Father Manfred Deselaers, Ph.D.
Manfred Deselaers. Born in Duesseldorf, Germany, on 19 May 1955, Manfred Deselaers is a Catholic priest from the diocese of Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen).
After his school-leaving examination in Viersen, 1974, and one semester as a student of law in Bonn he went to Israel for one and a half years with “Action Reconciliation / Service for Peace”, where, after language classes in Dovrat Kibutz, he worked most of the time in Jerusalem, in a home for disabled children (Beit Cholim Alyn). He then studied theology in Tuebingen (1976-1981) and Chicago (1978-1979). In 1983 he was ordained. He served as curate in Moenchengladbach and became a Board member of the Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation.
In October 1989, with the support of his Bishop Klaus Hemmerle, he went to Poland to help in the endeavours towards German-Polish reconciliation. First, he studied the Polish language at the Catholic University in Lublin. Since 3 October 1990, he has been living in the parish of the “Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary” in the town of Oświęcim (Auschwitz).
In 1991 he received his Master's degree at the “Pontifical Academy of Theology” in Cracow, where he also presented his doctoral dissertation on “God and Evil in the light of the biography and statements of Rudolf Hoess, commander of Auschwitz” (Professors conferring the degree: Adam Kubiś, Cracow and Bernhard Casper, Freiburg/Br.). His doctorate was conferred in October 1996.
Sent by his Bishop Heinrich Mussinghoff, Aachen, and in agreement with Cardinal Franciszek Macharski (Cracow) he now dedicates his life to German-Polish Reconciliation and Christian-Jewish Dialogue at the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Oświęcim. In 2001 he became a member of the Board and is responsible for the Programme Department. Since its reconstitution in 2008 he has been Vice President of the Cracow Foundation “Centrum Dialogu I Modlitwy” (Centre for Dialogue and Prayer) in Oświęcim.
In 1994 he became a guide in the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.
In 1998 he became a Holocaust Educator of the International School of Holocaust Studies, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.
Photo by Mikołaj Grynberg
Since 1997 he has lectured on “Theology after Auschwitz” at the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Cracow.
Since 2006 he has been a member of the International Auschwitz Council.
Since 2007 he has given lectures at the National Professional College of Oświęcim.
- In 1995 he published the “The Way of the Cross - Meditation in Auschwitz” (Einhard publishers, Aachen, 5th edition, 2001; in 1997 the Polish translation “Boże mój, Boże, czemuś mnie opuścił?” was published by the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Oświęcim).
- In 1997 his doctoral dissertation was published under the title “Und Sie hatten nie Gewissensbisse?Die Biografie von Rudolf Hoess, Kommandant von Auschwitz, und die Frage nach seiner Verantwortung vor Gott und den Menschen” in Leipzig, St. Benno-Verlag (2nd edition: 2001), in 1999 the book appeared in Polish “Bóg a Zło” (“God and Evil”) in Cracow (WAM).
- In 2002: publication of “Edith Stein - Message of the Cross and Auschwitz” (“Edith Stein - Die Botschaft vom Kreuz und Auschwitz”. Edith-Stein-Society, Germany).
- In 2003: editor of the book “Dialog u progu Auschwitz”(“Dialogue at the threshold of Auschwitz”, German translation 2004 “Dialog an der Schwelle von Auschwitz”, UNUM publishers, Cracow).
- In 2007: co-editor of the book “Bóg i Auschwitz”, UNUM, Cracow. In 2008 the book appeared in English “God and Auschwitz”, UNUM, Cracow.
- In June 2000 the Polish Council of Christians and Jews awarded him the title "Person of Reconciliation".
- On 26 January 2005 President Aleksander Kwaśniewski awarded him the Chivalry's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Polish Republic.
- In May 2005 he was given the Józef Tischner Award for pastoral and social initiatives contributing to the “Polish shape of Dialogue” in the Church and the world.
- On 23 May 23 2008 President Horst Köhler awarded him the Cross of Merit, First Class, of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.