Maximillian Kolbe Death at Auschwitz
After the outbreak of World War II, which started with the invasion of Poland by Germany, Kolbe was one of the few brothers who remained in the monastery, where he organized a temporary hospital. After the town was captured by the Germans, he was arrested by them on 19 September 1939 but released on 8 December. He refused to sign the Deutsche Volksliste, which would have given him rights similar to those of German citizens, in exchange for recognizing his ethnic German ancestry. Upon his release he continued work at his friary, where he and other friars provided shelter to refugees from Greater Poland, including 2,000 Jews whom he hid from German persecution in the Niepokalanów friary. Kolbe received permission to continue publishing religious works, though significantly reduced in scope. The monastery continued to act as a publishing house, issuing a number of anti-Nazi German publications.
On 17 February 1941, the monastery was shut down by the German authorities. That day Kolbe and four others were arrested by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison. On 28 May, he was transferred to Auschwitz as prisoner 16670.
Continuing to act as a priest, Kolbe was subjected to violent harassment, including beating and lashings. Once he was smuggled to a prison hospital by friendly inmates. At the end of July 1941, one prisoner escaped from the camp, prompting SS-HauptsturmführerKarl Fritzsch, the deputy camp commander, to pick ten men to be starved to death in an underground bunker to deter further escape attempts. When one of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, "My wife! My children!", Kolbe volunteered to take his place.
According to an eyewitness, who was an assistant janitor at that time, in his prison cell, Kolbe led the prisoners in prayer. Each time the guards checked on him, he was standing or kneeling in the middle of the cell and looking calmly at those who entered. After they had been starved and deprived of water for two weeks, only Kolbe remained alive. The guards wanted the bunker emptied, so they gave Kolbe a lethal injection of carbolic acid. Kolbe is said to have raised his left arm and calmly waited for the deadly injection. He died on August 14. His remains were cremated on 15 August, the feast day of the Assumption of Mary.
On 12 May 1955, Kolbe was recognized by the Vatican as a Servant of God. Kolbe was declared venerable by Pope Paul VI on 30 January 1969, beatified as a Confessor of the Faith by the same Pope in 1971, and canonized as a saint by Pope