One man I admire greatly is Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941)
Maximilian Kolbe was a Catholic priest, who was put in a Nazi concentration camp for his faith.
On May 28, 1941, he was transferred to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.
During his time there, he would share his meagre rations of food with those around him who were hungry.
Despite the evil in the camp perpetrated against the inmates, Kolbe pleaded with the prisoners to forgive their persecutors and overcome evil with good.
A protestant doctor who treated the patients in Kolbe’s block said that Kolbe would not let himself be treated before any other prisoners in that block.
He sacrificed himself for the other prisoners. The doctor said about Kolbe:
"From my observations, the virtues in the Servant of God were no momentary impulse such as are often found in men, they sprang from a habitual practice, deeply woven into his personality."
One day a man in Kolbe’s block escaped. All of the men from that block were brought out into the hot sun and made to stand there all day with no food or drink.
At the end of the day, the man that had escaped was not found and so Fritsch, the Nazi commandant told the prisoners that ten men would be selected to die in the starvation cell in place of the one that had escaped.
One man, a polish sergeant (Francis Gajowniczek) was one of those selected. He begged to be spared because he was worried that his family would not be able to survive without him.
As he was pleading with the commandant, Maximilian Kolbe silently stepped forward and stood before the commandant.
The commandant turned to him and said asked, "What does this Polish pig want?"
Kolbe pointed to the polish sergeant and said, "I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his place, because he has a wife and children."
The commandant stood silent for a moment in disbelief.
He then allowed the sergeant to go back to his place in the ranks and Kolbe took his place in the starvation bunker.
Each day the guards removed the bodies of those who had died.
However instead of the usual sounds of screaming, all they could hear was the sounds of Kolbe and the others in the bunker singing hymns and praying.
When Kolbe couldn’t speak any longer due to hunger and lack of energy, he would whisper his prayers.
After two weeks, the cell had to be cleared out for more prisoners. Only four prisoners were left and Kolbe was one of them.
The guards injected each with a lethal injection and on August 14, 1941, Kolbe paid the ultimate price.
Kolbe viewed others as more important than himself. And in that he was following the Master.
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