Maximilian Kolbe

From New World Encyclopedia

Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe

Kolbe Statue (left) - Westminster Abbey
Born January 7 or January 8, 1894 in Zduńska Wola, Russian Empire in what is now Poland
Died August 14, 1941 in Auschwitz concentration camp, Poland
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church, Lutheran Church
Beatified October 17, 1971, St. Peter Basilica, Rome, Italy[1]

by Pope Paul VI

Canonized October 10, 1982, Rome, Italy

by Pope John Paul II

Major shrine Basilica of the Immaculate Mediatrix of Grace, Niepokalanów, Poland
Feast August 14
Patronage Twentieth century, Pro-Life Movement, drug addiction, drug addicts, families, amateur radio

Maximilian Kolbe (January 8,[2] 1894 – August 14, 1941), also known as Maksymilian or Massimiliano Maria Kolbe and "Apostle of Consecration to Mary," born as Rajmund Kolbe, was a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz in Poland.

He was canonized by the Catholic Church as Saint Maximilian Kolbe on October 10, 1982, by Pope John Paul II, and declared a martyr of charity. He is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners, and the pro-life movement. Pope John Paul II declared him the "The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century".[3]

Kolbe was also known for his condemnation of Communism, Capitalism and Imperialism.


Maximilian Kolbe was born January 8, 1894, in Zduńska Wola, at that time part of Russian Empire. His father was an ethnic German and his mother of Polish origins. Maximilian was the second son of Julius Kolbe and Maria Dabrowska. He had four brothers: Francis, Joseph, Walenty, and Andrew. His parents moved to Pabianice, where they worked first as weavers. Later his mother worked as a midwife (often donating her services), and owned a shop in part of her rented house which sold groceries and household goods. Julius Kolbe worked at a mill and on rented land where he grew vegetables. In 1914, Julius joined Józef Piłsudski's Polish Legions and was captured by the Russians for fighting for the independence of a partitioned Poland.

In 1907, Kolbe and his elder brother Francis decided to join the Conventual Franciscan Order. They illegally crossed the border between Russia and Austria-Hungary and joined the Conventual Franciscan junior seminary in Lwów. In 1910, Kolbe was allowed to enter the novitiate. He professed his first vows in 1911, adopting the name Maximilian, and the final vows in 1914, in Rome, adopting the names Maximilian Maria, to show his veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In 1912, he was sent to Craków, and, in the same year, to Rome, where he studied philosophy, theology, mathematics, and physics. He earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1915 at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and the doctorate in theology in 1919 at the Pontifical University of St. Bonaventure. During his time as a student, he witnessed vehement demonstrations against Pope St. Pius X and Pope Benedict XV by the Freemasons in Rome and was inspired to organize the Militia Immaculata, or Army of Mary, to work for conversion of sinners and the enemies of the Catholic Church through the intercession of the Virgin Mary. In 1918, he was ordained a priest. In the conservative publications of the Militia Immaculatae, he particularly condemned Freemasonry, Communism, Zionism, Capitalism and Imperialism.

In 1919, he returned to the newly independent Poland, where he was very active in promoting the veneration of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, founding and supervising the monastery of Niepokalanów near Warsaw, a seminary, a radio station, and several other organizations and publications. Between 1930 and 1936, he took a series of missions to Japan, where he founded a monastery at the outskirts of Nagasaki, a Japanese paper, and a seminary. The monastery he founded remains prominent in the Roman Catholic Church in Japan. Kolbe decided to build the monastery on a mountain side that, according to Shinto beliefs, was not the side best suited to be in tune with nature. When the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Kolbe's monastery was saved because the blast of the bomb hit the other side of the mountain, which took the main force of the blast. Had Kolbe built the monastery on the preferred side of mountain as he was advised, all of his fellow monks would have been destroyed.


During the Second World War, in the friary, Kolbe provided shelter to refugees from Greater Poland, including 2,000 Jews whom he hid from Nazi persecution in his friary in Niepokalanów. He was also active as a radio amateur, with Polish call letters SP3RN, vilifying Nazi activities through his reports.

On February 17, 1941, he was arrested by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison, and, on May 25, was transferred to Auschwitz I as prisoner #16670.

In July 1941, a man from Kolbe's barracks had vanished, prompting SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Fritzsch, the Lagerführer (i.e., the camp commander), to pick ten men from the same barracks to be starved to death in Block 11 (notorious for torture), in order to deter further escape attempts. (The man who had disappeared was later found drowned in the camp latrine.) One of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, lamenting his family, and Kolbe volunteered to take his place.

During the time in the cell, he led the men in songs and prayer. After three weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe and three others were still alive. Finally, he was executed with an injection of carbolic acid.

Kolbe is one of ten twentieth-century martyrs from across the world who are depicted in statues above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey, London. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 10, 1982, in the presence of Gajowniczek.


  1. Biographical Data Summary at the Militia of Immaculata website. Retrieved December 26, 2007.
  2. Different sources provide different date of birth for St Maximilian Kolbe: reports January 8 while reports January 7 Retrieved December 26, 2007.
  3. St. Maximilian Kolbe Martyr of Love Retrieved December 26, 2007.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Frossard, Andre and Cendrine Fontan (Translator). Forget Not Love: The Passion of Maximilian Kolbe. Ignatius Press, 1991. ISBN 978-0898702750
  • Rees, Laurence. Auschwitz: A New History. Public Affairs, 2005. ISBN 1-58648-357-9
  • Stone, Elaine Murray. Maximilian Kolbe: Saint of Auschwitz. Paulist Press, 1997. ISBN 978-0809166374


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