Bl. Emil Szramek


He was born on 29th September 1887 in Tworków nearby Racibórz. He finished primary school and then gymnasium in Racibórz. He studied theology between 1907 and 1911 at University of Wrocław. On 22nd June 1911 he took holy orders from cardinal Georg Kopp’s hands (Metropolitan of Wrocław) and he started to minister as a vicar in Miechowice. There, he got to know the works of Father Norbert Bończyk – a writer and a national activist for Poilshness in Upper Silesia. Tychy became his next parish where he cooperated with Father Jan Kapica – a politician, a member of the Prussian parliament and after the end of the First World War he was a chairman of the Polish Plebiscite Committee in Pszczyna County. In 1916 he defended his doctoral thesis on Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Cross in Opole. He was a co-founder of the Saint Hyacinth Society of Education in Silesia and the editor in chief of the magazine Głosy z nad Odry published by this society. His next parishes were Zaborze (now a district of Zabrze) and Mikołów.

After creating the Apostolic Exarchate of Upper Silesia he was appointed the Chancellor of the Curia by Father August Hlonda and after establishing the diocese of Katowice he became a member of the cathedral chapter. In 1926 Pope Pius XI gave Father Emil Szramek the parish of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Katowice. As Archbishop Damian Zimoń observed after many years Saint Mary parish was not easy. German element was strongly visible in big industrial cities in Silesia, it was a result of many years of belonging of this land to Germany. The newly appointed parish priest had to minister in such a way so as to gather the Polish faithful around him and at the same time not to lose the German Catholics’ trust for whom there was separate chaplaincy in German according to Geneva Conventions. (…) He was able to tone down antagonisms between the native Silesians and the strangers from other parts of Poland. Regardless of his pastoral work he continued his scientific activity and he also published biographies on characters such as Father Jan Kapica, Father Norbert Bończyk and Father Konstanty Damroth. He was also interested in Silesian folklore and the research on Silesia as a cultural border. In 1934 his work Śląsk jako problem socjologiczny: próba analizy was published in Katowice. He was one of the initiators of the opening of the Silesian Library and from 1927 he was the president of the Society of Friends of Sciences in Silesia and an editor of the yearbooks published by the society. From 1927, by the decision of bishop Arkadiusz Lisiecki, he dealt with the construction organization of the cathedral in Katowice. He was a bibliophile, he built up an extensive collection of books and as a fan of arts he made efforts to decorate Saint Mary’s Church with the art works of the outstanding creators such as Józef Unierzyski and Adam Bunsch.

After the outbreak of the Second World War and the annexation of Katowice into the German Reich in autumn 1939 he was ordered not to preach and leave the parish. He lodged a complaint against the German authorities’ decision which at first resulted in cancelling the ban. However, on 6th February 1940 he was informed that he would be moved to Cracow. He also lodged a complaint against this decision to Minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs of the Third Reich Hanns Kerrl and the chief of the Gestapo Heinrich Muller. Unexpectedly on 8th April 1940 he was arrested by the Gestapo officers who allowed him to get into the church and pray for a while. After Szramka got out of the church and was getting into the car the two German women started to spit on him. During the search, major Thomas from SS [Sieherheistdienst – Security Service], later the head of Mysłowice prison (…), was supposed to say “Szramek won’t come back” – Josef Steindor – a sacristan related. On 9th April 1940 he was taken to the Dachau concentration camp from the prison in Katowice.

At once there were attempts to release the priest. As it turned out after the war, the name of Father Emil Szramka had appeared in Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen (Special Prosecution Book-Poland). In December 1941 the chief of the Gestapo in Katowice SS-Standartenführer Ru­dolf Mild­ner explained his refusal of release, quoting Bishop Adamski’s opinion of Father Szramka: While waiting for the rebirth of Poland he tried to prepare Upper Silesia for it. He did everything he could to maintain Polishness here. He devoted all his time to enlighten people and to Polish literature. Repeated feuds with Prussian offices (…) During the first uprising he was arrested because of sympathizing with the insurgents. (…) In 1922 in Pyskowice he was attacked by militants as an “insurgent from Mikołów” and beaten to unconscious. He was moved from the Dachau camp to the Mauthausen-Gusen sub-camp on 25th May 1940, then to Mauthausen and once again to the Dachau camp on 8th December 1940. He was murdered on 13th January 1941 by leaving him under the streams of ice-cold water for a long time. In 1990 John Paul II beatified 108 martyrs of the Second World War including Father Emil Szramek.