When at last they at Auschwitz, a welcoming band greeted them with German folk songs. They were told to disrobe completely. They were handed soap and towels. A sign read “Clean is Good!” They were led to cottages where they were told, they would be deloused. The mothers with an instinct only a mother has, tried to hide their children under the clothes, until they would come out from the showers. When the guards caught them and asked them why, they replied, they were afraid the disinfectant would harm the children. They were assured this was nonsense, and so the mothers led their children into the cottages with them.
When some of the prisoners became aware of their fate and refused to enter the gas chambers, they were clubbed and thrown in. The guards carefully silenced anyone who gave the slightest evidence of hysteria, lest they incite a riot. They really had very little to fear; most were too weak from the long, arduous trip to stand up, no less fight.
For Edith and her sister and all the others who had survived the days of unbearable heat locked inside the airless cars, the walk from the train stop to the cottages was a long, hard one. [When we were at Auschwitz, we looked down from the guards’ post in the watch-tower. Our guide pointed out the distance the sisters and the Jews had to walk; it was miles from the platform to the cottages.] Edith thought that the guards would choose them to work in Germany. That’s what they did with strong, able-bodied women. And so, I wonder if she knew the fate that awaited them. Was there possibly a ray of hope that they would survive?
It was the beginning of the implementation of their perfect plan! The Nazis had to devise a method of disposing of the Jews and their political prisoners, in the fastest, most efficient way. They learned, all too soon, that they could not handle the hundreds of thousands who were being herded into the camps, so their next plan was to exterminate them! They came upon a plan to use Cyclon B, a bitter, extremely poisonous gas that was supposed to kill those
trapped within, in fifteen to twenty minutes. Before they died, their lungs, their throats, their esophagus’, were set on fire by this powerful acid. It was a horrible death.
But when Edith and her sister arrived, the Nazis had not yet perfected this method of exterminating defenseless men, women and children. The guards had not thrown enough cans of cyanide in the air-tight, sealed cottage, and so, when they opened the door twenty-four hours later, they were still alive. They threw in more cans.
We stood on the spot where the cottage once stood, the torture chamber where Edith and her sister, along with so many other Martyrs, went to their horrible death. All that remains is a small sign where a harmless looking cottage became a house of horror. Less than twenty feet from the cottage was a mound of bones that had survived over fifty years, there as a witness to man’s inhumanity to man. When the Nazis could not cremate the bodies fast enough, to keep up with the mass annihilation, they piled the dead bodies, forming funeral pyres. In this large field, we saw Crosses where the bodies of Christians had been burned and Stars of David where the Jews had been.
Because she and all those who had been chosen to die [approximately 1/2 had been judged unfit to work and therefore killed.] were killed immediately, there were no records. It would appear that the world would never know what had happened that dark and ugly day. But the Lord would not allow His bride to be lost in a maze of shadows of the valley of death. Our faithful Father in Heaven wants her story to be told, as well as the events that led up to such a massacre of humanity. The world is poorer because we have been cheated of loving, talented, committed Saints like Edith Stein, Sister Teresa Benedicta a Cruce. The Lord will not allow them to die in vain. Their cries will not be silenced. God will not allow us to ignore history. Why? Because He loves us.
Who was Edith Stein? As with Saint Maxmilian Kolbe, Edith Stein would have been nominated for Sainthood even if she had not died a Martyr’s death. Her writings, so long suppressed under the Nazis have now been published not only in German but have been translated and published in English.
“Those who ignore history are bound to repeat it”
Edith Stein was one of 6,000,000 Jews, and 4,000,000 Christians who were murdered while the world looked the other way.