See page for author [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons If risking your life in order to save thousands of lives doesn’t make one a hero then nothing does. Maximilian Kolbe was born in 1894, the middle of three sons. At the age of 24 he was ordained a priest in Rome’s S. Andrea della Valle church. Kolbe created a magazine called “The Knight” and founded a seminary for thousands of Catholics (McCurry, J. E.). Courage and compassion are not the only attributes that define a hero, but they are among the most important. A hero must possess the sympathy for others’ feelings and the bravery to step up and do something about it to help them. Maximilian Kolbe exemplifies courage and compassion for others thus making him a hero.
Maximilian shows compassion for others in actions both during his life and in his death. After Germany invaded Poland, and the war started Kolbe harbored thousands of Jews, protecting them from the Nazis. “Kolbe and the community at Niepokalanów helped to hide, feed and clothe 3,000 Polish refugees”(Pettinger, Tevan). Kolbe understood the struggles the Polish refugees had experienced. Not only did he hide them from the Nazis but he went above and beyond to ease the refugees’ problems by giving them food and clothes. Only someone with compassion for others would realize these people's plights and help so many of them. Kolbe risked his life he gave up his monastery and resources to help them. During his time in Auschwitz, a prisoner escaped so the Commander of Auschwitz wanted to punish those he still had in captivity. “The Deputy Commander of Auschwitz ordered 10 men to be chosen to be starved to death in an underground bunker. When one of the selected men Franciszek Gajowniczek heard he was selected, he cried out “My wife! My children!” At this point Kolbe volunteered to take his place”(Pettinger, Tevan). Once Franciszek started yelling about his wife and children, Kolbe’s compassionate heart took over and Kolbe took his place. To aid in the suffering of this man which had already gone through a lot considering he was in a concentration camp, Kolbe stepped forward and offered to give his life in place of a stranger. Being a hero, Kolbe placed others’ lives before his own. As expressed, Maximilian Kolbe showed great compassion for others throughout his life and even into his death.
A hero not only needs compassion for others but the courage to step up and do something to help others. Even though Kolbe was a humble priest he had many courageous moments throughout his lifetime. “Maximilian Kolbe's soul bore the fruit of martyrdom, when he laid down his life for another in the dehumanizing and brutal world of the Nazi death camp”(Laurence, Lianne). One must have two things to be characterized as a martyr. The first is a steel bound faith in whatever belief you die for. And the other is the courage of a lion. Maximilian used his compassion to see the problem Franciszek had, but only his courage allowed himself to do something about it. “Soon Kolbe begin printing The Knight again, and within two months, Kolbe was arrested by the Nazis, who viewed many individual Roman Catholic priests-often the most influential, educated men in some Eastern European villages-as dissidents and a hindrance to the goals of the Third Reich”(Maximilian Kolbe, Contemporary Heroes and Heroines). Kolbe new the risks of harboring Jews and publishing a religious magazine but that did not stop him. He helped thousands of people, not caring what the Third Reich would do to him. Maximilian risked it all for people he didn’t even know. His courage allowed him to be brave and put others’ needs before his own even if it could get him arrested or worse, killed. Courage can be seen in many places in Kolbe’s life but it not only defines Maximilian Kolbe as a hero but as a martyr of his religion.
Courage and compassion are two of Kolbe’s numerous outstanding characteristics but they are the two that define him as a hero. Kolbe saved thousands of lives. When it came down to it, he sacrificed his life in place of a stranger. All throughout his life Kolbe exemplified courage and compassion, the defining traits of a hero. Kolbe inspires us to be courageous in the face of defeat. He showed that there is always something you can do to help others, but it takes the courage he possessed to do it. Kolbe inspired Franciszek Gajowniczek to travel the world to tell Maximilian Kolbe’s story and share the same courage and compassion that Kolbe did during his life. Once word got to the pope, Kolbe was canonized. There are not many people like Kolbe left in this world. We should all strive to live our life as Kolbe lived his. A direct quote from Kolbe, "I'd like to die in a knightly manner... I wish the same for you. For what nobler can I wish you? Christ himself said, 'Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends'"(Maximilian Kolbe, Contemporary Heroes and Heroines). If everyone in the world lived their life by these words of Maximilian Kolbe then our world would be a brighter place.
Laurence, Lianne. "Your praises we sing Maximilian Kolbe." Catholic Insight, Dec. 2002, p. 10. Student Resources in Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A95677180/SUIC?u=powa9245&xid=2e9cf225. Accessed 14 Feb. 2018.
"Maximilian Kolbe." Contemporary Heroes and Heroines, vol. 4, Gale, 2000. Biography in Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/K1607000349/BIC1?u=powa9245&xid=3f13b4e0. Accessed 14 Feb. 2018.
McCurry, J. E. "Maximilian Kolbe, Saint." New Catholic Encyclopedia, Gale, 2003. Biography in Context, https://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/K3407706324/BIC1?u=powa9245&xid=9e69090a. Accessed 14 Feb. 2018.
Pettinger, Tejvan. “Biography of Maximilian Kolbe“, Oxford, UK – www.biographyonline.net. 3rd August. 2014. Updated 26 June 2017.
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