Priestblock 25487: A Memoir of Dachau

Overview

In May 1941, Father Jean Bernard was arrested for denouncing the Nazis and deported from his native Luxembourg to Dachau's "Priest Block," a barracks that housed more than 3,000 clergymen of various denominations (the vast majority Roman Catholic priests).
Priestblock 25487 tells the gripping true story of his survival amid inhuman brutality and torture.
This inspiring book, originally published in Germany in ...
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Overview

In May 1941, Father Jean Bernard was arrested for denouncing the Nazis and deported from his native Luxembourg to Dachau's "Priest Block," a barracks that housed more than 3,000 clergymen of various denominations (the vast majority Roman Catholic priests).
Priestblock 25487 tells the gripping true story of his survival amid inhuman brutality and torture.
This inspiring book, originally published in Germany in 1963, was adapted into the award-winning film The Ninth Day in 2004.
Now translated into English for the first time, Priestblock features a Preface by Seán Cardinal O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, and an Introduction by Robert Royal.
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Editorial Reviews

Catholic News Service
Father Jean Bernard (1907-1994) was a prisoner in the Dachau concentration camp from May 1941 to August 1942. "Priestblock 25487" was originally published in a newspaper series in 1945 and was loosely adapted into the acclaimed 2004 German film, "The Ninth Day."

Father Bernard's factual narrative is direct and explicit reportage and as such it gives a brutally honest recitation of what it was like to endure the clergy barracks of Dachau. It is difficult to imagine how people managed to endure these depths of misery: physical and emotional torture, starvation, disease, unceasing cold, hard physical labor and merciless guards.
—Rachelle Linner
Fr. John I. Intermountain Catholic
Books about World War II are many. Some are very good; others show a noticeable lack of research. One crossed my desk lately that is so small, so personal, and so profound it deserves wide readership...

Most moving in this slender softback book are the few times when the men in "Priestblock" get tiny shreds of the Holy Eucharist smuggled to them. They guard it, they share it... How can a reader not be moved?

It might take a hasty reader just a day to read "Priestblock 25487," but hastily is not how this book should be read. It should be treated as a meditation, even something read again and again.
—Barbara Stinson Lee
Fr. John I. The Catholic Sun (Phoenix)
Fr. Jean Bernard, in his book Priestblock 25487: A Memoir of Dachau, demonstrates the necessity of a brutally truthful recounting of his time at the Nazi concentration camp as a way of remembering the sin and grace that lived there...

In opposition to the camp's evil, Fr. Bernard and his brother priests found strength in the Eucharist... The kinship many of the priests felt with the early Christians is striking... a portrait develops of beautiful and simple charity, the stuff of saints.

He wrote the memoir in a few fevered days after leaving Dachau, and its attention to detail and fact leave the reader with a historical document detailing what it means to be persecuted for the faith.
—Andrew Junker
Fr. John I. The Inland Register
Priestblock 25487 is a moving account of the cruel place where more priests were gathered in one place than anywhere else in all the history of the world. It is well worth reading.
Fr. Tom Caswell
Fr. John I. Today's Catholic (Indiana)
I found this compelling book hard to stop reading. A perfect Good Friday reflection, it portrays some of the worst cruelty of humanity. From crucifixion to concentration camps, both make us shudder with the weakest aspects of the human character...

One wonders about the silence of the people, perhaps fearing for their own lives. But then again, in our own day, why are we not more vocal against the culture of death that pervades our own society? Why do we keep silent or say so little?
—Tim Johnson
Fr. John I. Today's Catholic (San Antonio)
With the election three years ago of a German pope, many books and articles have questioned the role of the Catholic Church in Nazi Germany. The recent translation of Priestblock 25487 provides a firsthand report of the cruelty and evil inflicted upon the thousands of clergy, most of them Roman Catholic priests...

The simply stark, honest and excellently penned account of his time at Dachau is not for the faint of heart. The cruelty of the Nazi regime is beyond comprehension. Just as incredible is the gift of the friendship and faith-filled lives the clergy in Dachau shared. Understanding the gift of priesthood and Eucharist comes through to the Catholic reader... It's a book that will remain with you as you reflect upon its message.
—Patsy Pelton
Library Journal
This American edition of Father Jean Bernard's recollections of his experiences as a political prisoner in Dachau from May 1941 to August 1942 was first published serially in the Luxemburger Wortin 1945 and coincides now with the release of the movie adaptation (The Ninth Day). The text consists of snippets of memories, creating a disjointed result. There are a series of impressions but no connection to the greater time period or event. Overall, the book sheds minimal light on the experiences of priests in Dachau. The larger problem, however, is Robert Royal's introduction, which makes no distinction between internment for political reasons and for reasons of ethnicity, a distinction that mattered especially with regard to Father Bernard, who might never have been released had he been a Jew or a Gypsy. Further, the introduction presents the memoir as proof that the Catholic Church was opposed to and suffered under Hitler when the historical facts do not support this stance. As the volume does not contribute to the study of World War II or the Holocaust, it is an optional addition to libraries.
—Melissa Johnson
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780972598170
  • Publisher: Zaccheus Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2008
  • Pages: 177
  • Sales rank: 246,485
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface Sean Cardinal O'Malley O'Malley, Sean Cardinal

Introduction Robert Royal Royal, Robert

In Prison 3

Arrival at Dachau 9

The First Two Weeks 16

In the Main Camp 26

First Mass in the Camp 39

Recollections from the First Few Months 42

The "Good Times" Come to an End 53

Winter Approaches 61

Christmas 1941 72

Ten Days' Leave and My Return to Dachau 78

"Transport Commando Praezifix" 91

Easter Week 1942 112

Hunger 118

Visitors in the Camp 132

At the End of Our Strength 135

The Infirmary 142

Dead End 155

Renewed Hope 157

Released 168

Biographical Note 173

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Painfully Uplifting

    "Priestblock 25487: A Memoir of Dachau" is the autobiographical writing of Father Jean Bernard, a Roman Catholic priest from Luxembourg describing his experiences while interred at the notorious Nazi German concentration camp. The book is structured in a diary-like form (though actually written some years after his release) and gives the reader a inside look at an often forgotten chapter of Nazi German history; it's systematic attempts to undermine and crush the Catholic Christian Church, through the imprisonment, degradation, torture, and murder of thousands of Her priests and religious sisters.

    This book is simply incredible. and painfully so. It highlights-though I imagine not intentionally -the heroic virtue and fidelity of a number of Catholic priests who sought to be Christ to each other and even to their captors as they were put through the most horrible physical and psychological conditions that are beyond one's imagination. Especially for a Catholic, one cannot help be near ashamed at our own cavalier disposition to our regular reception of the Eucharist when Father Bernard describes the "indescribable joy" he and his fellow priests experienced as they consumed a particle of Host which had been smuggled into them.

    It is often difficult to offer criticism of an autobiographical writing, as one expects it to be subjective. But the author himself seems to be painstaking in presenting an objective description of what happened, permitting the reader to experience the emotion which he dared not display. One is truly taken by the lack of malice towards his captors, and deep empathy and sacrificial friendship towards his fellow prisoners. One thing I found a bit disconcerting, which perhaps says more about me than the writer, is that Father Bernard could share in a sentence or two about having to go without any food to speak of for days on end, while also being on "snow detail" in sub-freezing temperatures with no shirt or shoes; it can be easy to breeze over this, without actually imagining how torturous it would be for any of us to do such a thing for more than five minutes, let alone eight hours at a time.

    I highly recommend this book to anyone who desires to better understand what it means to be a person of faith even in unthinkable circumstances-an obscure and unknown saint simply living out one's vocation. I especially feel that those in the priesthood will find this story truly edifying and encouraging as they attempt to live out their own "white martyrdom" in their vocation.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2008

    Absolutely Gripping - Read it in less than 3 hours

    This Memoir of Father Jean Bernard grabs the reader's attention from the very first page. While rather brief 'for a Memoir', it's packed with details rather graphical. It forces the reader to grapple with the question, 'What would I do in his situation?'. - Not an easy question to answer. After six months, this reviewer is still wrestling with the question. As the previous reviewer stated: 'The writing style is simple, direct and vivid.' Fr. Bernard makes no attempt to spare the reader the horrors that he and so many others had to endure nor does he try to elicit empathy from the reader in his description of the hell in which he lived for 15 months. I've purchased four copies of 'PRIESTBLOCK', thus far keeping one for myself and giving the others to friends. - One of which is a Catholic priest. I am looking forward to discussing Fr. Bernard's story with him. This book is the inspiration for the movie, 'The Ninth Day' aka 'Der Neunte Tag', starring: Ulrich Matthes ''DOWNFALL'' - Both were Excellent movies, by the way. This book is VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED to those interested in Concentration Camp Survivor stories/memoirs. It is this reviewer's most heartfelt wish that mankind never forget what these dear and precious souls suffered because of hate and jealousy.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2007

    A reviewer

    This book grabbed my interest on the first page, and did not let go. The writing style is simple, direct, and very vivid. You feel the cold, the hunger, the fear. But there are lighter moments, too, and ones of great beauty, such as when the priest encounters a child whose innocent kindness revives his sagging faith. I believe this book is worthy of comparison with the other great Holocaust memoirs, such as 'Night' and 'Survival in Auschwitz'. But of course, it tells the tale from a much different perspective - that of a Catholic priest. His sufferings are in no way comparable to the millions of Jews who suffered and died in the camps. But his story, and persecution by the Nazi regime, is no less true. 'Priestblock' is a powerful work of literature, and an important historical document. I recommend it highly.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted October 7, 2011

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    Posted July 7, 2009

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