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“As a child of the Jewish people, who, by the grace of God, for the past eleven years has also been a child of the Catholic Church, I dare to speak to the Father of Christianity about that which oppresses millions of Germans. For weeks, we have seen deeds perpetrated in Germany which mock any sense of justice and humanity, not to mention love of neighbor. For years, the leaders of National Socialism have been preaching hatred of the Jews...but the responsibility must fall, after all, on those who brought them to this point and it also falls on those who keep silent in the face of such happenings.” (Edith Stein) 

To say Edith Stein lived a remarkable life would be a dramatic understatement. Born in Breslau (then part of Germany) at the end of the 19th century, Edith was raised as an observant jew, only to turn her back on religion right around the time World War I devastated the continent. In the wake of the war, during which she earned a doctorate and began working as an assistant at the University of Freiburg, she began reading the works of the legendary St. Teresa of Ávila, one of the most influential Catholic saints in history. 

As Stein continued to be influenced by St. Teresa, she was baptized as a Catholic in 1922 and began to turn her attention to becoming a nun. When she ultimately decided that would not be her path, she began to teach at a Catholic school in Speyer, a position she held until 1931. As it turned out, that period of time coincided with the rise of the Nazis, with Adolf Hitler working his way up the ranks of the Weimar Republic before taking full power in 1933. 

As the Nazis seized the reins in Germany and began implementing anti-Semitic policies, Stein’s Jewish background made her a target regardless of her conversion, and she had to quit teaching as a result of not being “Aryan” enough to qualify for a civil servant position. In the wake of that, she pursued her original dream by joining a discalced Carmelite monastery in Cologne by the end of 1933, and she took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Edith and her sister Rosa would remain at Cologne until 1938, when their Jewish background compelled them to flee to a monastery in the Netherlands as anti-Semitic persecution intensified in Germany. They were two of the countless number of Jews who fled Nazi Germany or attempted to ahead of World War II, but as fate would have it, they didn’t get far enough away. In the midst of World War II, the Germans occupied the Netherlands along with most of the rest of Western Europe, and in 1942, Stein and her sister would be sent to Auschwitz, where they became victims of the Final Solution. 

In the wake of her death, Stein was lionized as a martyr, and eventually, she was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1998. Meanwhile, her works were gradually published in the decades after the war, and her philosophical teachings became influential in their own right. 

Edith Stein: The Life and Legacy of the Jewish Philosopher Who Became a Catholic Saint examines Edith’s conversion, her work as a nun, her philosophy, and her fate.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

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  • Kate
  • 14-11-21

Clearly and Openly Expressed

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross lived a complicated life in a complicated time and a complicated country. She opened women to equality without denial of their unique feminine identity and being. She sought truth and found God seeking her. She desired this be true for all of us if we seek. The details of political activity in her life and death were deeply saddening and horrible. This was well written and well read and was one hour and forty five minutes well spent.

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  • Nicola Warner
  • 12-12-19

Excellent Book

Although it's a sad look at the brutality of humanity against humanity, it's a beautiful look at a life lived in Love of our Savior! Excellent history lesson!