CNA Staff, Apr 29, 2020 / 09:55 am
When the U.S. Army arrived at Dachau concentration camp 75 years ago, on April 29, 1945, the clergy held captive there regarded it as a miracle.
A week earlier, on April 22, the priests and monks of Dachau had consecrated themselves to St. Joseph, fearing that the guards were planning to murder them before fleeing the advancing Allies. If they were spared, they promised they would make an annual pilgrimage to St. Joseph's Shrine in Kalisz, central Poland.
In fact, they were going to be executed. But two hours before they were due to be killed at the camp -- once described as "the largest priest cemetery in the world" -- a small U.S. Army patrol unit arrived and saved them.
That is the story told by Bishop Edward Janiak of Kalisz in a message marking the Day of Martyrdom of the Polish Clergy, which commemorates the hundreds of priests and religious killed at Dachau and elsewhere. It is observed April 29.
"As it happened unexpectedly, two hours before the liquidation of the camp and several hours before the attack on KL [Konzentrationslager, or concentration camp] Dachau planned by the American command, the fact of the earlier liberation of the camp was considered by the prisoners as a special grace received from God through the intercession of St. Joseph of Kalisz," Bishop Janiak wrote in the message dated April 20.