St. Benedicta of the Cross
Edith Stein was born on October
12, 1891 in Breslau (Germany), now Wroclaw, Poland.
She died on August 9, 1942 in Auschwitz, Poland.
Born into an
Orthodox Jewish family, Edith Stein renounced her faith
in 1904 and became an atheist. As a student at the University
of Gottingen, she became acquainted with Edmund Husserl
and became interested in his philosophy. When Husserl moved
to the University of Freiburg, he asked Edith Stein to join
him there as his assistant. She received her doctorate in
she first came into contact with Roman Catholicism. Attracted
to this faith, Edith Stein returned on a holiday in 1921
to Breslau, where her profound encounter with the autobiography
of the mystic St. Teresa of Avila caused her swift conversion.
She was baptized on January 1, 1922, and gave up her assistantship
with Husserl to teach at a Dominican girls' school in Speyer
(1922 - 1932). While at Speyer she translated St. Thomas
Aquinas' De veritate (On Truth) and familiarized herself
with Roman Catholic philosophy in general. In 1932 she became
a lecturer at the Institute for Pedagogy at Munster but,
because of anti-Semitic legislation passed by the Nazi government,
was forced to resign the post in 1933.
In 1934 she entered
the Carmelite convent at Cologne, taking the religious name
Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. There she completed her metaphysical
work 'Endliches und ewiges Sein', an attempt to synthesize
the diverse philosophies of Aquinas and Husserl.
In 1938, with
the Nazi threat growing, she was transferred to the Carmelite
convent at Echt in the Netherlands. There she wrote her
important treatise 'Studie uber Joannes a Cruce: Kruezeswissenschaft'.
Removal from Germany, however, proved insufficient to ensure
her safety. On July 26, 1942 Adolf Hitler ordered the arrest
of all non-Aryan Roman Catholics. With her sister Rosa,
also a convert, Edith Stein was seized by the Gestapo and
shipped to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Survivors
of the death camp testified that she helped all other sufferers
with great compassion. On August 9, 1942 she was sent to
the gas chamber, where she died with her sister.
On May 1, 1987 she was beatified
by Pope John Paul II and was canonized on October