In preparation of the Holocaust Memorial Day, we want to remember all the innocent victims who died in the concentration camps as well as in the cities occupied by the Nazis.
Edith Stein, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, was a Carmelite nun who had converted from the Jewish faith as a young woman. As follow, an extract from our short biography on this inspiring martyr and Saint.
“Through a work she was writing at this time on St John of the Cross she developed a close spiritual companionship with this great saint, and after immersing herself in his vision of the cross and his imprisonment in Toledo, she wrote:
‘To be helplessly delivered up to the wickedness of embittered enemies, tortured in body and soul, cut off from all human consolation and even from the sources of power in the sacramental life of the Church – could there be a harder school of the cross?’
She knew that she would die for Christ. Indeed, that was her desire. Had she so chosen, she may quite possibly have done otherwise, for arrangements were set under way by well-meaning friends for her and her sister Rosa to go to the safety of a Carmel in Switzerland, and if Sister Teresa Benedicta had applied herself with her customary sense of purpose to these arrangements she would almost certainly have gone there.
But she did nothing to hurry the formalities, and in May 1942 both sisters were summoned to appear before the Gestapo. When she entered the room, Sister Teresa Benedicta greeted her Nazi interrogators with the words: ‘Praised be Jesus Christ’.
Coming from one they saw as a Jewess, this apparently bemused the Gestapo men. When they got over it they roughly demanded identity cards, shouted that they were not in order, and subjected the sisters to a pitiless examination… then let them go back to their Convent.
For three months nothing happened, then on 2nd August, 1942, uniformed men burst into the Convent and arrested the sisters. They were given ten minutes to pack, and when they were roughly bustled into the police van they found other victims already there.
It transpired that all ‘non-Aryan’ members of every Dutch religious community were arrested that day, as a reprisal for a pastoral letter from the Archbishop of Utrecht which had been read in all Roman Catholic churches protesting against the treatment of the Jews.
The police van took them to a transit camp at Amersfoort. Three days later the nuns back in the convent received information that the sisters were at Westerbroke camp and that they needed warmer clothing, blankets and medicine.
Amid tears and prayers the community made up parcels, and two men who delivered them were able, by the courtesy of the Dutch police, to talk to the sisters in private.
Sister Teresa Benedicta told them that there were ten nuns in their hut and that the German Commandant had ordered that the Catholic Jews be isolated form the non-Catholics.
‘Sister Teresa Benedicta was perfectly calm and composed,’ the two men reported. ‘She was happy that she was able to help and comfort the prisoners by words and prayer. Her deep faith created about her an atmosphere of confidence, and she said: ‘Whatever happens I am prepared for it; our dear Child Jesus is with us.’”
Extract from Edith Stein, Marcel Callo, Titus Brandsma – Victims of the Nazis (Three stories of Catholics who suffered for their faith at the hands of the Nazis), by Monk Matthew / M. N. L. Couve de Murville / H Clarke, CTS, pp 25-27
Edith Stein, Marcel Callo, Titus Brandsma, Victims of the Nazis – by Monk Matthew / M. N. L. Couve de Murville / H Clarke