By: Jean Francois Vivier
It’s July 1941 in the Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied Poland.
Franciscan priest Maximilian Kolbe steps forward.
“Let me take this man’s place,” he says, thereby volunteering to die in the place of a stranger who had just been condemned to death by his Nazi captors.
By means of this singular deed, Fr. Kolbe laid down his life not for his friends — as some might do — but for a complete stranger.
Those who know little of Fr. Kolbe may dismiss this as an impulsive act, soon regretted. On the contrary — and as these moving pages show — his voluntary sacrifice of his life was, in fact, the crowning achievement of nearly forty years of Christian love, devotion, and, yes, even martyrdom that he had freely and deliberately agreed to accept when he was only twelve years old.
In the decades leading up to his generous self-sacrifice in Auschwitz, Fr. Kolbe became a monk; earned a doctorate in Rome; taught seminarians in college; established what soon became a thriving religious order (the Militia Immaculatae); founded a popular religious magazine, a monastery (where, before his arrest, he hid thousands of Jews from the Nazis), a religious radio station, and a wartime hospital; and even created and served as publisher of the largest religious newspaper in Europe, whose many issues opposed Nazi evil and were circulated to readers throughout the Continent. Not satisfied with all that, Fr. Kolbe traveled with a few companions to Nagasaki, where he set up a monastery to serve the Japanese people.
All that in a brief life of forty-seven years! A rich, holy life told in vivid images and exciting details in this page-turner of a biography.