A memoir of a Polish priest’s harrowing imprisonment, including at a concentration camp, during World War II.
Fabisiak (The Nativity of Jesus, 2017) was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1939 in Poland; just three months later, Germany, under the orders of Hitler, invaded. Fabisiak’s ophthalmologist told him to flee while he still could, but he dithered and was arrested. His treatment was grim; his “days were filled with fear and humiliation.” Fabisiak eventually managed to escape—he was well-equipped with the necessary false documents. The Germans recaptured him, beat him brutally, and summarily sentenced him to hard labor for espionage. After being imprisoned at eight different prisons and two labor camps, he was finally incarcerated at the infamous concentration camp at Dachau, a “place of inhumane suffering and extermination.” This account is a remarkable combination of personal testimony and almost sociological observation. Fabisiak reveals innumerable facets of Dachau—the food, the different kinds of prisoners, the guards, as well as the physical and sexual abuse of the prisoners, the chilling experiments conducted on them, the gas chambers, and the crematorium. The memoir is unsparingly detailed, a brave but disturbing act of bearing historical witness. However, for all the degradations described, this is far from a hopeless indictment of humankind—the author repeatedly records the kindnesses he encountered, even among his German captors and, in some cases, at great risk to themselves. Regarding Dachau, the author heard the worst: “It was said that God’s entrance would be prohibited there.” Though his hardships were grotesque, his remembrance of human decency in the unlikeliest of places is infinitely inspiriting.
A cleareyed, meditative account of an unfathomable evil.