Auschwitz Commandant Targets Fr. Kolbe Because of his Priesthood
On the third day after their arrival in Auschwitz, commandant Karl Fritsch came to the block where the inmates were housed. “Priests, step out,” he barked. Fr. Maximilian along with several of his fellow priests stepped forward. Turning to the capo, Krott, an especially brutal taskmaster in charge of the Babice commando, Fritsch said, “Krott, teach these miserable parasites what work is.”
The Babice commando was employed in carrying large tree limbs from the forest to a field. The limbs were heavy. The prisoners were commanded to run back to the forest. Krott selected the heavier limbs for Fr. Maximilian. After a while Fr. Maximilian collapsed from the fatigue. Krott screamed, “You lazy priest! I’ll teach you what work is.” Krott flung Fr. Maximilian across one of the tree stumps and flogged him relentlessly with an oxhide whip. Fr. Maximilian uttered no cry, and after the flogging he didn’t stir. Assuming the victim was dead, Krott kicked the body into a ditch and covered it with branches. After the workday ended, inmates went to the spot and, to their amazement, Fr. Maximilian was still breathing. The inmates carried him back to his block and assisted him to the infirmary.
Foster, pg. 662, Treece, pg.180, KK, pg. 191-195
Fr. Kolbe Encourages Dr. Diem to Keep the Faith:
Noting Fr. Maximilian in the long line, Dr. Rudolf Diem, a Polish Prostestant, said, “This inmate needs immediate attention.”
“It’s all right Doctor, I’ll wait my turn,” Fr. Maximilian said.
“There are two hundred inmates ahead of you,” Dr. Diem said. “Who are you?”
“I’m Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest.”
This heroic act of charity, gives us a glimpse into the charity that Fr. Kolbe would commit himself to in the starvation bunker. Here, although enduring his own sufferings, he was willing to place others before himself.
With treatment from Dr. Diem, Fr. Maximilian’s lacerations began to heal. Dr. Diem also was successful in having him transferred out of Krott’s commando.
Dr. Diem had held onto his Protestant faith that he was raised in until the day that he entered Auschwitz. The daily brutality and inhuman acts he would witness had caused Dr. Diem to lose his faith in God. “God is dead!” Dr. Diem would argue. “How can you persevere in your faith in divine providence in a place like this?”
Fr. Kolbe assures Dr. Diem that God indeed lives. “It is we who are spiritually dead for, by our greed and exploitation of our fellowman we have killed the image of God in us. Instead of employing the gifts of our benevolent Creator to assist one another, we transform them into a diabolic science of torture and death. Auschwitz does not prove that the creator is dead. It proves that the creature is depraved.” Father Kolbe continues saying “For the one who possesses faith, no explanation of God’s inscrutable providence is necessary; for the one who lacks faith, no explanation is satisfactory.” Fr. Kolbe prays for Dr. Diem imparting the words of the Protestant spokesman Nicholas von Zinzendorf, “When life is difficult, stand firm and bear all burdens, patient under discipline’s rod. For through suffering and sorrow, our path leads most certainly to God.”
As Fr. Kolbe ministers to this Protestant doctor, we glimpsed that his Love for the God in others transcends even religious divisions. He didn’t view others under the divided categories of Catholic, Protestant, or Jew nor, evident by his life in Auschwitz, does he even make prejudiced distinctions between Nazi oppressors or imprisoned inmates. Fr. Kolbe shows, with his loving words and actions that we are all children of the same God and like children, who may fall into sorrow or confusion, must be brought back to the comfort of our Father.
Foster, pg. 662 & 669, Treece, pg. 181-182, kk 195-196