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Can You Say Zacheus?

Priestblock 25487: A Memoir of Dachau
Fr. Jean Bernard
xx + 177; paperback

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“I began reading this book on Friday night and finished the 175 pages in three hours. It was a book that I could not put down or stop reading.”
— Rev. Steve Wood

In May 1941, Father Jean Bernard was arrested for denouncing the Nazis and sent to Dachau’s “Priest Block,” a barracks that housed more than 3,000 clergymen (the vast majority Roman Catholic priests).

Priestblock 25487 is Father Bernard’s memoir of these events — a gripping, vivid account of survival amid inhuman brutality and torture.

In 2004, Priestblock was adapted into an award-winning film called The Ninth Day. But the German-language text has never before translated into English or made available to American readers.

The book features an Introduction by Robert Royal (author of Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century), and a Preface by Cardinal O’Malley of Boston.

Priestblock is now available on Amazon Kindle. Click here: Priestblock on Kindle

Praise for Priestblock 25487
“Stunning... Casts light into dark and previously neglected corners of the horror that was the Third Reich.”
—Richard John Neuhaus

“Father Jean Bernard’s portrait of survival in a German concentration camp is simple, forceful and vivid – and therefore impossible to put down or forget. It ranks with the great 20th Century personal testimonies against totalitarian violence. Imprisoned and persecuted as a priest, Bernard clung stubbornly to his faith in Jesus Christ, his own humanity and his ability to forgive.
     Priestblock 25487 is a diary of Catholic discipleship under extreme conditions that will deeply move all persons of conscience.”
—Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Denver

“Gripping! This crisp story of the 3,000-plus Christian clergy at Dachau in 1941 forces me to turn pages quickly, in horror... In its understated power, this brief book is unforgettable.”
—Michael Novak, author Washington’s God (with Jana Novak)

“Deeply moving... The suffering of these priests for the sake of the loving God is one of the modern age’s glorious mysteries.”
—Father George W. Rutler

“A startling eye-opener... Gripping... With ongoing attempts to portray the Catholic Church of that era as indifferent to Nazi horrors, this testimony helps to set the record straight, showing how steep a price was paid by many priests for opposing the evil regime.”
—Paul Thigpen, The Catholic Answer

“Should be treated as a meditation, even something to be read again and again... So profound it deserves a wide readership.”
—Barbara Stinson Lee, Intermountain Catholic

“Absorbing, beautifully written.”
—Erin Ryan, National Catholic Reporter

“Riveting... an important primary source for historians.”
—John Burger, National Catholic Register

“Many hundreds of books have been written and published about German concentration and extermination camps during World War II, including at least two or three dozens written or dictated by their actual survivors.
     Of these, Father Jean Bernard’s Priestblock 25487 is among the very best because of the exceptional intelligence and honesty of its author. Dachau, where he was imprisoned, was not the worst of all those camps, and Father Bernard was, surprisingly, released after two years of imprisonment: but perhaps because of these very circumstances his diary is extraordinarily telling, convincing, and graphic.
     Every scholar and student of that dreadful chapter of twentieth-century history ought to read — and ponder — its contents.”
John Lukacs, one of the most distinguished historians of 20th century Europe, has written over 25 books including:
Five Days in London: May 1940
The Duel: The Eighty-Day Struggle Between Churchill and Hitler, and
     · The Hitler of History

“I loved the book and could not put it down. It is dramatic. It is brutally honest. It is a great testimony to so many Catholics and other Christians who suffered at the hands of the Nazis. And finally the book is so important as a witness to what really happened to so many faithful during WW II versus what the anti-Catholic secular media want us to believe.”
—Teresa Tomeo, Ave Maria Radio

“Spellbinding! From its opening pages, I was absolutely riveted to Fr. Bernard’s incredible story of faith and courage.”
—Elizabeth Yank, love2learn.net

“A startling and hidden event at long last brought into the light with power. Anyone seeking proof that demons indeed exist in this world can end their search right here.”
—William Peter Blatty, author The Exorcist

ZENIT Interview with historian William Doino Jr. on the book Priestblock:
Q: Why do you consider Priestblock such an important book?

Doino: Because it educates and inspires, and reminds us of the heroic sacrifices so many Christians — in this case, Catholic priests — endured during the Second World War. As we all know, World War II was the central historical event of the 20th century, and its most evil aspect, the Holocaust.
     Often forgotten, however, is the enormous number of Christians who suffered and died under the Nazis: To call attention to this fact is not to diminish the unique evil of the Shoah, the Nazi extermination of Jews, but simply remember the War in all its dimensions, and honor its victims.
     Max Dimont, the noted Jewish scholar, makes this point in his book Jews, God and History. Just as we say “Never Again” about the Holocaust, so too should we say “Never Forget” the Christians who fought and died under the Nazis.

Q: Several times in the book the priests were given special punishments, and many complained that the Pope or the bishops must have spoken out again against the Nazis. Doesn’t this go against the premise of many critics of the Church that the Pope and the bishops said and did nothing?

Doino: Yes. Priestblock not only establishes that the Church “spoke out” against Nazi horrors, but that the Third Reich’s prisoners suffered because of it.
     For example, in October 1941, the priest block at Dachau was subject to terrifying reprisals. Father Bernard writes, “None of us was ever able to say why the clergy block experienced this catastrophe, or to what it was due. Some people said that the Pope had given a strong speech on the radio, and that the German bishops issued a public protest.”
     Likewise, during Easter in 1942, the clergy again were suddenly and savagely attacked, after which Father Bernard learned that “there was a reason behind it: The Vatican radio station had broadcast a critical report about Dachau and protested the mistreatment of priests.”
     This is confirmation of something historians of the Church have long known: The Church did “speak out” against Hitler and Nazism, and often paid a price because of it.
     Vatican Radio, under the direction of Pope Pius XII, was among the first to break the news of Nazi crimes in Poland, after Hitler invaded the country in late 1939.
     As a result, the Nazis made it a crime in Germany and German-occupied territory to listen to Vatican Radio, even as they did everything they could to block its broadcasts. Still, the messages got through, and Catholics caught listening to it were arrested and even executed.

Read the entire ZENIT interview here.

“The reviewer highly recommends this... remarkable book. Profound insight... Extraordinary.”
—Rev. Robert John Araujo, SJ, The Observer (Boston College)

“Inspiring... Priestblock 25487 is a short read that would fit well into an educational curriculum. Public institutions interested in a full account of what happened during that awful period of history will find Fr. Bernard’s work a useful addition to the syllabus for any classes on the Holocaust.”
—Dan Flaherty, New Oxford Review

“Father Bernard has left readers with a gripping testimony of the brutal treatment the Catholic clergy received at the hands of the Nazis in Dachau. Despite the grim subject matter, the strong Christian faith held by these men is inspiring, and provides a beneficial example worthy of emulation.”
—William A. Donohue, President, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

Priestblock tells the largely unknown story of priestly resistance to the brutality of German National Socialism... A good book for those who think everything has been said about the mysterium iniquitatis, the mystery of evil, in its Nazi form.”
—George Weigel

“Important... luminous... Father Bernard’s factual narrative is direct and explicit reportage and as such it gives a brutally honest recitation of what it was like to endure the clergy barracks of Dachau. It is difficult to imagine how people managed to endure these depths of misery: physical and emotional torture, starvation, disease, unceasing cold, hard physical labor... [Priestblock 25487] move[s] the reader to compassion and insight.”
—Rachelle Linner, Catholic News Service

“An incredibly moving read.”
—Thomas Peters, American Papist weblog

“I’ve refrained by sheer act of the will to share with you excerpts and quotations I’ve loved from this book, Priestblock 25487, in hope that you’ll read it for yourself and within its context feel the richness of the relationship of God and man.
     Written by a Catholic priest imprisoned in Dachau, consigned to barracks specifically for clergy, this text is invaluable, necessary.
     It is both human and divine; it is both tragic and beautiful. Read it.”
—Joel Haubenreich, Something Else Catholic weblog

“What courage and what faith! I just finished reading Priestblock 25487 by Fr. Jean Bernard. His account of what our priests endured in Dachau will stick with me for a very long time. As I celebrated Mass this morning in the beauty and comfort of the Sacred Heart Chapel, I thought about what he and others endured...
     Of course, Fr. Bernard writes of the horrible tortures he and other went through. The inhumanity almost defies description. But for me, the most moving parts of the book are when he speaks of the comfort of his faith, and those times when our Eucharistic Lord could be smuggled to them. The smallest crumb of the Host meant that God was with them in a unique way, and their thankfulness was boundless.
     What men these priests were.”
—Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, founding pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church (the first Anglican Use parish)

Priestblock 25487 is a moving account of the cruel place where more priests were gathered in one place than anywhere else in all the history of the world. It is well worth reading.”
—Fr. Tom Caswell, The Inland Register

A Visit to Dachau: Blogger Lauren Gilchrist includes excerpts from Priestblock and historical photos in her description of a visit to Dachau, “the first German concentration camp and the prototype that was used to create all other camps, including Auschwitz.”

“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!”
Okie Booklady Blog

“A must-read for Catholics. Priestblock 25487: A Memoir of Dachau reminds us that the age of martyrs never ended. It takes its readers inside hellish twentieth century gates, as seen through the eyes of a Catholic priest...
     In the person of Father Jean Bernard, we find an unforgettable hero: a man who could have gained his freedom with a simple Heil Hitler, just as some of the earliest martyrs, by sacrificing a grain of incense to the Emperor, could have walked away from their tormentors...
     Priestblock provides fresh anecdotal insight into the Vatican’s battle against the Nazis. As this first-hand account shows in riveting detail, the mere rumor of clerical opposition on the outside sufficed to intensify suffering on the inside. It appears the pope was prudent enough to know when to work through invisible channels and when to make stirring declarations from his window, as he did in the war’s early years...
     This reviewer read dozens of books in 2007, but only Priestblock cover to cover, without once budging from my chair... Priestblock 25487 is sure to win the hearts of all Catholics ready to grow in the Faith, or defend it.”
—Daniel Cole, The Wanderer

“This is a wonderful book and an easy read. It provides insight into history, human nature, and faith. It also reminds us of an important part of the Holocaust that is too often forgotten.”
—Ronald J. Rychlak, author Hitler, the War, and the Pope

“Last week on May 1, a two-minute siren wailed nationwide across Israel at 10 a.m., and everyone stopped where they were and many bowed their heads, in respect of Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day. When you read the word ‘holocaust,’ images of the six million Jews who were killed by the Nazis usually come to mind.
     With the election three years ago of a German pope, many books and articles have questioned the role of the Catholic Church in Nazi Germany. The recent translation of Priestblock 25487 provides a firsthand report of the cruelty and evil inflicted upon thousands of clergy, most of them Roman Catholic priests, who denounced Nazism, and who were imprisoned, most of them at Dachau. Father Jean Bernard’s account of his 15-month stay at Dachau, first written as a newspaper series in 1945, honors the memory of all his fellow priests who died at Dachau because as he wrote, ‘We must never forget what happened there...forgetting would be cowardice on the part of the people in whose name all these crimes were committed.’
     The simply stark, honest and excellently penned account of his time at Dachau is not for the faint of heart. The cruelty of the Nazi regime is beyond comprehension. Just as incredible is the gift of the friendship and faith-filled lives the clergy in Dachau shared. Understanding the gift of priesthood and Eucharist comes through to the Catholic reader. It moves quickly, and you are grateful as the evil is so rampant. But the grace of God is also there. It’s a book that will remain with you as you reflect upon its message.”
—Patsy Pelton, Editor, Today’s Catholic (San Antonio)

“I found this compelling book hard to stop reading. A perfect Good Friday reflection, it portrays some of the worst cruelty of humanity. From crucifixion to concentration camps, both make us shudder with the weakest aspects of the human character.
     One can only reflect, ‘how can something like this happen in a civilized culture such as Germany?’ Judging by the reaction of those who witnessed Father Bernard after his release and a 10-day leave, the people had to know the horrific events of the concentration camps. One wonders about the silence of the people, perhaps fearing for their own lives. But then again, in our own day, why are we not more vocal against the culture of death that pervades our own society? Why do we keep silent or say so little?”
—Tim Johnson, Editor, Today’s Catholic (Indiana)

“There has been a spate of memoirs written in the past few years that first became very famous because of their supposed realism and gritty truth telling.
     And then they became even more famous because it turned out the authors made up whole parts of their memoirs.
     It makes you wonder why the authors didn’t just write their books as novels, but then the potential answer comes — that the public likes stories that are billed as true. It makes the books seem more important in a way — more serious and authentic.
     Of course, there are other reasons to write a memoir instead of a novel. There is a sense that some cataclysmic events need foremost to be remembered and catalogued.
     Fr. Jean Bernard, in his book Priestblock 25487: A Memoir of Dachau, demonstrates the necessity of a brutally truthful recounting of his time at the Nazi concentration camp as a way of remembering the sin and grace that lived there.
     First published in 1960, Fr. Bernard’s book was recently republished in paperback, bringing renewed interest to his account...
     Arrested in his native Luxembourg on mere pretense in May 1941, Fr. Bernard joined a large group of other priests and Protestant ministers who had been detained for their anti-Nazi sympathies at Dachau concentration camp in Bavaria.
     The priests’ lack of information on the world outside the barracks created a strange universe for them, where rules and punishments were arbitrary and there seemed to be no grand plan beyond the guards’ latest sadistic amusement.
     The effect might have been a savage beating from the S.S. member, but the cause was anyone’s guess: Rarely, it seemed, the guards ever needed a reason for their cruelty.
     In opposition to the camp’s evil, Fr. Bernard and his brother priests found strength in the Eucharist, which was often smuggled to the non-German priests who weren’t allowed to say Mass.
     The kinship many of the priests felt with the early Christians is striking in Priestblock 25487.
     At one point, after an imprisoned Polish bishop blessed the barrack, Fr. Bernard wrote, ‘His blessing lets us share in the graces and comforts and sources of strength that fed the first martyrs. O miracle of the communion of saints, which becomes our experience here!’
     Granted, many of Fr. Bernard’s fellow prisoners failed to share his spiritual outlook, especially as they suffered a harsh winter, near absence of food and backbreaking work. Many came close to despairing, especially when the older and infirm began disappearing into the crematorium.
     Fr. Bernard spent much of his time at Dachau buoying the spirits of one priest always on the verge of despondency. As conditions worsened and the two grew sicker and sicker together, a portrait develops of beautiful and simple charity, the stuff of saints.
     The mad evil that came from places like Dachau is not something that’s going to be easily explained by any book. Maybe that’s why simply remembering is the best course to take, as Fr. Bernard writes in his Foreword.
     He wrote the memoir in a few fevered days after leaving Dachau, and its attention to detail and fact leave the reader with a historical document detailing what it means to be persecuted for the faith.
     It also recalls the power of the risen Christ, who makes all things new and brings forth good from evil. Or as St. Paul — who was also a prisoner — wrote: ‘Where sin increased, grace overflowed even more.’”
—Andrew Junker, The Catholic Sun (Phoenix)

Priestblock is an important book — a gripping firsthand account of the persecution of anti-Nazi Catholic clergy. I highly recommend it.”
—Sr. Margherita Marchione, author Yours Is A Precious Witness: Memories of Jews and Catholics in Wartime Italy

“This book grabbed my interest on the first page, and did not let go. The writing style is simple, direct, and very vivid. You feel the cold, the hunger, the fear. But there are lighter moments, too, and ones of great beauty, such as when the priest encounters a child whose innocent kindness revives his sagging faith. I believe this book is worthy of comparison with the other great Holocaust memoirs, such as Night and Survival in Auschwitz. But of course, it tells the tale from a much different perspective — that of a Catholic priest. His sufferings are in no way comparable to the millions of Jews who suffered and died in the camps. But his story, and persecution by the Nazi regime, is no less true. Priestblock is a powerful work of literature, and an important historical document. I recommend it highly.”
—Customer review on Barnes & Noble website

“I just finished reading this wonderful book. From the first page I was captivated by the simplicity of the writing and the horror of the story. The book recounts the time that Fr. Bernard spent in the concentration camp of Dachau.
     It is a beautiful account of humanity, humility and the best and worst of what we can do to each other. The horrors portrayed in this book had a deep impact on me. I always knew that life in a concentration camp was horrible but to actually read a first person account of the day-to-day life with all its moments was very eye opening.
     The incredible hardship these men endured, and the constant ridicule and hunger they lived with is hard to imagine. Yet these men still managed to find Christ in all this mess. Some of the most amazing moments in the book come when these starved and barely alive men get to sneak in a small piece of the Eucharist, and are overfilled with joy that they can have their Lord with them in this suffering.
     This book is incredibly important. It reminds us how the Nazis treated those who believed in Christ. The book is very graphic and truthful. I highly recommend it to everyone.”
—Marygiel, Vox Clara weblog

“As I read the book, this chapter of the ignominious experiences during the Holocaust provides a source for meditative thought and prayer in recalling all of the uncelebrated victims of this terrible atrocity. The saga of the concentration camps was truly a crime against all humanity, Catholics, Jews and Protestants alike. Fr. Bernard’s telling of his experiences offers us a sacerdotal insight into the cataclysmic world of terror and chaos that existed in the Nazi death camps.
     This book is one that cannot be put down after one starts reading... The message of the writing is clear: Christ lives even in the shadow of evil tyranny and prevails over the shadow of death. Every person should know the extent of human suffering endured by these holy men. Their faith endured persecution and our religious freedom today is a direct result of that resistance. The book is a sacred testimony to the endurance of the Catholic faith under persecution.”
—Hugh McNichol, Verbum Caro Factum Est weblog

“I read this book today - at work. It was a very slow day and I had gotten done everything I had to do and there were no customers, so I read.
     It was a good book and I think it is important to read books like this. It helps us to remember things that we should never forget. And thanks to short memories and some revisionist history, we already have forgotten some things. I really didn’t know that Catholics were persecuted in such numbers by the Nazis and that Pope Pius fought against the Third Reich in his own way. Did you know that after the war was over, the new state of Israel thanked the pope and the entire Catholic Church for all of the help that was given the Jews? I didn’t. I knew that the whole ‘Hitler’s Pope’ thing was overblown, I knew about Maximillian Kolbe and I had seen The Scarlet and The Black, but I didn’t know the extent of the involvement of the Church or of its persecution. Let’s never forget the great cost that was paid by our priests and the cost that continues to be extracted by priests who are persecuted to this day in countries like China. To paraphrase, those who forget their history are destined to relive it.”
—Carrie, Quite the Normal Life weblog

“Published by Zaccheus Press, this memoir by Jean Bernard was written in 1945 after Father Bernard had been freed from the Dachau Concentration Camp and had spent several years recuperating from severe mental and physical exhaustion. It tells the story of some 3000 priests and ministers imprisoned, tortured, and executed by the Gestapo in the infamous ‘priestblock’ of that concentration camp, where priests and ministers were herded like cattle, worked as slaves, and humiliated beyond belief...
     There are many books to read on this subject. One good one is The Myth of Hitler’s Pope by David G. Dalin. This is another; read it and pass it on. In teaching my classes, I am aware that the present generation has little knowledge of the 20th century and the 100 million people killed by mainly secular anti-religious governments in that era. It is also little known that some two million Catholics died in the concentration camps as well as seven million Jews, and that Hitler had a list of peoples to be eliminated from the Reich: Christians were to follow Jews.”
—Ken Kraven, The Eternal Revolution weblog

A Memorial of Dachau
“I received Priestblock 25487 yesterday as a Christmas present... The book comprises the memoirs of a priest from Luxembourg, Fr Jean Bernard, from his time at Dachau. He first wrote them up for the Luxemburger Wort in 1945 and made them available again because we must ‘never forget’. He describes the period from May 1941 to early August 1942.
     The book is compelling in its description of both the physical, psychological and spiritual suffering of the priests who were gathered together in the same block. The SS used this tactic in order to prevent the priests unduly influencing the other prisoners. About 2670 priests passed through Dachau, 600 to their death.
     For a time, it was widely ‘known’ in the camp that the priests did not have to work in the same way as the other prisoners and that they were given more food and even wine. In fact, they were degraded, humiliated and abused in much the same way as the other prisoners, sometimes more harshly. One Good Friday in 1941, 60 priests had been hung on the ‘tree’. Their wrists were tied together behind their backs, palms facing outwards. The hands were then turned into the body, a chain tied round the wrists and then they were hung up from the ceiling so that their body weight ripped their joints apart. those who were physically strongest recovered, many were permanently disabled and some died as a result.
     As to the wine: for the time that this ‘privilege’ existed, it was itself used in a sadistic ritual. The priests were ordered under threat of beating to uncork and pour out the wine and then drink a third of a bottle in one gulp. One priest who hesitated had the glass slammed into his face, cutting through his lips and cheeks as far as the bone. Nevertheless, the rumour of ‘special privileges’ made many of the other prisoners hate the priests and greatly reduced their opportunity to exercise any spiritual influence. In fact the ‘privileged’ regime was ended after a time, probably because of strong statements from the Pope or the Bishops condemning the Nazi regime.
     The Preface by Cardinal O’Malley and the introduction by Robert Royal are important additions. Royal outlines the history of the change of attitude to Pope Pius XII beginning with the KGB inspired play The Deputy. (Cf. ‘KGB plotted to discredit Pius XII’) and gives evidence of the widespread resistance of the clergy to the Nazi regime. He is keen to make the point that forgetting about the horrors of those times would be an act of cowardice with repercussions for the present and the future.
     A film has been made of Fr Bernard’s book. It is called The Ninth Day: if you have seen it, I would be interested to know your views on it - especially if you have read the book as well.”
—Fr. Tim Finigan, priest of Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, The Hermeneutic of Continuity weblog

(A Reply to Fr. Finigan’s post:)

Dilecte confrater in Christo,

Since a time, when by chance I found your blog, I am taking pleasure in reading your articles. As a young confrater (the second youngest priest) of the same archdiocese as was Monsignor Jean Bernard I was quite honoured (Is this the right term? I apologize for my bad English.) to read about his book Priesterblock 25487 on your blog. I did not even know that an English translation would exist.
     When I was a young altar boy at Luxembourg Cathedral I had met the author at same occasions. I remember a very humble elderly priest. At that time I knew nothing about his past in WWII. Later on, I read his book, unfortunately after his burial, which I served. That lecture deeply impressed me. And sometimes I continue to ask me: Would I have such courage as they had?
     In the last year I past in Luxemburg Priest’s Seminary I had also the chance to be taken by our Seminary’s ‘Praeses’ to the first night of ‘Der neunte Tag’ (The Ninth Day). I was deeply impressed. For a young man like me, the cruelties described by many concentration camps survivors became very concrete for me. Reading about those things in a book is different than seeing them on the screen. It permitted me to see, what people in the camps had to suffer. In the film you may see some very cruel scenes, but I think, reality was even more cruel.
     Father Bernard was one of the few, which got a leave in Dachau. Official reason: the death of his mother. But, we see it in the film, his mother was dead some time before. We will never know what were the true reasons. Did the Nazi occupant want him to influence the Bishop of Luxembourg or the old Luxemburgish families (The Bernards are still today one of the ‘famous’ families in our country) to collaborate with them? The independent Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg was annexed by the Nazis to Germany – disapproved by most of Luxemburg Population - and made part of the greater ‘Gau Moselland’. The only Luxemburgish institution continuing existing was the diocese, which was, of course, a sting in the eyes of the German. ‘You, Excellency,’ said the American Ambassador to Bishop Joseph Philippe before leaving Luxembourg in July 1942, ‘remain the last authority in the country.’ In his book, the author left a blank; he did not write anything about what happned in these nine days. Volker Schlöndorf made his film just about these days.
     Both, book and films, are worthwhile to be read and seen.”
—Fr. Luc Schreiner
Esch-sur-Alzette (L)

“Several years ago I read the book, Night, by Elie Wiesel. The book presented the horrific accounts of one of the darkest periods in history, the Holocaust. For days after reading this book my mind drifted to thoughts of darkness, horror, and unresolved understandings of how such a thing could happen in modern 20th century life.
     This past week while taking the confirmation group to the Monastery in Hanceville, I picked up another book dealing with the sufferings encountered in a concentration camp. The book is called Priestblock 25487. This story is the account of Father Jean Bernard’s stay in the concentration camp, Dachau. I began reading this book on Friday night and finished the 175 pages in three hours. It was a book that I could not put down or stop reading.
     In this life, Christians realize that they will be called upon to share the sufferings and pains of the cross. We think of ridicule, gossip, misunderstandings and other small pains that we face in our lives. In comparison, Father Jean Bernard faced these and many more physical and mental sufferings as he lived out the sufferings of the cross in Dachau.
     Father Jean Bernard believed in responding to the tyranny and religious dogma of Nazi Germany’s leaders. His outspoken words and actions proved fatal to his life. In May of 1941 he was placed in Dachau. He was beaten many times, suffered hunger and thirst, faced sickness and disease, endured excessive mental anguish and was subjected to cruelty and death on a daily basis. Yet in the words of the apostle Paul, ‘That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’
     Father Jean Bernard was a man of deep faith and conviction who lived out his life for Christ with integrity and hope, hope in the resurrection and in Christ and His church. In August 1942, through the grace of Christ, he was released from Dachau under highly, unusual circumstances. His release remains a mystery to those who don’t understand the power of Christ. Bernard went on to serve Christ and his church until his death in 1994. He lived out his faith with fear and trembling. Praise be to God for his life.”
—Rev. Steve Wood, Minister of Education, St. John’s Evangelical Church

“I don’t read blogs enough. Or I don’t read enough blogs. At any rate, I keep missing really good stuff. But I guess I read blogs enough to find at least some of the good stuff I missed. I mean, good stuff like learning about the book by the survivor of the Dachau bunker reserved for priests (and seminarians). I found out about it a month or so after the book’s release, from an entry in Karen’s blog. That sent me looking for the book, which we have in our center.
     I also found out that Cardinal O’Malley of Boston (who wrote the foreword) has asked that all the priests in his Archdiocese read it. (Our sisters in the Dedham, Mass., bookstore can’t keep it on the shelves.)
     I really do believe that a renewal of the priesthood, and of the Church itself, can spring from the example we can get from reading about the heroic sufferings people endured in holding so tight to the grace of their vocation. (The interred priests weren’t the only heroes of the bunker; laity and also some nuns ran a clandestine communications and black market system for the prisoners and their bishops and brethren outside.)”
—Sr. Anne (Xaipe), Daughter of St. Paul, Nunblog

“I’m not sure why I picked this out of my ‘to read’ pile for Good Friday reading, but I’m glad I did. This account of the suffering at the concentration camp at Dachau in general and of the priests there in particular is both chilling for the depths of depravity which it describes, but also inspiring as Fr. Bernard relates his account of how in the midst of it all he strove to unite his suffering to that of Christ. He writes quite movingly of how in the midst of all the suffering, priests still strove to reach out and support their brother priests and other other men at the camp. Fr. Bernard’s deep love of the Eucharist also shines through as he writes with excitement of being able to celebrate Mass, and also of the other times when he is able to partake of the Eucharist.
     The realities of the suffering which we are called to as Christians have been much on my mind lately, and priests like Fr. Bernard and also like Archbishop Rahho truly serve as great examples of carrying one’s cross and following Christ.”
—Carlos, Thoughts and Ruminations weblog

“I found a book the other week on Amazon that piqued my interests. It has nothing to do with the Saints and very little to do with the Catholic Church. However, it shows what a Catholic should be like. The way we should live our life to help others, and to live for the Lord. The book is Priestblock 25487: A Memoir of Dachau, by Jean Bernard. I picked it up and started reading it. I have read over 70 pages in 90 minutes. I cannot put it down.
     Since, I was middle school I have been fascinated by the Holocaust. Especially, from the Jewish perceptive. In my quest for my true Religion, I considered becoming Jewish. It was just not a good fit for me. I have always known about the mass murder of Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals and Communist in the camps. I also knew that Jehovah Witness were also shipped off to the camps. I think I may have read that Catholic Priest were also sent, but it was not well recorded. I was shocked to read this book. It opened my eyes to what went on especially in the Priest Block in Dachau...
     I just never knew that so many Priest were placed in camps. I have devoted most of my adult life to reading about the Holocaust. I did many papers on the topic at Wingate. I graduated with a History degree, and still no one told me this. The priests lived as Godly lives as they could. They helped each other. They took care of the weaker ones. They never lost their faith in God. It is amazing that the Germans were so afraid of the Church that they would put a Priest who denounced Hitler into Dachau. They were bent on destroying the Catholic Church and all churches and setting up their own religious symbol and system of worship.
     I just cannot state enough how touching this book has been. I cannot wait to finish it. I wanted all my Catholic friends to know this happened. Maybe, you already knew. I did not. I was just shocked. Pray with me that Genocide in the world will end. Religious persecution will end and that something as horrible as Hitler’s Holocaust will never happen again.”
—beatnicklad, My Catholic Conversion weblog

Christmas Sermon of Archbishop O’Malley
Today the Church invites us to gather at the manger. There the Good Shepherd is waiting to gather the scattered, to feed us with the manna come down from heaven, the medicine that makes us strong so that we can live His Gospel and be witnesses of His love.
     A few months ago I was asked to write the foreword of a book called Priestblock 25487 — it is a memoir of Dachau written by Father Jean Bernard, a priest of Luxemburg who was imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camp with almost 3000 Catholic priests and Bishops.
     I was quite moved by his account of Christmas 1941 in Dachau. The author describes the horrors of the camp and lamented that the priests were not allowed to celebrate Mass. Then Father Jean is approached by a Bavarian capuchin, Father Heinrich Zöhren, who tells him he has a surprise for him. Some one had smuggled in some consecrated hosts in a folded piece of paper. He was told it was ichthys — the Greek word for fish. In the early Church it was a code for the Eucharist since the first letters from the phrase ‘Jesus Christ Son of God, Savior’ spell out the Greek word for fish, ichthys.
     A group of priests gathered inconspicuously in front of their barracks and divided the precious pieces into as many particles as humanly possible. And Father Jean Bernard writes: ‘Then the Christ Child entered our hearts.’
     The food from the manger in Bethlehem fed that group of prisoners in the most hellish place on earth. Jesus came to bring light to the darkness, forgiveness of sins, then He invites us to follow Him...
     Christmas is the feast of the Child, the Christ child, our God who made Himself small to be close to us. Jesus says in the Gospel — Unless you become like a little child you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
     God came to us in the humility and simplicity of a little baby — we can go to Him only in the humility and simplicity of a child.
     Children have a sense of trust in their parents — God wants us to have that trust in Him — to pray the Lord’s prayer — Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done — we don’t need to say my kingdom come, my will be done because we trust in the Father’s love for us....
     Our God became a little child to enter our world and invites us to become like a little child full of trust and wonder to enter into heaven.
     At Bethlehem if we have the trust and faith of a child we will discover the treasure, the pearl of great price and our lives will be changed.

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