Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Oświęcim

Prayers

  • The Way of the Cross in Birkenau

    My God, My God
    Why Have You Forsaken Me?

     

    The Way of the Cross in Auschwitz-Birkenau


    Introduction

    The texts for the following meditations of the Way of the Cross are inspired by the land and the Catholic traditions of the parishes of Oswiecim and Brzezinka who have kept alive the memory of the victims of the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau for many years.
    In Auschwitz we wrestle with our faith in God. We believe that here in this place our search becomes a search for God. This leads us to the never ending question: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" It is not possible to pray in Auschwitz in any other way.  We  need to comprehend the Way of the Cross meditation as our wrestle with God and with humankind. Here, where superficial and empty phrases would only be an insult to the memory of the victims we will encounter profound witnesses of faith.
    As we walk the Way of the Cross in Auschwitz-Birkenau, we will walk in spirit along two paths. We will walk with all the people who suffered and died here, some of whom lost their faith along the way. Also we walk the way of Jesus Christ's Passion and Death, in the belief that Christ walked with the people. He leads us to the victims and into deep solidarity with them where if we were alone we would probably turn away.
    The Stations follow the basic structure of the Way of the Cross: a Scriptural reading followed by a text of the reality of the camp, a personal reflection and prayer.
    We begin this spiritual way with the Sign of the Cross: In the Name of the Father....


    I  Station
    Jesus is condemned to death

    As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them:
    "The Son of Man is to be handed over to men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day."
    And they were overwhelmed with grief.
    Mt 17:22-23


    Memories of the camp:
    The Auschwitz concentration camp was established in June 1940, first for Polish prisoners, then also for Soviet POWs. From 1942 this camp became the place for the mass extermination of humans, most of them Jews. About a million Jews; 75,000 Poles; 21,000 Sinti Roma; 15,000 Russian POWs; and others were killed here. The people who arrived at the camp generally did not know what was awaiting them. It has often been testified by a witness that the commandant's greeting would be: "This is a concentration camp- there is no way out other than through the chimney of the crematorium."


    Meditation:
    Let us pray for all who are condemned to death, for those who are excluded from society, those no one wants, for those who should simply disappear. Let us pray for all those who must live with their own destroyed thoughts and dreams because political situations and social circumstances deprived them of a dignified life, as for example, in countries where war and hunger is present.


    Prayer:
    Lord Jesus Christ you have said: Whatever you have done to the very least of my brothers and sisters you have done to me. What you have not done for them you have not done for me. Help us Lord to comprehend these words more deeply.


    II Station
    Jesus takes the cross on his shoulders

    Then Pilate handed Him over to them to be crucified.
    So they took Jesus and carrying the cross Himself
    He went out to what is called in Hebrew, Golgotha.  
    Jn 19:16-17


    Memories of the camp:
    The prisoner Tadeusz Borowski was in a commando at the selection site with the task of sorting out luggage at the arrival of each new convoy. He writes:
    More and more activity erupted on the selection site. Kapo divided men into working units. The SS officers would arrive on their roaring motorcycles. First they greeted each other with the proud Roman gesture of raising their right arm. Then, whilst shaking hands and exchanging cordial smiles, they would talk about the latest news and report from home.
    "The train is coming" - one would shout - and everyone would stretch their necks to see. The goods wagons appeared round the corner. Behind the tiny barred windows one could see human faces: pale, ruffled, tired, frightened men and women.  Suddenly the drumming of fists could be heard coming from the wagons, and desperate calls of: "Water! Air!"
    Then: "Los, an die Arbeit!" (Now go to work!) Then the bolts were noisily pushed back and the wagons opened, letting a stream of fresh air into the wagon whose force must have knocked over the people inside. All the people were exhausted and crushed together. There was the heavy weight of their luggage and possessions, every form and size which contained all they had brought with them from their earlier lives, all that might be useful to them to start a new life.


    Meditation:
    We want to turn our eyes to those who have burdened them with this cross, the perpetrators. One of the most shocking things about Auschwitz is the comprehension of how "normal" they seemed to be. None the less each one of them had his own irrevocable life story and each had made their decisions. Very few appeared to be completely abnormal.  "How much of them is in us?"


    Prayer:
    Let us pray for the perpetrators of yesterday and today who burden others with the cross of their selfishness, hardness of heart and injustice. Let us pray for ourselves, who so often wish to get rid of the people whom we consider to be difficult. How often do we turn our backs on others... How often do we look upon the victims of this world with indifference...Grant us, Lord the gift of conversion.  Lord, have mercy on us.

     


    III Station
    Jesus falls for the first time under the cross.

    My heart shudders, my strength forsakes me;
    the very light of my eyes has failed. Friends and companions shun my pain;
    my neighbours stand far off.
    I am stooped and deeply bowed; I go about mourning all day."
    Ps 38: 7:11-12


    Memories of the camp:
    From the memories of Tadeusz Borowski:
    Dead tired from the work and the terrible experiences at the selection site he asks a friend:
    "Henry, are we good people?"
    "Why do you ask so stupidly? Don´t you see friend that I'm boiling inside with anger against these people. It's because of them I have to be here. I am not sorry that they are being gassed, may the earth open up and swallow them... I could slay them all... Maybe it's pathological... I don't know or understand !"
    "No, it´s the opposite, it's normal, preconceived and  precalculated."


    Meditation:
    Jesus falls under the cross. In Auschwitz many fell under the cross that was put upon them. The worse part wasn't the suffering, but the pain caused by the defeat and the wreck of all humanity.  The rivalry between the prisoners in the fight for survival was often so immense that it was difficult to maintain solidarity. A survivor stated: One had to be a saint to share one's bread. It was harder than to go to the gas chamber. None the less there were such people.


    Prayer:
    Let us pray for those who were morally broken whilst experiencing this hell, for those who took care of themselves but at the cost of others, and for those who didn't have enough faith and strength to retain their humanity. Forgive them Lord, and forgive us when we fail and lose our trust in you.

     

    IV Station
    Jesus meets his Mother

    Come, all you who pass by this way,
    look and see whether there is any agony like my agony,
    with which the Lord has afflicted me on the day of his blazing wrath. 
    Lam 1:12
    How can I cheer you ?
    Whose plight is like yours, daughter of Jerusalem?
    To what can I compare you for your comfort, virgin daughter of Zion?
    Lam 2:13


    Memories of the camp:
    In 1942, to the left of the main entrance of the camp Auschwitz II, barracks were built for women prisoners of all different nationalities. Until May 1943 all children born in this camp were killed in some of the cruellest ways. Most of them were drowned in a barrel of water.


    Meditation:
    A Polish woman, Elżbieta Piotrowska,  wrote a poem for them:
    "The Interrogation":
    Who killed you children?
    -Humans.
    What were these humans like?
    Did they have faces like ghosts ?
    Did they have eyes like animals ?
    -No they were ordinary people,
    like other people
    with human eyes and teeth.
    Maybe they were born of a volcano ?
    Maybe they didn´t have a mother ?
    -Human mothers gave birth to these people.
    Did they have any children ?
    -Yes, they wrote letters to them.
    They sent them parcels with shoes in them.
    How did these people kill you ?
    -They suffocated us with gas,
    they threw us in the fire,
    they threw us against a wall,
    they kicked us with their boots,
    and if they were good they shot us.
    And when they had killed you, what did they do then ?
    -They wiped away the sweat on their forehead with a white cloth and said:
    Today we worked hard ! 
    It was exhausting, so many small children !


    Prayer:
    Lord, we pray for the children of the entire world, the born and the unborn, for war orphans and those who bear the scars of terrible experiences. Stay with them and never abandon them. Help us Lord to build a world for children that is worth living in. Enfold in your heart all the murdered children.


    V Station
    Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross

    Bear one another's burdens, and so you will fulfil the law of Christ.
    Gal 6:2


    Memories of the camp:
    Behind the women's camp in Birkenau the Nazis built gas chamber and crematorium II. Today only the ruins are visible because before leaving the camp the SS blew up the building. About 2,000 people would enter the gas chamber at once, to be suffocated by Cyclon B. They would be standing crushed against one another, holding hands in the cramp of death, so that the commandos had  trouble to pull them apart.


    Meditation:
    The majority of the gassed people here were Jews. At this station we remember in particular the Jewish people. We honour them. We wish to understand the story of our guilt. Regarding the Jews, Christians in Germany have not always carried each others' burdens, instead many have burdened themselves with heavy guilt. Christians have not always noticed that every cross and every image of Mary would have had the star of the Jews. In accordance with the racist ideology of those times, Jesus, Mary, and all the apostles would have been gassed here too.
    A Polish poem written by Stanislawa Grabska :
    Jesus was also a despised Jew -
    a chassid from Galilee or from Gallizien.
    And she...
    who reigns in the monastery of Tschenstochau-
    was also ‘Jewish'-
    the whole of her working life.
    Wouldn´t both- have gone to the gas-
    with their people-
    in those terrible times?


    Prayer:
    Lord, in death we will all be alike. Let us comprehend more deeply that in life we are all  brothers and sisters. May all barriers be overcome between us; the views of the world, religions, and confessions, nationalities, and political opinions. We are called to carry each others' burdens and to rebuild.

     


    VI Station
    Veronica gives Jesus a cloth for his face

    Wear me as a seal on your heart, as a seal upon your arm,
    for love is stronger than death
    Song of Songs 8:6


    Memories of the camp:
    Commemorative stones have been placed next to the monument built in 1967 at the end of the ramp. The writing on them is in all the many languages spoken in Auschwitz: Polish, English, Bulgarian, Gypsy, Czech, French, Russian, Greek, Serb, Spanish, German, Italian.
    Zofia Pohorecka at the age of 20 years was imprisoned in the camp in Birkenau. After the war she lived in Oswiecim and she often met up with young German people who were visiting. She spoke to them about her survival and said that it was due to the care her friends gave her when she was seriously ill even though they knew they were endangering their own lives. She testified that friendship, love, and tender care make you strong.


    Meditation:
    In the Polish text of the way of the cross it is said: In the reality of this suffering, misery and human degradation one could also witness acts of goodness, which in the face of these surrounding were heroic. Through these testimonies let us learn never to give consent to evil and sin. There is no place where we can be exempted from the obligation to oppose evil and help those who suffer.


    Prayer:
    Dear Lord, Veronica comforted Christ in His pain, help us not to lose the ability for compassionate love in the face of brutal circumstances.

     


    VII Station
    Jesus falls the second time under the cross

    Because of you we are being killed all day long, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
    Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord?
    Awake, do not cast us off forever!
    Why do you hide your face?
    Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
    For we sink down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground.
    Rise up, come to our help. Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.
    Ps 44:22-26


    Memories of the camp:
    Here in the gas chamber of crematorium III,  2000 people were suffocated in one act with Cyclon B. Dentists would then pry open the mouth of the corpses with plyers and extract their gold teeth. It was as if ‘ human crime' was celebrating its absolute triumph over God. We know that in those times- God's silence was for many unbearable. Maybe this applies specifically for the Jews- because for them it meant the breaking of the Covenant , a twofold end of the world: of  earth and of heaven. But this place of  deepest contempt was also the place of invincible faith and prayer. From the gas chambers Jews could be heard singing the psalms. And from Father Maximilian Kolbe's death-cell prayers could be heard.


    Meditation:
    In Auschwitz faith in God, who is love, was not destroyed. Half a century later, in summer 1992 a group of American Rabbis and Polish bishops prayed together the words of this Kaddish prayer:


    Prayer:
    May the Name of the Holy One be adored and praised, exalted and glorified, blessed and sanctified. May He be praised beyond all exaltations, hymns, honours, psalms, and homage that are ever spoken in the world. In memory of all who have been killed, He will be blessed and this will be a sign of peace for everyone.

     


    VIII Station
    Jesus comforts the crying women

    A large crowd of people followed Jesus including many women
    who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said,
    "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me;
    weep instead for yourselves and for your children." 
    Lk 23:27-28


    Memories of the camp:
    In the woods, behind the Auschwitz II camp, two houses from evacuated Polish people were rebuilt as gas chambers. One of them was called "the white house" or "Bunker II". Close by two other barracks were built, in these the people were made to undress before entering the gas chambers. The corpses were then burnt in four open ditches that were nearby. It was here that many Dutch Catholics of Jewish origin were deported to. Amongst those brought here in the summer of 1942 was Edith Stein - the Carmelite nun Sr Teresa Benedicta of the Cross with her sister Rosa.


    Meditation:
    Jesus consoles the crying women. Although He is in suffering He is able to rise above Himself and be aware, and present, to take note of the pain of others. The more we know ourselves and work with ourselves, the more we can become truly free from ‘self.' It is then possible for us to be aware of the suffering of others. We remember Edith Stein who also opened our eyes to the suffering of others. She, a Jewish Carmelite sister, leads us Christians to the Jews, and into solidarity with the victims who were killed here.


    Prayer:
    God of love, open the eyes of our hearts to the situation of the people around us. During this station we wish to pray especially for women who in times of conflict often carry the heaviest burdens. We pray for the respect of their dignity, that their beauty may never be exploited again and their strength may be valued in every people and culture. Let us learn from Jesus.


    IX Station
    Jesus falls the third time under the cross

    I waited, I waited for the Lord,
    He bent down to me and heard my cry,
    He brought me up out of the muddy pit, the mire and dust.
    He set my foot on a rock and gave me a firm footing.
    Ps 40:1-2


    Memories of the camp:
    Sometimes during the night, the inhabitants of the village on the other site of the river Wisla, could see in the light of the burning fires a procession of naked persons walking from the barracks to the gas chambers. They could hear the screams of people who had death before their eyes. During the day Polish workers who had been forced to build new crematoriums could observe how prisoners pulled ‘objects' (which could not be distinguished), out of the doorways of the houses and loaded them on carts and then pushed them into ditches. Black smoke could be seen rising up from these ditches. Thousands of corpses were layered alternately with wood and then set alight with methanol.


    Meditation:
    Jesus falls for the third time under the cross. This means that He is at his limits end and that He is completely alone. No one consoles him, no one helps him. He cannot do other than surrender to his executioners. He has only his faith in God.
    Theo Mechtenberg and Mieczyslaw Koscielniak, a former Auschwitz prisoner, wrote the "Way of the Cross of Maximilian Kolbe":
    After the horror of the day- follows no redeeming sleep.
    Hunger cuts into the guts and pain seizes the limbs.
    From the darkness rise tormented thoughts
    And souls sink into loneliness.
    Nightmares now dominate the narrow bunks
    And shoulder to shoulder with fellow sufferers
    The dead grow cold.
    In the night, life is silently extinguished
    Leaving behind only traces of the misery
    With the end of suffering hope dies too.
    Next to man in his deepest decline
    Kneels the chosen One-
    And in prayer testifies that
    The end is a new beginning
    "Elevation out of darkness into light"
    and sanction of death.


    X Station
    Jesus is stripped of his robe

    All that see me jeer at me; make faces at me and shake their heads;
    they share out my garments amongst them
    and cast lots for my cloth.
    Ps 22: 8:19


    Memories of the camp:
    Philomena Franz, a Sinti, remembers: "When I arrived in Auschwitz on the 21st of April I was standing at the selection site when suddenly there was a terrible scream of: " Line up! Undress!" All undressed slowly. I was bitterly cold and all gooseflesh. Curious, assessing, and skilled looks were thrown at my body. The dress I had been wearing was quickly replaced by a heavy striped one, my feet were clad in heavy wooden clogs. In two minutes a civilian was changed into a prisoner of the concentration camp. We were marched in pairs to the women's concentration camp, into stone barracks. Two SS men with bull-whips were waiting for us. A guard wanted to pull me onto a chair, but another called out, "Not her, her hair stays." And then he ordered me to stand to one side and let down my hair, I had hair that fell to my knees. He said: "You look like a jungle princess." A German woman next to me spoke: "You'll go to the brothel, you will have it better there than in the camp." Then my eyes are opened and I feel as if a grindstone is slowly grinding me to death. I close my eyes and I must lean against the wall so that I don't fall. I think about my family that have been gassed here. My God what are you doing to me here. No, I can´t do it, I can´t bear it- this torment. I feel my blood circulation increasing and anger and frustration swell up in me. I tear at my dress and scream, "No, I won´t go into a brothel, you can shoot me now!" Then a female guard drags me onto a chair, pulls my head back and brutally cuts off my hair. I was number 10550.

     

    Reflection:
    The Auschwitz people became numbers without individuality. They were usable material to work and to give pleasure to the SS. They were raw material even after death: the hair, the gold teeth; yes, even their ashes were utilized. The prisoners tried to spare their personal dignity and help others not to lose theirs. For every single prisoner this meant to encourage each other to ‘stand the test' and to inwardly preserve the consciousness of their own dignity.

     

    Prayer:
    Help us, Lord, not to judge by outward appearances but to relate to everyone in deep respect, always in awareness that there is a God given mystery in each one of us. When we too stand naked, when we too have nothing and nowhere to hide, then let us be honest with ourselves, with God, and all others, so that we stand in good conscience and without fear for loss of our dignity. Give us a faith like that of Jesus, whose example shows us that His life was completely embodied in God.


    XI Station
    Jesus is nailed to the cross

    They drove nails through my hands and feet.
    They can count all my bones,
    They stare at me and gloat.
    Ps 22:17-18


    Memories of the camp:
    On Good Friday in 1942 Father Piotr Dankowski from Zakopane heard these words from the kapo:  "Today you will be crucified like your Master." Afterwards a heavy pile of wood was placed on Father Piotr's shoulders. He fell several times under the weight until he died crushed beneath the boots of his murderers. In a punishment squad one of the prisoners a Jew, had a wreath of barbed wire pressed down on his head.


    Meditation:
    It is not the all powerful Aryan superman that reveals to us the truth about humankind but the Crucified One, who in his powerlessness is strong, because he is true. "Do not fear those, who can kill the body, but rather be afraid of the death of the spirit, the death of truth and the death of love!"
    Often the victims were truly victorious in Auschwitz.
    In the Polish trial of the commandant of Auschwitz Rudolf Höß, the presiding judge, ‘Eimer', said in his opening speech: "In the knowledge of our great responsibility towards the dead and the living, we do not wish to lose sight of what their fight was all about, that of the peoples' love of freedom. Their biggest goal was the respect for human dignity. This should be shown to the accused, because before this jury stands first and foremost, a human being."


    Prayer:
    Lord, teach us to walk straight, and to stand for truth, justice, mercy and solidarity even when we are nailed to the cross.
    Give us the grace of Dietrich Bonhoeffer the Protestant theologian, who in the presence of his forthcoming execution by the Nazis prayed:
    Still the past torments our hearts;
    Still we bear the heavy weight of wicked days.
    O God, give our scared and frightened souls the salvation,
    You have prepared us for.
    And if you offer us the heavy cup of bitter suffering filled to the brim
    We will take it thankfully without trembling
    From your good beloved hand.
    Good and wondrous powers are our protection
    And so we wait, confident, whatever may come.
    For God is with us in the evening and in the morning
    And for sure on every new day.


    XII Station
    Jesus dies on the cross

    Jesus, we hear your cry: "My God, my God why have you forsaken me?"
    Mk 15:34
    But we also hear: "Into thy hands I commit my spirit."
    Lk 23:46


    Memories of the camp:
    One of the best known memories of  the feeling of abandonment by God in Auschwitz, is from Elie Wiesel:
    "Never will I forget this night, the first night in the camp
    It will remain with me as being the longest night in my life
    Never will I forget the smoke.
    Never will I forget the small faces of the children before my eyes,
    whose bodies rose up like coils of smoke into the blue heavens.
    Never will I forget the flames that consumed my faith forever.
    Never will I forget the silence in the night,
    that took my lust for life away for all eternity.
    Never will I forget the moment that killed my God, and my soul, and my dreams
    which took on the face of the depraved.
    Never will I forget even if I am sentenced to live as long as God:
    Never"


    Meditation:
    At this place we need to pray for all those who in or after Auschwitz could pray no more. During this time the heavens of Auschwitz were horribly empty. No butterflies, no birds, there was no greenery. For many since then it has been empty in a religious sense - not being able to find God. We need to take this experience seriously and not take our faith too lightly.


    Prayer:
    We will now  pray silently for a while.
    The last and unfinished work of the Carmelite nun, Edith Stein, is called: "Science of the Cross", in which she writes:
    "We know that a point of time comes when the soul is transferred completely into darkness and emptiness. Nothing else remains for it to hold onto other than its faith. Faith puts Christ before her eyes: the poorly, the lowly, the crucified, forsaken even on the cross from God the Father. It is in His misery and loneliness that she finds herself and sees her own faith."


    XIII Station
    Jesus is laid in the arms of his mother

    By the cross stands His mother and His mother's sister,
    Mary the wife of Cleopas, and Mary of Magdala.
    Jn 19:25


    Memories of the camp:
    Father Maximilian Kolbe, a devoted worshipper of Mother Mary, said in his last address before his arrest to his brothers in the monastery: "The King of Love we can honour in love; man can only give Him love as an offering. Love cannot be described any more deeply. Man must experience her. Heaven is nothing other than the ever deepening union with God through love."
    One year later Kolbe was dead. He went voluntarily to the starvation cell to save another prisoner's life. Not only for Poland has he now become a symbol, the symbol for victory over the power of hate and death through the strength of faith and love.


    Meditation:
    At this station we want in particular to remember the Polish people, for its history often reflects the image of the Pietà, the Mother who carries her dead Son in her arms. The Icon of Częstochowa is also characterized by a sad gaze that represents not only the experience of suffering and death but also faith and belief in God's promise.

     

    Prayer:
    Let us pray for Poland that has been crucified so often. May her sons and daughters stay true to God's path so that they can overcome all hate, and walk the way of truth and justice. Hail Mary...


    XIV Station
    Jesus is laid in the tomb

    The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he led me out in the spirit of the Lord
    and set me in the centre of the plain which was now filled with bones.
    He made me walk among them in every direction,
    so that I saw how many they were on the surface of the plain. How dry they were!
    He asked me: "Son of man, can these bones come to life?" 
    "Lord God," I answered, You alone know that."
    Then he said to me: Prophesy over these bones and say to them:
    Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!
    Thus says the Lord God to these bones:
    See! I will put spirit into you that you may come to life.
    I will put sinews upon you, make flesh grow over you, cover you with skin,
    and put spirit in you so that you may come to life and know that I am the Lord.
    I prophesied as I had been told, and even as I was prophesying I heard a noise;
    it was a rattling as the bones came together, bone joining bone.
    I saw the sinews and the flesh come upon them
    and the skin cover them, but there was not spirit in them.
    Then he said to me: Prophesy to the spirit, son of man, and say to the spirit:
    Thus says the Lord God: From the four winds come, O spirit,
    and breathe into these that are slain that they may come to life.
    Then I prophesied as he told me, and the spirit came into them;
    they came alive and stood upright, a vast army.
    Then he said to me: "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.
    They have been saying:
    "Our bones are dried up our hope is lost and we are cut off."
    Therefore, prophesy and say to them: Thus says the Lord God:
    O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them
    and bring you back to the land of Israel.
    Then you shall know that I am the Lord,
    when I open your graves and have you rise from them O my people!
    I will put my spirit in you that you may live
    and I will settle you upon your land;
    thus you shall know that I am the Lord.
    I have promised and I will do it, says the Lord.
    Ez 37:1-14


    Meditation:
    The grave doesn't have the last word. We believe that God doesn't abandon us after death. But even here on earth we cannot allow the death of Auschwitz to have the last word. From the remains of the victims, like grains of wheat, a new life must rise up. Auschwitz must become a place that reminds the world of the dignity of man and that makes each of us responsible for world peace. As then, when people arrived here from all over Europe to die, so now, from here, the proclamation of the dignity of human life must be taken to the whole world. So as once there were many soldiers of death, so now we are all called to devote our lives to standing for peace, forgiveness and solidarity. If we give our life for this cause, we won't be giving more than the victims have given.

     

    Prayer:
    O Lord, make us instruments of your peace,
    To sow love where there is hatred,
    Forgiveness where there is injustice,
    Truth where there is doubt,
    Hope where there is despair,
    Light where there is darkness,
    Joy where there is sadness.
    Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
    To be understood as to understand,
    To be loved as to love.
    For it is in forgiving that we are forgiven,
    And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
    We conclude our journey in Auschwitz with the prayer of the Our Father. For with these words Jews and Christians can pray alike. Someone once said that "this prayer could have been composed in the concentration camp."


    Our Father...


  • Formularz mszalny - Św. Edyta Stein

    Meßformular Hl. Edith Stein - Teresia Benedicta vom Kreuz (de)
  • Bishop Klaus Hemmerle - „They set the house of my Lord on fire“

    Bishop Klaus Hemmerle - „They set the house of my Lord on fire“


    They set the house of my Lord on fire
    - and my own people did it.
    They took it away from those who introduced the name of my Lord
    - and my own people did it.

    They took away their own houses from them
    - and my own people did it.
    They took away their property, their honour, their names from them
    - and my own people did it.
    They took away their lives
    - and my own people did it.
    Those who call the name of the same Lord remained silent
    - yes, my own people did that.

    People say: Let's forget and be finished with it.
    What we forget comes back unexpected, unrecognized.
    How can we be finished with what we forget?
    Shall I say: it was my people, not me?
    - No, my own people did that.

    What shall I say?
    Lord, have mercy!
    What shall I say?
    Keep Your name alive in me,
    keep their names alive in me,
    keep their memory alive in me,
    keep my shame alive in me:
    Lord, have mercy on me.

    Klaus Hemmerle (1924 – 1994), Bishop of the German diocese of Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) – prayer spoken on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Night of Pogrom – November 9th, 1988, Town Hall of the City of Aachen.

  • Prayer of Pope JP II for the Jewish People

    God of Abraham
    God of the Prophets
    God of Jesus Christ.

     


     

    You in Whom all is included,
    You towards Whom everything moves,
    You, Who are the end of everything.

     

    Hear our prayers for the Jewish People,
    whom you still consider dear because of their forefathers.

    Awaken in them a constant and ever-more-vital desire
    to fathom Your truth and Your love.

     

    Assist them, so that their search for peace and justice
    may reveal to the world the power of Your blessing.

     

    Support them, so that they may know love and respect
    from those who still do not understand the extent of their sufferings,
    and from those who out of concern and solidarity
    do share their pain of the wounds that have been inflicted on them.

     

    Remember about the new generations, about young people and children,
    so that they understand that your plan of redemption includes all humanity
    and that You are the beginning and the ultimate goal for all peoples.

     

    Amen

     

    John Paul II

  • KADDISH - Jewish prayer for the dead

    May the Great Name whose Desire gave birth

    To the Universe Resound through the Creation

    Now.

    May this Great Presence rule your life and

    Your day and all lives of our World.

    And say, yes. Amen.

    Throughout all Space, Bless, Bless this Great Name,

    Throughout all Time

    Though we bless, we praise, we beautify,

    We offer up your Name,

    Name That Is Holy, Blessed One,

    Still you remain beyond the reach of our praise, our song,

    Beyond the reach of all consolation. Beyond! Beyond!

    And say, Yes. Amen.

    Let God’s Name give birth to Great Peace and Life

    For us and all people

    And say, Yes. Amen.

    The One who has given a universe of Peace

    Gives peace to us, to All that is Israel.

    And say, Yes Amen.

  • O Lord, make us instruments of your peace

    O Lord, make us instruments of your peace

    To sow love where there is hatred,

    Forgiveness where there is injustice,

    Truth where there is doubt,

    Hope where there is despair,

    Light where there is darkness,

    Joy where there is sadness.

    Grant that may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,

    To be understood as to understand,

    To be loved as to love.

    For it is in forgiving that we are forgiven,

    And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

    Amen

  • Liturgia słowa w Birkenau

    MODLITWA ZA WSZYSTKICH ZAMORDOWANYCH W AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU
    I O POKÓJ NA ŚWIECIE

     

    WSTĘP

     

    Psalm  22

     

    2 Boże mój, Boże mój, czemuś mnie opuścił?  

        Daleko od mego Wybawcy słowa mego jęku.       

    3 Boże mój, wołam przez dzień, a nie odpowiadasz,  

        [wołam] i nocą, a nie zaznaję pokoju. 

    4 A przecież Ty mieszkasz w świątyni,   

        Chwało Izraela! 

    5 Tobie zaufali nasi przodkowie,  

        zaufali, a Tyś ich uwolnił; 

    6 do Ciebie wołali i zostali zbawieni,  

        Tobie ufali i nie doznali wstydu. 

    7 Ja zaś jestem robak, a nie człowiek,  

        pośmiewisko ludzkie i wzgardzony u ludu. 

    8 Szydzą ze mnie wszyscy, którzy na mnie patrzą,  

        rozwierają wargi, potrząsają głową: 

    9 «Zaufał Panu, niechże go wyzwoli,  

        niechże go wyrwie, jeśli go miłuje». 

    10 Ty mnie zaiste wydobyłeś z matczynego łona;  

        Ty mnie czyniłeś bezpiecznym u piersi mej matki. 

    11 Tobie mnie poruczono przed urodzeniem,  

        Ty jesteś moim Bogiem od łona mojej matki, 

    12 Nie stój z dala ode mnie, bo klęska jest blisko,  

        a nie ma wspomożyciela.

     

             [krótka pauza]

     

    23 Będę głosił imię Twoje swym braciom  

        i chwalić Cię będę pośród zgromadzenia: 

    24 «Chwalcie Pana wy, 

        co się Go boicie, 

    25 Bo On nie wzgardził ani się nie brzydził nędzą biedaka,  

       ani nie ukrył przed nim swojego oblicza  

        i wysłuchał go, kiedy ten zawołał do Niego».   

     

    I. MODLITWA ZA ZMARŁYCH

     

    (Kiedy odnosi się modlitwa do pamięci śmierci św. Edyty Stein, Siostry Teresy Benedikty od Krzyża:
    Błogosławiony Panie, Boże Izraela, prosimy o życie wieczne dla zamordowanej w Auschwitz-Birkenau wraz ze św. Edytą jej siostry Róży, naszej siostry w wierze, oraz wszystkich członków rodziny św. Edyty Stein, dzieci Twojegu ludu, którzy zginęli w obozie Theresienstadt [Teresin] – przyjmij ich życie pełne trudów i cierpienia śmierci. Niech odpoczywają w pokoju.)

     

     

    Boże patriarchów i proroków, Boże Pana Naszego Jezusa Chrystusa, wołamy do Ciebie z tego miejsca Zagłady Żydów: wspomnij na obietnice dane Abrahamowi i jego potomstwu;  przyjmij do Twej chwały niewinnie zamordowanych i obdarz pokojem Twój Dom Izraela.

     

     

    Boże żyjących i umarłych, Ty wskrzesiłeś z martwych Jezusa, obudź w swym miłosierdziu do pokoju życia wiecznego Polaków, Sinti i Romów, Jeńców Radzieckich, wszystkich, i szczególnie tych, o których już nikt nie pamięta, którzy zginęli w obozie Auschwitz-Birkenau i we wszystkich miejscach kaźni II-ej wojny światowej.

     

     

    Naucz nas, Boże, wyciągać konieczne nauki płynące z tej tragedii. Za wstawiennictwem św. Edyty Stein, patronki Europy, odnawiaj nasz kontinent. Niech wszystkie narody Europy znajdą drogę do Ciebie i do siebie nawzajem. Podaruj naszemu kontinentowi i całej ludzkości pojednanie, pokój i sprawiedliwość.

     

     

    II. CZAS MILCZENIA
    (ZAPALENIE ZNICZY / ZŁOŻENIE KWIATÓW)
    w milczeniu każdy z uczestników modlitwy zapali znicz i postawi go (lub kwiaty) w wybranym przez siebie miejscu na terenie dawnego obozu w Oświęcimiu-Brzezince.

     

     

    Psalm 34

     

     

    Refren: Po wieczne czasy będę chwalił Pana
    2 Chcę błogosławić Pana w każdym czasie, 
        na ustach moich zawsze Jego chwała.
    3 Dusza moja będzie się chlubiła w Panu, 
        niech słyszą pokorni i niech się weselą!
    Refren
    4 Uwielbiajcie ze mną Pana, 
        imię Jego wspólnie wywyższajmy!
    5 Szukałem Pana, a On mnie wysłuchał 
        i uwolnił od wszelkiej trwogi.
    Refren
    6 Spójrzcie na Niego, promieniejcie radością, 
        a oblicza wasze nie zaznają wstydu.
    7 Oto biedak zawołał, a Pan go usłyszał, 
        i wybawił ze wszystkich ucisków.
    Refren
    8 Anioł Pana zakłada obóz warowny 
        wokół bojących się Jego i niesie im ocalenie.
    9 Skosztujcie i zobaczcie, jak dobry jest Pan, 
        szczęśliwy człowiek, który się do Niego ucieka.
    Refren 

     

     

    III. MODLITWA O POKÓJ NA ŚWIECIE

     

     

    Modlitwa Papieża w intencji Żydowskiego Narodu

     

     

    Boże Abrahama, Boże Proroków, Boże Jezusa Chrystusa. W Tobie zawarte jest wszystko, Do Ciebie zmierza wszystko, Ty jesteś kresem wszystkiego.
    Wysłuchaj naszych modlitw, jakie zanosimy za naród żydowski, który - ze względu na swoich przodków - jest Tobie nadal bardzo drogi.
    Wzbudzaj w nim nieustanne coraz żywsze pragnienie zgłębienia Twojej prawdy i Twojej miłości.
    Wspomagaj go, by zabiegając o pokój i sprawiedliwość mógł objawiać światu moc Twego błogosławieństwa.
    Wspieraj go, aby doznawał szacunku i miłości ze strony tych, którzy jeszcze nie rozumieją wielkości doznanych przez niego cierpień, oraz tych, którzy solidarnie, w poczuciu wzajemnej troski, wspólnie odczuwają ból zadanych mu ran.
    Pamiętaj o nowych pokoleniach, o młodzieży i dzieciach, aby niezmiennie wierne Tobie trwały w tym, co stanowi szczególną tajemnicę ich powołania.
    Umocnij wszystkie pokolenia, aby dzięki ich świadectwu ludzkość pojęła, że Twój zbawczy zamiar rozciąga się na całą ludzkość i że Ty, Boże, jesteś dla wszystkich narodów początkiem, i ostatecznym celem.
    Amen 

     

     

    Modlitwa deportowanego Żyda o nieznanym nazwisku
    (Tekst znaleziony w archiwach jednego z niemieckich obozów, napisany przez uwięzionego Żyda. W "La Croix" 10.10.1989, s.11.)

     

     

    Pokój wszystkim ludziom złej woli! Niech ustanie zemsta... Zbrodnie przekroczyły wszystkie miary. Zbyt wielu jest męczenników... Panie, nie waż ich cierpień odważnikami Twej sprawiedliwości, nie obciążaj tymi cierpieniami katów i nie zmuszaj ich do zapłacenia tego strasznego rachunku. Niech otrzymają w inny sposób zapłatę. 
    Zapisz na konto wykonawców zbrodni, donosicieli, zdrajców i wszystkich ludzi złej woli odwagę innych, ich siłę duchową, pokorę, godność, ich wytrwałą wewnętrzną walkę i niezłomną nadzieję, uśmiech osuszający łzy, miłość, ich rozbite serca, które trwają mocne i ufne nawet wobec śmierci, nawet w chwilach największej słabości... Niech to wszystko będzie złożone przed Tobą, Panie, na przebaczenie grzesznikom, na okup zwycięstwa sprawiedliwości; niech dobro będzie policzone, a nie zło! 
    Niech pozostaniemy w pamięci naszych wrogów nie jako ich ofiary, nie jako koszmary, widma idące ich śladem, lecz jako ci, którzy im pomagają przezwyciężyć ich zbrodnicze namiętności. Niczego więcej od nich nie chcemy. A kiedy to wszystko się skończy pozwól nam żyć jak ludziom wśród ludzi i niech powróci pokój na naszą biedną ziemię - pokój dla ludzi dobrej woli i dla wszystkich innych...

     

     

    O Pokój w Ziemi Świętej
    (Inspiracją Modlitwy jest Wezwanie do współodpowiedzialności za Ziemię Świętą Polskiej Rady Chrześcijan i Żydów oraz Rady Wspólnej Katolików i Muzułmanów z kwietnia 2002r.)

     

     

    Prosimy Cię, Panie, o upragniony pokój w Ziemi Świętej, nieustannie zakłócany przez walkę, nienawiść i podziały.
    Wierzymy, że pragniesz uczynić ten kraj, który obiecałeś Twojemu ludowi, znakiem Twojego błogosławieństwa dla wszystkich narodów.
    Nie dozwól, by zabijanie w imię Boga niewinnych bezcześciło Twoje Święte Imię. Niech Palestyńczycy i Izraelczycy uszanują objawione zamiary Stwórcy, z którego łaski żyją w tej samej ziemi, zwanej świętą.
    Prosimy Cię o to zgromadzeni dziś w Auschwitz, w miejscu, które ukazuje do jakiego zła zdolny jest człowiek; w miejscu, które krzyczy: nie pozwalajmy rosnąć nienawiści!
    Daj, aby zwierzchnicy religijni kontynuowali wspólne poszukiwanie sprawiedliwego pokoju, który prowadzi do pojednania w Jerozolimie i w Ziemi Świętej dla wspólnego dobra wszystkich narodów.
    Natchnij serca wszystkich ludzi dobrej woli, by przeciwstawili się podżeganiu do nienawiści i fałszywemu przedstawianiu drugiej strony.
    Pomóż nam wszystkim zrozumieć, jak możemy stać się narzędziami Twojego pokoju.

     

     

    Dla Europy

     

     

    „Auschwitz“ – to znaczy próba „ostatecznego rozwiązania kwesti żydowskiej“, to znaczy próba zagłady wszystkich Romów i Sinti, wszystkich chorych umysłowo i niepełnosprawnich, zniewolenie narodów słowiańskich, eliminacja inaczej myślących i tak dalej.
    Panie, prosimy o Twojego Ducha dla Europy, aby udało się nam stworzyć Unię Europejską, w której żyjemy wspólnie w pokoju, w wzajemnym szacunku i solidarności.
    Każdy człowiek posiada godność, którą obdarował go Bóg. Nikt nie ma prawa ją ranić. Niech ta świadomość staje się fundamentem naszej wspólnej konstytucji. Pienądz i struktury gospodarcze tak jak polityka nie są niczym innym niż narzędzia do budowy cywilizacji miłości. Pomóż nam nie zapomnić o tym.
    Pomóż nam nie zapomnić o Auschwitz, abyśmy rozumieli, jak wielka jest nasza odpowiedzialność.  

     

    Dla Świata

     

    O Panie Wszechświata, Królu Pokoju!
    Nie chcemy zapomnieć o ludziach na całym świecie, którzy błagają o naszą solidarność.
    [Aktualizować: Wojna w Sudanie, napięcia między Pakistanem a Indiami, niebezpieczeństwo wojny z Irakem, wojna terrorystów i wojna przeciwko terroryzmowi, głód i Aids w Afryce, rosnąca przepaść między bogatymi a biednymi w globalnej wiosce.]
    O Boże, błagamy o pokój, o międyznarodową solidarność i o głębokie przemiany wspólnoty ludzkiej „w jedną wielką rodzinę, gdzie stosunki społeczne, polityczne i gospodarcze byłyby godne człowieka i gdzie byłaby umacniana godność osoby ludzkiej wraz ze skutecznym uznaniem jej niezbywalnych praw”, jak Papież mówił w Meksyku w sierpniu 2002 r.

     

    Wspólna Modlitwa: O Panie, uczyń nas narzędzia Twojego pokoju...

     

     

    O Panie, uczyń z nas narzędzia Twojego pokoju, abyśmy
    siali miłość tam, gdzie panuje nienawiść,
    wybaczenie, tam, gdzie panuje krzywda,
    jedność, tam, gdzie panuje zwątpienie,
    nadzieję, tam, gdzie panuje rozpacz,
    światło, tam, gdzie panuje zmrok,
    radość, tam, gdzie panuje smutek.

     

     

    Spraw, abyśmy mogli
    nie tyle szukać pociechy, co pociechę dawać,
    nie tyle szukać zrozumienia, co rozumieć,
    nie tyle szukać miłości, co kochać.

     

    Albowiem
    dając – otrzymujemy,
    wybaczając – zyskujemy przebaczenie,
    a umierając – rodzimy się do wiecznego życia.

     

    ZAKOŃCZENIE

     

     

    Ojcze Nasz

     

    Błogosławieństwo

  • Silence

    SILENCE


    The most important prayer at the threshold of Auschwitz is – silence

     

    Silence
    Listening
    Searching

     

    the voice of Auschwitz
    the voice of your own heart
    the voice of the other
    the voice of God

  • 1988 Manfred Deselaers - Ostern

    Artykuł niedostępny w tej wersji językowej, wybierz inną z poniższej listy:

    1988 OSTERN (de)
  • Way of Prayer with Edith Stein along the ramp in Birkenau

    Way of Prayer along the ramp in Birkenau

    Symbolic participation in the last journey of Edith Stein

    Prepared jointly with the Polish Council of Christians and Jews

    For the Celebration of the

    70th anniversary of the death of Edith Stein

    St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

    Auschwitz-Birkenau, 9 August 2012

     

    Introduction

     

    What unites us here today is the memory of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, philosopher, educator, Carmelite sister, daughter of the Jewish people and daughter of the Church.

    The life of Edith Stein was expressed by her courageous search for truth, her engaged participation in the intellectual struggle of her time for a true image of man, a deep faith in the Christian message of the Cross and steadfast love to people, to the Church, and to the Jewish people whose fate is identified with death in Auschwitz.

    70 years ago she was murdered here in the land of Auschwitz, the German death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, along with many others, because of her Jewish origin.

    On the 70th anniversary of her death, we want to pay tribute to this great woman. The memory of her life and death is for us an invitation to reflect deeply on the role of Christianity in today's world. This requires from us a sincere examination of conscience and a clear presentation of witness to the faith. Because we believe that St. Edith Stein, Teresa blessed by the Cross, has already entered into the glory of the Lord, we ask her intercession to help us to better understand our Christian vocation in the Europe of the third millennium.

    Let us pray

    God of our fathers, fill us with the grace of faith, which in a marvellous way enriched St Teresa Benedicta. Grant through her intercession that we may always seek you, Supreme Truth, and be faithful to your covenant of love, built on the old continent standards of respect and tolerance. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

     

     

    Station 1

    Edith and the Shoah

    John Paul II said during the canonization of Edith Stein, Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross:

    As we now celebrate every year the memory of the new saint, we must also remember the Shoah, the terrible destruction of an entire people whose victims were millions of our Jewish brothers and sisters. The Lord make His face shine upon them and grant them peace.

     

    We walk - from the entrance gate to the ruins of the gas chambers and crematoria - the last way of the majority of the victims of Auschwitz. Symbolically, we join the last walk of Edith Stein and her sister Rosa. They were brought here on transports of Jews for extermination.

     

    Edith was aware that under Nazi rule, she would share the fate of the Jewish people despite membership in the Church. In 1933, when the Third Reich was created, a friend told her about the atrocities committed against Jews as reported in American newspapers. Edith:

    Of course, already I've heard about severe regulations against the Jews. But now suddenly it became clear to me that God will again put a heavy hand on his people and the destiny of this people is also my fate.1

     

    The same year she decided to enter Carmel. Here too, she felt a profound relationship with her people. She chose the religious name "Teresa Benedicta of the Cross." To the superior she wrote later:

    At the Cross I understood the destiny for God's people, which even then was beginning to be predictable.2

    We turn to the prayer of Pope John Paul II which he said for the intention of the Jewish people in 1999 at the Umschlagplatz in Warsaw:

     

    God of Abraham, God of the Prophets, God of Jesus Christ. You in Whom all is included, You towards Whom everything moves, You, Who are the end of everything. Hear our prayers for the Jewish People, whom you still consider dear because of their forefathers.

    Awaken in them a constant and ever-more-vital desire to fathom Your truth and Your love.

    Assist them, so that their search for peace and justice may reveal to the world the power of Your blessing.

    Support them, so that they may know love and respect from those who still do not understand the extent of their sufferings, and from those who out of concern and solidarity do share their pain of the wounds that have been inflicted on them.

    Remember about the new generations, about young people and children, so that they understand that your plan of redemption includes all humanity and that You are the beginning and the ultimate goal for all peoples.

    Amen

     

    Station II

    Examination of Conscience

    At the threshold of Auschwitz there is need for an examination of conscience.

    Pope John Paul II wrote on the occasion of the publication of his document, We Remember. Reflections on the Shoah:

    The Church [...] encourages her sons and daughters to purify their hearts, through repentance of past errors and infidelities. She calls them to place themselves humbly before the Lord and examine themselves on the responsibility which they too have for the evils of our time.3

    May the words of the letter which Edith Stein wrote in 1933 to Pope Pius XI, speak to us.

    Edith:

    In recent weeks I had wondered constantly whether I could do something on the Jewish question. Finally, I had made a plan to go to Rome to ask the Holy Father in private audience for an encyclical. [...] My inquiries in Rome showed that I had no chance of a private audience because of the huge crowd. [...] So I gave up the trip and wrote my concerns.

     

    Holy Father!

    As a child of the Jewish people who, by the grace of God, for the past eleven years has been a child of the Catholic Church, I dare to speak to the Father of Christianity about that which oppresses millions of Germans. For weeks we have seen deeds perpetrated in Germany which mock any sense of justice and humanity, not to mention love of neighbor. For years the leaders of National Socialism have been preaching hatred of the Jews. Now that they have seized the power of government and armed their followers, among them proven criminal elements, this seed of hatred has germinated. The government has only recently admitted that excesses have occurred. To what extent, we cannot tell, because public opinion is being gagged. However, judging by what I have learned from personal relations, it is in no way a matter of singular exceptional cases. Under pressure from reactions abroad, the government has turned to "milder" methods. It has issued the watchword "no Jew shall have even one hair on his head harmed." But through boycott measures - by robbing people of their livelihood, civic honor and fatherland - it drives many to desperation; within the last week, through private reports I was informed of five cases of suicide as a consequence of these hostilities. I am convinced that this is a general condition which will claim many more victims. One may regret that these unhappy people do not have greater inner strength to bear their misfortune. But the responsibility must fall, after all, on those who brought them to this point and it also falls on those who keep silent in the face of such happenings. Everything that happened and continues to happen on a daily basis originates with a government that calls itself "Christian." For weeks not only Jews but also thousands of faithful Catholics in Germany, and, I believe, all over the world, have been waiting and hoping for the Church of Christ to raise its voice to put a stop to this abuse of Christ’s name. Is not idolization of race and governmental power which is being pounded into the public consciousness by the radio open heresy? Isn't the effort to destroy Jewish blood an abuse of the holiest humanity of our Savior, of the most blessed Virgin and the apostles? Is not all this diametrically opposed to the conduct of our Lord and Savior, who, even on the cross, still prayed for his persecutors? And isn't this a black mark on the record of this Holy Year which was intended to be a year of peace and reconciliation? We all, who are faithful children of the Church and who see the conditions in Germany with open eyes, fear the worst for the prestige of the Church, if the silence continues any longer.

    We are convinced that this silence will not be able in the long run to purchase peace with the present German government. For the time being, the fight against Catholicism will be conducted quietly and less brutally than against Jewry, but no less systematically. It won't take long before no Catholic will be able to hold office in Germany unless he dedicates himself unconditionally to the new course of action.

    At the feet of your Holiness, requesting your apostolic blessing,

    Dr. Edith Stein

     

    We know that many Christians, including the Popes, opposed the Nazis and tried to help the persecuted. It is also difficult to judge the consciences of individuals. However, as a whole "spiritual resistance and concrete action of other Christians was not that which might have been expected from Christ's followers"4. We know and recognize that many Christians - including representatives of churches - failed and became guilty. We are very saddened by the damage caused to Jews by Christians throughout the centuries, and especially during World War II.

     

    We join in the prayer which Pope John Paul II prayed, March 2000, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem:

    God of our fathers,

    you chose Abraham and his descendants

    to bring Your name to the nations:

    we are deeply saddened

    by the behavior of those

    who in the course of history

    have caused these children of Yours to suffer

    and asking Your forgiveness

    we wish to commit ourselves

    to genuine brotherhood

    with the people of the Covenant

     

    Station 3

    Prisoners in Auschwitz

    At the selection site on the Ramp, some prisoners were taken from the Jewish transports and sent into the camp to work.

    We want to commemorate in this place all the prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp and its sub camps. From 1940 about 400,000 registered prisoners were sent into the camp.

    From the very beginning Poles were sent here: soldiers, resistance, and national leadership, among them 400 priests and religious persons. Of the 150,000 Polish prisoners, half died in the camp.

    In 1941 about 15,000 Soviet prisoners arrived, almost all of them died.

    From 1943 on about 23,000 so called Gypsies, Sinti and Roma arrived; 21,000 of them died.

    Many others - non Jewish groups from different countries were deported to Auschwitz, mainly connected to resistance movements, but also Jehovah Witnesses and homosexuals.

    In 1942 the Jewish transports from all over Europe arrived. While the majority went directly to the gas chambers, the young and strong were selected to work. About 200,000 Jews were sent into the Camp, half died there.

    Primo Levi, a survivor, remembered:

    There is nowhere to look in a mirror, but our appearance stands in front of us, reflected in a hundred livid faces, in a hundred miserable and sordid puppets… Then for the first time we became aware that our language lacks words to express this offence, the demolition of a man. In a moment, with almost prophetic intuition, the reality was revealed to us: we had reached the bottom. It is not possible to sink lower than this; no human condition is more miserable than this, nor can it conceivably be so. Nothing belongs to us anymore; they have taken away our clothes, our shoes, even our hair; if we speak, they will not listen to us, and if they listen, they will not understand. They will even take away our name: and if we want to keep it, we will have to find in ourselves the strength to do so, to manage somehow so that behind the name, something of us, of us as we are, still remains… 5

     

    Faith in the context of Auschwitz remains forever the dark night of faith.

     

    In 'Science of the Cross' by Edith Stein, we find the following sentences:

     

    We know already [...] that there comes a point when a person [...] immerses himself completely in the dark and void. There is nothing left to him, what might support him, only faith. Faith puts before his eyes Christ - poor, humiliated, crucified, abandoned on the cross even by the heavenly Father. In his poverty and abandonment he finds himself.6

     

    Psalm 22

    My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

    Why are you so far from saving me,

    so far from the words of my groaning?

    O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,

    by night, and am not silent.

    Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;

    you are the praise of Israel.

    In you our fathers put their trust;

    they trusted and you delivered them.

    They cried to you and were saved;

    in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

    But I am a worm and not a man,

    scorned by men and despised by the people.

    All who see me mock me;

    they hurl insults, shaking their heads:

    He trusts in the Lord;

    let the Lord rescue him.

    Let him deliver him,

    since he delights in him.”

    [- Pause -]

    I will declare your name to my brothers;

    in the congregation I will praise you.

    You who fear the Lord, praise him!

    All you descendants of Jacob, honour him!

    Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!

    For he has not despised or disdained

    the suffering of the afflicted one;

    he has not hidden his face from him

    but has listened to his cry for help.

     

    Edith Stein was not selected to work. She suffered the same fate as the majority of the victims of Auschwitz, not being even prisoners they went directly from the train wagons to the gas chambers.

     

    Station 4

    Shoah

    Jewish prayer for the victims

     

    Most victims of Auschwitz never became prisoners in the camp. About 900,000 Jews were transported directly to the gas chambers and killed there, among them Edith and Rosa Stein. Later their corpses, like the corpses of the other prisoners, were burnt and their ashes thrown away. This became the symbol for the Shoah, this was the Shoah.

    From the notes of Salmen Levental, a member of the Sonderkomando who was forced to work at the gas chambers, found after the war

    Calamity, misfortune. Such feelings gnawed at every one of us. Everybody had such thoughts. We were ashamed and didn’t dare to look into each other’s eyes. Every one fled into a corner, out of pain, shame and weeping with swollen eyes, in order to avoid any encounter.7

    Once, when several hundred naked, emaciated women were thrown down from trucks in ice-cold weather in front of the crematorium, Levental described the following scene:

    One of us, who stood apart on the side, seeing the enormous misfortune of these defenceless, tortured souls couldn’t take it any longer and started to weep. Then a young girl cried out: ‘Look, what I can still experience before my death: an expression of compassion and tears shed about our horrible fate. Here, in the camp of murderers, where one is torturing and beating people until death, here, where one can see murders and falling victims, where people have lost any feeling for the greatest calamity, here, where all human feelings have been numbed, here, when your brother or sister is falling down in front of you and you can’t even give them a sigh of farewell, here a human being has been found who takes to heart our terrible misfortune and expresses his compassion by weeping. Oh, something wonderful, something supernatural! Tears and sighs of a living human being accompany us into death. There is somebody who will weep for us.’8

     

    EL MALE RACHAMIM

    אֵל מָלֵא רַחֲמִים שׁוֹכֵן בַּמְּרוֹמִים, הַמְצֵא מְנוּחָה נְכוֹנָה תַּחַת כַּנְפֵי הַשְּׁכִינָה, בְּמַעֲלוֹת קְדוֹשִׁים

    וּטְהוֹרִים כְּזוֹהַר הָרָקִיע מַזְהִירִים, לְנִשְׁמוֹת שֵׁשֶׁת מִילְיוֹנֵי הַיְּהוּדִים, חַלְלֵי הַשּׁוֹאָה בְּאֵירוֹפָּה, אֲנָשִׁים נָשִׁים וָטַף, שֶׁנִּטְבְּחוּ, וְשֶׁנֶחְנְקוּ, וְשֶׁנִּשְׂרְפוּ וְשֶׁנֶּהֶרְגוּ עַל קִידוּש הַשֶם בְּאוֹשְוִיץ... בִּידֵי הַמְרַצְּחִים הַגֶּרְמָנִים וְעוֹזְרֵיהֶם מִשְּׁאָר הָעַמִּים. בַּעַבוּר שֶׁאַנוּ מִתְּפַּלְלִים לְעִילוּי נִשְׁמוֹתֵיהֶם. לָכֵן בַּעַל הָרַחֲמִים יַסְתִּירֵם בְּסֵתֶר כְּנָפָיו לְעוֹלָמִים, וְיִצְרוֹר בִּצְרוֹר הַחַיִּים אֶת נִשְׁמוֹתֵיהֶם, ה' הוּא נַחֲלָתָם, בְּגַן עֵדֶן תְּהֵא מְנוּחָתָם, וְיָנוּחוּ בְשָׁלוֹם עַל פְּזוּרֵי מִשְׁכּבָם, וְיַעֶמְדוּ לְגוֹרָלָם לְקֵץ הַיָּמִין ,וְנֹאמַר אָמֵ

    God, full of mercy, who dwells in the heights, grant proper rest beneath the wings of the Divine Presence, in the great heights of the holy and the pure, who like the brilliance of the heavens shine, to all the souls of the six million Jews, men, women, boys and girls, victims of the European Holocaust, who were murdered, slaughtered, burnt, and exterminated in Auschwitz, … in sanctification of God’s Name, at the hands of German Nazi murderers and their assistants from other nations. Therefore may the Master of mercy shelter them in the shelter of His wings for eternity, and bind their souls with the bond of life, the Lord is their inheritance, may the Garden of Eden be their resting place, and may they find peaceful repose in their resting places, and may they stand for their destiny in the end of days, and let us say: Amen.

     

    1 Original in: Wie ich in den Kölner Karmel kam. ESGA 1, 346. Translation Manfred Deselaers

    2 Letter from december 9 1938. Original in: ESGA 3, 323. Translation Manfred Deselaers

    3 We Remember. A Reflection on the Shoah. Vatican, 12 March 1998.

    4 We Remember. A Reflection on the Shoah. Vatican, 12 March 1998.

    5 Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz, p 26-27. Touchstone NY 1993

    6 Edith Stein, Kreuzeswissenschaft, Studie über Joannes a Cruce. The Science of the Cross. Studies on John of the Cross. Edith Steins Werke Bd I (Works of Edith Stein, Vol I) Freiburg/Basel/Vienna: Herder 1983, p. 107.

    7 Salmen Lewental notebook in: Bezwinska and Czech, Amidst a Nightmare of Crime: Manuscripts of Members of Sonderkommando, Auschwitz-Oswiecim 1973, pages 142-5.

    8 ibid p. 139.

     

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