This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

February 23 -- Feast of Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski

Happier Days: A Polish Boy Scout
Blessed Stephan died at age thirty-two, having spent six of the eight years of his priesthood in various concentrations camps as a prisoner of Nazi Germany.  He was promptly arrested by German troops in 1939, as were nearly all Polish priests.  He was briefly imprisoned in Fort VII, but then transferred to Stutthoff (near Gdansk).  Although conditions at Stutthof forced labor camp were grim, he was able to get a little bit of bread and wine for a Holy Thursday Mass in 1940.  Not long after, he was transferred to Oranienburg – Sachsenhausen, near Berlin and placed in quarantine in Block 20.  There he continued to minister secretly to other prisoners as well as he could.

Idealized portrait of the prisoner
In December 1940, he was transferred to Dachau, the first regular concentration camp built by the Nazis.  Although more than 30,000 prisoners died at Dachau and its satellite camps, it was not a death camp in the same sense that Auschwitz was.  Thus, we shouldn't be surprised that Stephan survived more than four years at the camp, suffering brutal maltreatment and deprivation.  He had been given an opportunity to renounce his Polish nationality and sign the Deutsche Volksliste, an act that would have provided him much better living conditions in the camp.  He declined, of course.

Typhus struck the camp in 1944.  Stephan cared for the ill and dying as best he could until he too contracted the disease.  Soon, it was compounded with pneumonia.  He died on February 22, 1945, about two months before the liberation of the camp.  American troops found about 32,000 prisoners alive at the camp.  The troops, contrary to the Geneva Convention, shot more than 500 SS guards as they surrendered, and armed prisoners, allowing them to bayonet and behead forty more SS men. It may be a blessing that Stephan did not survive to see this brutal retribution. 

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