|Entrance to Birkenau where most were put to death.|
Auschwitz and Divine Mercy, two opposing images, two polar opposites. Today I experienced both, unexpectedly, since I thought my trip to Auschwitz was tomorrow. As I was getting dressed this morning my phone rang, and the voice on the phone said, "your tour shuttle is here for Auschwitz." I intended to make it for Monday and had planned to go the Latin Mass at Wawel Cathedral today. This was not to be the case and just after 7AM I found myself on the shuttle to Auschwitz.
I had read about it, I had seen documentaries on the event and have even read some of the nonsensical articles who have denied the event ever happened. For me, it was a horrific atrocity that happened 5000 miles away in a distant past that should never have happened. After today this is no longer the case, the distance was no longer. Today I walked through both camps, Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II (Birkenau). Although what I saw today pales in comparison with what the prisoners saw, and I cannot comprehend what actually happened to those who died and survived there, it nonetheless has made lasting impression on me. There were few smiles on anyone's faces the entire day as they traversed the grounds. Group after group passed the tons of human hair cut from the women who were sent to their deaths in the gas chambers, a look of bewilderment ran across everyone's face. It was not enough that the Nazis took their lives but they collected their hair for textiles! In allowing only limited possessions they made sure that everyone brought only their most precious belongings so they could steal them. Once they killed them, before incinerating their bodies, they dug the gold out of their teeth! Face after face shockingly passed the piles of kids shoes in the museum who were also sent to their deaths. Many of the children were used for medical experiments like rats! They were preferred by the "doctors" since they were more trusting and cooperative.
|Cell block 10 where inhumane medical experiments were carried out.|
|The barracks in which they laid four to a shelf for sleeping arrangements.|
A priest once told me that men in some of their acts can be more malicious than those of the demons! I never really understood how that could be until today's visit. This mass murder, the worst ever recorded in human history attests to the fact that man, left to his own devices can commit such evil. I am not saying there was not diabolic influence, there obviously was. But, these men also had a freewill which God never removes. The fact is, none of us are immune to our sinful human nature, and even though hopefully we never descend into the darkness of what happened at these death camps, we all need to examine our lives, our own sins. We all need to root out the darkness in our own hearts.
|The road to death. The last thing they saw as they approached the gas chambers.|
After I returned from Auschwitz today, I went over to the Franciscan Church to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet at 3PM in front of the Divine Mercy painting in one of the side chapels. In prayer and thinking about what I saw over and over in my head, I looked at the image and had a thought; there is only one answer to such evil, and that is Jesus Christ. It is the mercy He alone can offer, through the perfect Sacrifice of Himself on the cross. It occurred to me as I asked Our Lord how such evil could have taken so many lives; I thought, only He can atone for such evil. Further, Jesus would even offer forgiveness to those who participated in that atrocity, if their hearts were sincerely repentant. I thought about this more as I then went to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
I don't know about your first thoughts on those who devised and carried out these horrific acts, but I would have wanted to see all of them get their just deserts. I also think that it would have been a just punishment to put them to death. But the reality is, even death would not come close to redressing these horrific acts against humanity. It is a fact that only a few of the culprits were ever brought to justice. How many of these men truly repented? How many of them lived out their lives committed to their heinous deeds, we will never know. Those who died unrepentant will suffer for eternity in hell. I think now the important question to ask is, how sincere are we in repenting of our own sins? Do we hate sin and love God more than anything in this world? How sincere are we in loving our fellow man? How hard are we trying to root out the evil within ourselves? It is only us, the faithful in Christ that can stop more atrocities like the ones that happened in these death camps.
|The small provisional gas chamber at Auschwitz I|
|Inside the chamber.|
Let me explain further. The evil committed in these death camps took the lives of countless men, women and children between the years of 1940 and 1945. We cannot bring them back and we cannot bring forth any more justice than has already been brought forth on this earth. Looking at Saint Kolbe we see an eternal event of Our Lord's Divine Mercy that can save souls, including those who died in those camps. It can save our souls and the souls of our loved ones. It can stop future evil and make atonement for past evil. This takes incomprehensible faith in God. This is not blind faith, or faith without reason, but a faith that reaches beyond reason. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
“The Lord said to me, ‘The loss of each soul plunges Me into mortal sadness. You always console Me when you pray for sinners. The prayer most pleasing to Me is prayer for the conversion of sinners. Know, My daughter, that this prayer is always heard and answered.’” (Diary No. 1397)