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esiconscan1aNovena to Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

Day 4 – Monday, August 3rd to August 4th, 1942
At the Amersfoort transit-camp

When the vans reached the camp, they emptied their passengers who were taken over by the S.S. guards. These began to drive them, cursing and swearing, beating them on their backs with their truncheons, into a hut where they were to pass the night without having had a meal.

The hut was divided into two sections, one for men, one for women. It was separated from the main lager by a barbed-wire fence. Altogether, the lager held at that moment, about three hundred men, women and children.

The beds were iron frames arranged in a double tier, without mattresses of any kind. Our prisoners threw themselves on the bare springs trying to snatch a few minutes sleep; but few slept that night, if only because the guards kept switching the lights off and on, from time to time, as a precaution against attempts to escape, which was next to impossible in any case. Their cold harsh voices filled the prisoners with anxiety about the future and, in these circumstances, it is anxiety which can turn a prison into a hell on earth.

The religious grouped themselves spontaneously into a little community which regarded Saint Edith as its Superior, so unquestionable was the ascendancy of her spirit. Arrangements were made to recite the Breviary, the Rosary and to meditate. A copy of the Imitation of Christ which had been smuggled into the camp provided matter for meditation. The Confiteor was sung daily, despite the catcalls of the guards.

The two Trappist priests were unable to celebrate Holy Mass and distribute Holy Communion at Amersfoort; but they heard confessions and did what they could to redress the morale of the internees, shaken by the sudden change in their fortunes. Their presence was a blessing, all the more so, since it was generally felt that the journey was a ‘journey to heaven’ as one Sister put it; for them their would be no return. On one occasion, the guards stood the two Trappist Fathers against a wall and pointed their guns at them, in the presence of the Sisters — all for a joke.

The prisoners were resigned to their fate; no one criticized the Dutch Bishops for the pastoral letter, the publication of which was the immediate cause of their distress, for no one knew whether there were not other causes at work.

Twice a day the prisoners were granted a respite; they were allowed to walk around inside their barbed-wire enclosure for ten to fifteen minutes under the watchful eyes of their German guards. The hygienic facilities in the camp can be left to the imagination. The guards forced them to stand for hours waiting for the roll-call to take place. One starving internee picked up a piece of dry bread that had been thrown away; for the ‘theft’, the entire camp was punished by being made to stand for hours on end in the barracks-square, until they began to drop down from sheer exhaustion. It was the signal for a series of kickings and beatings as the guards tried to force their prisoners onto their feet again.

Gospel Readings

“You will then be handed over for punishment and execution and men of all nations will hate you for your allegiance to me.” Matthew 24:9

“Jesus was led off under arrest to the house of Caiaphas the High Priest, where the lawyers and elders were assembled … The chief priests and the whole Council tried to find some allegation against Jesus on which a death-sentence could be based, but they failed to find one … The High Priest tore his robes and exclaimed, ‘Blasphemy! Need we call further witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy. What is your opinion?’ ‘He is guilty,’ they answered; ‘he should die.’ Then they spat in his face and beat him with their fists.” Matthew 26:57

“The men who were guarding Jesus mocked him. They beat him, they blindfolded him and they kept asking him, ‘Now, prophet, who hit you? Tell us that.’ And so they went on, heaping insults upon him.” Luke 22: 63-65

“Herod and his troops treated him with contempt and ridicule.” Luke 23:11

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be
(Any suitable prayer may be said here)
Saint Edith, Pray For Us!