(The Nazis murdered three million Jews in Poland. The passage below is from “A Man for Others,” by Patricia Treese (1993), pages 199-200).
I was from a beautiful home where love was the key word. My parents were well-off and well-educated. But my three beautiful sisters, my mother–an attorney educated at the University of Paris–my father, grandparents–all perished. I am the sole survivor. To be a child from such a wonderful home and then suddenly find oneself utterly alone, as I did at age thirteen, in this hell, Auschwitz, has an effect on one others can hardly comprehend. Many of us youngsters lost hope, especially when the Nazis showed us pictures of what they said was the bombing of New York City. Without hope, there was no chance to survive, and many boys my age ran into the electrical fences. I was always looking for some link with my murdered parents, trying to find a friend of my father’s, a neighbor–someone in that mass of humanity who had known them so I would not feel so alone.
And that is how Kolbe found me wandering about, so to speak, looking for someone to connect with. He was like an angel to me. Like a mother hen, he took me in his arms. He used to wipe away my tears. I believe in God more since that time. Because of the deaths of my parents I had been asking, “Where is God?” and had lost faith. Kolbe gave me that faith back.
He knew I was a Jewish boy. That made no difference. His heart was bigger than persons–that is, whether they were Jewish, Catholic, or whatever. He loved everyone. He dispensed love and nothing but love. For one thing, he gave away so much of his meager rations that to me it was a miracle he could live. Now it is easy to be nice, to be charitable, to be humble, when times are good and peace prevails. For someone to be as Father Kolbe was in that time and place–I can only say the way he was is beyond words.
I am a Jew by my heritage as the son of a Jewish mother, and I am of the Jewish faith and very proud of it, Not not only did I love Maximilian Kolbe very, very much in Auschwitz, where he befriended me, but I will love him until the last moments of my life.
(Father Maximilian Koble died at Auschwitz when he asked to take the place of another prisoner, with a wife and children who had just been condemned to death by starvation. Father Maximilian Kolbe was canonized in 1982 by Pope John Paul II.)