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Kolbe Died for a Jew & the Sign of Peace

Whether Kolbe Died for a Jew
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Dear Editor,

Regarding the article New Saints: A Lack of Consistency on modern saints, I wanted to point out that St. Maximilian Kolbe did not die for a Jew as is stated therein. He was arrested before the Nazis had started rounding up Jews in Poland and died for a fellow-Catholic father of a family, Franz Gajowniczek (New Saints and Blesseds of the Catholic Church, 206).


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The Editor responds:

Dear Mrs. M.S.,

Thank you for interest in reading my article.

I believe that the source of your statement is not accurate. At the time of Fr. Maximilian Kolbe's beatification, when his life first came to international attention, it was much easier to find the information that he had offered his life for a Polish Jew, the sergeant named Franciszek Gajowniczek. Later, a kind of 'clean-up job' was systematically carried out, deleting any mention of the Jewish origin of Mr. Gajowniczek. I don't know for sure who is behind this strange initiative of changing the facts, but many Catholic progressivist and politically correct sources have adopted that practice.

This 'revisionist' work, however, has not been completely successful, and you still can find the original information in some places. Below, I offer you several of these sources, which I saved in TIA files, so that they won't also suddenly disappear from the Internet.

  • In a sermon delivered on July 28, 2007, Bishop Kevin Vann of Forth Worth affirmed that Franz Gajowniczek was a Jew. In fact, he stated: "In 1941, Maximilian Kolbe had exchanged his life for that of a Polish Jewish man." You can verify this quote here.

  • The Jewish-sponsored organization S9.com, which specializes in biographies, says this under the entry Gajowniczek, Franciszek: "Polish Jewish farmer, soldier, and Holocaust survivor saved from being killed by Nazis at Auschwitz when Maximilian Kolbe volunteered to die in his place." You can check it here.

  • The website Christian Friends of Israel also confirms the Jewish origin of the beneficiary of Fr. Kolbe's act of mercy. These are its words: "One of the ten selected to die was a Jewish man named Franciszek Gajowniczek, who began to cry out: 'My wife! My children! I will never see them again!' It was at this moment that Maximilian stepped forward as a true friend. He said: '...let me take his place.'" You can read this text here.

  • Jewish journalist David Alton affirms: "Franciszek Gajowniczek, the Jewish prisoner whose life was purchased by Maximilian Kolbe, survived the camps." You may find this affirmation here by scrolling down the page to the first paragraph under the sub-title Paying the Price.

  • In one of his homilies, Fr. Phil Bloom of Seattle speaks about the sacrifice of Fr. Maximilian Kolbe, saying: "One of the men selected was a farmer named Franciszek Gajowniczek. He was in Auschwitz only because he was Jew." This statement can be verified here.

  • Author Rafael Perez Piñero writes on page 14 of his book What Love Has Merited for Us, (Nos Mereci el Amor): "This is what motivated ... Maximilian Kolbe to give his life for a Jewish father of a family named Franciszek Gajowniczek, who died on March 14, 1995." You can read the Spanish text here.

  • The Spanish website Radio-Aficcionados (under the responsibility of José Miguel Orueta y Michelena) chose Maximilian Kolbe as its Patron. In the biography it presents of this holy religious and Founder of the Militia Immaculata, it reports:

    "The Germans randomly chose various prisoners to be executed; among them was a Jew, a sergeant of the Polish Army called Franciszek Gajowiniczek who had a wife and children. When he was selected, he exclaimed: 'My poor children!' Hearing this, Maximiliano Maria Kolbe Dabrowska offered to die in his place.' You can find this text in Spanish here.
I hope these data sufficiently confirm what I affirmed in my article - that Fr. Kolbe gave his live for a Jew - which was common knowledge until some years ago.


     Atila S. Guimarães

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The Sign of Peace
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Sir or Madam,

Thank you for your time. You may remember receiving an email from me a while ago. Unfortunately the address I used became non-functional. Forgive me if I wasted your time.

I have a question about the sign of peace at Mass. Is it appropriate for a man to acknowledge and/or shake hands with a woman? I always feel that this is not appropriate, so sometimes I bow (slightly) or ignore the woman. An ancient description of the sign of peace at Mass reads (paraphrasing), "And then the sign of peace is exchanged, men with men, and women with women."

     Thank you.


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TIA responds:


There is a presupposition in your question with which we disagree. It is that the sign of peace should be given among the faithful during Mass.

We believe that in the context of the New Mass in which the sign of peace was reintroduced, it contributes to creating an atmosphere that is part of the Protestant-oriented reform of the Mass made by Paul VI. That is, it helps create the ambience of a banquet, and sets aside the atmosphere of sacrifice that always characterized the Catholic Mass.

As is known, Protestants believe neither in the transubstantiation nor that the Mass is the bloodless renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary. In what they call a 'banquet,' 'memorial supper' or simply 'religious service,' there is only a festive commemoration of the Last Supper.

In order to adapt to this Protestant conception, the New Mass of Paul VI almost completely abolished the sacrificial character of the Mass along with the spirit of recollection and piety that used to permeate it. The sign of peace of the Novus Ordo is an important part of this adaptation to Protestantism insofar as it creates an ambiance of general fraternization.

So, if you would like advice from us, it is this: Do not assist at the Novus Ordo Mass. If you have to go, avoid giving the sign of peace to anyone - male or female - and remain kneeling and recollected instead of greeting the people around you as if you were at a party.

This is our opinion. We hope it is of some assistance.


     TIA correspondence desk

Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted January 8, 2009

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The opinions expressed in this section - What People Are Commenting -
do not necessarily express those of TIA

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