Sunday, July 12, 2009

Priestblock 25487: A Memoir of Dachau

"This was but a prelude; where books are burnt human-beings will be burnt in the end." ~~the German poet Heinrich Heine in 1820

Although I visited Dachau years ago¹ and I've read many books--both fiction² and non-fiction³--dealing with life in concentration camps, I don't recall ever reading any individual accounts specifically about this particular camp, until I encountered this poignant diary by Father Jean Bernard from Luxembourg. Nor do I recall reading about the internment tortures reserved for priests and other Christian ministers.

As I was reading Priestblock 25487: A Memoir of Dachau it was hard not to recall the eerie silence of Dachau's vast empty spaces marking off where derelict huts had once housed skeletons. But for the Grace of God, Father Bernard, too, would have joined the many souls who died there. His memoir is unique in several respects and worth reading, no matter how many books you may have read about the Holocaust.

First, it is about what happened to Christian, both Catholic and Protestant, clergy at the hands of the Nazis. For those who may have thought the Jewish nation alone suffered during those terrible times, they need look no further. In fact, there were punishments vindictive guards delighted in reserving just for priests on special feasts and other holy days.

And yet the strength of the story comes from the author’s intelligence, compassion for his fellows, and lack of self-pity or belaboring the horrors. The suffering endured by these men is beyond imagining; that is sufficient.

However, for me, it was Father Bernard’s unwavering faith in Christ through it all which speaks louder than anything and is the most important reason to read this book.

Worth reading and rereading—a reminder of how blessed we all are...perhaps most especially in our priests!

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¹ 1985 to be precise, just after my husband and I were married. We went together; it was a trip we never forgot!

² The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, I am Bonhoeffer, The Book Thief, The Valley of Light and Angel Girl being some of the fiction I've reviewed here on my blog and on Goodreads.

³ Night, Man's Search for Meaning and Concentration camp Dachau, 1933-1945 are a few of the many non-fiction books on the Third Reich which I've read and reviewed; most of rest I've not gotten around to reviewing yet.

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