20 percent of Poland’s diocesan priests were murdered during World War II—that is, every fifth diocesan priest lost his life during the German Nazi occupation, recalls the spokesman of the Polish Bishops’ Conference of the Polish Episcopate, Fr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik on the Day commemorating the Martyrdom of the Polish Clergy. At the initiative of the Polish Bishops’ Conference this day is celebrated on 29 April, the anniversary of the liberation of the camp in Dachau, where many Polish priests were killed.

The Episcopate’s spokesman indicates that during the Second World War the Nazis murdered about 2,000 diocesan priests, 370 friars, and 280 nuns. In addition, about 4,000 priests and monks and about 1.1 thousand nuns were imprisoned in German extermination camps.

“There were dioceses such as Włocławek, Gniezno, and Chełmno, where almost every second priest was murdered. Four Polish bishops were also killed in the camps, and nearly half of the Roman Catholic dioceses were deprived of the bishops who were at the head. Consequently, it can be said that it was not only a war against the Polish State and the Polish people, but also against the Catholic Church,” said Fr. Rytel-Andrianik.

The spokesman of the Bishops’ Conference also recalled that, despite the terror, priests risked their lives, helping all those in need, including the Jewish population. “About a thousand priests in Poland risked their lives to save Jews. Some of them were murdered for helping,” added Fr. Rytel-Andrianik.

“World War II showed the tragic consequences brought on by the negation of God, the only Lord of human life, and every human being’s dignity. Where there is no respect for human life, totalitarianisms emerge that put themselves in the place of God and lead to disasters such as war,” said the spokesman of the Polish Bishops’ Conference.

Press Office of the Polish Bishops’ Conference