Biographies of the Augustinian Martyrs

What were lifes of the martyrs from Kazimierz like? Which most important points within their pilgrimage towards Heaven could we enumerate? You can find answers to these questions in biographies included below:

o. Wilhelm Gaczek OSA

Servant of God, Fr. Wilhelm Gaczek (Bolesław, Jan), a prisoner of the Auschwitz Concentration camp, number 22401. Born on November 23, 1881 in Sucha Beskidzka, Diocese of Cracow, son of Dionizy and Maria (née Jabłońska).

In 1905 he took his solemn vows and received diaconal orders. On July 29, 1906 he was ordained priest in Wurzburg.

In 1917 Bishop Adam Sapieha appointed him as an assistant curate to the parish priest in Prokocim. In 1926 he became the superior of the religious house of Cracow – Prokocim and in 1938 the commissioner of the Polish Province of Augustinian Order.

In the beginning of his priesthood, in years 1907-1917, he worked as a catechist in the area of Cracow. Since 1917 till 1920 he continued in the above position in Prokocim showing great zeal and engagement. Since 1914 till 1920 he was chaplain at the hospital of the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God in Cracow.

On the outbreak of World War I he was collecting donations for „the Polish Wartime Treasure”. He was also a military chaplain. Being a superior of the augustinian religious house in Prokocim, he participated in setting a railway colonia in this area by transferring a part of the Augustinian real-estate for the construction of the new housing estate for railwaymen. He animated the life of the railway families and their children. In 1929 he launched the organization of the Catholic Railwaymen Union, at the same time becoming its patron. In 1932 he brought about the founding of the Parish Committee for Helping the Poor.

In 1935 he became the guardian of Caritas of the Cracow Diocese. He also participated in the creation of the Catholic Parish League which was later transformed into the Catholic Action. Having been chosen the Provincial Commissioner, he left Prokocim where he had stayed for 26 years including 20 years of his service as the parish priest. For his work and engagement, he was given the honorary citizenship of Cracow – Prokocim and was acknowledged as the initiator of the Parish of Our Lady of Good Counsel.

With his life of a Pole of free spirit impossible to be broken, he gave testimony to faithfulness to his vocation.

Arrested on 19th of September 1941, he was kept in jail for 45 days and then transported to Auschwitz where he died of emaciation on November 14 in block number VII. His body was cremated in the camp crematory. After 36 years spent in solemn vows – 35 as a priest he survived 14 days in the concentration camp and died at the age of 60.

„The murderers were very well informed and knew where to find persons they were interested in. Thus, of all the doors in the main corridor they first broken into, was that of Father Provincial Wilhelm Gaczek. Still asleep he was grabbed from bed and dragged out to the corridor. At the same time, other doors were being banged on.
They lined up next to their Provincial. Siebert warned them: «You are arrested, anybody trying to escape will be shot».”

(from memoirs of a survived prisoner)

Servant of God, Fr. Krzysztof Olszewski (Adam), a prisoner of the concentration camps: Auschwitz, number 22408 and Dachau, number 29405. He was born on December 21, 1907 in Drzewce, Diocese of Wrocław.

After having been ordained in 1935 he worked in the monastery of St. Catherine in Cracow. He soon became the Prior of the Monastery and Procurator of the Polish Augustinian Province.

As a child he was taught evangelical sensitivity by his parents, as testified by the priest of his parish. Before joining the Order of St. Augustine, he had attended school conducted by Bernardine Franciscan Minors Friars in Cracow. However, he finally turned toward life inspired by the sainthood of the Bishop of Hippo and received the white habit of a novice.

After a year of the novitiate he took first religious vows and three years later the solemn vows – usque ad mortem.

He was admitted to the diaconate in 1934. Ordained a priest in 1935, he was assigned to the monastery of St. Catherine in Cracow. He died in the concentration camp on the memorial day of St. Nicholas of Tolentino, the first Augustinian saint, with whose life he aligned as an Augustinian monk, having given testimony to faithfulness to Jesus Christ.

On Saturday, August 9, 1941, at 6.15 am he celebrated his last Mass. Having been arrested, he could not celebrate the Sunday Mass on the following day. In the book of intentions the following entry has been left: „Prior incarceratus” – superior arrested.

Before having been transported to Auschwitz on November 3rd he had spent 86 days in Gestapo arrest.

In January 1942 because of his previous interests and thorough knowledge of radiotelegraphy he was again brought for questioning to Cracow, to St. Michael’s prison at Senacka 3, then to the German Prison of Special Court, next to Berlin and finally to the concentration camp in Dachau. There he died of emaciation on September 10th, 1942. 7 of his 8 years of perpetual vows he spent serving God as a priest. He survived in the camp for 279 days. His life lasted 35 years.

„Again they brought me to the interrogation room where I could see Father Prior standing there maltreated, in a very bad condition. Siebert, the Gestapo officer, asked: «Have you read the leaflets?»… The beginning stare of Father Olszewski imploring to be stopped tortured made me shout: «Yes, I have read, I have read!».”

(from memoirs of a survived prisoner)

Servant of God, Fr. Edmund Wilucki (Tadeusz), a prisoner of Auschwitz, number 21863. Born on December 20, 1913>in Recklinghausen, in Westphalia, Germany, son of Alexander and Maria (née Piekarowicz).

He entered the Augustinian Order in 1933 and was given his initial formation in the monastery of St. Catherine. He was ordained on July 20, 1940 in Cracow.

In baptism he was given a name Tadeusz. He attended the Lower Seminar of Missionary Fathers of the Holy Family in Wieluń. According to the prefect of the seminar: „Tadeusz is perceived as a boy of impeccable and spotless behaviour, in all an example to be followed by his schoolmates. His road of religious vocation was however marked with quest. He first entered the Capuchin Order in Cracow and then joined that of Grey Franciscan Conventual Friars in Łagiewniki near Łódź.

The rector of the seminary stated: „During his stay in the seminary Tadeusz behaved very well”.

He then joined Michael Archangel Congregation in Pawlikowice near Wieliczka and finally, on August 30, 1933 he bound his life with the Augustinian Brothers. His year of novitiate he passed with success in the Monastery of St. Catherine in Cracow and he took the religious name Edmund. He took his solemn vows in September 5, 1937.

After having graduated in philosophy and theology he was ordained in Cracow, at the age of 27. Arrested on September 3, 1941, after interrogation and cruel tortures that lasted for 37 days he was transported to the KL Auschwitz on October 14, 1941. Infected with typhoid he died on November 22, 1941. He had served God for 4 years as a monk and 16 months as a priest. He survived in the camp 39 days. He has lived for only 28 years.

„After couple of days we were called for interrogation. Separately. There was a table in the middle of the room with some sticks and whips on it, there were also some tools of torment in the corner of the place. Siebert, the Gestapo officer, was standing there, saying nothing, supported on a long stick and threatened us with it several times. Then he started asking questions… Other of our brothers were also subjected to similar interrogation. The innocent ones were tormented, beaten to confess to something they had not done.”

(from memoirs of a survived prisoner)

Servant of God, Brother Kazimierz Lipka (Wojciech, Stanisław), a prisoner of Auschwitz, number 22407. Born on June 30, 1891, in Sidzina near Jordanów, Cracow Diocese, son of Jędrzej and Klara (née Kufel).

In 1908, at the age of 17, he joined the Order of St. Augustine and begun his novitiate.

In the Monastery of St. Catherine he performed the duty of the sacristan and the gatekeeper.

He had received a good catholic education at home.

After having graduated from the elementary school he had chosen his road to religious vocation. The testimonial letter presented by his parish priest on his entering the Augustinian Order speaks of „a subtle boy of good achievements in education”.

„Woytek” (that was his nickname) was given a long time to find his vocation in the community. He was given intellectual and spiritual formation of a brother. Associated all the days of his religious life to the historical monastery of St. Catherine of Alexandria in Cracow he took his solemn vows in 1934. By his brothers and his superiors, he was perceived as a person „very obliging, engrossed in prayer and faithful to the Rule of St. Augustine”.

The last relations about him concerned his stay in the concentration camp in Auschwitz and his health condition: he felt very ill and his last words were: „I will go to hospital and get some rest”. Sensing his approaching end – he would return home to his so beloved Father – and aware of his deteriorating physical strength Kazimierz asked for a secret confession.

Arrested on September 19, 1941, after 5 days of tortures during interrogation he was transferred to the KL Auschwitz. On the 26 February 1942 he was taken to the camp hospital and given a lethal phenol injection. Having served God for 8 years in solemn vows, he spent in the Lager 115 days and died at the age of 51.

„We were loaded onto a lorry and taken out to the jail on Montelupich street in Cracow. And in the same way as the bullets on battlefields flail out at soldiers sending them to death, we never knew which of us would get into clutches of the bestial Gestapo. Such fate was terrible, even more so than that of a soldier on a battlefield. Here everybody had to be prepared for cruel tortures and interrogation, and finally for slow death.”

(from memoirs of a survived prisoner)

Commemorative plaque

Commemorative plaque in honor of the Augustinian victims of concentration camps

translation:
In memory of the Augustinian religious from the Monastery of Saint Catherine of Alexandria in Cracow
murdered in Auschwitz and Dachau
Fr. Wilhelm Gaczek 1881-1941
(Provincial superior in the years 1937-1941)
Fr. Edmund Wilucki 1913-1941
Fr. Józef Gociek 1903-1941
Fr. Krzysztof Olszewski 1907-1942
Brother Kazimierz Lipka 1891-1942

„The earth has been filled with the blood of the martyrs, and from that seed have sprung the crops of the Church. They have asserted Christ’s cause more effectively when dead than when they were alive.”

(St. Augustine, Sermo 286, 3; PL 38, 1298;
transl. E. Hill, in „The Works of Saint Augustine”,
III/8, Hyde Park, NY; 1994, 102)

„Their death in extermination camps was the consequence of the antichristian politics of national socialism and as such become the mark of the love true and faithful till the very end. First of all, that was testified by some late brothers who had been lucky enough to survive the hell of the camps. All of them, both the victims and those who survived in their majority were the cream of the crop of the Augustinian Order in Poland.

(from the Edict of Metropolitan of Cracow,
Most Rev. Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski, 20.08.2018)

„Today this history of our brothers, personally unknown to us, speaks with the light of authority allowing us to discover the value of consecrated life. Our thoughts linger on those who sealed their love of God, the Church and Motherland with their own blood. Slaughtered in Hitlerian extermination program directed against broadly understood Polish intelligentsia as well as Polish clergy they stayed faithful to their religious vows. Those Servants of God with their own life have shown us the sense of keeping one’s word and being faithful to oneself, to the community and the Gospel. Although separated by force, they stayed in spiritual unity with each other.”

(from the address of Provincial Superior, V. Rev. Fr. Wiesław Dawidowski, OSA, on 04.09.2018 at the opening of beatification process)