On September 24, 2016, Fr. Engelmar Unzeitig will be beatified in Würzburg, Germany. Known as the “Angel of Dachau,” Father Engelmar died of typhoid fever, contracted while caring for the sick with this deadly disease in the infamous concentration camp. As it says in his short biography, “He volunteered to go to those doomed to death, thereby condemning himself to death.”
Father was born in 1911 in Czechoslovakia. Four of his six years as an ordained Mariannhill Missionary priest were spent in Dachau where he was imprisoned as a traitor for insisting that one must obey God more than man and for defending Jews. Dachau was known as the “largest monastery in the world” for there were 3000 clergyman detailed there, 95% of whom were Roman Catholic priests. Father was especially solicitous of the Russian prisoners, learning the language so he could he could bring them back to the Faith.
In late December of 1944, Father was one of 20 priests who volunteered to care for the victims of typhus who were dying at a rate of 100 per day. Like St. Maximilian Kolbe, OFM Conv., who gave up his life to save a married man, Fr. Engelmar knew he was marching to certain death.
A fellow prisoner-priest said that the help he gave was a “fruit of his priestly love of neighbor. He gladly heard the confessions of his poor sheep and comforted them in his kind and quiet way in the misery of the camp…He offered them more than just his time and selfless concern. He gave them his whole priestly love. That was his goal while death reaped its terrible harvest.”
In his last letter to his sister, Father Engelmar wrote, “Love doubles one’s strength, makes one inventive, renders one inwardly free and happy. It really has not entered into the heart of any man what God has prepared for those who love Him.” He died on March 2, 1945. The camp was liberated just one month later.
Because he was so highly esteemed, a priest contrived to have his body cremated alone and thus they were able to retrieve his ashes and secretly deliver them in a sewn linen bag to the Mariannhillers in Würzburg. Fr. Engelmar was declared venerable by Benedict XVI in 2009, and in January 2016, Pope Francis pronounced Father Unzeitig a martyr, killed in hatred of the faith.
Father Engelmar Hubert Unzeitig? He was a very dear, precious man. He was love in person. More than that I cannot say. That he was: love!”