MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

Please allow me to write a post today that has nothing at all to do with so-called alternative medicine, not even with medicine.

Yesterday, 13 March, was my mother’s birthday. She was born in 1911 and died in 1989. I often think of her and the remarkable life she had, particularly, of course, on 13 March.

Going through my X-feed yesterday, I saw this post from the Auschwitz Memorial:

13 March 1911 | A Pole, Józef Kowalski, was born in Siedliska. A Catholic priest, Salesian. In Auschwitz from 26 June 1941. No. 17350 On 4 July 1942 he was drowned in a barrel of fecal matter in the Penal Company, where he was placed for refusing to trample a rosary.

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I am not a religious person but I was struck: this man was born on the same day as my mother and lived not far from where she did. He was brutally killed, while she, not far away, was peacefully trying to buid a future with my father,
I simply had to find out more about him. This turned out to be easy because there is plenty of information, even a Wiki page on him. Here is a short summary of his life:

Józef Kowalski was born in Siedliska on 13 March 1911 to Wojciech and Zofia Borowiec, the seventh of their nine children. He was ordained a priest on 29 May 1938 as member of the Salesian Religious Society. During the German occupation of Poland, the Salesians continued their educational work. The Gestapo arrested Kowalski on 23 May 1941, along with eleven other Salesians. They were taken to Montelupich Prison and tortured.

Kowalski was sent to Auschwitz on 26 June 1941. There, he ministered to his fellow prisoners usually in secret, but at least once in front of everyone at the moment of mass execution. He was ordered by Blockführer Gerhard Palitzsch to trample upon his rosary but refused. Palitzsch was one of the most brutal of all the SS officers of the camps (he later vanished from the records, possibly killed in action). As punishment, he was assigned to a penal company. In his last letter to his parents, Józef wrote:

Do not worry about me; I am in God’s hands. I want to assure you that I feel His help at every step. Despite the present situation, I am happy and completely at peace.

On 3 July 1942 he was mocked and severely beaten by the guards for being a priest. The same night, they pulled him out of his barracks, gravely beat him again and killed him. Kowalski’s body was found the next day and burned with others. He was 31 years of age.

Pope John Paul II who had known Kowalski personally beatified Kowalski on 13 June 1999.

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Please forgive me if you find this post irrelevant or inappropriate.

 

3 Responses to Józef Kowalski (1911-1942)

  • Thank you for sharing your thoughts. The post is neither irrelevant nor inappropriate.

  • Thanks Edzard, I too am both fascinated and horrified. Human behaviour is always interesting and the Holocaust should never be forgotten as the epitome of how far down we can descend. It is also highly relevant at this time with the horror of Gaza reminding us of the cold hearted, cold blooded way in which humans can behave when in large groups.
    Thanks for sharing your insights.

  • I think the topic has a lot to do with the goal of the blog. There is nothing to excuse, Dr. Ernst. It is true that pseudoscience scandalizes by distorting science; It is also true that anti-science scandalizes by denying science. SCAM is to scientific medicine what Holocaust denialism is to history (another science). Paying tribute to the victims of Nazism is laudable and pertinent in these times of widespread disinformation.

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