The story of St Maximilian Kolbe’s extraordinary martyrdom in Auschwitz is well known. Ten prisoners were chosen for execution at random because a prisoner had escaped. As one of the men was called out of line, he broke down and pleaded with the guards not to take him because he had a wife and two children back home. Hearing these words, Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Franciscan, stepped forward and offered to take his place. Amazingly, the guards allowed him to do so.
That story forms the centre piece of Elaine Murray Stone’s biography of St Maximilian Kolbe written for children. However, she also tells a remarkable story that is much less well known: the life of St Maximilian Kolbe before his imprisonment in Auschwitz. We learn about his early years, his time at school and in the seminary, and especially his creation of a city for Mary in Poland and subsequently in Japan.
Finding age-appropriate books about the darkest moments of World War II is not always straightforward but here is one that can be recommended.