Just yesterday was the 78th anniversary of the Nazi massacre of 11 nuns who sacrificed themselves to save 120 men who were already scheduled to be executed by the occupying German forces.
In an article from the official website for the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, the Geheime Staatspolizei (Secret State Police), popularly known as the Gestapo, had sentenced 120 men and boys from the eastern then-Polish town of Nowogródek (now the Belarussian town of Navahrudak) to face execution.
Before the Aug 1, 1943 massacre of the Nowogródek Martyrs, the town’s people first suffered under Soviet oppression, both of the town’s Christians and Jews. Much like today’s liberals, the Soviets hated anyone who worshipped anything other than the Central Government.
If living under a Communist boot heal wasn’t bad enough, after the German invasion of Russian-occupied Poland and the Soviet Union (proper) in 1941, the same was slowly being thrown back after nearly reaching Moscow, as well as being stopped cold at the Volga River city of Stalingrad.
As noted by the National Catholic Register, the Gestapo was in quite the habit of rounding-up civilians for execution as reprisal for partisans of the Polish Home Army attacked the retreating Germans.
Nowogródek was no different. as NCR’s John Grondelski reported (emphasis mine);
The Sisters were in Nowogródek when World War II broke out in 1939. First occupied by the Soviets, the people of Nowogródek exchanged Russian for German occupation in 1941. The Polish Underground Home Army—Europe’s largest underground resistance during World War II — remained active in the region, sabotaged Nazi efforts. Many locals were also being expatriated to Germany for forced labor.
Seeing the suffering of the locals, especially families whose men were sent to Germany, the Sisters offered themselves in prayer: if a sacrifice be needed, they offered themselves. Their prayer would soon be answered.
The sisters worked in hospital and child care. On July 31, 1943, the sisters were summoned by the local Nazis to their headquarters. Ten sisters went; one, who was not with the group, managed to hide in a local church and survived. She would remain, as a catechist, until from what I remember the 1990s.
At Nazi headquarters, the Sisters were subjected to brutal and forceful interrogation for the entire Saturday night. Early at dawn Sunday morning, they were driven about 6 miles outside of town into a pine forest, where a mass grave awaited them. Each was shot and fell into the pit in which they were buried.
Officially declared both Martyrs as well as Blessed (one step from fully official Sainthood), the martyred nuns, ranging in age from 54 to 26, are cited below;
- Sister M. Stella of the Blessed Sacrament
- Sister M. Imelda of the Eucharistic Jesus
- Sister M. Rajmunda of Jesus
- Sister M. Daniela of Jesus
- Sister M. Kanuta of the Agonized Jesus in the Garden
- Sister M. Gwidona of Divine Mercy
- Sister M. Sergia of Our Lady of Sorrows
- Sister M. Kanizja
- Sister M. Felicyta
- Sister M. Heliodora
- Sister M. Boromea