Father Engelmar Unzeitig was one of the many brave yet often overlooked Christians who took bold stands against the Nazis in World War II.
Hubert Unzeitig was born in Greifendorf, Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia) on March 1, 1911. He entered the seminary at the age of 18 and became a priest, assuming the name “Engelmar,” in the Mariannhill Mission Society, whose motto is: “If no one else will go: I will go!” In 1940, he was assigned to serve in Austria.
As the Nazis began their persecution of the Jewish people, Unzeitig defended Jews in his sermons, resulting in his being arrested by the Gestapo in 1941.
The Gestapo arrested Unzeitig on 21 April 1941 for defending Jews in his sermons and sent him to the Dachau concentration camp without a trial on 8 June 1941. While there he studied the Russian language in order to tend to the Eastern European prisoners and administered to all prisoners in general in his role as a pastor.
Dachau had been called the “largest monastery in the world”—Dachau concentration camp, which became renowned for the number of ministers and priests within its walls. The camp housed some 2,700 clergy, roughly 95% of whom were Catholic priests from Poland, making it one of the largest residences for priests in history.
In addition to clergymen, the camp’s prisoners included resistance fighters, Jews, and others who refused to collaborate with the occupation forces; inmates from more than thirty countries were imprisoned at Dachau, with Germans forming only a minority.
Dachau, one of the first concentration camps established by the Nazis, was located in the small town of Dachau approximately 10 miles northwest of Munich. Dachau with a capacity for 5,000 prisoners was selected by the Nazis because it was the site of an empty munitions factory from World War One, which was ideal for the establishment of a camp.
Above Dachau’s main gate stood the inscription – “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Will Make You Free”).
In the autumn of 1944 Father Engelmar volunteered to help in caring for the hundreds of victims of the typhoid epidemic that had been raging in concentrations camps since December, 1944, but he soon contracted the disease himself.
From prison he wrote to his sister: “Whatever we do, whatever we want, is surely simply the grace that carries us and guides us. God’s almighty grace helps us overcome obstacles … love doubles our strength, makes us inventive, makes us feel content and inwardly free. If people would only realize what God has in store for those who love Him!”
Unzeitig died of typhoid on March 2, 1945 and was cremated. His ashes were smuggled in secret to Wurzburg and he was hailed as the “Angel of Dachau.” Dachau was liberated by American soldiers just a few weeks later, on April 29.
Source: www.ifcj.org, www.wikipedia.com. www.marianhill.us, www.catholicnewsagency.com, www.holocaust researchproject.org,