7 Polish Martyrs
Memoirs of Priests Who Lived through World War II Published
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By Father Mariusz Frukacz
CZESTOCHOWA, Polan, JUNE 21, 2012 (Zenit.org).- “Memoirs of War (1939-1945) of Priests of the Diocese of Czestochowa” is the title of the book published recently by the Catholic weekly “Niedziela,” which is part of the series “Library of Niedziela.”
The memoirs in question are those of priests who survived the hell of concentration camps. They were gathered by historians Father Jacek Kapuscinski and Father Jan Zwiazek.
The book collects the writings of seven priests: Father Jan Brodzinski (1904-1975), Father Roman Aleksander Konopka (1912-1994), Father Jozef Kubica (1911-1953), Father Antoni Mietlinski (1877-1959), Father Maciej Namysly (1892-1979), Father Serafin Opalka (1911-1986) and Father Jozef Pruchnicki (1894-1963).
Four of them recall the events and experiences of five concentration camps: Dachau, Gusen, Auschwitz, Konstantynow and Sosnowiec. The other three memoirs describe pastoral work during the Occupation, especially in the land of Wielun.
Each of these texts is preceded by a biographical profile and an historical comment, and is accompanied by other material.
The book opens with an article by Father Jan Zwiazek on the diocese of Czestochowa during the Nazi Occupation. It includes a series of photographs that illustrate the people and circumstances of World War II.
They are “the testimony of the extermination policy of Nazi Germany and of the suffering that those endured who wished to persevere in the faith and in fidelity to their own nation,” said professor Zygmunt Zielinski.
According to retired Archbishop Stanislaw Nowak of Czestochowa, the war memoirs of diocesan priests “are the testimony of man’s great love of God, of the fatherland and of the Church, as well as signs of adherence to the priesthood.”
“We can read these memoirs as the Acts of Martyrs of the 20th century. This book will be spiritual reading which will help us also to form our moral attitudes,” added the archbishop.
For Father Jacek Kapuscinski, one of the authors, the memoirs, written in 1945, about experiences of World War II: “are a most precious treasure for historians, but also for our generation that must know the history of its Fatherland and of the Church.”
The most difficult situation for the Polish Catholic population during the War in the territory of the diocese of Czestochowa, occurred in the so-called “Warthegau,” a region that looks out on the Warta river, in a part of the diocese of Czestochowa, in the Wielun district.
From the beginning of the War, the priests of the Wielun region were subjected to repression. On November 9, 1939, the Germans arrested seven Catholic priests and a Protestant pastor. On October 6, 1941, all the priests were arrested and taken to a transit camp in the neighborhood of Lodz, and then to Dachau concentration camp.
In total, 55 priests from Wielun were sent to Dachau, two of whom were monks. During 1939-1945, the total number of priests of the diocese of Czestochowa who were killed was 61. Among them were also Father Maksimiian Binkiwewicz and Father Lugwik Gietyngier, beatified by Pope John Paul II on June 13, 1999, at Warsaw.