Julius Kolbe worked at the Krushe and Ender Mill and
also worked on rented land where he
grew vegetables. In 1914, Julius joined Józef Piłsudski's Polish Legions and was
captured by the Russians for fighting for the independence of a partitioned Poland.
In 1907, Kolbe and his elder brother Francis decided to join the Conventual Franciscan
Order. They illegally crossed the border between Russia and Austria-Hungary and joined
the Conventual Franciscan junior seminary in Lwów.
In 1910, Kolbe was allowed to enter the novitiate.
He professed his first vows in 1911,
adopting the name Maximilian, and the final vows in 1914, in Rome, adopting the names Maximilian
Maria, to show his veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In 1912, he was sent to Kraków, and, in the same year, to Rome, where he studied
philosophy, theology, mathematics, and physics. He took a great interest in astrophysics
and the prospect of space flight and the military. While in Rome he designed an
airplane-like spacecraft, similar in concept to the eventual space shuttle, and
attempted to patent it. He earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1915 at the Pontifical
Gregorian University, and the doctorate in theology in 1919 at the Pontifical University
of St. Bonaventure.
During his time as a student, he witnessed vehement
against Popes St. Pius X and Benedict XV by the Freemasons in Rome and was inspired to
organize the Militia Immaculata, or Army of Mary, to work for conversion of sinners and
the enemies of the Catholic Church through the intercession of the Virgin Mary. In 1918,
he was ordained a priest. In the conservative publications of the Militia Immaculatae,
he particularly condemned Freemasonry, Communism, Zionism, Capitalism and Imperialism.
In 1919, he returned to the newly independent Poland,
where he was very active in
promoting the veneration of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, founding and supervising the
monastery of Niepokalanów (City of the Immaculate) near Warsaw, a seminary, a radio
station, and several other organizations and publications.
Between 1930 and 1936, he
took a series of missions to Japan, where he founded a monastery at the outskirts of
Nagasaki, a Japanese paper, and a seminary. The monastery he founded remains prominent
in the Roman Catholic Church in Japan. Kolbe decided to build the monastery on a
mountain side that, according to Shinto beliefs, was not the side best suited to be in
tune with nature. When the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Kolbe's monastery was
saved because the blast of the bomb hit the other side of the mountain, which took the
main force of the blast. Had Kolbe built the monastery on the preferred side of mountain
as he was advised, his work and all of his fellow monks would have been destroyed.
In 1939 operation of the monastery of Niepokalanów got suspended by Nazis and Kolbe
with remaining 40 monks were arrested. After his release, he returned to his
monastery which he transformed into a help center for the people of the neighboring areas.
He got arrested again on February 17th 1941, and interrogated a held at Pawiak. From
there he was transported into the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau where he got
prisoner number 16670. He voluntarily chose death for his inmate, Franciszek Gajowniczek,
who three years later got freed from the camp. Kolbe died in August 14, 1941 after the
fatal injection of phenol.
Maximilian Kolbe got beatification on October 17, 1971 by Pope Paul VI, and made a
saint by Pope John Paul II on October 10th, 1982. In 1998 he was recognized by the
Vatican as a patron of the city Zduńska Wola, and in 2004 also patron of the city