Silent Night

World War I began when the heir to the Austro-Hungarian, Archduke Francis Ferdinand was assassinated by a Serbian nationalist named Gavrilo Princip. As a complicated web of alliances unraveled, war broke out on July 8, 1914, one month after Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination. Everyone at that time expected the war to end by the Christmas of 1914. However, both sides were stuck in deadlock. The main cause of deadlock was the fact that all the nations had a different goal to achieve. Before the war, Germany had conquered the French territory of Alsace-Lorraine, which is modern day Belgium. The French wanted to re-conquer this land. Britain was focusing on the Ottoman Empire, which is modern day Middle East. Germany was having difficulty fighting a two front war. Also, both sides had equal military power. As the war dragged on, each side attempted to break the deadlock.

In 2014, the Sainsbury supermarket aired a commercial depicting the Christmas Day Truce of 1914. This event was real. On December 7, 1914, the newly elected leader, Pope Benedict XV called for a Christmas truce but the idea was rejected. Accounts suggest that on Christmas day, the Germans initiated this famous and highly significant truce. Witnesses say that the German troops began singing in their language and the British would follow. On Christmas day, soldiers came onto No Man’s land and exchanged gifts. They even played soccer. The saddest event was when the British and German troops buried their dead. An estimated 100,000 soldiers participated in this miraculous event. However, the truce did not happen everywhere. Accounts say that soldiers attempted to make peace but they were shot.



The Saint of Auschwitz: Maximilian Kolbe


Maximilian Kolbe was born on January 8, 1894 in Poland. His parents, Julius Kolbe and Maria Dabrowska named him Rajmund Kolbe. Kolbe had one older brother named Francis and two younger brothers named Joseph and Walenty, Unfortunately, neither Joseph or Walenty lived until five years old. When Kolbe was twenty, his father was captured by the Russians. Kolbe’s father was fighting for a partially free Poland which was under Russian control.

In 1907, Kolbe and his older brother joined the Conventual Franciscans. In 1911, Kolbe changed his first name from Rajmund to Maximilian. Seven years later, he was ordained as a priest. During World War II, Kolbe hid an approximated amount of 2,000 Jews. On February 17 in 1941 Kolbe was arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned. Three months later he was sent to Auschwitz as #16670.  

Sometime between May and August in 1941, a man went missing. The German custom with missing prisoner was that for every prisoner not present, ten men would be starved. A man named Franciszek Gajowniczek was picked to be starved. As the guards gathered the group, Gajowniczek sobbed over his family. This prompted Kolbe to offer to take his place. Kolbe convinced the guards to let Gajowniczek stay in the camp and let him take his place to die. The ten prisoners were then held in a cell and left to die. By the end of three weeks, Kolbe and two other men still lived. The guards then injected carbolic acid into these remaining prisoners.

For this heroic deed, Kolbe is known as the Saint of Auschwitz and he was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 10, 1982. Kolbe is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners, and pro-life movements. Pope John Paul II named Kolbe “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Era”.

When I first heard the story of Maximilian Kolbe was surprised. In Night by Elie Wiesel, Wiesel tells of man who keeps his promises in Hitler because God has stopped keeping His promises. Thousands of Jews lost their faith in God in the Holocaust. Recently, I hear of men and women who kept their faith in God. Whoever carved the words “I believe in the sun even though it doesn’t shine, I believe in love even when it isn’t shown, I believe in God even when He doesn’t speak” has faith with magnitude. These few people who put their faith in God in the most violent and murderous era has caused me to wonder about my faith. If people who went through the Holocaust have faith, what is making me stumble? Kolbe was an example of Jesus’ work on Earth. Like Kolbe, Jesus died in someone else’s place. 

Hero of the Budapest Jews: Raoul Wallenberg

Raoul Wallenberg was born on August 4, 1912 to Maj Wising Wallenberg and Raoul Oscar Wallenberg in Sweden. He was born 3 months after his father’s death, so he grew up with his stepfather, Fredrik von Dardel who his mother married when he was six. Wallenberg had a sister named Nina and a brother named Guy. The Wallenberg family was famous for being bankers. Despite the fact that he was breaking the family legacy, Raoul got a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture at the University of Michigan. From there he traveled to Cape Town, South Africa to sell ship building materials. After that he went to Haifa, Israel to become a copartner with Koloman Lauer for the Mid-European Trading Company. As a non-Jew Wallenberg was able to travel more than Lauer considering that Lauer was Jewish.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9417 to establish the War Refugee Board. It was the War Refugee Board who established Raoul Wallenberg in the Swedish Legation with the purpose to save as many Jews as they could.Wallenberg was different than other “saviors” to the Jewish people because he asked the Swedish Legation if he could work on his own without the need of approval by authority. Along with Per Anger, Wallenberg’s associate, they issued thousands of illegal shutzpasses, which were pieces of worthless paper that were decorated with official looking stamps and signatures.

According to Anger, at least 100,000 Jews can thank Wallenberg for saving their lives. Wallenberg’s methods of saving people were extraordinary because he used bribery and threats. Many of the authorities were shocked by the tactics Wallenberg used, but they undoubtedly saw the success of the tactics. Today, a tree is planted at the Avenue of the Righteous in Yad Vashem, Israel in honor of Raoul Wallenberg. In 1981, Raoul Wallenberg posthumously became an honorary U.S. citizen. This honor is only held by eight people.

Raoul Wallenberg inspires me because he was daunting in the way he defied the Nazis. Today, not much is being shown to observe the characters of heroes during the Holocaust. I think that history books have done enough to show the horrific events that Nazis and ultimately Hitler orchestrated. However, they don’t show the men and women with integrity who stood up in what they knew was right. They don’t show how these people saved thousands of lives. Not all of them saved more than a hundred lives, because there are people who saved only a family yet they are still heroes. Much evil was done during this era but difficult times challenge humans on their faith and what they believe in. I believe that during tragic era’s in history, men and women rise up to challenge the wrongdoers. Eventually, these people of integrity do something about it.