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Online educational session dedicated to Fr Maximilian Kolbe - 28 May


"Testimony" is the title of an educational session devoted to Franciscan friar Maximilian Kolbe who was imprisoned and murdered 80 years ago in the German Nazi Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp. The event will take place on 28 May 2021 on zoom platform. The session will be translated simultaneously into English.


The session is organised by the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust at the Auschwitz Memorial and the St. Maximilian Center in Harmęże.

Session programme:

16.00 – Inauguration of the session (Andrzej Kacorzyk, Director of the ICEAH, Father Krzyszrof Janas, Guardian of the Franciscan Friary in Harmęże)

16.05 – Objects connected with the religious life of KL Auschwitz prisoners (Agnieszka Sieradzka, Memorial Collections)

16.35 – Father Kolbe’s rosary (Fr Mariusz Kiszczak, parish priest of St. Maximilian the Martyr in Oświęcim)

16.45-17.00 - break

17.00 – In the footsteps of Fr Maximilian Kolbe in KL Auschwitz (Teresa Wontor-Cichy, Research Center of the Auschwitz Memorial)

17:30 – Family memories of Fr Kolbe (a conversation between Fr Jan Maria Szewek and Joanna Woźniak, a relative of Fr Maximilian)

17.50 – Cell no. 18 in the basement of the Death Block (Dr. Maria Martyniak, ICEAH)

18.00 – end

Please submit your registrations by 25 May 2021. After this date, you will receive an email with a link to participate in the webinar. Participation is free of charge



Rajmund Kolbe was born on 8 January 1894 in Zduńska Wola. In 1910, he joined the Order of Franciscan Friars in Lwów, where he received the name Maximilian. In 1912, he began studies in philosophy and theology in Rome, obtaining his doctorate in the sciences, and was also ordained a priest. He returned to Poland in 1919. In 1927, he founded the Niepokalanów monastery and a publishing house near Warsaw. He was also a missionary in Japan.

Fr Maximilian Kolbe was arrested at Niepokalanów on 17 February 1941, where he served as guardian superior of the friary. Following several months of inquiry in the Pawiak prison in Warsaw, he was transferred to Auschwitz on 29 May 1941. In late July of that year, the camp manager ordered 10 prisoners from the same block to be sentenced to death by starvation as retaliation for a prisoner's escape. One of the condemned prisoners, Franciszek Gajowniczek, pleaded for his life to be spared for the sake of his wife and children. Hearing these words, Father Kolbe stepped out of line and turned to the SS men with a proposal to swap places with the distraught prisoner. Karl Fritzsch, who conducted the selection, agreed, and Father Kolbe joined the other prisoners escorted to the cellar in block 11.

After two weeks, an order was given to empty the cell. Many of the prisoners were already dead, but some still showed signs of life, including Father Kolbe. The SS men, therefore, decided to kill the living prisoners with phenol injections.

Fr Kolbe was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and canonised by Pope John Paul II on 10 October 1982. In 1999, he was pronounced the honorary patron of blood donors by the Pope. He is also the patron of the Diocese of Bielsko-Żywiec.

Online lesson "Christian clergy and religious life in KL Auschwitz".