave them a tour of Niepekalanow after which he was arrested in his office along with 5 other Franciscan priests and taken to Pawiak Prison, never to see his brothers or Niepekalanow again. 

There were about 30 prisoners in the cell and the spirit of Maximilian was one of calm.

Feb19

Week Twenty Eight - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

Written by // Mission of the Immaculata Categories // 75 Anniversary

Week 28 - Feb. 19 - Feb. 26

Week Twenty Eight - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

Work Makes Free

This is the sign on the gate that every prisoner saw as he entered Auschwitz. 
No lie was ever so true!

Most people never even saw the gates of Auschwitz with its infamous greeting. 

Most of them went straight to the gas chambers and never saw the camps as Dr Mengele would stand and point where each prisoner was to go either to the camp or the gas chamber.

"In her postwar testimony, Olga Albogen, a Holocaust survivor, relates to her family’s arrival in Auschwitz in the following way, “…We didn’t even say goodbye to Mother and the little ones. We just had some food yet from home and I gave it to my mother and said, “We’ll see you tonight.” And that was it and I never saw them again”

Feb12

Week Twenty Seven - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

Written by // Mission of the Immaculata Categories // 75 Anniversary

Week 26 - Feb. 12 - Feb. 19

Week Twenty Seven - 75th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe

The Final Solution

From 1933 to the beginning of the war in 1939 the persecution of the Jews in Germany was based on intimidation, confiscating their assets and property and coercing them to emigrate.

After the invasion of Poland which had a Jewish population of 3.5 million and the Nazis desire 'for more living space," there grew a need to find another "Solution", for confiscation of their assets and coercing Jews to emigrate was no longer a viable solution. 
Therefore, Jews began to be rounded up and placed in "ghettos" where they were then transported to extermination camps with the intention to annihilate the entire Jewish population.

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