In May 1941, Fr Jean Bernard was arrested for denouncing the Nazis and sent to Dachua’s “Priest Block,” a barracks that housed more than 3,000 clergymen of various denominations (the vast majority Roman Catholic priests). Priestblock 25487 tells the gripping true story of his survival amid inhuman brutality, degradation and torture. Later this book was adapted by director Volker Schlondorff into the award-winning film, The Ninth Day. (Both book and film highly recommended.)
FOLLOWING is an excerpt from
Priestblock 25487, A Memoir of Dachua by Fr Jean Bernard
“Mass is always celebrated by the same priest, a former chaplain in the Polish army, the only one who has been given permission. … The sacred rite commences. It proceeds in haste, and the gathering is uneasy and nervous. Everyone knows that the Mass is tolerated rather than really allowed, and each time it could be disrupted. …
The celebrant speaks the prayers of the Mass in a loud voice, and the others whisper them in accompaniment. At the offering we raise our hands with the tiny bit of Host. Before the transubstantiation someone plucks my sleeve. “Prosze,” he says in Polish, “please.” Then he puts his particle of host in my hand, next to my own. I gather that he is not a priest, perhaps only a seminarian or monk, for the celebrant’s intention is to consecrate all the pieces of Host that are being held by priests.
“Hoc est corpus meum.” I look at the two bits of Host in my hand, and as the One for Whom we are suffering all this comes into our midst, as in their hearts hundreds of priests join their offering with that of the Savior, tears roll down my cheeks. It becomes a single offering that certainly creates new ties between heaven and earth.
For Holy Communion the priests gather the pieces together; the communicants are the non-priests who entrusted a small bit of the Host to them.
It is a sea of comfort that pours out over the gathering. Comfort and hope and strength for new suffering joyfully accepted.”