Although the majority of those incarcerated in the death camps were Jews, targeted by the Nazi regime for extermination, many of the victims were Catholics, including priests and religious sisters. St. Maximilian, a Franciscan friar, died in 1941 after asking to take the place of another prisoner who was destined for execution. The following year, Edith Stein, the German Jewish philosopher turned Catholic Carmelite nun, was also killed at Auschwitz, most likely in the gas chambers upon her arrival.Share
They are joined by countless other Catholics who lost their lives during the Holocaust, many of them for trying to rescue Jews from the Nazis. The sacrifices of these Catholics, both living and dead, were quietly remembered throughout Pope Francis' pilgrimage to the infamous Auschwitz death camp. He prayed at length in the prison cell where the St. Maximilian had been kept during his incarceration. He also greeted a group known as the “Righteous among the Nations” – non-Jewish men and women who had risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazi extermination.
According according to several biographies, the young St. Maximilian had been personally called to martyrdom by the Virgin Mary. In his account, Mary came to him in an apparition holding two crowns, indicating for him to choose: one was white, representing purity, the other red, for martyrdom. He chose both. (Read more.)