70th anniversary of the death of St. Grigol Peradze attended by the Georgian President
In the Auschwitz Memorial Site, celebrations were held for the 70th anniversary of the death of Archimandrite Grigol Peradze, an Orthodox holy martyr, who was murdered in the German Nazi concentration camp on Dec. 6, 1942.
The pannichida, i.e. the Orthodox funeral service, was attended by, inter alia, the representatives of the Patriarchate of the Georgian Orthodox Church and the President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, Father Henryk Paprocki from the Orthodox parish of archbishop and martyr Grigol, author of the biography of St. Grigol Peradze, as well as the director of the Museum, Dr Piotr M.A. Cywiński. Before the ceremony at the Death Wall candles were lit in the courtyard of the Block 11.
“Most of the Orthodox Christians who perished in Auschwitz were prisoners from the Red Army, and some of the victims originated from the area of pre-war eastern Poland and generally the eastern part of the continent,” said the director of the Museum Piotr Cywiński. “It is impossible – due to deficient post-camp archives – to present a full picture of the losses of the Orthodox people. Archimandrite Grigol, through his tremendous intellectual contribution in theology, in Patristics, the study of the history of the Church, as well as by his canonisation, is probably the most well-known today, but far from the only Orthodox victim of Auschwitz,” he added.
Father Henryk Paprocki recalled that Grigol Peradze, during a time of serious illness at a young age, he had a vision, which he wrote down in the form of a poem entitled “Hymn of the cherubim”. “An amazing sentence appears there about his fate: “May fate is to burn”, and that it is to be a bridge for their countrymen, which will connect them with God. This vision actually came true. Executioners from the first centuries would leave the bodies; on the other hand, executioners from the 20th century were more precise. There was nothing left, no remains, like the millions of other victims. I think that, paradoxically, in Christianity it is a victory and not defeat,” he said.
In his view, efforts should be made in order to preserve the Auschwitz Memorial Site: “Not only as a reminder, as one big cemetery, but also as a place that should serve as a warning. People have actually forgotten about the occupation and concentration camps. It's been so many years that the younger generation is losing its historical memory completely. This place is a warning sign that there is a limit that cannot be exceeded. If man does this, he becomes an animal.”
As for the need to preserve the Memorial Site, President Saakashvili also said: “People have a tendency to forget, especially the bad events of the past, not to mention the fact that there are even those who deny that it all took place. This is why it is so important that we not forget about this history.
President Saakashvili also said that Father Peradze, a Georgian clergyman as well as a representative of the Polish intelligentsia sent to Auschwitz, was accused, among others things, of helping the Jews, and his camp story is similar to the fate of Father Maximilian Kolbe. “Poles, Georgians and Jews should keep these names in memory in order to avoid the repetition of such events in the future,” he stressed.
Grigol Peradze was born on 13 September 1899 in Bakurtsikhe in the province of Kakheti in Georgia to the family of an Orthodox priest. After studying theology in Georgia and Russia, he was also educated at the Faculty of Philosophy at the university in Tbilisi. In 1921, the authorities of the Georgian Orthodox Church sent him to study theology in Berlin, where he earned a master's degree, and in 1926, he gained Ph.D. in philosophy in Bonn.
In 1931 in Paris, Grigol Peradze took religious vows and was ordained. He dreamed about becoming a lecturer at the school of theology. The desire became a reality in 1933, when the Metropolitan Dionysius invited him to Warsaw, offering him the position of assistant professor of Patrology and deputy director of the Patristic Seminary at the Faculty of Orthodox Theology of the University of Warsaw. In January 1934, at the Greek Cathedral of Saint Sofia in London, Father Grigol received the dignity of Archimandrite.
He did a lot of travel research, including to the Holy Land, Syria, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Austria and Italy. Even after the outbreak of war, he continued to conduct research. In total, he left behind more than 70 per cent, mostly in the field of Patrology.
On May 5, 1942, he was arrested for the unknown reasons by the Gestapo and sent to Auschwitz where he died on Dec. 6, 1942. Information about his death appeared in the Information Bureau of the Main Headquarter of the Armia Krajowa (the Home Army).