Tag Archives: Holocaust

The “Angel of Dachau” stared into the faces of the dying every day and never turned away—

Bl. Engelmar  Unzietig                                          http://www.novinky.cz

By Larry Peterson

The first concentration camp to be opened by the Nazis was known as Dachau. It opened in 1933 under the direction of Hitler’s primary henchman, Heinrich Himmler. The initial idea was for Dachau to house political prisoners, but it quickly evolved into a death camp primarily for Jews.

Dachau also became known as the ‘priest’s barracks.” It earned that label because over 2720 clergy were imprisoned there, 95% of them being Catholic. The rest included Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, and a few others. Among the Catholic priests was the man who came to be known as the “Angel of Dachau.”  His name was Father Engelmar Unzeitig.

Father Engelmar was born on March 1, 1911, in Austria-Hungary and was named Hubert by his parents. Not much is known of his parents, but he did have a younger sister. When Hubert was 18, he was accepted into the novitiate of the Marianhill Missionaries in Reimlingen. He had intended to be a part of the missions but became a student studying theology and philosophy. He made his final profession of vows in 1938 and was given the name of Engelmar.

Engelmar was ordained to the priesthood on August 6, 1939, and offered his first Mass on the Feast of the Assumption. From there, he was assigned as a parish priest to a church in Glokelberg, Austria. Father Engelmar had no problem defending the victims of Nazi persecution.

His sermons often defended the Jews, and he quickly became a bright blip on the radar of the Gestapo. Two years after he was ordained, he was arrested for preaching against the Third Reich and their treatment of the Jews. Without trial or fanfare of any kind whatsoever, he was sent to Dachau, a place that, besides being called the “priest’s barracks,”  became sarcastically known  as the “largest monastery in the world.”

Father Engelmar was 30 years old when he was arrested on April 21, 1941. When he arrived at Dachau he immediately set out to do his best to give all the help he could to his fellow prisoners. Many of them were older than Engelmar and were frequently in poor physical condition, unable to do what was demanded of them by their captors.

The conditions in the camp were inhumane and, for many incarcerated there, unbearable. Suicide was frequent, starvation was rampant, and sickness and death were everywhere. Father Engelmar, kept smiling and kept trying to cheer the despairing. Since there were so many Eastern European prisoners in the camp he secretly learned how to speak Russian so he could tend to the Russian prisoners.

Engelmar would try to move among his fellow inmates in such a way as not to be noticed. It was always a daunting challenge, and often he was punished for helping others. However, no matter what happened to him, he also had no intention of stopping his pastoral work, regardless of the consequences.  He worked tirelessly day after day, night after night, tending to and comforting his fellow prisoners. The began referring to the young man as the “Angel of Dachau.”

Conditions in Dachau were so filthy it was a perfect environment for disease to develop. Body lice, chiggers, and fleas, spread disease and these were running uncontrolled at Dachau. It was not long before Typhus became part of the conditions as it erupted in the camp, spreading like wildfire through the camp.

Father Engelmar, without hesitation, volunteered to work with the typhoid patients. The Nazi guards had tried to separate those infected from the others to keep the disease in check. It was an effort in futility. Father Engelamar was placed with the Typhus population towards the end of summer, 1944.

He immediately went to work to comfort and assist the infected the best he could. The disease found its way into the priest, probably during February of 1945. It was during the beginning of February when he noticed a nagging headache developing and a slight rash visible on his right arm and on his side. Typhus attacked the kindly priest and Father Engelmar Unzeitig died on March 2, 1945. Ironically, April 29, 1945, Dachau was liberated. For many thousands, including Father Engelmar, it was too late.

On September 5,1988, during the reign of Pope St. John Paul II, Father Engelmar was declared a Servant of God   Pope Benedict XVI declared the priest Venerable on July 3, 2009. On January 21, 2016, Pope Francis declared that Father Engelmar Unzeitig had died “in odium fidei” and was a martyr. The priest who gave his life at Dachau was beatified on Septemeber 24, 2016.

Blessed Engelmar  Unzeitig, please pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

His crime…He Baptized another Prisoner—His “Reward”—He was hanged upside down. Meet Otto Neururer; the first priest executed in a Nazi concentration camp

Blessed Otto Neururer                                             commons.wikipediia.org

By Larry Peterson

The word  “Holocaust” has a number of synonyms:  annihilation, extermination, carnage, genocide, and slaughter, might be a few.   We tend to think of the “millions’ who perished but we rarely think of them as individuals unless some story grabs our attention such as; “The Diary of Anne Frank”,  “The Devil’s Arithmetic”, or bios about St. Maximilian Kolbe,, or St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). What follows is the story of a simple, humble priest who simply loved his God, his Faith, and his fellow man. His name was Father Otto Neururer.

Each and every one of the people who had their very God-given existence taken away from them was like all of us.  They had their hopes and dreams.  They had families and friends. They loved, they worked, they played, they enjoyed holidays and walks in the park on a Sunday afternoon where the kids might feed the ducks or the squirrels.  They quietly embraced the dignity of their own selves, just as we all try to do. They were proud of their families and their jobs and professions.  They were living their God-given life.

And then they came. The other people. The ones in power. The ones who held the power of life and death in their hands.The ones who had the “law” on their side and the people following them willing to carry it out, no matter how heinous; even ready to commit torture and murder under the “rule of law.”

Yet through all of the Godless depravity that filled the very hearts and souls of those carrying out this abhorrent treatment of their fellow human beings there always rises an unquenchable love,  and respect for life from some of the victims. They try to help others who are suffering. Many who offer this Godly assistance are tortured and murdered for doing so.

Otto Neururer was born in Tyrol, Austria on March 25, 1881. He was the twelfth and youngest child of a peasant farmer, Alois Neururer and his wife, Hildegard. When Otto was eight, his dad died. His mom,  a devout Catholic, began suffering bouts of depression. Otto was a bit frail and also timid and, like his mom, also began experiencing bouts of depression. However, he did have a brilliant mind and recognized his vocation to the priesthood.  He followed his calling and was able to enter the seminary when he was 21 years old.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1907 and celebrated his first Mass in his hometown. He wanted to join the Jesuits and do missionary work, but his frail health prevented that. He served as a  parish priest, teacher, and was finally assigned as pastor to  St. Peter and Paul Parish in Innsbruck.

In 1938, while he was still pastor, a young woman came to him for advice. She wanted his opinion on whether or not she should marry a divorced man. Father Neururer knew of this man and that he was a philanderer and a con-artist. He advised the woman against marrying him. She told her “fiancé” that she could not marry him and why. He was good friends with the Nazi party leader in the area and reported Father Otto to him. On December 15,1938, Father Otto was promptly arrested and charged with, “slander to the detriment of German marriage.”

On March 3, 1939, he was sent to Dachau, the first concentration camp established by the Nazis,  also known as the “priest’s barracks.” Here he was routinely tortured, but this would not be his last stop. On September 26, 1939, he was sent to Buchenwald, which was under the command of Martin Sommer, aka “the Hangman of Buchenwald.” This would be Father’s last stop.

A prisoner came to Father Otto and asked him to baptize him. The kindly priest could not decline and did as asked. The priest realized he was being ‘set-up” but would not refuse in case he was mistaken. He was not wrong, and Martin Bormann decided to make an example of the priest. He ordered him taken to the “punishment block” and hung upside down.

The chaplain who witnessed Father Otto’s torturous death said he never complained. The priest lived for 34 hours, and even towards the end, he could be heard mumbling his prayers. He died on May 30, 1940. He was fifty-eight years old. He was the first of more than 2600 Catholic priests killed during the Holocaust.

Father Otto Neururer died “in odium fidei” and was beatified at St. Peter’s Basilica on November 24, 1996, by Pope St. John Paul II.

Blessed Otto Neururer, please pray for us all.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

On All Soul’s Day (and every day) we must remember that God’s Mercy has no Bounds

 

Babe Ruth                       en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

All Soul’s Day is more than just a day to remember and pray for our departed loved ones. It is a day we should embrace fully because the faith we carry within us is validated.  That validation is there for all of us because we can see the Mercy and Love of God and how it is available to every person, everywhere—if they so choose…every day of the year.

An example of how this Love and Mercy shows no bounds can be found in the following two people who long ago left this life. They are an unlikely duo, and I am sure that while they were alive, they never met. They are Rudolf Hoess, the Nazi War Criminal (not to be confused with Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s Deputy Fuhrer), and  Babe Ruth, the greatest baseball player who ever lived;

  • Rudolf Hoess (sometimes spelled Hoss)

Rudolf Hoess is considered history’s greatest mass murderer. He was the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz who got up every morning, had a nice breakfast with his wife and five children, and then went to work where he supervised the deaths of thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children.

Hoess was a happily married Catholic man and would come home after “work” and have dinner with his family. He had a nice view from his dining room window. He could see the giant chimney stacks from the crematoria. He had an affair with an Auschwitz prisoner and to hide the evidence sent her to the gas chamber. He even wrote poetry about the “beauty” of Auschwitz.

Arrested as a war criminal Hoess was sentenced to death by hanging. Before his execution he asked for a priest. On April 10, 1947, he received the Sacrament of Penance. The next day he received Holy Communion which was also his Viaticum. He was hanged on April 16, 1947.

  • George Herman “Babe” Ruth

 

Babe Ruth was born in Baltimore in 1895. He was (according to his folks) an incorrigible child and at the age of seven they placed him in St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. Babe remained there for the next twelve years. He was a baptized Catholic and had received his First Holy Communion.

Babe’s affinity for baseball became obvious quickly. Brother Mathias, who had become a father figure for Ruth, saw this and asked Jack Dunn, the owner of the minor league Orioles, to take a look at the boy. Dunn liked what he saw, took Ruth under his wing and became his legal guardian. The rest is history. Babe Ruth was and still is, inarguably, the greatest ballplayer who ever lived.

But Babe’s life off the field was a bit different. Living the “good life” he had forgotten one thing; his faith. He was a ball player by day, and a “party animal”  by night. He had fame and fortune and never looked back until—1946. That is when he was diagnosed with throat cancer.

He was scheduled for surgery and the night before his friend, Paul Casey, said to him, “Hey Babe,  don’t you think it’s time to put your house in order?”

Babe knew exactly what Paul was talking about and asked for a priest. That very night Babe Ruth made a full confession and the following morning received Holy Communion. Just a shell of the man he had once been the “Babe” lived two more years. He passed away on August 16, 1948.

That is a profile of two men: one who committed the most heinous crimes imaginable,  murdering callously and ruthlessly God’s creations every day. The other is about a happy, go-lucky, talented baseball player who forgot about God and enjoyed life, as he saw it, to the fullest.

Rudolf Hoess turned back to his faith when his own death was imminent. He asked for God’s mercy. If our Faith is what we are taught it is—he received it. Did he deserve it? As someone said a few years ago, “Who are we to judge?” The same applies to Babe Ruth and every other person God has created who seeks His mercy and forgiveness.

All Soul’s Day is a day to rejoice; a day to rejoice in knowing that our loved ones and friends who have gone before us were given every possible chance to attain their heavenly reward. God’s Love and Mercy has brought many of his fallen children home.

©Larry Peterson 2018

 

Jacques de Jesus; a little-known Hero from the Holocaust

Father Jacques de Jesus—–public domain

By Larry Peterson

He was born in Normandy, France in 1900 and he was named Lucien Bunel. His dad, who was a deeply humble man and dedicated himself as much as could to helping others, was an inspiration to his son and young Lucien felt the call to the priesthood.

Ordained a priest in 1925, Father Lucien worked in the Diocese of Rouen and became a noted speaker and teacher. He also maintained a deep interior prayer life. But he yearned for more.

Growing up Lucien believed he was being called to join the Trappists. However, he wanted something that included the prayer life combined with helping others. He was introduced to the Discalced Carmelites and discovered a tradition that fulfilled his needs.  In 1930 he joined the  Carmelites in Lille, France and took the name he would henceforth be known by; Jacques de Jesus.

Pere (Father) Jacques de Jesus was asked if he would consider opening a school for boys. He had not yet taken his final vows but he readily agreed. He managed to open Petit College Sainte-Therese de l’Enfant-Jesus in Avon in 1933. He took his final vows in 1934 and immediately became the headmaster at the school.

As Nazi persecution continually grew, Pere Jacques became more and more upset and disgusted with the action of the Third Reich. He decided that he would make his school a haven for young men seeking to avoid service in the German army and also to harbor Jewish boys. He also became part of the French Resistance.

In 1943 Pere Jacques, using false names, enrolled three Jewish boys;  Hans-Helmut Michel, Jacques-France Halpern, and Maurice Schlosser.  He also hid a  fourth Jewish boy, Maurice Bas, by saying he was just a worker at the school. He went a step further and hired the noted botanist, Lucien Weil, as a teacher.

Pere Jacques was informed upon by nearby neighbors who greatly feared the Nazis and did not want to get in trouble for not saying anything. Consequently, Pere Jacques and his three Jewish students were arrested on January 15, 1944. Lucien Weil, his wife and his mother were also arrested at their home on the same day.

The German SS deported the three boys and the Weil family to Auschwitz on February 3, 1944. All of them died there.  Pere Jaques was imprisoned in various concentration camps until finally being placed in the Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration camp. He quietly went about doing his priestly best to raise the morale of the prisoners.

When all of the priests at the camp were moved to Dachau, Jacques hid his priestly identity and was left behind. He was the only Catholic priest for the 20, 000 prisoners still at Mauthausen-Gusen.

The camp population included many Polish citizens and Pere Jacques learned enough Polish to be able to minister to the mostly Catholic prisoners. They called him Pere Zak and grew to love the humble priest. When learning that he was also part of the French Resistance, he gained the respect of all the prisoners.

Sick with tuberculosis, Pere Jacques was getting weaker and weaker. In May of 1945, American troops liberated Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration camp. Pere Jacques was down to 75 pounds and died in an Austrian hospital a few weeks later.

In 1985 Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Center, honored pere Jacques as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” for his efforts to hide Jewish students from the Nazis.

Pere Jacques de Jesus’ cause for sainthood has been started. This is the prayer for his canonization:

Prayer of canonization

 Father infinitely good, You gave to Father Jacques de Jésus

The desire to love you and to love all men, From a heart without sharing.

You have showered him with gifts for the education of the young,

You chose him as a priest,  You called him in the Order of Discalced Carmelites.

In the inhuman distress of the deportation camps,  You made him a burning witness of faith and love,

Until the total gift of his life.

Give us the graces we ask you,  By his intercession and, if that is your will,

Glorify him in your church,  By your Son Jesus Christ our Savior.

Amen.

                         ©Larry Peterson 2018

Pope Pius XII and His Confidant; Father Giovanni Ferrofino; Together, they Quietly Managed the Rescue of Thousands of Jews during World War II

POPE PIUS XII – UNDATED – (AP-PHOTO)

By Larry Peterson

There is still controversy surrounding Pope Pius XII and his perceived indifference to the crimes the Nazis were committing during World War II. The Pope was constantly bombarded with pleas for help on behalf of the Jews but, as head of the Vatican state, had to feign neutrality. However, his apparent lack of action was a ruse, and the Holy Father was more than willing to take the abuse that came with it.

In 1940 the papal secretary of state was asked to intercede to keep Jews in Spain from being deported to Germany. A similar request was made for Jews in Lithuania. Even the Assistant Chief of the U.S. delegation to the Vatican, Harold Tittman, asked the Pope to condemn the atrocities. The Vatican claimed “neutrality” suggesting that Catholics in German-held lands might be affected. The papacy did nothing, or so it seemed.

Behind the scenes, Pope Pius XII sheltered a small number of Jews and asked select friends to see if they might find ways to help the Jews.  Of course, there was his low-profile, secret weapon, Father Giovanni Ferrofino.

Father Giovanni’s mission came directly from Pope Pius XII. He had orders that sent him first to the Portuguese president asking him to grant visas for Jews seeking refuge in his country. Then he was sent to the Dominican Republic where twice a year he asked for 800 visas for Jews to travel from Portugal to the island nation.

They communicated via double-encrypted messages which Father Giovanni would have to decode. Then he would travel for two days with the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Maurilio Silvani, so the request could be delivered by hand directly to the Dominican leader, General Raphael Trujillo.

Most of these refugees would eventually travel from the Dominican Republic to other countries finding final refuge in the United States, Canada, Cuba, and Mexico.

These clandestine operations took place from 1939 thru 1945. During that time over 10,000 Jews were saved from the Holocaust. Pope Pius XII was the mastermind behind the operation. However, the mission could never have been accomplished without Giovanni Ferrofino.

On November 28, 1961, Giovanni Ferrofino was consecrated as the Titular Archbishop of Zenopolis (an ancient Roman city) and then appointed Apostolic Nuncio to Ecuador, a position he resigned from in 1970.

In 2010, The Yad Vashem  Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem honored Archbishop Ferrofino for his help in saving so many Jews during the Holocaust. He was declared “Righteous Among Nations.”

Archbishop Ferrofino died on December 20, 2010. He was 98 years old. He is counted among the many unsung heroes of World War II.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2018