The story of this day
When I visited Auschwitz, on 14 August 2006, something caught my eye.
It was the picture of a man, between other pictures in the entrance hall of the museum. Pictures of people killed at Auschwitz. I didn't know who the man was, but he looked oddly familiar.
Together with my friends, I got on a tour of the death camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau. This is a kind of tour you'd never take twice. There is something extremely disturbing about that place. The vibration of the place was so negative, that it gave me the headache of my life. Also, my acute sense of smell detected a subliminal stench of rot, blood, fear and excrement, all at once.
But with my knees trembling, with my headache throbbing, I couldn't stop thinking about that man. My previous day had been equally disturbing and lead me to question if there is something like premonition and/or past lives; on August 13, I had visited the salt mine of Wieliczka. All well, if, as a child, I hadn't dreamt being inside the mine, trying to save some old books from a flooding of brine.
After the demoralizing tour I had purchased a book from the museum shop, a short history of the place. I had the surprise to find the man again in the book. He was a Franciscan priest who volunteered to die instead of someone else, by thirst and starvation, in a closed cell whose only ventilation was a very narrow and hard to reach shaft. He did not die there; after the Nazis got him out alive, they killed him and signed a phony death certificate. The man whom he replaced had lived a long life.
The date of death was 14 August 1941. He was sanctified and this is his feast day. The day I had visited the place was 14 August 2006. Exactly 65 years, and it wasn't arranged. A strange coincidence it was, but even more so, because something in his picture got my attention. I still don't know what it is, why he looks so familiar. And it could have been any other day. But sometimes, coincidences conspire.