St. Maximilian Kolbe

Julie Lonneman

Artist's Narrative:
Maximilian Kolbe was a Franciscan priest who had a special devotion to Mary. Maximilian is best known, however, for the way in which he lived the last few years of his life. As the Nazis rose in power, he spoke out against them. Even though he had a Germanic background, he refused to protect himself by becoming a legal German national.

In February of 1941, Maximilian was imprisoned in Warsaw and suffered great abuse and torture. He was released, only to be imprisoned a second time in May and sent to Auschwitz. While at Auschwitz, Maximilian continued in his ministry as a priest. He heard confessions, comforted other prisoners, and said Mass with bread and wine that had been smuggled into the camp.

In July, a prisoner attempted to escape. As a penalty, ten prisoners were chosen to be executed. Among them was a young husband and father who begged to be spared. Father Kolbe spoke up and asked that he be taken in place of the young man. Maximilian and the others were sent to a starvation chamber. For two weeks, he tried to keep their spirits up through praying the rosary and through singing. Maximilian was the last to remain conscious. On August 14, 1941, he and the four men who were still alive were injected with phenol.
—ND Vision, University of Notre Dame

Poland, 1894-1941.

His feast day is August 14.


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