Monday, August 9, 2010

St. Edith Stein and her Companions

Father Hamans, has undertaken the onerous task of compiling biographies, often accompanied by photographs, of many of the religious and laity who were rounded up from their various convents and monasteries and homes on the same day as Saint Edith Stein, August 2, 1942; most of them were taken to the Amersfoort concentration camp and from there put on trains to Auschwitz, where the majority, soon after their arrival at the camp, were gassed and buried in a common grave between August 9 and September 30, 1942. They were all Catholic Jews, and their arrest was in retaliation for the letter of the Catholic bishops of the Netherlands that was read from the pulpits of all churches on July 26, 1942.  (Foreword by Dr. Ralph McInerny to Auschwitz and Catholic Jews)
Today is the feast of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), Virgin, Martyr.  She was a German philosopher-convert who entered the Cologne Carmel at the time of Nazi persecutions.  After her profession, she moved to the Carmel of Echt in Holland in 1938 because of the danger to her community of her presence.  Documents produced for Edith Stein's canonization describe the circumstances of the Jewish Holocaust in Holland.

In 1942, the Nazis invaded neutral Holland and began to round up the Jews for deportation.  While the Dutch government hesitated to confront the Nazis, the Christian churches formulated a strong response which included a day of prayer and a statement from the pulpit.  The Nazis offered ostensibly to protect those Jews who belonged to the various congregations, if the churches did not go ahead with their protest.  The Catholic bishops proceeded with reading their declaration on July 26, 1942, which included Jesus' prophecy about the fate of Jerusalem which was understood to refer to the Nazi regime:  "Truly, the days will come upon you, when your enemy will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on all sides. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children and will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you have not recognized the time of your visitation from God."

The response from the Reich Commissar Arthur Seyss-Inquart was unequivocal:  "Since the Catholic bishops interfered in this matter which was not their concern, the entire population of Catholic Jews are to be deported this week. No interventions are to be considered. Commissar General Schmidt will deliver the official reply to the bishops during a party function on Sunday, August 2, 1942."  In all, 4,000 Christian Jews were deported to Auschwitz, 200 of them Catholic, including St. Edith Stein and her sister Rosa
Learn from St. Thérèse to depend on God alone and serve Him with a wholly pure and detached heart. Then, like her, you will be able to say ‘I do not regret that I have given myself up to Love’.  (St. Edith Stein)

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