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THE HOLOCAUST MUSEUM:
Why Christians Should Go

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, dedicated in 1993, has become a popular tourist attraction in Washington, D.C. This innovative museum puts faces on the six million Jews and five million other victims killed in the Holocaust and suggests some reasons why the Holocaust happened.

By Barbara Beckwith


The Holocaust destroyed 5,000 European towns; their names are etched on a glass bridge in the U.S. Holocaust Museum. One such Jewish community, Ejszyszki, in what is now Lithuania, comes to vibrant life in a three-story tower of photos. Focusing on real people and using identity cards helps visitors react emotionally to the museum.

PHOTO BY BETH REDLICH, UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM


A Brilliant Design
Ugly Anti-Semitism
A Village Long Gone
The 'Showers' of Auschwitz
Those Who Resisted
Remember the Children
What I Learned
Hall of Remembrance
Sidebar: Auschwitz
Sidebar: St. #16670

When I entered the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, I received Identification Card #2855. For the next four hours I became Malvin Katz Fried, a real Hungarian Jewish woman about my own age during the Holocaust.

The industrial steel elevator I took to start my tour on the fourth floor immediately seemed as confining as the railroad boxcars that carried so many Jews to their deaths. Then as I threaded my way inexorably downward, through the history the displays recount, I lived Malvin's times and her personal story.

Name: Malvin Katz Fried
Date of Birth: 1893
Place of Birth: Buj, Hungary

Malvin and her eight brothers and sisters were born to religious Jewish parents in a small town in northeastern Hungary. The family later moved to another village, where Malvin's father ran a general store. The Katz family lived in a sprawling farmhouse with a large garden and fruit orchards. Malvin married Sandor Fried, the brother of her sister Sadie's husband.

A unanimous act of Congress authorized a U.S. Holocaust memorial in 1980, following the lead of other countries. Members of the President's Commission on the Holocaust and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council were convinced of the truism that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Now there are two generations who never lived through the Second World War. A frightening trend is to deny that the Holocaust ever took place or at least to downplay its effects, points out Edward T. Linenthal, professor of religious studies at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and author of Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America's Holocaust Museum.

And so it was decided that the best way to preserve the memory would be with artifacts, documentation, recorded oral histories, photographs and displays listing the historical facts. This memorial would be a museum to inform as well as remind.

The museum was born out of politics--President Jimmy Carter's desire to establish better relations with Jews in the wake of reactions to his comments about the need for a Palestinian homeland. It was refined under intense political wrangling and national soul-searching about whether the Holocaust was principally a Jewish event or one with universal significance.

This museum would also concentrate on the good and bad aspects of American involvement in the Holocaust: what America might have done to avoid or lessen the tragedy but didn't do, the U.S. Army's liberation of some of the camps, American resettlement efforts and our relationship with the state of Israel.

A 1.9-acre site near the Washington Monument was given by the federal government. The museum itself was built with private donations and dedicated April 22, 1993. It has become the third most-visited tourist destination in Washington, right after the White House and the Vietnam Wall. According to a guard, more than half of those going through the museum are non-Jews.

A Brilliant Design

The neoclassical structure for this state-of-the-art museum was designed by James Ingo Freed, a principal with the firm of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners and a Jew who had fled Germany in 1939 at the age of nine. He admits, in an interview with Smithsonian magazine (April 1993), that the design almost defeated him. How could he ask casual tourists to "shift abruptly 50 years into the past, to confront an ugly world they might know little about, nor care to have their children see"? Then he visited Auschwitz, saw what is left of the ovens and "found his shoes flecked with bits of human bones."

Freed says, "I wanted to convey the feeling of constantly being watched, of things closing in. I was thinking of the Warsaw ghetto. The bridges that the Jews had to cross over to get from one part of the ghetto to another, so they wouldn't contaminate others. I wanted the feeling of a procession. Of choices: either/or. Selections. The long lulls and sudden bumps forward, the steps to death."

This is what Freed achieved by his design, considered brilliant by museum makers and architects. The years march down to the Hall of Remembrance, a six-sided memorial where visitors can meditate on what they have just seen.

This Hall of Remembrance is a point of contention, however. Many psychologists say the museum should have ended with a room for discussion rather than silence because so many visitors are extremely affected by the museum and should have an opportunity to talk that out.

The Ugliness of Anti-Semitism

In the rising steel elevator, the tour begins with a video of a camp liberator from the U.S. Army describing what he witnessed in 1945. Then the doors open on a large wall photo of a G.I. entering a camp. I step out onto the fourth floor where the exhibits trace Adolf Hitler's rise to power in 1933 and the increasing Nazi restrictions on the Jews: no public worship, no businesses that sold outside the Jewish community, no home ownership, registration for armbands and stars of David, frozen bank accounts, barring Jews from trolleys...

The pseudo-sciences of physiognomy and eugenics "proved" the Jews were not human and Aryans were the "superior" race. It was this teaching--that Jews are different, nonhuman and undesirable--coupled with pernicious, pervasive anti-Semitism, that allowed all the horror of the slave-labor camps and the systemic extermination of six million Jews.

A movie on anti-Semitism relates how religious prejudice funneled into the political mix of the Third Reich. Jesus was a Jew and the Last Supper was a Passover meal, but Christians became fixated on the notion that the Jews were the killers of Christ. (It was not until Vatican II's Nostra Aetate [Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, 1965] that the Catholic Church made it clear that Jews were not responsible for killing Jesus. Not until 1994 did the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America officially denounce Martin Luther's vile writings about the Jews.) The movie reminds viewers that Hitler was baptized a Catholic. The message is clear: Religious prejudice leads straight to the Holocaust.

A critical exhibition gives information about non-Jewish groups also targeted by the Nazis: gypsies (Roma), Poles, political dissidents including Communists, Soviet prisoners of war, handicapped people, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses and Freemasons.

At the end of this 1933-39 part of the museum, I read of Malvin during the years I have just passed through:

My oldest sister, Sadie, who emigrated to the United States years ago, has come home for a visit. Her two children love helping my mother gather fruit in the orchards. On their trip over, Sadie stopped in Hamburg and says she saw Nazis marching in the streets. She's afraid, but we've told her not to worry: It all seems so far away.

Photos From a Village Long Gone

A bridge spans the concourse far below. On glass walls are etched the names of 5,000 European towns, villages and shtetls (Jewish communities) that were totally destroyed by the Nazis.

This leads to the moral heart of the museum: three stories of photographs taken over 50 years in Ejszyszki, one such shtetl in Lithuania. The museum was redesigned to accommodate this collection, but oh, how powerful! Here the six million Jews have faces and histories and culture. They are pictured at weddings and family reunions, graduations and bar mitzvahs. There are portraits of young women and men full of hope, grandfathers linked with grandsons--a profusion of Jewish life now cut short.

Of the 4,000 Jews in Ejszyszki, only 29 Jews survived. Most were killed by the Einsatzgruppen (German killing squad) and Lithuanian collaborators on September 25-26, 1941. Among the survivors was four-year-old Yaffa Sonenson and some of her family, but in their hiding place one of her baby brothers was accidentally smothered to death to prevent his cries from giving them away. In 1944 Yaffa's mother and another brother were killed. Yaffa remembers how her mother "protected us with her body....I was covered in blood, and they left." Then her father was arrested by the Russians and sent to Siberia; years later he emigrated to Israel. Yaffa assumed the identity of an uncle's murdered daughter and escaped with her uncle to Israel. She was reunited with her surviving brother and in 1954 moved to the United States.

Using videos, oral histories and radio recordings, artifacts and documentation, this is a narrative museum which tells the story of the Holocaust's victims, perpetrators and bystanders.

Yaffa, a teacher at Brooklyn College, was named a member of the U.S. Holocaust Commission in 1979 and decided to document her hometown: "I wanted to rescue this one town from oblivion." She and her husband, David Eliach, spent a decade acquiring the 6,000 photographs from archaeological excavations and "survivor photos" sent to relatives overseas or carried by emigrants. In the end, these moving photos have found a spectacular home at the museum.

The 'Showers' of Auschwitz

After descending the stairs to the third floor, visitors encounter a German railroad car, loaned by the Polish government and thought to have delivered Jews and others to the death camps. (The car was hoisted into the building during its construction.) The wooden railroad platform and the piles of luggage confiscated at this point are reminders that when the boxcars came into the concentration camps this was a point of selection: Here camp officers decided who would live for the moment and who would die immediately. Most of those whose possessions were confiscated here were marched directly to gas chambers disguised as showers.

Then museum visitors pass under a re-creation of the famous, ironic sign from Auschwitz, Arbeit Macht Frei ("Work Brings Freedom") and there is part of an actual barracks from Birkenau. Stone blocks from the Mauthausen quarry testify to how inmates were forced to work and sometimes pushed to their deaths by SS (Schutzstaffel) guards. Polish artist Mieczyslaw Stobierski's sculpture with its hundreds of plaster figures shows how bodies were sent to the "showers," gassed and cremated in Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

Behind barricades high enough that children cannot see are images and artifacts documenting the horrific, and in some cases useless, medical experiments carried out on Jewish prisoners. (Generally, no children below ninth grade should visit without an adult.)

In a side room are heard actors reading the words of survivors about what life was like in the camps. A mound of 4,000 shoes left behind at Majdanek bears mute witness to those gassed there. The shoes were to be recycled to German families.

Those Who Resisted

One story below, the visitor must pass again through the Eliach collection of photos. Now the cumulative effect of the "Tower of Photos" is even more impressive, and sadder.

I catch up with Malvin during the years 1940-44. Her situation is becoming more desperate:

Four weeks ago, on March 19, 1944, German forces occupied Hungary. Here in Myirbator, where I moved after my marriage, all of us Jewish citizens have been forced to abandon our homes and most of our belongings. We've spent the last few days crowded into the local synagogue. The rough Hungarian police have searched us and stolen our remaining money and jewelry. Now they've told us that we're to be moved to a ghetto in the county seat. Then what will happen to us?

On this second floor is the story of the Jews who fought back. A fishing boat recalls how Danes carried Jews to safety in Sweden.

A long wall down the center of the room lists on both sides those who helped Jews, given by country, with certain key individuals singled out. Among these are Father Ruffino Niccaci, the Franciscan who ran the Assisi underground and protected 280 Jews; Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who provided papers to many escaping Hungarian Jews and disappeared into Siberia after the war (the alleyway beside the museum is named for him); Father Marie Benoit, a Capuchin friar in Marseilles, France, who helped 4,000 Jewish refugees escape into Switzerland and Spain, and proposed a plan to Pope Pius XII of how more Jews could have been helped; Marie-Rose Gineste from Montauban, France, a Catholic laywoman who found hiding places for Jews by convincing local convents to take in whole families and getting them forged baptismal papers and identity cards; the Polish organization Zegota, which was organized to save Jews and whose membership included many Catholics.

More oral histories chronicle both liberators and survivors. A small exhibit recalls the resettlement of Jewish survivors in the United States and Israel. And visitors can use earphones to hear actual proceedings from the Nuremburg trials of key Nazis arrested for war crimes.

At the end of the second floor I read in the last page of my identity card about Malvin's fate:

Malvin and her husband, Sandor, were among 435,000 Hungarian Jews deported in the early summer of 1944 to Auschwitz. Malvin and her husband perished there.

Remember the Children

In the museum one special exhibit called "Daniel's Story: Remember the Children" is intended specifically for children. It recreates the world of a fictional Jewish boy of 14 who might have lived in Frankfurt before the war. He and his family are forced from their home and sent to the Lodz Ghetto and then to Auschwitz. The exhibit emphasizes the ordinariness of his life before the war and the way he and his father lived at Auschwitz.

What is remarkable about the exhibit is that it includes some letters from children who saw the exhibit early and wrote to Daniel, saying things like, "Your story is so touching. It made me realize that it was real and could happen to us." A Native American child points out that the same things happened to his people.

What I Learned

Before I went, I dreaded the prospect of going to the Holocaust Museum. I have read a lot about the Holocaust in history books and novels; I have seen movies like Exodus and Schindler's List, and television shows and miniseries like The Holocaust and Shoah. In many ways my imagination is stronger than reality, and I had imagined worse. This is not to say the museum trivializes the harsh reality of what happened or that it isn't shocking to those unfamiliar with the facts. But the process of making an orderly museum--selecting what will be shown, what will be said, and presenting it tastefully--organizes a reality that at its base defies logic.

The museum did not teach me anything I had not known beforehand. It's not meant to; it's meant to elicit an emotional response, and that it does. It immerses visitors in the experience of the Holocaust.

The museum presents clearly the events of Nazi Germany regarding its plan to exterminate the Jews as one unbroken line that starts from anti-Semitism and racism.

One always wonders, "What would I have done in this situation?" If I were a Jew, how would I have died or survived? As a Christian, would I have helped in some way? Would I have been a victim, a perpetrator or a not-so-innocent bystander? This museum provides no answers, but many more questions.

Religiously, the Holocaust museum provokes two dilemmas. For Jews, there is the problem of a God who apparently did not keep his covenant with his Chosen People, and allowed two thirds of European Jewry to be killed. For Christians, the Holocaust alters fundamentally our relationship with Jews.

Father John Pawlikowski, O.S.M., a longtime Holocaust Council member who teaches social ethics at The Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, was among those insistent that the story of both Christian complicity and resistance be told in the museum. He fears that the story is still not told forcefully enough. Yet Pawlikowski was careful to advise that guilt not be ladled out indiscriminately. And Martin Smith, an early director of the museum's permanent exhibition, still objects to the prominent display of a Christian rescue of Jews because he believes, "[I]t was much more likely that you would be saved by a Communist or a socialist than a Christian."

And there is still the problem of whether the Holocaust is a uniquely Jewish event. Granted, six million Jews died, but so did five million others. The museum started out to try to keep certain distinctions: Jews were Holocaust victims, others were victims of Nazi terror; Jews were exterminated, others were murdered. But the lines do blur. According to Linenthal, "The struggle for ownership of the Holocaust memory took place on a fundamentally religious level." Pawlikowski would grant the "unique dimensions" of the Jewish experience, but argued rightly that other victims needed to be included.

This battle for who will own the Holocaust memory also extends into whether this was a one-time event or whether there are lessons to be learned here regarding other genocides and ethnic wars and race and hate crimes. Is not the story of Cambodia's "killing fields," of Rwanda's battling tribes, of the Bosnian conflict, of the burning of black and interracial churches in the American South--30-plus in the past year and a half--part of the same legacy of hate and violence as the Holocaust? The Holocaust was a particular series of crimes, but it has come to stand for Evil Incarnate. To the extent that other ethnic and racial crimes are evil, they are related.

Hall of Remembrance

As I come to the end of the museum, I sit in the cold hexagonal-shaped Hall of Remembrance on the first floor and ponder the nature of evil. But is that why I am here?

Around me are words from the Hebrew Scriptures that emphasize the value of remembering: "Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw, and lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life. And you shall make them known to your children and to your children's children" (Deuteronomy 4:9).

In the end I light a candle in front of the Auschwitz memorial for Malvin Katz Fried and all those who died in the Holocaust. The words on the cover of Malvin's identity card sum it up for me: "For the dead and the living we must bear witness."


The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is located at 100 Raoul
Wallenberg Place, S.W. (15th Street and Independence Avenue), Washington, DC 20024-2150 (phone 202-488-0400). Admission is free but tickets are required for the permanent exhibition. Timed tickets are available in advance for a small fee through ProTix (phone 800-400-9373).

Barbara Beckwith is the managing editor of St. Anthony Messenger and a graduate of Marquette University's College of Journalism. She grew up in Skokie, Illinois, where many survivors of the Nazi concentration camps and other Jews settled after the Second World War. She remembers women in the local five-and-dime reaching for items and exposing the numbers that had been tattooed on their forearms in the camps.

Auschwitz: 'It's Amazing That a Bird Can Sing Here'

By Barbara Beckwith

"Be prepared: You'll be walking in the ashes of the dead," a colleague from the United States reminded me the night before we were to go to Auschwitz. When the chimneys of the crematoria were blown up by the retreating Nazis, they were so filled with human ashes that human remains coated the fields for miles around.

Three months after I visited the U.S. Holocaust Museum, I had the opportunity to find out how truthful its presentation is, and to consider the Holocaust from the perspectives of people from all over the world. As part of an International Catholic Union of the Press (UCIP) meeting in April in Krakow, Poland, about 30 of us journalists and editors made the pilgrimage to Oswiecim, which was given the German name of Auschwitz after the 1939 fall of Poland to the Nazis.

Auschwitz began as a concentration camp in 1940 for Polish political prisoners. Then the Nazis began to deport to the camp people from all the countries they conquered, mainly Jews, but also Soviet prisoners of war, gypsies, Czechs, Slavs and others. The site was selected because of the convenient rail lines with spurs coming directly into the camp. In 1941 a second camp, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, was built a mile away. Mass killing began in 1942. The elaborate complex of gas chambers and crematoria with giant smokestacks was actually at Birkenau. In 1943 Auschwitz III was established at German chemical plants, steelworks, mines and factories where the prisoners could provide cheap labor.

One and a half million people were probably put to death at the Auschwitz camps, although this number is hard to document. By the end of the war people were no longer being registered, photographed or tattooed, but sent, nameless, directly to their deaths. At its largest in 1942 Auschwitz I housed 20,000 people; by 1943 Auschwitz II-Birkenau housed 100,000. Nearly all of those not killed immediately died from hunger, execution, hard labor, punishments and the appalling sanitary conditions.

A Prison Inside a Concentration Camp

We toured the brick buildings of Auschwitz, walked under the Arbeit Macht Frei sign beside the rail line and barbed wire, saw the building where hideous medical experiments involving sterilization were performed, and stood in the first gas chambers where it was calculated how much Zyklon B and how much time was needed to kill so many people in so much space.

All personal effects brought to the camp were confiscated by the SS to be recycled to German families. We saw Jewish prayer shawls, toothbrushes, shaving brushes and mugs, artificial limbs and spectacles. The shoes left by dead prisoners, shoes that looked as if their owners would return momentarily but never came back after their "showers," affected me more than I can say. A woman journalist from Malaysia said the hair covered with dust (and human ashes) got to her. The hair shaved from the dead and cut from those selected for work was made into blankets and haircloth (a graphic reminder of practicality gone mad). Our Polish guide looked at the two of us women and said she had decided not to show us the stacks of baby carriages; we thanked her. On display is only a fraction of what the camp's storehouses once contained; as the Nazis fled the camp, they blew up 30 warehouses of such items.

We saw Block 11, the infamous Death Block, which the guide described as "a prison inside a concentration camp inside occupied Poland." At the "Wall of Death" the SS shot thousands of prisoners. In the courtyard prisoners were flogged or hanged using a stake through their arms bent behind their backs. The wall nowadays is covered with flowers; while we were there, a group of Polish schoolchildren processed in singing and carrying more flowers. Inside Block 11 we saw "standing cells" where four men were corralled in a 3' x 3' cubicle and made to hold one another up until all were dead; another American called this the worst thing he has ever seen.

In the assembly square all prisoners had to turn out for roll call, the living carrying the dead, for the sake of accurate German counts.

The gallows are still in place in back where the camp commandant, Rudolf Hoess, was hanged after the camp was liberated by the Soviet Army.

Birkenau Gas Chambers Are Rubble

"It's amazing that a bird can sing here," a Canadian colleague said when we heard chirping while walking around Auschwitz II-Birkenau. Here rail spurs lead right in to the point of selection. To the right were the gas chambers and crematoria; to the left, the barracks. Usually, the prisoners had had an awful ride, crammed like cattle into closed boxcars, often without food or water for seven or even 10 days.

Birkenau still has the wooden barracks in the back, and only brick chimneys in the front. (Desperate Poles after the war raided the camp for building and burning materials.) Many barracks were made from converted stables, with three-tiered berths for sleeping. Our guide said that one woman survivor was surprised to discover that there had been latrines in back; during the two years she was there she never knew that.

(Here at Birkenau Anne Frank and her sister Margot were confined after being hidden in the Amsterdam attic apartment of their father's company and before being sent to Bergen-Belsen camp where they died. It is Frank's famous diary that introduces most young people to the Holocaust.)

The gas chambers and crematoria were blown up by the retreating SS in 1945 in an attempt to conceal what they had done. The concrete chunks and twisted metal pieces are preserved.

'We Are All Victims, All Perpetrators'

Amid the crematoria ruins, at the end of the railway lines that were for so many literally "the end of the line," is the modernistic International Monument to the Victims of Auschwitz, dedicated in 1967. It was here that our group held a prayer service. Father Owen Campion, associate publisher of Our Sunday Visitor and UCIP's ecclesiastical adviser, reminded the journalists from many countries that we are all victims and all perpetrators.

Our German colleagues, some of whom had themselves resisted the Nazis or had family who had, were uncharacteristically subdued. The international president, Dr. Gunther Mees from Muenster, remarked when he saw young people picnicking on the lawn in front of the Auschwitz visitors' center that he feared they will come to treat Auschwitz as commonplace and the Holocaust as trivial. They are "distancing themselves" from what happened here even as they become more familiar with it.

A Jesuit priest from Pakistan wondered aloud how it is that these things still keep happening throughout the world. He mentioned a new finding of bones and skulls in Cambodia that indicates another mass murder by the Khmer Rouge.

Our Polish guide, who normally works in the public relations office for the Auschwitz State Museum, said she cannot give these tours more than once a month. How she can do them at all is a testimony to the human struggle to understand and remember.

Franciscan Maximilian Kolbe
Auschwitz Prisoner #16670
By Carol Ann Morrow

Hitler's hate list reached beyond the Jews. The Nazis also targeted Poland's intellectual community. When World War II began, Poland had 10,217 Catholic priests. Over one in three--a total of 3,646--were arrested and held in concentration camps. Two thirds of those died there. Many of these priests were heroes; one is now a canonized saint.

Maximilian Kolbe, a Conventual Franciscan friar, was an intense, creative missionary who saw publishing as a tool for preaching the gospel to the whole world. He begged the money to begin a publication dedicated to Mary. Five years later, he begged a printing press, then land near Warsaw for a publishing complex. Called Niepokalanow (the City of the Immaculate), the property became home to Franciscan friars and seminarians who lived frugally, prayed much, and wrote, printed and distributed a national daily with a circulation of 400,000. He began a similar enterprise in Japan. Anti-Semitic articles appeared in Kolbe's Polish daily, though Brother Hieronim later testified that Kolbe chastised those responsible for such pieces.

In 1941 Kolbe was arrested and, after several months in another camp, was moved to Auschwitz. Priests received especially poor treatment in a place where meanness was already the norm. Yet 48-year-old Kolbe never concealed his priesthood, hearing confessions, sharing his rations, never complaining. According to biographer Boniface Hanley, O.F.M., he told fellow prisoner Joseph Stemler, "Hatred is not creative."

Kolbe seized every creative chance to love. The imminent punishment of Franciszek Gojowniczek inspired his final heroism. In a St. Anthony Messenger interview with 93-year-old Gojowniczek in January 1995, the former Polish sergeant recalled his pivotal encounter with the priest.

When any prisoner escaped, all prisoners in the same block were subject to reprisals. Gojowniczek, one of 10 randomly picked for starvation, cried out, "My wife and children!" Kolbe stepped forward. "I am a Catholic priest," he said calmly. "I want to die for that man. I am old; he has a wife and children." Startled, the SS officer agreed.

Kolbe survived two weeks without food, only to be martyred by lethal injection. On August 15, 1941, the Feast of the Assumption, the body of Maximilian Maria Kolbe, Mary's champion, was incinerated.

Gojowniczek survived Auschwitz. Over time, his skull was fractured, his ribs cracked, his teeth knocked out and he contracted typhoid, but he lived. At 93, he said, "God gives me my time so that I can still say some things--and in an hour I may be gone!" He died in Poland just two months after this interview.

Gojowniczek had plunged into depression after Kolbe's death, feeling unworthy to be saved at the cost of a holy man's life. A fellow prisoner chided Gojowniczek, "Take hold of yourself! Is the priest to die for nothing?" The survivor shook off his depression. Ultimately, his testimony was key to the Vatican's recognition of Kolbe's sanctity.

In his final trip to the United States, Gojowniczek seemed small and pale, his hair white, thinning and a bit rumpled. Yet the ex-prisoner moved with dignity, assisted by his wife, Janina. During the interview, he expressed his dismay that U.S. citizens knew so little of the war, of the camps and of Kolbe.

Yet Franciszek Gojowniczek died peacefully, confident that he too had given his life. "I thirst for you to know" of Kolbe's heroism, he told St. Anthony Messenger. He had traveled much, including five trips to the United States, to testify to his rescue by the Franciscan saint of Auschwitz. According to Gojowniczek, "Maximilian Kolbe didn't just give his life for me, he gave it for the world!"

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