Witness to Evil - Young John Paul II, Part 2

Karol Wojtyla was an intense young man who "stood out from everyone else."  According to those who knew him, "There was something about him that was special."  

But dreams of a future, in Nazi-controlled Krakow, were uncertain at best.  The city had become a place where coal (for fueling homes) was scarce and calories (for fueling bodies) were limited to 900 a day.  That qualified as a starvation diet.

Only two months after the German conquest of Poland, students observed an ominous event.  A cadre of Hitler's SS barged into the university, rounded up 174 professors (some were more than seventy years old) and arrested them.  Thereafter, they were banished to a German concentration camp from which nearly fifty never returned.  

Karol Wojtyla was horrified at what the Nazis were doing to his country.  He later said:  

The war unleashed an insane storm of hate.  It made all people aware of the depths, previously unknown, to which contempt of men and the violation of human rights could reach.  It led to an unpredecented torrent of hatred which, in turn, trampled on men and on everything which is human.

All Polish universities - including Jagiellonian University, where Karol was a student - were closed.  So were secondary schools, museums and libraries.  The Nazis banned books, plays and films for Poles.  Hitler had ordered that Poland would be treated as a colony and Poles would become slaves in his German empire.

Every Polish male, between the ages of 14 and 16, could be taken - without warning - and sent to a German labor camp.  The only exception was if the lad had a job in a Nazi-approved industry.  Karol knew he was not safe.  Were he deported from Krakow, he would be separated from his father, who was very ill.  

Known to his friends and family as "Lolek," the future pope deeply loved his father - Karol Wojtyla‚ Sr.  A man of great integrity, he had shown his son - by example - that "prayerfulness and manliness are not opposites."  Since Karol's mother, Emilia, had died when her younger boy was only nine, father and son had become especially close.

The loving environment, inside the Wojtyla home, stood in stark contrast to the new reality in Poland, where rule of law had ceased to exist.  People would go out in the morning, not knowing whether they (or their family mmembers) would come back in the evening.

See, also:

Witness to Evil - Young John Paul II, Part 1

Witness to Evil - Young John Paul II, Part 3

Witness to Evil - Young John Paul II, Part 4

Witness to Evil - Young John Paul II, Part 5

Witness to Evil - Young John Paul II, Part 6


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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5197stories and lessons created

Original Release: Sep 01, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Mar 14, 2019

Media Credits

Clip from "Young John Paul II - Witness to Evil," online courtesy BBC.  Copyright, BBC, all rights reserved.  Clip provided here as fair use for educational purposes and to acquaint new viewers with the program.

The BBC provides background information regarding this docudrama:

Drama-documentary telling the story of five years which transformed the life of Karol Wojtyla and set him on the path to the Vatican.

The man who would become John Paul II was 19 when the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939. He had no intention of joining the church, but the devastating experience of Nazi occupation led him first to join the underground resistance and then to risk his life studying in secret to become a priest.

Interviews with key survivors from the period who knew him well, and the Pope's own writings, are combined in a powerful exploration of the young John Paul II's coming of age, including his brushes with death and the horrors he witnessed that helped to shape his thinking.

"Young John Paul II - Witness to Evil" (2008)

Philip Smith

Leanne Klein

Philip Smith

Starring John Sackville
as Karol Wojtyla

Richard Lintern

Wall-to-Wall for the BBC.  Originally broadcast, BBC One.


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"Witness to Evil - Young John Paul II, Part 2" AwesomeStories.com. Sep 01, 2013. May 30, 2020.
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