Friday, December 24, 2010

Holy Night in Hell: Carmelite in KZ

The French Carmelite Priest and Prisoner P. Jacques de Jésus spread hope with a Mass in KZ Gusen.
P. Jacques de Jésus (left). Photo:  Archive G. Carmelites in Avon

KZ Gusen was called the "Hell of Hells".   But even there Christmas was celebrated.  On the parade ground and in secret:  the prisoner P. Jacques was able to celebrate Mass on 24. Dezember 1944. It was the most moving Liturgy of his life, reported a survivor.

A more perverse situation can not be imagined.  It was the early evening of the 24th of December.  Thousands of marled forms stood clothed in thin rags on the ice cold parade ground of Gusen and had to sing Christmas songs -- for their tormentors.  The SS-Men even took off their hats and listened to the German and Polish songs.  He had experienced much in  25 Months at Gusen, which is unimagineable, said the prisoner Louis Deblé: This Christmas feast stood out in an unimagineable way.  A large Christmas tree stood there, where normally the mobile gallows was set up.

The "Pastor of Gusen".   There was also another Christmas in the camp in 1944.  The "Pastor of Gusen", as the prisoners called P. Jacques, had his hands full with much to do.  Evidently, there was only work till midday, there the civilian foremen, the Capos and the SS-Men went home or also wanted to rest.   That afforded the possibility to move within the confines of the camp more safely than usual.  Unswervingly, prisoners sook P. Jacques out in order to do penance, and he went to several groups of Poles to give short meditations.  Even the 400 children of the camp, for whom a Christmas tree was organized, he stopped and made a visit and finally made his way on this night to the sick, the moribund.

A chalice from weapon-steel.  About 8 O'Clock  he began in Block 18with the chrism.  Between the beds the prisoners stood --- men from 15 nations sang in their mother tongues.  Upon the Consecration, P. Jacques knelt in his prison uniform before his bed where stood the Chalice and Paten.  A prisoner had made the chalice out of steel from rifle barrels, the wine came from a civil worker.  The hosts came from a Polish seminarian who had carried them since  1940.  The other prisoner Gaston Passagez stood during the Mass completely near to P Jacques:  "never have I seen such concentration with my own eyes, such an interiority -- I was moved to tears."  On this place of inhumanity was celebrated God becoming Man.  After the Mass the prisoners embraced one another.  "I will remember this night my whole life long",  said a Polish witness of the Mass.   P. Jacques died shortly after the liberation of the camp by the Elisabethinen in Linz.

Link to original...Diocese of Linz


ElGatoLobo said...


Anonymous said...

Amazing,these sorts of posts are great. There was a video doing the blog rounds recently - it showed priests in a concentration camp at Mass. All very inspiring. Thanks