I am not much of a joiner and I usually go out of my way to avoid becoming a member of an organization. However, I have been a Rotarian for 30 years, and the story of Rotarian Nicholas Winton who died this week at 106 makes me glad I joined:
Independently of Operation Kindertransport (see sidebar), Nicholas Winton set up his own rescue operation. At first, Winton’s office was a dining room table at his hotel in Wenceslas Square in Prague. Anxious parents, who gradually came to understand the danger they and their children were in, came to Winton and placed the future of their children into his hands. Soon, an office was set up on Vorsilska Street, under the charge of Trevor Chadwick. Thousands of parents heard about this unique endeavor and hundreds of them lined up in front of the new office, drawing the attention of the Gestapo. Winton’s office distributed questionnaires and registered the children. Winton appointed Trevor Chadwick and Bill Barazetti to look after the Prague end when he returned to England. Many further requests for help came from Slovakia, a region east of Prague.
Winton contacted the governments of nations he thought could take in the children. Only Sweden and his own government said yes. Great Britain promised to accept children under the age of 18 as long as he found homes and guarantors who could deposit £50 for each child to pay for their return home.
Because he wanted to save the lives of as many of the endangered children as possible, Winton returned to London and planned the transport of children to Great Britain. He worked at his regular job on the Stock Exchange by day, and then devoted late afternoons and evenings to his rescue efforts, often working far into the night. He made up an organization, calling it “The British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia, Children’s Section.” The committee consisted of himself, his mother, his secretary and a few volunteers.
Winton had to find funds to use for repatriation costs, and a foster home for each child. He also had to raise money to pay for the transports when the children’s parents could not cover the costs. He advertised in British newspapers, and in churches and synagogues. He printed groups of children’s photographs all over Britain. He felt certain that seeing the children’s photos would convince potential sponsors and foster families to offer assistance. Finding sponsors was only one of the endless problems in obtaining the necessary documents from German and British authorities.
On March 14, 1939, Winton had his first success: the first transport of children left Prague for Britain by airplane. Winton managed to organize seven more transports that departed from Prague’s Wilson Railway Station. The groups then crossed the English Channel by boat and finally ended their journey at London’s Liverpool Street station. At the station, British foster parents waited to collect their charges. Winton, who organized their rescue, was set on matching the right child to the right foster parents.
The last trainload of children left on August 2, 1939, bringing the total of rescued children to 669. It is impossible to imagine the emotions of parents sending their children to safety, knowing they may never be reunited, and impossible to imagine the fears of the children leaving the lives they knew and their loved ones for the unknown.
On September 1, 1939 the biggest transport of children was to take place, but on that day Hitler invaded Poland, and all borders controlled by Germany were closed. This put an end to Winton’s rescue efforts. Winton has said many times that the vision that haunts him most to this day is the picture of hundreds of children waiting eagerly at Wilson Station in Prague for that last aborted transport.
The significance of Winton’s mission is verified by the fate of that last trainload of children. Moreover, most of the parents and siblings of the children Winton saved perished in the Holocaust. Continue reading
(Today is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. I am taking this opportunity to rerun this post from All Saints Day 2009.)
Today we celebrate all the saints who now dwell in perfect bliss before the Beatific Vision, seeing God face to face. All the saints love God and love their neighbor, but other than that they have little in common. We have saints who lived lives of quiet meditation, and there are saints who were ever in the midst of human tumult. Some saints have easy paths to God; others have gained their crowns at the last moment, an act of supreme love redeeming a wasted life. Many saints have been heroic, a few have been timid. We number among the saints some of the greatest intellects of mankind, while we also venerate saints who never learned to read. We have saints with sunny dispositions, and some who were usually grouchy. Saints who attained great renown in their lives and saints who were obscure in life and remain obscure after death, except to God. Among such a panoply of humanity we can draw endless inspiration for our own attempts to serve God and our neighbors. For me, one saint has always stood out as a man with a deep meaning for this period of history we inhabit: Saint Maximilian Kolbe. Why?
The things I saw beggar description. While I was touring the camp I encountered three men who had been inmates and by one ruse or another had made their escape. I interviewed them through an interpreter. The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops the tendency to charge these allegations merely to “propaganda.”
General Dwight D. Eisenhower letter to General George C. Marshall, April 15, 1945
Very strong content advisory in regard to the video above. Hattip to Ace at Ace of Spades:
The Rialto school district planned to revise an eighth-grade assignment that raised red flags by asking students to consider arguments about whether the Holocaust — the systematic killing by the Nazis of some 6 million Jews and millions of others — was not an “actual event” but instead a “propaganda tool that was used for political and monetary gain.”
Interim Superintendent Mohammad Z. Islam was set to talk with administrators to “assure that any references to the holocaust ‘not occurring’ will be stricken on any current or future Argumentative Research assignments,” a statement from district spokeswoman Syeda Jafri read.
The 18-page assignment instructions included three sources that students were instructed to use, including one that stated gassings in concentration camps were a “hoax” and that no evidence has shown Jews died in gas chambers.
“ADL does not have any evidence that the assignment was given as part of a larger, insidious, agenda,” the blog post read. “Rather, the district seems to have given the assignment with an intent, although misguided, to meet Common Core standards relating to critical learning skills.”
Christopher Johnson at The Midwest Conservative is at it again. He is a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so ofen in defense of the Faith that I have designated him Defender of the Faith. He enters the lists now on behalf of the most unjustly maligned man of the last century, Pope Pius XII:
Pius XII has long been vilified as “Hitler’s pope”, accused of failing publicly to condemn the genocide of Europe’s Jews. Now a British author has unearthed extensive material that Vatican insiders believe will restore his reputation, revealing the part that he played in saving lives and opposing nazism. Gordon Thomas,
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Who is this guy, some trad Catholic? Dude, that’s special pleading, that’s not genuine research, you blithering idiot.
was given access to previously unpublished Vatican documents and tracked down victims, priests and others who had not told their stories before.
The Pope’s Jews, which will be published next month, details how Pius gave his blessing to the establishment of safe houses in the Vatican and Europe’s convents and monasteries. He oversaw a secret operation with code names and fake documents for priests who risked their lives to shelter Jews, some of whom were even made Vatican subjects.
Thomas shows, for example, that priests were instructed to issue baptism certificates to hundreds of Jews hidden in Genoa, Rome and elsewhere in Italy. More than 2,000 Jews in Hungary were given fabricated Vatican documents identifying them as Catholics and a network saved German Jews by bringing them to Rome. The pope appointed a priest with extensive funds with which to provide food, clothing and medicine. More than 4,000 Jews were hidden in convents and monasteries across Italy.
During and immediately after the war, the pope was considered a Jewish saviour. Jewish leaders – such as Jerusalem’s chief rabbi in 1944 – said the people of Israel would never forget what he and his delegates “are doing for our unfortunate brothers and sisters at the most tragic hour”. Jewish newspapers in Britain and America echoed that praise, and Hitler branded him “a Jew lover”. Continue reading
Michael Moriarty as SS Sturmbannfuhrer (Major) Erik Dorf, in the riveting miniseries Holocaust (1978), attempts at 5:26 in the video above to convince the incredulous SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler that rather than concealing the crimes of the Holocaust the SS should stand behind them and and convince the world that the genocide of the Jews and others deemed “undesirable” by the “master race” was right and just. He anounces to the astounded SS officers, Dorff being an attorney in civilian life, that “A case can be made for Auschwitz!” He is speaking to mass murderers and monsters, but even they are repulsed by what he says. They understand deep down that they have been involved in an unspeakable crime for which no excuse, no argument can possibly be made.
Would that most pro-aborts would have some such shred of moral sensibility remaining. Alas, I am afraid that this statement of Jessica Delbalzo is much more common among pro-aborts, even if they rarely are this forthright:
I love abortion. I don’t accept it. I don’t view it as a necessary evil. I embrace it. I donate to abortion funds. I write about how important it is to make sure that every woman has access to safe, legal abortion services. I have bumper stickers and buttons and t-shirts proclaiming my support for reproductive freedom. I love abortion. Continue reading
An inspiring scene of Ramon refusing to cater for the new super abortion mill in Houston.
To help eliminate the world’s largest abortion mill in Houston contact the following groups:
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
— Holy Gospel of Saint Luke 23:34 cf.
Ora pro nobis!
Venerable Pius XII always believed that it was part of his duties as Pope to be accessible to virtually everyone who wished to see him. His audiences would normally be crowded as a result. In the autumn of 1941 he held an audience which was no different. Italians, pilgrims of all nations, German soldiers (German soldiers flocked to see the Pope until the Nazis forbade such visits, fearing the influence the words of the Pope, in direct contradiction to the doctrines of National Socialism, might have on the Landsers.), humanity from across the globe, all eager to see, and perhaps have a word with, the Vicar of Christ on Earth.
“Our wholehearted paternal sympathy goes out to those who must pay so dearly for their loyalty to Christ and the Church; but directly the highest interests are at stake, with the alternative of spiritual loss, there is but one alternative left, that of heroism.” Pius XI from Mit Brennender Sorge
We Americans tend to be an outspoken lot. We give voice to our opinions freely and many of us enjoy raucous debate, as can be seen on most American blog sites, including this one. We are fortunate to live in a free society where there is no penalty for expressing ourselves. But what if we didn’t live in a free society? What if we lived in a vicious dictatorship where dissent is a one way trip to a concentration camp and then to an unmarked grave? How many of us would then have the courage to speak out, especially if almost everyone else were keeping their heads down and not saying anything? For many people throughout history this has not been a game of what if.
Born in Ohlau in the province of Silesia in Germany on December 3, 1875, Bernard Lichtenberg studied theology at the seminary in Innsbruck, Austria and was ordained a priest in 1899. He served as a priest in Berlin, becoming the parish priest of the Sacred Heart parish in the Berlin suburb of Charlottenburg in 1913. Ever an energetic priest, he laid the foundations for five parishes and a monastery in Berlin. Somehow he also found the time to be active in the Catholic Centre Party, and was for a time a member of the Berlin regional parliament after World War I. He also carried out missionary and charitable works among the poor of Berlin.
He was made a canon of the Cathedral Chapter by the first Bishop of the newly created diocese of Berlin, Christian Schreiber, in 1931. In 1932 he became pastor of Saint Hedwig’s Cathedral in Berlin. He also attracted the ire of the Nazis by his support of the pacifist Peace League of German Catholics, and was denounced by Hitler’s propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels in the Nazi paper Der Angriff.
After the Nazis came to power in 1933, Father Lichtenberg attempted unsuccessfully to convince Cardinal Bertram, the president of the German Bishop’s conference, to protest against the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses. In 1935 he protested to Herman Goering against the treatment of the Jews. Goering denied everything and demanded that Lichtenberg be taken into “protective custody” for spreading lies about the German state.
In 1937 Father Lichtenberg helped to distribute clandestinely throughout Germany copies of the blistering condemnation of the Nazis by Pius XI, Mit Brennender Sorge. After Kristallnacht, a Nazi led pogrom throughout Germany against the Jews, he said from the pulpit of Saint Hedwig’s: ‘we know what happened yesterday. We do not know what tomorrow holds. However, we have experienced what happened today. Outside, the synagogue burns. That is also a house of God.’ From that time forward, Father Lichtenberg prayed publicly during evening prayers, in the heart of Nazi Germany, for the Jews and Christians of Jewish descent.
Some people just make you proud to be a human being, and the incredibly heroic Irena Sendler is in that category. When asked why she saved 2500-3000 Jewish kids she said simply: “I was taught that if you see a person drowning, you must jump into the water to save them, whether you can swim or not.” The acclaim she received late in life bothered her somewhat: “Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory.”
When any of us confront evil and think, “What can I do?”, may the example of Irena Sendler cause us to do the very most that we can. Irena Sendler did not think of herself as a heroine. She said that she could have done much more. I find that hard to believe, but with such a conscience to guide her I can understand how she accomplished the near miraculous.
“Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate rains with which we have had to contend. Grant us fair weather for Battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations.”