Edith and her sister Rosa died on August 9, 1942 — two of the 1.1 million people estimated to have died in the gas chambers in Auschwitz, Poland, only 150 miles from Edith’s native and beloved Breslau. After reading this woman’s biography and a sampling of her writings I am struck at monumental wastefulness of this tragedy. Like so many others she bore her final days with dignity. Her legacy was summarized well by Pope/Saint John Paul II:
In a unique way, Edith Stein is a symbol of the dramas in Europe in our time. Edith’s encounter with Christianity did not lead her to reject her Jewish roots, rather it enabled her to fully discover them. Her entire life was “a kind of bridge” between her Jewish roots and her Christian faith. And her violent death remains a proclamation of the Gospel of the cross, with which she identified herself. In proclaiming Edith Stein a patroness of all Europe, the Pope said he wanted “to raise on this continent a banner of respect, tolerance and acceptance” that invites all people to understand each other beyond ethnic, cultural, and religious differences.