Follow by Email

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Nazis, Polish Nuns, and the Gospel of John

During WWII a Polish underground network that went by the code name Żegota (see picture at right) saved thousands of Jewish lives in Warsaw and other Polish cities. It was comprised of a number of different divisions: (1) housing (e.g., safe houses), (2) legalization (e.g., fake identities), (3) child welfare, (4) convents/orphanages, (5) liaison (couriers) (6) Jewish cells, and (7) funding.

Roman Catholic convents played a central role is the safe-guarding and hiding of Jewish children because it was standard policy for nuns to accept orphans without regard to their background. Nevertheless, Sister Wanda Garczynska, Superior of the Order of the Immaculate Conception in Warsaw, felt that she had to have unanimous agreement among all the nuns before they would start taking in Jewish children smuggled out of the Warsaw ghetto. She began the meeting by reading from the 15th Chapter of John, verses 13-17:
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another.
After the reading, no one spoke or exchanged glances. The sisters simply left the room, knowing what they had to do if they were to call themselves Christians. Of course, if they had been New Testament scholars, they would have been taught that John's Gospel was historically unreliable and that Jesus probably never uttered these words. Aren't you glad they weren't?


  1. Great reflection. Your comment reminds me of a certain divinity school where I studied. Can you guess which one?