DACHAU – PRIESTLY GOLGOTHA
FR. MAREK ŁUCZAK
- Let’s pray so that what happened here, would never take place in the future, neither on our Polish land nor anywhere in the world – said archbishop Stanisław Gądecki to participants of the Eucharist celebrated on 29 April 2015 on the area of the former Dachau camp
Pilgrims from Poland arrived at the area of the concentration camp Dachau, in order to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the camp liberation, with German priests. – It is very significant that we gather together at the chapel of the Deadly Fear of Christ – said archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, the chairperson of the Polish Episcopal Conference. This camp was a model for over 200 other death places of this type, spread all over the Third Reich and in occupied countries. Here the later commanders and guard had trainings. Among thousands of prisoners a small group was constituted by Polish priests, monks and clerics. It was probably the biggest group which had such high losses. We want to pray for all prisoners and the murdered.
During the Holy Mass celebrated as thanksgiving for camp liberation, the homily was given by cardinal Reinhard Marx, the chairperson of the German Episcopate. – The event which has gathered us today, is somehow joyful – he said. – Before 70 years, the American divisions liberated the main camp in Dachau. It was a triumph over the evil, which had been sowing havoc here for 12 years.
In these words the German hierarch referred to the history of the camp, preceding the period of the Second World War. For, in the 30s the Germans organized here a place of extremely high contempt in order to eliminate political opponents. – We see atrocity here, which socialism brought to Europe and the world – he said. – 200 thousand people were imprisoned here in the Nazis period. Over 40 thousand of them lost their life in the KL Dachau, many other were deported to the death camp.
Cardinal Marx emphasized that Dachau was a particular place for the Church in Poland. Poles were the biggest national group among prisoners – 40 thousand people. Among them there were 1780 priests, of whom at least 868 were killed here. Among them there were also German and Austrian priests of various religions, engaged variously in the opposition against the national-socialist regime.
- We thank God for the gift of reconciliation which in the recent decades our nations have received – said the German cardinal. – Just we, as Polish and German Catholics, have a particular vocation, mission, to bring this experience of suffering, atrocities and forgiveness into the contemporary history of Europe. Therefore, Dachau will always be a place of worrying remembrance as well as forgiveness.
A martyrs’ school
In the spirit of reconciliation, a divine service was celebrated in the nearby cathedral, where a homily was preached by archbishop Gądecki. – A pilgrimage is usually made to a holy place, not a cursed place – he said in the beginning. – However, we arrived here to express our respect for all those who were suffering in Dachau.
The chairperson of the Polish Episcopal Conference compared the situation of prisoners with denudation which Christ had experienced. As he emphasized, those people were deprived of their names, honour, sense of value. – What was particularly painful for priests, was an attempt of depriving them of God – noted the Archbishop. – They surely suffered from the prohibition of the priestly prayer, prohibition of celebrating Eucharist, and even prohibition of giving the last sacrament to the dying. It was their real martyrs’ school.
Archbishop Gądecki quoted words written on the wall of the chapel, which say that every third prisoner of the Dachau camp had been a Pole, and every second priest had been killed here. He also emphasized that 30% of the Polish clergy were killed here, which was a big loss for the Polish society and the Polish Church. – Peace is a work of not only justice but also love. Let’s call to God for the holy gift of peace – archbishop Gądecki finished the homily with these words.
The divine service in the cathedral in Freising finished the pilgrimage of the Polish clergy and the Polish diaspora in Germany on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the German Nazis camp Dachau liberation and its character was thanksgiving for unity of Europe and peace.
On Sunday 3 May solemn anniversary celebrations took place, under the patronage of the International Committee Dachau and Foundation ‘Bavarian Remembrance Places’. Within the celebrations in the chapel of Christ’s Blessed Blood in Carmel near the camp, presided over by cardinal Marx, bishop Ulrich Fischer from the Council of Evangelic Churches of Germany and the chairperson of the Orthodox Conference of Bishops in Germany – metropolitan Augustyn (Labardakis), an ecumenical divine service was organized in the intention of the murdered. Earlier in the chapel, the archbishop of Munich and Freising had celebrated the Holy Mass.