Marguarite Aron: Jewish Martyr and Catholic Saint

saints, discipleship

“Jetzt leidet das Alte Testament für das Neue”.  It is for the New Testament that the Old Testament is afflicted today. (Sister Mirjam Michaelis, friend and companion of Edit Stein in Auschwitz – Schwester Mirjam Michaelis (1889-†1942), bei ihrer Verhaftung )

This is article celebrates the mysterious and paradoxical anniversary of Marguarite Aron (1873-1944 ). It is clear the following reminiscence will be the only one to be written this year because all that is known today about any “celebration” of Marguarite Aron as a Catholic martyr was presented in a short but valuable biography by her student, Madeleine Berthon, in 1993. Madeleine portrayed Marguarite as a purely Jewish martyr who was an intelligent lady – surely a Catholic with important Catholic interests and achievements, as well as a professor and writer,– but still, a Jewish woman who never hid her origins. 

Saintly Simplicity

Marguarite Aron (1873-†1944) was hidden and lost yet became an Catholic Saint 

Figure 1: Plaque affixed on May 8, 2004. Photo of the authors.

Twenty years after the appearance of Madeleine’s book, De Solesmes `a Auschwitz – Marguerite Aron, is an understanding that was resumed in the following respectful, laconic, sober words written in a local newspaper: 

On the occasion of the homage paid to her in Solesmes on March 1, 2014 [70 years after she, seventy-one years old, died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz on February 15, 1944], a plaque was placed on the front of the house, where she lodged, in memory of this lady with strong character. 

We are attempting here to shed some new light on her “strong character” and some dramatic, extremely important and very Catholic cruces of her life and of her sacrifice, never mentioned before, in some cases even intentionally hided. We do believe that Marguerite Aron should be proclaimed saint – as it was discovered, understood, and done in the case of her younger Jewish colleague Edith Stein (1891–1942), Saint Sister Teresia Benedicta a Cruce O.C.D: she was recognized first as Catholic Martyr and then, by Saint John-Paul II, as Patron Saint of Europe. 

According to a five-year-old French newspaper’s record, Marguerite Aron was born Jewish and became Catholic at the age of 41, in 1914. A single woman of letters, a former student of  Ecole Normale supérieure de S`evres, a professor in Paris and renown Catholic writer, she decided to settle for a peaceful retreat in 1936 to Solesmes, with its famous Benedictine monasteries. After the occupation of France by Germany, the mayor of Solesmes requisitioned in 1944 her house for German officers. They discovered her Jewish origins, and she was arrested by Gestapo to die in Auschwitz three weeks later. 

Marguerite Aron was Arrested

Marguerite Aron was arrested in the morning of January 26, 1944, by Gestapo at the entrance of Saint Peter’s Abbaye of Solesmes, after the early Mass which she assisted there every day. She was the only Jewish person in Solesmes during all these years before and during the war. 

As to Edith Stein, she didn’t die alone in the Auschwitz’ concentration camp during the first week of August 1942, her sister Rosa was with her together with other 244 Catholic Jews – the Nazi German government, persecuting Jews in the occupied Netherlands as everywhere under their power, made the decision to murder there all Catholic Jews, too – Priests, Sisters, Brothers, laity – in response to the public disapproval by the Dutch Bishops of the persecution of the Jewish people in the Netherlands [4]. The day the arrests started, August 2, the Dutch Bishops immediately asked the German authorities to release these innocent Catholics – to no avail [3]. 

We discover with a certain surprise, taken in account an apparently very modest status of Marguerite Aron, that the same initiative in her case was taken in January 26, 1944, by Dom Germain Cozien O.S.B., Abbe of Saint Peter’s Abbaye: the day after her arrest, Dom Cozien took steps to get her out of the clutches of the Gestapo. He goes to Le Mans, probably to the Feldkommandantur, then to Paris. Without success. In fact, her deportation was accelerated and in just 20 days was terminated in the gas chamber of Auschwitz. This makes Marguerite’s very individual and humble case somehow similar to that of Edith Stein and her companions – she is condemned to the Auschwitz’ martyr because of the particular displeasure of the occupier. What displeasure in Aron’s case? 

An Important, Never before asked Question Concerning Aron’s Tragedy 

Taking in account the common knowledge about the Jewishness of Marguerite Aron and, now discovered by us, her important reputation in the eyes of Father Abbe of Saint Peter, how did it happen that the mayor of Solesmes has decided, close to the end of the war, to give to German officers for permanent stay Aron’s modest, but separate house, bought and designed by her in 1936 as «Petit-Logis Saint Paul» (to students and friends: cf. below the icon on the house, Figure 2), the house on the main street of Solesmes, 200 meters from the entry to the Abbaye? 

The answer sheds new light on the person of Marguerite. But before, a few words about the mayor. It was Gustave Labbez (1874-1945) who died just after the end of the war at the age of 71 and who, thirty years before, always the mayor of Solesmes, lived a terrible experience with the violent German army which, during the WWI, has occupied Solesmes for four difficult years 1914-1918. His act of throwing Marguerite into the hands of German officers, with his personal painful experience thirty years ago, the strong man and the successful administrator as he was, of talking to an important German officer breaking in by force in his own home, shows his full disrespect for, and the will to get rid of that proud Jewess. 

True, Marguerite didn’t much care for the German occupation. As late as in 1942, she received 3 yellow stars. She did not wear the star, claiming ironically that as an elegant woman she could not spend her time sewing and unraveling it. 

There is no doubt that the German officers in her house not only have discovered Marguerite’s Jewishness, but they also received some unsparing comments from this Lady, proud of her origins she never hid. The Lady who was always expressing an extreme Christian dignity in front of the dirty, sinful face of any – at this moment, the Nazi – idolatry. 

Homemade icon of Saint Paul at the front of Petit-Logis Saint Paul.

In fact, one of the most important books written by Marguerite Aron (translated in English after her death in 1955 [1]) is her 1930 biography of Blessed Jordan of Saxony (Un animateur de la jeunesse au XIIIe si`ecle: vie, voyages du Bienheureux Jourdain de Saxe, maˆıtre-`es-arts `a Paris et général des fr`eres prêcheurs de 1222 `a 1237, Desclée de Brouwer et cie, 1930 – Prix Bordin 1931), Master-General of the Dominican Order after Saint Dominic. This was a German Priest, youth leader whom she sincerely admired and whom she was happy to glorify. What might know these Nazi officers, Jordan’s of Saxony fellow countrymen, about him? 

All this certainly explains the reaction of the Gestapo and the unperturbed speed of Marguerite’s deportation to Auschwitz. 

Dr. Edouard Belaga Dr. Ekaterina Belaga 

References 

[1] Marguerite Aron. Saint Dominic’s Successor – The life o Blessed Jordan of Saxony, Master-General of the Dominican Order 1222-1237. (First published in 1955 by Black Friars) Mediatrix Press, Post Falls, ID (2018). 

[2] Madeleine Berthon. De Solesmes `a Auschwitz – Marguerite Aron, itinéraire d’une S`evrienne. Préface de Françoise Mayeur. Cerf, Paris (1993). 

[3] Father Paul Hamans. Edith Stein and Companions – On the Way to Auschwitz. Ignatius Press, San Francisco (2010). 

[4] Anne Mohr and Elisabeth Pr`egardier. Passion in August (2.-9. August 1942) – Edith Sten und Gafährtinnen: Weg in Tod und Auferstehung. Plöger Verlag GMBH, Essen (1995). 

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2 thoughts on “Marguarite Aron: Jewish Martyr and Catholic Saint”

  1. Pingback: The Jewish Family Löb and Their Seven Christian Martyrs  - Catholic Stand

  2. Pingback: MONDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

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