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St. Maximilian Kolbe
Question from Jeff J. on 09-30-2002:
Why do Jews think that St. Kolbe, the Polish martyr, was an anti-Semetic? Didn't he give over a thousand Jews sanctuary in his monastery during the holocaust?
Answer by Matthew Bunson on 10-01-2002:
I know of no valid reason of any kind to accuse St. Maximilian Kolbe of anti-Semitism. On the contrary, he was deeply concerned with protecting Jews from the Nazis and was one of the most outspoken opponents of Nazism in Poland. This extraordinary Franciscan Conventual and founder of the sodality of the Militia of Mary Immaculate in 1917 was renowned in his own era as a journalist, earning the enmity of the Nazis for his writings. Thus when Poland fell in September of 1939, Kolbe was arrested for what the Nazis considered illegal activities. Released, he was picked up again in February 1941 for giving aid to Jews and assisting members of the Polish underground. Sent to Auschwitz, Kolbe, as prisoner 16670, was subjected to especially brutal treatment because he was a Catholic priest. His death is worth noting again:

An SS guard, for example, attempted to beat him to death, leaving his broken body in a wood. Surviving, Kolbe gave comfort to his fellow prisoners, reminding them that there was glory in the Cross. One day, ten men were picked by the SS to be starved to death in reprisal for a prison escape. Kolbe stepped forward and asked to be chosen in the place of Franciszek Gajowniczek, a onetime sergeant in the Polish army who was married. Surprisingly, the SS officers agreed, and Kolbe joined the others. As his fellow prisoners died, Kolbe prayed for each, aiding them in their final hours. Greatly disturbed by Kolbe's patience and calm forbearance, the guards hastened his demise by injecting him with phenol. He died on August 14, 1941, and was cremated.

Pope John Paul II canonized him on October 10, 1982,declaring him a martyr for the 20th century.


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