Edith Stein
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 leading philosophers.

At Gottingen 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 11, 1998.