To the number of alleged martyrs of Nazism also belong nine Polish Salesian priests. They are Servants of God Fr. Jan Świerc and the VIII Companions: Fr. Ignacy Antonowicz, Fr. Karol Golda, Fr. Włodzimierz Szembek, Fr. Franciszek Harazim, Fr. Ludwik Mroczek, Fr. Ignacy Dobiasz, Fr. Kazimierz Wojciechowski, and Fr. Franciszek Miśka. As priests, all Servants of God were engaged in Poland in various pastoral and governmental activities and in teaching. They were completely uninvolved with respect to the political tensions that agitated Poland during the wartime occupation. Nevertheless, they were arrested and martyred in odium fidei for the very fact of being Catholic priests.
The fortitude and serene perseverance preserved by the Servants of God in the performance of their priestly ministry even during their imprisonment represented a real act of defiance for the Nazis: although exhausted by humiliation and torture, in defiance of any prohibition, the Servants of God were guardians to the end of the souls entrusted to them and showed themselves ready, despite human weakness, to accept death with God and for God.
The Auschwitz concentration camp, known to all as the death camp, and the Dachau concentration camp for Fr. Miśka, thus became the site of these Salesian priests' priestly commitment: to the denial of human dignity and life, Fr. Jan Świerc and 8 companions responded by offering, through the sacraments, the power of grace and the hope of eternity. They welcomed, sustained through the Eucharist and confession, and prepared a great many fellow prisoners for a peaceful death. Such service, not infrequently, was rendered in hiding, taking advantage of the darkness of night and under the constant and pressing threat of severe punishment or, more often, death.
The Servants of God, as true disciples of Jesus, never uttered words of outrage or hatred toward their persecutors. Arrested, beaten, and humiliated in their human and priestly dignity, they offered their suffering to God and remained faithful to the end, certain that he who places everything in the Divine Will does not remain disappointed. Their inner serenity and demeanor manifested even at the hour of death were so extraordinary as to leave their torturers themselves amazed and, in some cases, outraged.