Author Topic: Pashca in Dachau 1945  (Read 1231 times)

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Offline gregory2

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Pashca in Dachau 1945
« on: April 17, 2004, 12:44:24 AM »
This piece is from the latest issue of "Again" (Jan-Mar 2004 issue), where the full text is available.  Though their suffering was most definitely atrocious, Jews weren't the only ones killed and tortured in Europe during WW2.  Orthodox Christians, among others, were also imprisoned.  This piece relates the Pascha of Apr 23/May 6, 1945, shortly after Americans liberated the concentration camps, as told by Gleb Rahr, a Russian who was arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned with others at Dachau.


"There were Orthodox priests, deacons, and a group of monks from Mount Athos among the prisoners.  But there were no vestments, no books whatsoever, no icons, no candles, no prosphoras, no wine.....  The approximately 400 Catholic priests detained in Dachau had been allowed to remain together in one barrack and recite mass every morning before going to work.  They offered us Orthodox the use of their prayer room in "Block 26," which was just across the road from my own block.

"The chapel was bare, save for a wooden table and a Czenstochowa icon of the Theotokos hanging on the wall above the table - an icon which had originated in Constantinople and was later brought to Belz in Galicia, where it was subsequently taken from the Orthodox by a Polish king.  When the Russian Army drove Napoleon's troops from Czenstochowa, however, the abbot of the Czenstochowa Monastery gave the icon to Czar Alexander I, who placed it in the Kazan Cathedral.....  A creative solution to the problem of the vestments was also found.  New linen towels were taken from the hospital of our former SS-guards.  When sewn together lengthwise, two towels formed an epitrachleion, and when sewn together at the ends they became an orarion.  Red crosses, originally intended to be worn by the medical personnel of the SS guards, were put on the towel-vestments.

"In the entire history of the Orthodox Church there has probably never been an Easter service like the one at Dachau in 1945.  Greek and Serbian priests together with a Serbian deacon wore the make-shift 'vestments' over their blue- and gray-striped prisoners uniforms.  Then they began to chant, changing from Greek to Slavonic, and then back again to Greek.  The Easter Canon, the Easter Sticheras -- everything was recited from memory.  The Gospel -- 'In the beginning was the Word' -- also from memory.

"And finally, the Homily of Saint John Chrysostom -- also fro memory.  A young Greek monk from the Holy Mountain stood up in front of us and recited it with such infectious enthusiasm that we shall never forget him as long as we live.  St. John Chrysostom himself seemed to speak through him to us and to the rest of the world as well!  Eighteen Orthodox priests and one deacon --  most of whom were Serbs -- participated in this unforgettable service.  Like the sick man who had been lowered through the roof of a house and placed in front of the feet of Christ the Savior, the Greek Archimandrite Meletios was carried on a stretcher into the Chapel, where he remained prostrate for the duration of the service.....

"Other prisoners at Dachau included the recently canonized Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich, who later became the first administrator of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the US and Canada; and the Very Rev. Archimandrite Dionysios, who after the war was made Metropolitan of Trikkis and Stagnon in Greece.......

"On April 29, 1995 -- the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Dachau -- the Russian Orthodox Memorial Chapel of Dachau was consecrated.  Dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ, the chapel holds an icon depicting angels opening the gates of the concentration camp and Christ Himself leading the prisoners to freedom....  The priests who participated in the 1945 Paschal Liturgy are commemorated at every service held in the chapel, along with all Orthodox Christians who lost their lives 'at this place, or at another place of torture.' "

Christ is Risen!
"Anything that is worth accomplishing cannot be accomplished in a lifetime." - the Holy Fathers