On the same summer day in 1942, Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) and hundreds of other Catholic Jews were arrested in Holland by the occupying Nazis. One hundred thirteen of those taken into custody, several of them priests and nuns, perished at Auschwitz and other concentration camps. They were murdered in retaliation for the anti-Nazi pastoral letter written by the Dutch Catholic bishops.
While the story of Edith Stein is somewhat well-know, this book goes into the lives of other Catholic Jews who were arrested at the same time and most were killed on the same day as Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. This book is not intended to provide an in-depth biography of Edith Stein. Mostly this book provides, as much as possible, a biography of those who were mostly arrested and executed as retaliation regarding the Dutch Bishop’s pastoral letter.
This book includes a list of eighty-three persons, which is probably not a complete list. This list included thirty-one men and fifty-two women. This included two priests, two brothers, six women religious, and two third-order members.
What I found very interesting was the story of the lives of these people who for the most part were adult converts to the Catholic faith. They often had difficult lives because of their decision being ostracized by their families. This runs parallel to the life of Edith Stein and her sister. Parts of this book are repetitive as far as events go, but the effort is to provide biographies for as many people as they were able to. I am glad to know these stories now, as heart-wrenching as they are.
Some were caught by surprise to some extent regarding their arrest. Others though seemed to have been preparing for this and offering their lives as a sacrifice for the conversion of others – a common thread.
Since this was in retaliation to the Dutch Bishop’s letter I found some of there responses to this intriguing.
“She recounted, among other things, that the leaders of the camp had said to the prisoners who were religious sisters and brothers “You know, after all, that you can thank the bishops for your fate.” The religious had answered, “We thank God that we have such bishops, and we gladly suffer for our Holy Church.”
”In her last letter to her confessor, Father Matthias Frehe, O.P., Dr. Lisamaria Meirowsky writes from the Westerbork concentration camp on August 6:“
”I want to send you a last greeting and to tell you that I am full of confidence and wholly surrendered to God’s holy will. Even more, I consider it a grace and election to have to leave under these circumstances and in this way to give witness to the words of our fathers and shepherds in Christ… . I go with courage, confidence, and joy, as do the religious who go with me. We are permitted to bear witness to Jesus, and with our bishops we are allowed to bear witness to the truth. We go as children of our Mother, the Church, and want to unite our suffering with that of our King, Redeemer, and Bridegroom. We want to offer our suffering for the conversion of many, for the Jews, for those who persecute us: thereby we want to contribute to peace in the Kingdom of Christ.”