75th Anniversary of a Holocaust Death

Exactly seventy-five years and two weeks ago, the Catholic bishops of the Netherlands issued a statement condemning the Nazis for deporting all Jews from the country.

Seventy-five years ago today, the Nazis killed a German Jewish philosopher in the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, as an act of retaliation against the bishops’statement.

St. Edith SteinNow, how’s that? Kill a German Jewish philosopher to retaliate against Dutch Catholic bishops? Well, this Jewish philosopher had become a Catholic nun. Edith Stein had become Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

The sisters of her convent had escaped Germany, and made it to the Netherlands. But the Nazis caught up with them. And when the Dutch Catholic bishops had the gall to call the Nazis the vicious racists they were, the Nazis proceeded to arrest and deport all Jewish converts to Catholicism. As we know, the Nazis were efficient. They only needed two weeks to get their revenge, in the gas chamber.

Pope St. John Paul II declared that we must remember the Holocaust on St. Teresa Benedicta’s feast day. Nazi racism justified the systematic killing of millions of innocent people—racist killing carried out with scientific coldness. My departed grandfather participated, as an American G.I., in rescuing people from one of the concentration camps. What he saw horrified him so much, he could never talk about it.

But we must. We must acknowledge the fact that man can, and does, inflict such evil upon man—and for no good reasons other than his own profound spiritual delusions.

On the other hand, man can, and does, also love his fellow man. St. Teresa Benedicta died for love. “Come, let us go for our people,” she said to her sister, who had also become a nun, as they walked to the gas chamber.

Pope St. John Paul II put it like this, when he canonized St. Teresa Benedicta, “We must stand together for human dignity. There is only one human family.”

Jewish Saint

Our beloved late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, beatified St. Teresa Benedicta, canonized her, and then declared her to be a Co-Patroness of Europe.

She held a special place in the Pope’s heart, obviously: The Nazis killed her in the Pope’s homeland, under the brutal regime which he himself endured as a young man. And, like the Pope’s oldest friend from childhood, with whom he liked to play ping-pong, among other things—like Jerzy Kluger, St. Teresa Benedicta was Jewish.

Before St. Teresa Benedicta became Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, she was called Edith Stein. She was a prominent philosopher who had rejected the Jewish faith she grew up with. Then she found Christ, or rather Christ found her. She became a Catholic and a Carmelite nun.

Played ping-pong with the Pope. (RIP. He died this past New Year’s Eve.)
When the bishops where Sister Teresa Benedicta lived protested against the Nazi abuses, the Nazis retaliated by arresting Teresa and sending her to Auschwitz. The saint willingly died with her brother- and sister-Jews, out of love for the crucified Christ, her Jewish Savior, Whom she loved above all.

When Pope John Paul canonized St. Teresa Benedicta, he declared that her Memorial every year should serve as an occasion for the Church to remember the vicious evil of the Holocaust.

Today we pray for all the victims of Nazi violence, that they might rest in peace. And we re-dedicate ourselves to standing up for the universal brotherhood of all mankind.

The Pope said, when he instituted this feast day: “We must all stand together for human dignity. There is only one human family.”