ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - On Saturday, a Catholic priest martyred at the Nazi concentration camp in Dachau, Germany was beatified.
Father Engelmar Unzeitig was born in Greifendorf, Czech Republic in 1911. When Unzeitig was just 18 he entered the Mariannhill Missionaries seminary, where he spent 11 years, and was ordained a priest in 1939. The next year he became a parish priest in Glockelberg, Austria.
It wasn't long until Fr. Unzeitig was arrested by the Gestapo, the secret police of Nazi Germany, in 1941, for preaching against the Nazi's treatment of the Jewish people and the Third Reich, encouraging his congregation to be faithful to God and to resist the lies of the Nazi regime.
Father Unzeitig was sent to Dachau, considered the largest "monastery" in the world because so many priests were held there — roughly 2,700. While there, Fr. Unzeitig studied Russian to help prisoners from Eastern Europe, offering Mass, translating Bible texts and assisting other prisoners however he could.
Even though life in Dachau was extremely difficult, Fr. Unzeitig found hope in his faith. In a letter he wrote to his sister, he said,
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!
"Even behind the hardest sacrifices and worst suffering stands God with his Fatherly love," he contined, "who is satisfied with the good will of his children and gives them and others happiness."
In December of 1944, a Typhus epidemic broke out, killing many of the prisoners. Father Unzeitig and 19 other clergy volunteered to help the sick, an almost-certain death sentence. He eventually succumbed to the disease, dying in March 1945. All but two of the 20 priests who had volunteered to minister to the typhoid victims suffered the same fate as Unzeitig.
Three weeks later, the camp was liberated by the Allied armies.
Father Unzeitig's beatification process took place in Würzburg, Germany on Saturday, the same city where his cause was initiated on July 26, 1991. Pope Francis declared Fr. Unzeitig a martyr in January. Sunday in Rome, the Holy Father said of him, "Killed in hatred of the Faith in the extermination camp of Dachau, he opposed hatred with love, and answered ferocity with meekness: May his example help us to be witnesses of charity and hope even in the midst of trials."