The memory of St Titus Brandsma, martyr to Nazism, in the Basilica of St Bartholomew on the Island, memorial to the Witnesses of the Faith of the 20th and 21st centuries

On Friday 16 September, the General Congregation of the Order of Carmelites delivers an autograph letter of St Titus Brandsma, to be placed among the memorial of the New Martyrs of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Born on 23 February 1881 in Wonseradeel in Friesland, a province in the very north of Holland. When he had completed his secondary education at a Franciscan school, he decided to join the Carmelite Order. He started his novitiate in Boxmeer in September 1898. He made his first profession in October 1899 and was ordained priest on 17 June 1905. After further studies at the Gregorian University in Rome, he was awarded a PhD in Philosophy in 1909. He also had a keen interest in journalism and publishing, In late 1935 he became the National Spiritual Adviser to the Union of Catholic Journalists. In this role he encouraged publishers to oppose the publication of Nazi propaganda in Catholic newspapers and the press in general. He was particularly critical of anti-Semitism.

When the Nazis invaded the Netherlands in May 1940, Titus was an adviser to the Archbishop of Utrecht. He encouraged the bishops to speak out against the persecution of the Jews and the infringment of human rights generally by the occupaiers.The refusal by Catholic newspapers to print Nazi propaganda sealed Titus's fate. He had agreed to deliver personally a letter from the Catholic bishops to each publisher. This letter instructed the editors not to comply with a new law requiring them to print official Nazi advertisements and articles. Titus had visited fourteen editors before being arrested by the Gestapo at Nijmegen on January 19th 1942.

He was interned in Scheveningen and Amersfoort, Holland and then he was deported to Dachau in June of the same year. Under that harsh regime, his health rapidly deteriorated and he was transferred to the camp hospital as early as the third week of July. He was subjected to chemical experiments before being killed by a lethal injection on 26 July 1942. On the day of his death, the Dutch bishops published a pastoral letter protesting against the deportation of Jews from Holland.

Before his execution, Titus had prayed that God might help the nurse who would give the injection to repent for her actions in the camp. He also gave her his rosary beads, although she protested that she was a non-practising Catholic. A few years later, the same woman went to a Carmelite priory to ask for forgiveness and was a witness in the beatification process, which took place in Rome on 3 November 1985.