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Holy Priest Anonymous One of Sachsenhausen
“Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;my eye is wasted with grief, my soul and body also.
Strong as I am, I stumble because of my inequality,and my bones waste away.
I am the scorn of my adversaries, a horror to my neighbors... I have passed out of mind like one who is dead; I have come to be like something lost.
Yes, I hear many whispering- terror on every side- as theyscheme together against me, to take my life...”
A rereading of part of Psalm 31
As June ends this year, Pride Month too, I am deeply aware of all those, like this Anonymous Priest ... who came before us. We all “stand on the shoulders of these giants.” They do not deserve to be “like something lost,” as the King David cries in Psalm 31, but to be remembered.
And now the story of this icon, from the book “The Men With The Pink Triangle,” by Heinz Heger. (I have to delete some words because of internet rules.)
“Toward the end of February, 1940, a priest arrived in our block, a man some 60 years of age, tall and with distinguished features. We after discovered that he came from Sudetenland, from an aristocratic German family. He found the torment of the arrival procedure trying, particularly the long wait naked and barefoot outside the block. When his tonsure was discovered after the shower, the SS corporal in charge took up a razor and said, ‘I’ll go to work on this one myself, and extend his tonsure a bit.’ And he shaved the priest’s head with the razor, taking little trouble to avoid cutting his scalp, quite the contrary.
The priest returned to the day-room of our block with his head cut open and blood streaming down. His face was ashen and his eyes stared uncomprehendingly into the distance. He sat down on a bench, folded his hands in his lap and said softly, more to himself than to anyone else: ‘And yet man is good, he is a creature of God!’ I was sitting beside him and said softly but firmly: ‘Not all men; there are also beasts in human form, whom the devil must have made.’
The priest paid no attention to my words, he just prayed silently, merely moving his lips. I was deeply moved, even though I was by then already numbed by the suffering I had seen and indeed experienced myself. But I had always had a great respect for priests, so that his silent prayer, this mute appeal to God, whom he had called upon for help and strength in his bodily pain and mental torment, went straight to my heart.
Our block Capo, however, a repulsive and brutal ‘green,’ must have reported the priest’s praying to the SS, for our block sergeant suddenly burst into the day-room accompanied by a second NCO, seizing the terrified priest from the bench and punching and insulting him. The priest bore the beating and abuse without complaint, and just stared at the two SS men with wide astonished eyes. This must simply have made them angrier, for they now took one of the benches and tied the priest to it. They started to beat him indiscriminately with their sticks, on his stomach and his sexual organs. They seemed to get more and more ecstatic, and gloated: ‘We’ll drive the praying out of you ! You bum -......!’ The priest collapsed into unconsciousness, was shaken awake and then fell unconscious again. Finally the two sadists ceased their blows and left the day-room, though not without scornfully calling back to the man they had destroyed: ‘Ok, you randy old rat-bag, you can piss with your ..... hole in the future.’ The priest just rattled and groaned. We released him and laid him on his bed. He tried to raise his hand in thanks, but he hadn’t the strength, and his voice gave out when he tried to say ‘thank you.’ He just lay without stirring, his eyes open, each movement contorting his face with pain.
I felt like I was witnessing the Crucifixion of Christ in modern guise. Instead of Roman soldiers, Hitler’s SS thugs, and a bench instead of a Cross. The torment of the Saviour, however, was scarcely greater than that inflicted on one of his representatives nineteen hundred years later here in Sachsenhausen.
The next morning, when we marched to the parade ground, we had almost to carry the priest, who seemed about to collapse again from the pain and weakness. When our block senior reported to the SS sergeant, the later came over to the priest and shouted ‘You filthy ...., you filthy swine, say what you are !’ The priest was supposed to repeat the insults, but no sound came from the lips of the broken man. The SS man angrily fell on him and was about to start beating him once again.
Suddenly the unimaginable happened, something that is still inexplicable to me and that I could only see as a miracle, the finger of God. From the overcast sky, a sudden ray of sunshine illuminated the priest’s face. Out of the thousands of assembled prisoners, only him, and at the very moment when he was going to be beaten again. There was a remarkable silence, and all present stared up fixedly at the sky, astonished by what had happened. The SS sergeant himself looked up at the clouds in wonder for a few seconds, then let his hand raised for beating, sink slowly to his side, and walked wordlessly away to take up his position at the end of his ranks.
The priest bowed his head and murmured with a dying voice: ‘Thank you Lord, I know that my time has come.’
He was still with us for the evening parade. But we no longer needed to carry him, we laid him down at the end of the line with the other dead of the day, so that our numbers should be complete for the roll-call, no matter living or dead.”
(By Heinz Heger)
“But I trust in you, O Lord, I say, ‘You are my God.’
Rescue me from those who persecute me!
I will rejoice and be glad for your unfailing love, because you have cared for me in my distress and have not abandoned me but
have set me free.”
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 June 2021