St. Maximilian Kolbe was born in Poland. It seems that his early years – while good – were not that remarkable. He was devoted to Mary. He became a conventional Franciscan priest.

His Faith was important to him. But when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, Kolbe saw the writing on the wall. He knew that if he were to be a person of Faith – and be true to his Faith – he would probably have to suffer. In February 1941, because he spoke out against the horror of the Nazis, he was arrested and imprisoned at Auschwitz.

On July 30, 1941, a prisoner escaped from Auschwitz, and in retaliation, the commandant of the camp lined up the inmates of cell block 14 and ordered that ten of them be selected at random for punishment. They would be consigned to an underground bunker and starved to death.

Ten men were selected. One of them, Francis Gajowniczek, cried out in tears, “My poor wife and children! I will never see them again.” At this point Maximilian Kolbe stepped forward and volunteered to take his place.

The commandant accepted his offer, and so Fr. Maximillian Kolbe assumed his place among the condemned. By August 14, Kolbe was dead, his body cremated in the camp ovens.

Submitted by Fr. Joseph Dovari