FEW KNOW HITLER swore that, at war's end, he would "crush the Catholic Church like a toad." Few know 550 German priests were in Dachau for conflicts with the regime or that, as the Occupation spread, their number swelled to 2,700 - the world's largest religious community - crammed into barracks built for 300. They slaved in a vast SS industrial complex attached to the camp, surviving on thin soup, sleeping three to a shelf, sharing one another's warmth and lice. They were used for experiments, especially young seminarians. Half died there.
The story traces the lives of men working against the Nazis in the Catholic underground in the 30's, their capture and imprisonment with other priests brought together from the entire European system, their wrenching struggle to keep faith and care for fellow prisoners, when all they needed to say was: "Enough!" Why?
These are stories found only in nooks and crannies of libraries. But they are all true.
About the author
WILLIAM J. O'MALLY has been a Jesuit 60 years, teaching theology in high schools in Brooklyn, Rochester, England, Australia, the Bronx, and college students at Georgetown, Boston College, Loyola-Marymount, and Fordham. He has published 37books and over 100 articles, mostly about outfoxing teenage skepticism. Bill won four Best Article Awards and one Best Book Award from the Catholic Press Association.He has directed 99 plays and musicals and also played Fr. Joe Dyer in the original"Exorcist."
He began research on the Dachau priests after visiting the camp and discovering the Nazis calculated the lifetime (270 days) worth of a prisoner-slave as $642. He became puzzled how the personnel, who would never kick a neighbor's dog, could process fellow humans as no better than diseased animals, but also why so many men would endure soul-searing punishment rather than saying, "I submit!"
Nietzsche, no believer, wrote: "Whoever has a why to live for can survive just about anyhow." What was their "why"?