Oldest surviving Dachau concentration camp survivor dies at 100
Polish priest said it was time for reconciliation in his liberation speech
He came face to face with Nazi evil at its most concentrated but used his faith to call for reconciliation afterwards. Polish priest Leon Stepniak, the oldest surviving inmate of the Dachau concentration camp has died at the age of 100.
Polish priest Leon Stepniak, the oldest surviving inmate of the Dachau concentration camp has died at the age of 100.
Heinrich Himmler, then Munich's chief of police, described the site as "the first concentration camp for political prisoners."
After being released at the end of the Second World War, he returned to Poznan in Poland. He died over the weekend.
Stepniak became well-known for a speech he made at a commemoration to mark the liberation of Dachau, telling the audience that the camp's legacy should not be as a demand for revenge or recrimination, but as a sign of reconciliation.
Stepniak also said that Dachau's continued existence should serve as a reminder to ensure that no similar atrocity ever happens again.
During the war, Dachau was a leading center for the extermination of the Nazis' enemies, with around 32,000 people being killed there in total.
Dachau was originally set up to hold political prisoners and Jews, but after the annexation of Poland it began to hold more Poles than any other category of prisoner. It was also the main centers for Christian prisoners who were arrested because of their opposition to Adolf Hitler's regime.
Stepniak was one of at least 3,000 Catholic priests and bishops imprisoned at Dachau.
The camp was liberated by U.S. troops in April 1945.
American soldiers were so disgusted by the cruelty they found at Dachau that they summarily executed more than a dozen of the Nazi guards working there.
© 2013, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
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