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Monthly Film Series: Life for Life
July 27, 2019 @ 6:45 pm - 9:00 pm
St. Maximilian Kolbe, OFM Conventual, was named by Pope John Paul II as the patron saint of “our difficult 20th century” and declared a martyr of charity for his death in Auschwitz when he took the place of another prisoner condemned to die. Sometime between July 28th and August 1st, 1941, a prisoner assigned to Block 14 escaped from Auschwitz. Deputy camp commander Karl Fritzsch lined up the 1,000 prisoners from the escapee’s block and selected ten to die in a starvation bunker, including Franciszek Gajowniczek, a husband and father who pleads for his life.
Catholic film reviewer Steven Greydanus describes what happens next: “Two great mysteries hover over the cardinal moment in St. Maximilian Kolbe’s life, a quiet exchange of words with the deputy camp commander at Auschwitz-Birkenau heard by few and lasting probably less than a minute. The first mystery is why an uncondemned prisoner stepped forward to ask to be permitted to die in place of a condemned one. The second is why Fritzsch consented to this extraordinary request rather than doing what would have been entirely within his character: simply shooting Kolbe for daring to try to spare someone Fritzsch had selected for death, or at best simply ignoring Kolbe entirely.
This film tells the story of Maximilian Kolbe with an interesting twist – integrating a fictional account of the prisoner whose escape led indirectly to Kolbe’s death.
Again, Stephen Greydanus, “For (an) artful, intriguing meditation on the meaning of Kolbe’s life and death, the film to watch is his haunting 1991 film Life for Life: Maximilian Kolbe. . . It reflects thoughtfully on what the cultus of the saints means for us . . . Perhaps more than any film I can think of, it explores how the saints can and should inspire us, if we are open to them, or how we may stumble at them if we are not. For this reason alone, it’s among the most essential saint films I’ve seen.