The recent appearance of an interview with an
eyewitness of St. Maxmillian Kolbe’s demand to be killed in place of another at Auschwitz.
The strangeness and power of such an act under those circumstances seemed to even take the SS aback [my own translation of the interview]:
What’s most interesting is how in his dialogue [with the SS officer] Fr. Maximilian never once used the word “please.” He broke down the judge who had usurped the right to decide life and death and forced him to change his verdict. He acted like a consummate diplomat but in place of a tuxedo, ribbons, and decorations he had his striped prison uniform, a bowl, and wooden clogs. A funereal silence prevailed at that moment, every second seemed to last an eternity.
Then something happened that still cannot be understood by neither the prisoners nor Germans. The SS-man spoke to Fr. Maximilian using a “formal you” address, “Warum wollen Sie für ihn sterben?”–”Why do you Sir [closest equivalent to "formal you" in English] want to die for him?”All the canons the SS-man had followed earlier came crashing down. Just a few moments before that he was calling him “Polish swine,” and now he addresses him as Sir. The SS-men and lower ranking soldiers nearby were not sure whether they were hearing aright. Only once in the history of concentration camps did it come to pass that a high ranking officer, who had murdered thousands of innocent people, addressed a prisoner in such a way.