Moral Saints and Moral Heroes

In 1941 Father Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish friar from Warsaw was arrested for publishing anti-Nazi pamphlets and sentenced to Auschwitz. There he was beaten, kicked by shiny leather boots, and whipped by his prison guards. After one prisoner successfully escaped, the prescribed punishment was to select ten other prisoners who were to die by starvation. As ten prisoners were pulled out of line one by one, Fr. Kolbe broke out from the ranks, pleading with he Commandant to be allowed to take the place of one of the prisoners, a Polish worker with a wife and children dependent upon him. "I'm an old man, sir, and good for nothing. My life will serve no purpose," the 45 year old priest pleaded. He was taken, thrown down the stairs into a dank dark basement with the other nine prisoners and left to starve. Usually, prisoners punished like this spent their last days howling, attacking each other and clawing the walls in a frenzy of despair.
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