Życie za życie (1991, Poland)
Life for Life: Maximilian Kolbe
Leben für Leben - Maximilian Kolbe
Direction : Krzysztof Zanussi
Writing credits : Jan Józef Szczepanski / Krzysztof Zanussi
Music : Wojciech Kilar
Father Maximilian and four companions were deported to Auschwitz on May 28th,
1941, which was then both a labor and a death camp. Over the entrance
gate of this concentration camp was a sign in German: Arbeit macht
frei - "Work makes you free," a mockery of human spirit and human
endeavors. Few who passed through that gate left the camp alive. Upon
entering Auschwitz, Camp Commandant Karl Fritsch ("Butcher" Fritsch)
told prisoners that Jews had the right to live only two weeks, and Roman
Catholic priests one month. Cruelly, they were told that the only way
out of the camp was through the chimneys of the crematorium.
Father Maximilian received the striped convict garment and was tattooed with the number 16670. He was put to work immediately carrying blocks of stone for the construction of a crematorium wall.
Near the end of July, a prisoner apparently escaped, and men from Kolbe's bunker were paraded in the blazing midday sun, knowing what to expect. One man from each line was selected at random, including a sergeant, Francis Gajowniczek. He cried out in a despairing voice, "My wife, my children, I shall never see them again!" Then a man stepped out from the ranks and offered to take Gajowniczek's place. The SS man, "Butcher" Fritsch, did not care who went to the Bunker, so long as there were ten of them, so he nodded. "Who are you?" he asked carelessly. "I am a Catholic priest. I wish to die for that man. I am old; he has a wife and children." Father Kolbe and the nine others were led off to the death chamber of Cell 18.
In 1982, Pope John Paul II made Maximilian Kolbe a Catholic Saint. His feast day is August 14.