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Priestblock 25487: a Memoir of Dachau

4.17  ·  Rating Details ·  237 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
Praise for Priestblock 25487: ''Stunning... Casts light into dark and previously neglected corners of the horror that was the Third Reich.'' —Richard John Neuhaus, Editor in Chief First Things ''Father Jean Bernard's portrait of survival in a German concentration camp is simple, forceful and vivid and therefore impossible to put down or forget. It ranks with the great 20th ...more
Paperback, 177 pages
Published October 28th 2007 by Zaccheus Press (first published 1962)
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I have never read of the experiences of Catholic priests under Nazi rule, so I thought this book would be interesting. There is a raging debate on whether the Church supported the Nazis, looked the other way, or actively spoke out against them, depending on whom you ask. The stance of staunch Catholics is that the commies spread rumours against the CC. Regardless of what the intent of the Church was during the Holocaust, it is undeniable that things like the Holocaust happened partly because of ...more
Eva Leger
Mar 01, 2009 Eva Leger rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who already know a little about the Holocaust
Recommended to Eva by: found it on GR
This is simply astounding. I had a hard time even reading this and this is after reading a few books on the Holocaust. This was the first book I'd read coming from a clergyman and I wanted a different aspect which this gave me.
There really isn't much I can say about this- it should be required reading I think- for everyone. I had the hardest time getting through some parts- the evil that is in some people is astounding. I can't begin to imagine going through the things that I had a difficult ti
May 20, 2009 booklady rated it it was amazing
Recommended to booklady by: Diane Culbertson
"This was but a prelude; where books are burnt human-beings will be burnt in the end." ~~the German poet Heinrich Heine in 1820

Although I visited Dachau years ago and I've read many books--both fiction and non-fiction--dealing with life in concentration camps, I don't recall ever reading any individual accounts specifically about this particular camp, until I encountered this poignant diary by Father Jean Bernard from Luxembourg.

As I was reading Priestblock 25487 A Memoir of Dachau it was hard
Mar 15, 2011 Linda rated it it was ok
My father was part of the Rainbow Division which liberated Dachau at the end of WWII. He did not actually visit the camp, since the commanders did not recommend it and one of his tentmates was so traumatized by it, he sat in the corner of the tent and didn't speak until the Division moved out. So I am extremely interested in memoirs concerning the camp.

I was very disappointed in this one. For most of the time Bernard was a resident, the priests were treated much better than the general populatio
Apr 12, 2009 El rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Leah Lionheart
In 1941 Father Jean Bernard was imprisoned in Dachau for denouncing the Nazis. He was placed in Dachau's "Priest Block", a barracks for clergymen. He was released in 1942, but his experiences in the concentration camp led to his memoirs here.

This is the first book of a clergyman's involvement in the camps that I have come across and was even startled to find there was such a barrack as "Priest Block", though I suppose I shouldn't find that so shocking. Bernard's descriptions of his experiences a
Heather Bolwar
Jan 26, 2008 Heather Bolwar rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: history buffs, folks with an interest in religion
During WWII the Nazis sent priests and other clergy to concentration camps if they denounced the teaching of the party. This book is the memoir of Fr. Jean Bernard, a priest from Luxembourg. Fr. Bernard was released from Dachau for ten days during his "stay" there, but he returned because if he didn't, his fellow Luxembourger priests would've suffered for it. As I read and cried my way through this book, I wondered if my own faith would remain were I to be subjected to this kind of cruelty.
Jun 05, 2008 Sheri rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: readers interested in the Holocaust & Catholicism.
Recommended to Sheri by: Liguorian
I read this book in a couple of hours. As a teenager I visited Dachau which is now a monument. The overwhelming feeling of misery and death surrounded me while I was inside, and I cannot begin to imagine the horror of being imprisoned there. The human spirit, love for one another and hope and faith in God is unbelievable.
Luke A. Bunker
Jun 03, 2012 Luke A. Bunker rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2012
A must-read for better understanding the senselessness that occurred at Dachau. This book was written in the interesting and unusual perspective of a priest and I am glad I read it as I will be visiting Dachau this month and wanted to put a human and individual face for better understanding and empathy of that tragic time in our world's history.
Mar 22, 2008 Carlos rated it it was amazing
This book is a fast paced and sobering account of the depth to which man's inhumanity can sink, and also of the strength which man can gain from faith and uniting his suffering to that of Christ.
Meg Hunter-Kilmer
Mar 31, 2013 Meg Hunter-Kilmer rated it liked it
Shelves: saints-etc
Interesting but brief with very little on priestly activity.
Dec 07, 2013 Josh rated it it was amazing
Fr. Jean Bernard's first-hand witness and submission of the torture and hatred poured out upon Catholic clergy in the Dachau concentration camp is, as other reviewers have said, "dramatic, brutally honest, gripping, riveting, absorbing, compelling, deeply moving, important, luminous, unforgettable, powerful, inspiring, simple, forceful and vivid." Yes! It is all that.

The depth of human cruelty, the height of human sanctity, the worst disregard for the human body and soul and the vast limits to w
Jan 31, 2010 Matthew rated it really liked it
From the first page I was captivated by the simplicity of the writing and the horror of the story. The book recounts the time that Fr. Bernard spent in the concentration camp of Dachau.

It is a beautiful account of humanity, humility and the best and worst of what we can do to each other. The horrors portrayed in this book had a deep impact on me. I always knew that life in a concentration camp was horrible but to actually read a first person account of the day-to-day life with all its moments w
Feb 23, 2011 Sarah rated it really liked it
Moving and powerful. I read Night many years ago in college, and remembered how graphic and disturbing it was. Priestblock 2587 was written from a different perspective- that of a priest who has been condemned to Dachau for opposing the Nazis. I didn't know that there was a whole section of Dachau set aside for priests and other clergy- in fact, one out of ten prisoners in Dachau was a priest or other clergyman. The story of Christians in the concentration camps is rarely told. Priestblock 2587 ...more
Oct 18, 2011 Holly rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
This was a strange recollection I haven't come across before, almost as if the author wasn't terribly keen on revisiting the memories for the sake of a book. It was strangely (but not surprisingly) detatched. Very raw and simple experience of pure survival, and nothing else. Most interesting is it is probably a very accurate depiction of his mind set during this time. Father Bernard makes a statement about one of his friends being at the bottom of a pile of corpses and the ...more
James Hecker
Dec 04, 2016 James Hecker rated it really liked it
A memoir of a Catholic priest from Luxembourg arrested and sent to the German concentration camp, Dachau in 1941.

Written in the style of diary entries, it is a compelling account of the horror, brutalization, and inhumane treatment at the hands of the SS and the prisoners in charge of the operation of the camp.

Yet even among the brutality and mistreatment there are examples of Grace and the sustaining power of hope. The book is no "happily ever after tale" though. Many of the priests the author
Oct 21, 2008 Catherine rated it liked it
This book is good. Midway I was thinking to myself - "This is quite repetitive" but then I thought, that's understandable really if you're in a concentration camp. There is nothing else but to focus on food and survival. And this is captured extremely well. What I did miss was more interiority (his faith, struggle, dialogue with Christ, etc.). I understand that this is not an aesthetical book but somehow I think it could be very enriching for the reader. I admire the book, "Man's Searching for ...more
Oct 30, 2014 Relstuart rated it liked it
We usually think of the holocaust as being focused on the Jews (and it was) but, there are other people that were also targeted for elimination. One group was religious leaders who did not toe the line and support National Socialism. This is the story of a Catholic priest, who was never told why he was arrested, who was sent to Dachau. He talks about the camp life and how people were killed and tortured in the camp and the incredible cruelty of the guards. It's a wonder he survived. A sad tale ...more
John Silva
A fast-moving story of the horrors of concentration camp life, especially how it affected priests, who were scorned by the camp guards and 'authorities'. It is hard to believe that anyone could have survived the mistreatment (to put it nicely) that these men went through.

My main 'take away' is that during all of the camp atrocities the priests (and others) held on to the Mass and the Eucharist, which they infrequently had a chance to celebrate and share, as a gift more precious than gold and eve
Jul 27, 2010 Madelyn rated it it was amazing
I've read many books on the Holocaust and visited Concentration Camps in Germany and Poland. Being Catholic and having visited Dauchau, I found this book especially interesting. Father Bernard effectively and honestly conveys his unique experience as a non-Jew during the Holocaust. While the book was full of sad, tragic, and almost unbelieavable stories and experiences, I was overjoyed to read that he fully recovered and lived to be 87 years old in the biographical note at the end of the book.
Aug 22, 2014 John rated it liked it
Shelves: spiritual
A fast-moving story of the horrors of concentration camp life, especially how it affected priests, who were scorned by the camp guards and 'authorities'. It is hard to believe that anyone could have survived the mistreatment (to put it nicely) that these men went through.

My main 'take away' is that during all of the camp atrocities the priests (and others) held on to the Mass and the Eucharist, which they infrequently had a chance to celebrate and share, as a gift more precious than gold and eve
Aug 10, 2009 Ryan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
No coincidence that a priest handed me a copy of this book a few days before we left for Germany and toured Dachau. What an education! We hear about the 6 M Jews killed in the Holocaust, but the other 6 M people killed (including Christians) aren't remembered often enough. Thousands of Catholic priests were sent through the concentration camp in Dachau. This memoir gives a unique glimpse into life and death in the camp. Simply a must-read.
As the title implies, it is the memoir of a priest in the Dachau prison camp. Bears similarities to Fr. Walter Ciszek's With God in Russia in that it deals with the day-to-day externals, where as Fr. Ciszek's He Leadeth Me reveals the spiritual side of his imprisonment and labor term under the Soviet GULAG.
Mar 25, 2011 Mary rated it liked it
This is one I blew through because a friend recommended it. Another little slice of history during WWWII -- the horrors of camp, the will of the survivors, etc. I know I sound like I take this lightly, but I have read quite a few concentration camp books and I think I'm ready to move on to new horrible disasters.
The subject matter seemed like it would be interesting, but the writing style was so dry. It was like I was just reading notes that were jotted down…I made it halfway but there was little to no emotion and no description of the people in his life. I couldn't connect to the author. In this rare case, I have a feeling the movie might be better to watch than reading the book.
Dec 31, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it
A moving Memoir about the non-Jewish clergy held prisoner at Dachau. I had the opportunity to go thru Dachau this past summer. Somehow I totally missed this part of it. Father Jean Bernard manages to tell the story with honesty but without the graphics of some war stories. I really had a hard time putting it down.
Sarah O'connor
Aug 04, 2009 Sarah O'connor rated it it was amazing
Maybe because we had just visited Dachau...or maybe because I teach the history of WWII....or maybe just because it is an incredible story- THIS BOOK IS FABULOUS! It is a true story, written by a Catholic priest who was sent to the Dachau concentration camp and never even found out why. This is a great account of the true happenings at this terrible institution.
Aug 20, 2012 Susan rated it really liked it
Remarkable memoir of a priest from Luxembourg who spent a few years in Dachau in a Priestblock. His descriptions were vivid and horribly in their realism. If you've never read any concentration camp accounts, this may be a bit of a rough read. He reveals the physiological results of the treatment they survived as well as the psychological games with which the men were tortured.
Mar 17, 2011 Terise rated it it was amazing
After many years of Catholic education, I was stunned to read about this aspect of WWII. It is a very real, and yet guarded look at what European Catholic priests faced at concentration camps. Unshaken faith and hope. A great read, and an inspirational one.
Sharon Zink
Apr 11, 2016 Sharon Zink rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
An excellent account of a Catholic priest interred at Dachau concentration camp during World War II.
Christina F
Apr 10, 2014 Christina F rated it it was amazing
Really well-written and engaging. I couldn't put it down once I finally found the time to start reading it. Very gripping story.
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Father Jean Bernard was a Catholic priest from Luxembourg who was imprisoned from May 1941 to August 1942 in the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. He was released for nine days in February 1942 and allowed to return to Luxembourg, an episode which he later wrote about in his memoirs of the camp and which was turned into a film.
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“On Good Friday last year the SS found some pretext to punish 60 priests with an hour on "the tree." That is the mildest camp punishment. They tie a man's hands together behind his back, palms facing out and fingers pointing backward. Then they turn his hands inwards, tie a chain around his wrists and hoist him up by it. His own wight twists his joints and pulls them apart...Several of the priest who were hung up last year never recovered and died. If you don't have a strong heart, you don't survive it. Many have a permanently crippled hand.” 1 likes
“The first days of January 1942 brought enormous amounts of snow. The reader already knows what snow meant for the clergy. But this time the torture surpassed the bounds of the endurable. At the same time the thermometer hovered between 5 and 15 degrees below zero. From morning till night we scraped, shoveled, and pushed wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of snow to the brook. The work detail consisted of more than 1,000 clergymen, forced to keep moving by SS men and Capos who kicked us and beat us with truncheons.

We had to make rounds with the wheelbarrows from the assembly square to the brook and back. Not a moment of rest was allowed, and much of the time we were forced to run.

At one point I tripped over my barrow and fell, and it took me a while to get up again. An SS man dashed over and ordered me to turn with the full load. He ran beside me, beating me constantly with a leather strap. When I got to the brook I was not allowed to dump out the heavy snow, but had to make a second complete round with it instead.

When the guard finally went off and I tried to let go of the wheelbarrow, I found that one of my hands was frozen fast to it. I had to blow on it with warm breath to get it free.”
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