Maximilian Kolbe

John 15:13

Narrator: In July 1941 three prisoners made a daring escape from the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz. (Escape). As a lesson to the others in camp, the Nazis chose ten men to starve to death in an underground bunker. They were picked at random.

Nazi: (Counts to ten in German, they all step forward apart from one who falls to his knees)

Gajowniczek: Oh no! My poor wife and children, I’ll never see them again. (German beats the man, but another bravely steps forward)

Narrator: Another man, Prisoner 16670, a man called Maximilian Kolbe, stepped forward and calmly spoke out.

M. Kolbe: With respect I would like to take this man’s place. I have no family and this man has. Take me instead.

Narrator: He was taken with the other nine condemned men to the dreaded bunker, an airless underground cell, to die slowly without food or water. Prisoner 16670 was a Polish priest who had been arrested and sent to Auschwitz earlier that year for helping Jewish refugees. Auschwitz was a terrible place. Thousands died every day from beatings, floggings, torture, disease, starvation and in the gas chambers. Father Kolbe dedicated his life to helping his fellow prisoners here in this place. He would share his food with them, hold secret services of worship and he tried to show others, by his own example, that even in such a hellish place, God still loved and cared for them. The underground bunker was dark, damp, cold and dirty. It had no windows, no lighting and no toilet facilities. The men were given no food, no water or blankets and had to live in their own filth. Day after day they were racked with pain as they were left to die. Hunger gnawed at them, they longed for water, but they soon learned not to ask for it. (Soldiers enter the cell and shoot the man who dares to ask for water, yet another pleads and is beaten to death.)

At night they shivered in the freezing cold, and during the day they all struggled for breath in the suffocating heat. (Act out)

Maximilian Kolbe did not give up, but kept encouraging the men to pray and sing hymns. Once the men were so deep in prayer that they did not notice soldiers entering their cell. They were ordered to be quiet. (Action)

After a while their voices became so weak that their prayers and songs were only whispered. In the midst of it all Maximilian Kolbe’s faith shone out like a beacon of love.

Inevitably as the days passed the prisoners, one by one, began to die. By the end of the second week only Father Kolbe remained alive. The authorities decided to kill him. After all they needed the cell for new victims. But who was going to kill him, for now the priest was looked upon in the camp as a saint, by soldier and prisoner alike, for word of his faith and his courage had spread like wildfire.

(German soldiers argue as to who must kill him, they choose a prisoner to execute him, first with a gun but then on second thoughts they select death by lethal injection)

He bravely held his arm out to receive the injection of carbolic acid. He was later found in a sitting position, leaning against the back wall of his cell, his eyes open and his head drooping sideways. His face was calm and radiant.

The heroism of Father Kolbe has not been forgotten. The life and death of this one man can be proof and witness of the fact that the love of God can overcome the greatest hatred, the greatest injustice, even death itself!

John 15:13 “Greater love has no man than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends.”