Kolbe's body was removed to the crematorium, and without
dignity or ceremony was disposed of, like hundreds of
thousands who had gone before him, and hundreds of
thousands more who would follow.
The heroism of Father Kolbe went echoing through
Auschwitz. In that desert of hatred he had sown love. A
survivor Jozef Stemler later recalled:
"In the midst
of a brutalization of thought, feeling and words such as
had never before been known, man indeed became a
ravening wolf in his relations with other men. And into
this state of affairs came the heroic self-sacrifice of
Father Kolbe.' Another survivor Jerzy Bielecki
declared that Father Kolbe's death was 'a shock filled
with hope, bringing new life and strength ... It was
like a powerful shaft of light in the darkness of the
The cell where Father Kolbe died is now a shrine.
Maximilian Kolbe was beatified as Confessor by Paul VI
in 1970, and canonized as Martyr by Pope John Paul II in
what happened to Gajowniczek - the man Father Kolbe
He died on March 13, 1995, at Brzeg in Poland, 95 years
old - and 53 years after Kolbe had saved him. But he was
never to forget the ragged monk. After his release from
Auschwitz, Gajowniczek made his way back to his hometown,
with the dream of seeing his family again. He found his
wife but his two sons had been killed during the war.
Every year on August 14 he went back to Auschwitz. He
spent the next five decades paying homage to Father
Kolbe, honoring the man who died on his behalf.
Father Kolbe's incredible deed is an inspiration for all
mankind. His life serves as eulogy to the millions who
perished in World War II. He did not leave his legacy as
an ode to the past - rather as a beacon of hope to the