Friar Maximilian Kolbe

Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe was a Polish Franciscan friar who was sent to Auschwitz for protecting 2,000 Jews in his monastery. While there, the camp administrators picked 10 men to be starved to death in an underground bunker in order to deter escape attempts. One of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, was a Polish resistance fighter. When he cried out, “My wife! My children!” Kolbe, who didn’t know him, volunteered to take his place, remarking that he had no such family to worry about. He literally gave his life for another human being.

In the starvation cell, he celebrated Mass each day and sung hyms with the prisoners, who he reassured by telling them they would soon be with Mary in Heaven. Supposedly, each time the guards checked on him, he was standing or kneeling in the middle of the cell, appearing calm. After two weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe remained alive. The guards eventually opted to give Kolbe a lethal injection to empty the cell once and for all; witnesses claim that he raised his left arm and calmly waited for the injection.

In the 1980s he was canonized as a saint and recognized as a martyr of charity.

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