Thursday 20 September 2018

Johann Gruber & Jacques Bunel Victims of the Nazis - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky - CTS Twentieth Century Martyrs

Johann Gruber & Jacques Bunel Victims of the Nazis
CTS Twentieth Century Martyrs
Helena Scott
Ethel Tolansky
Catholic Truth Society

ISBN 9781860820687
CTS Booklet B655

That is the eighth and final book co-written by Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky, That I have tracked down and read. These eight books are wonderful reads, I have already each of them twice and will likely read them again, either with my children or on my own. This book and Sophie Scholl and The White Rose: Resistance to the Nazis, are the only two of the 8 that are part of the CTS Twentieth Century Martyrs series. And this is the only biography they wrote that covers two people. It is the story of both Johann Gruber and Jacques Bunel two men who were Catholic priests, both were imprisoned at Gusen 1, a sub camp of Mauthausen concentration camp. And both lived to serve others, often at great personal sacrifice and risk.

The back of the book states:

"Heroic sanctity and goodness could be thought of as things of the past, of other ages, for the saints of old. The 20th century has witnessed some of mankind's most demonic actions, from the Nazi concentration camps, the Soviet Siberian camps, to the killing fields of Cambodia. Some say this proves God is dead. But, like so many others of our times, Johann Gruber and Jacques Bunel, two priests interned at the infamous Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp during the Second World War, bore witness in their flesh that God is far from dead, but alive. Their faith, courage and love unto death saved countless fellow prisoners."

The chapters in this book are:

The Mauthausen Concentration Camps
Conditions at Mauthausen
Father Johann Gruber
Austria and the Nazis
Mauthausen Gusen Concentration Camp
A Different Kind of Patriotism
Tending to Physical Needs First
The 'Gruber Organization'
Extra Food for the Prisoners
Arrest and Death
Father Jacques Bunel
The Bunel Family
Lucien's Illness
Childhood - and Vocation
Contemplative Vocation
St. Joseph's School, Le Havre
The Little School at Avon
The Fight Against anti-Semitism
A Place of Shelter
Taking Jewish Students
Under Arrest
The Transit Camp of Compiegne
Neue Breme Camp, near Sarrebruck
Exercising His Priestly Ministry
Celebrating Mass in the Concentration Camp
The End of the Battle

The introduction of this book begins with these words:

"There is a clear link between the two priests who are the subjects of this booklet. Father Johann Gruber, an Austrian priest, and Father Jacques Bunel, a French Carmelite priest, were both imprisoned by the Nazis in Gusen I, a satellite camp of Mauthausen concentration camp, and were both instrumental in saving the lives of many of their fellow prisoners. "

We know that Father Jacques arrived at Mauthausen on April 23rd 1944, only 16 days after Father Gruber has been executed. And that he was at Gusen I by May 18th. They both showed their faith in how they lived. In their charity, their service and their devotion to other people. People who were sent to Mauthausen had a short life expectancy; they were worked hard, and worked to death. Mauthausen and its satellite camps were among the most brutal, cruellest of the concentration camps. And it is here that these two priests found their selves, and where they lived their calling as priests and followers of Christ. The poet Jean Cayrol stated:

"Father Gruber was amazing. On the day he met me I had about fourty-eight hours to live: I was starving and desperately cold, had almost no clothes, and was at the very end of my strength. I was working in the quarry. Somebody said to him, "Something's got to be done quickly. Cayrol is one of the ones in most urgent need of help." He came to find me, and brought me five litres of potatoes mashed up in water. I called a friend, and between the two of us we ate it all in five minutes. Father Gruber has tears in his eyes as he watched.
  He was a little round man. We used to call him Papa Gruber because we truly owed him our lives. He was an absolutely unbelievable person. He risked his life to find us food.""

This booklet is full of stories about both priests. We will never know the number of people they saved. There is no list. But there are many, many testimonies. I never particularly enjoy reading books about World War II, especially about the concentration camps. But I know that they are important books to read. We need to remember our history so that we do no repeat the mistakes. This book shows us what truly living the gospel mean, especially living it in some of the worse conditions humans have known. It shows the valiant faith of Johann Gruber and Jacques Bunel. They lived the gospel, and their lives are an example to us.

This book is at times a hard read. And from the beginning we know the ending will not be pleasant. But Scott and Tolansky do an amazing job of telling the story of these two priest. It is a book that will challenge the reader, and inspire them. It is another faith filled book from the Catholic Truth Society! 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.
Books by Scott and Tolansky:
Pius XII
Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan
Benedict XVI

Josemaria Escriva
Alvaro Del Portillo

A Pope of Surprises: The First Five Years of Pope Benedict XVI's Papacy
Sophie Scholl and The White Rose: Resistance to the Nazis
Johann Gruber and Jacques Bunel: Victims of the Nazis

Author profile and interview with Helena Scott.

Books in the 20th Century Martyrs Series:
Sophie Scholl and the White Rose: Resistance to the Nazis - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Johann Gruber & Jacques Bunel Victims of the Nazis - Helena Scott and Ethel Tolansky
Maximilian Kolbe, F. Jagerstatter, K. Leisner, R. Mayer: Victims of the Nazis - Franz Jagerstatter
Edith Stein, Marcel Callo, Titus Brandsma: Victims of the Nazis – Matthew Monk
Saint Maria Goretti: Teenage Martyr for Chastity - Glynn MacNiven-Johnston
The Atlas Martyrs – Jean Olwen Maynard

Jerzy Popieluszko Victim of Communism - Grazyna Sikorski
Isidore Bankanja - Jean Maynard

Gianna Molla - Jean Olwen Maynard

No comments: