Father Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish priest who died as prisoner 16770 in Auschwitz, on August 14, 1941.
He volunteered to take the place of another inmate. In order to save the other inmate he said I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his place, because he has a wife and children.’ The German soldiers took him up on his offer.
He consistently waited until the other prisoners received help before asking for any for himself.
His destiny for martyrdom began many years before when as a child he remembered after he had gotten in trouble. ‘That night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.’ These words would end up being a foreshadowing of his life many years later.
Fr. Kolbe led his fellow prisoners in prayer to the Holy Mother Mary until his death. Some have even said the prison camp at time resembled church as the men awaited their fate. He provided a source of light in a brutally dark and cruel place. He spent two weeks in a cell of death, being starved along with nine other prisoners. He was finally given a lethal injection of carbolic acid on 14 August 1941. He was canonized in 1982 by Pope John Paul II, who declared him “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century”.