Interview With Archbishop Emeritus Majdanski of Stettino-Kamien
WARSAW, Poland, 2 MAY 2004 (ZENIT).
The death of 20% of the total of
10,017 Polish clergy, including five bishops, at the start of World War II
seems to be forgotten by many history books, says a survivor of Dachau.
Kazimierz Majdanski, now archbishop emeritus of Stettino-Kamien, was
arrested Nov. 7, 1939, by the Nazis, when he was in the seminary of
Wloclawek. He was arrested with other students and professors, and taken
first to Sachsenhausen concentration camp and later to Dachau.
In Dachau, he was subjected to pseudoscientific criminal experiments.
After the war, he was ordained a priest in Paris.
His superiors then sent him to Fribourg, Switzerland, to continue his
studies. On his return to Poland, he was appointed vice rector of the
seminary, auxiliary bishop of Wroclawek, and later archbishop of
He took part in the working sessions of the Second Vatican Council and in
1975 founded the pioneer Institute of Studies on the Family in Lomianki.
In remembrance of the witness of those men, the Catholic Church in Poland
last Thursday observed the Day of the Martyrdom of the Polish Clergy
During World War II.
In this interview with ZENIT, Vladimir Redzioch gathers Archbishop
Q: Excellency, why did the Gestapo arrest you right at the beginning of
Archbishop Majdanski: I was arrested, as were other students and
professors of the seminary, for wearing a cassock. The Germans who
arrested us did not ask us for our particulars. So it can be said that I
was arrested as a Catholic priest.
Q: What was life like in the Dachau concentration camp?
Archbishop Majdanski: At the entrance of the camp there was a sign: "Arbeit
macht frei" [Work liberates]. But in reality, inhuman work in the cold of
winter and the heat of summer, with insufficient rations of food, with
blows and humiliations, served to destroy man.
In the end, when a person was no longer able to work, he was taken, in the
so-called transport of invalids, to the gas chambers.
Q: You were one of the prisoners who were subjected to medical
Archbishop Majdanski: Yes. At Dachau, a certain Professor Schilling
carried out pseudo-medical experiments. In fact, they experimented with
prisoners, observing the reactions of man to different substances that
were injected into us.
Before being subjected to the experiments I asked my seminary professor to
inform my parents of my death and I left him my "treasure": two slices of
It's a real miracle that I survived. Unfortunately, Father Jozef Kocot, my
roommate, who taught philosophy in the seminary, died in silence,
suffering in an incredible way.
Q: What did the concentration camp mean for you priests?
Archbishop Majdanski: We thought the times of Nero and Diocletian had
returned, the times of hatred toward Christianity and all that
The concentration camp was the incarnation of the civilization of death.
It is no accident that there were skulls on the Germans' uniforms.
Our German executioners cursed God, denigrated the Church, and called us
the "dogs of Rome." They wanted to force us to desecrate the cross and the
rosary. To make a long story short, for them we were only numbers to be
But we had our covenant with God, prayer recited in secret, confession
made in secret. We really felt the lack of the Holy Eucharist. In this
"death machine," priests were called to sacrifice their life, to be
faithful unto death.
Father Stefan Frelichowski and Father Boleslaw Burian created a sort of
alliance whose members were determined to endure, in a manner more
consonant with the spirit of the Gospel, all the humiliations and
sufferings of the camp, and to render an account of it all to Our Lady at
9 o'clock every night.
When the typhoid epidemic broke out, Father Frelichowski volunteered to
serve the sick. He died giving his life for others, like St. Maximilian
Q: Did you see many companions die?
Archbishop Majdanski: Half of the Polish priests died who were imprisoned
in Dachau. I saw so many priests die in a heroic way. All of them were
faithful to Christ who said to his disciples: "You will be my witnesses."
They died as Catholic priests and Polish patriots.
Some of them could have saved themselves, but none of them lowered
themselves to such pacts. In 1942 the authorities of the camp offered
Polish priests the possibility of special treatment, on the condition of
declaring that they belonged to the German nation. No one came forward.
When Father Dominik Jedrzejewski was offered his freedom on the condition
that he give up his priestly functions, he calmly answered "no," and died.
The martyrdom of the Polish clergy during the Nazi inferno was a glorious
page of the history of the Church and of Poland. It is too bad that it has
been covered by a veil of silence. ZE04050205