Edith stein

Edith Stein , also known by his pen name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross ( Breslau , December of October of 1891 – Auschwitz , 9 of August of 1942 ) was a German theologian and religious origin Jew who was a victim of barbarism Nazi .

The Polish Pope John Paul II ‘s he beatified in 1987 and canonized in 1998.


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  • 1 Biographical synthesis
    • 1 Studies
    • 2 Return to objectivism
    • 3 Baptism
    • 4 Teacher
    • 5 Catholic Chair
    • 6 Auschwitz concentration camp
  • 2 Works
  • 3 Words of John Paul II at his beatification
  • 4 External link
  • 5 Sources

Biographical synthesis

Belonging to a Jewish family, he converted to Catholicism, adopting the name Teresa Benedicta de la Cruz when taking the habit, and discovered Thomas Aquinas , Duns Escoto and San Juan de la Cruz . Her philosophical work constitutes a fundamental link between Christianity and the phenomenology of Husserl , of whom she was a disciple. His thesis El ser finito y el ser eterno , written in 1933 , was not published until 1950 .

Born in Breslau on December of October of 1891 , last of eleven children , was born when the family celebrated the Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement, the largest Hebrew holidays,. This made, more than anything else, that her mother had a special predilection for the youngest daughter. Precisely this date of her birth was almost a prediction for the Carmelite.

The father, a lumber merchant, died when Edith Stein was not yet two years old. The mother, a very religious, caring, willful, and admirable woman, left alone, had to face both the care of the family and the management of the great family estate; but he failed to maintain a living faith in the children. Edith Stein lost faith in God. “With full conscience and by free choice I stopped praying.”


He brilliantly obtained the revalidation in 1911 and began to study Germanistics and history at the University of Breslau , more to have a base of sustenance in the future than out of true passion. His real interest was philosophy . He was also interested in the problems of women. She joined the organization Prussian Association for Women’s Voting Rights. Later she wrote: “As a high school graduate and young student, I was a radical feminist. Later I lost interest in this matter. Now I am looking for purely objective solutions.

He followed the traditions of his people and their religion ; however, he soon lost the faith of his ancestors, despite which he retained an intense moral ideal. Thirsty for truth, she devoted herself to philosophical studies at a very young age. He attended the University of his native city and those of Göttingen and Freiburg im Breisgau. In the latter she was a disciple of the philosopher Edmund Husserl , and after having graduated in philosophy (1916), an assistant to him for a short time.

Return to objectivism

In those days, Edmund Husserl fascinated the public with a new concept of truth: the perceived world did not only exist in a Kantian way, as subjective perception. His disciples understood his philosophy as a turn towards the concrete. Without his intending it, phenomenology led many of his disciples to the Christian faith. In Gottinga, Edith Stein also met the philosopher Max Scheler and this meeting drew her attention to Catholicism. But all this did not make her forget the study with which she had to earn her bread in the future and, in 1915 , she passed the State exam with the highest mark. However, the professional training period did not begin.


Edith Stein providing nursing services.

When the First World War broke out, he wrote: “Now I no longer have a life of my own.” She took a nursing course and served in an Austrian military hospital. These were difficult times for her. He cared for those admitted to the typhus section and served in the operating room, watching men die in the prime of their youth. Upon closing the military hospital in 1916 , he followed Husserl to Freiburg in Breisgau, where he obtained his Ph.D. summa cum laude with his thesis On the Problem of Empathy .


He had great friendship with Husserl’s assistant in Gottinga , Adolf Reinach and his wife. Adolf Reinach died in Flanders in November 1917 . Edith Stein goes to Gottinga. The Reinach had converted to the Gospel . Edith Stein had a certain reluctance to meet the young widow.

In the fall of 1918 , Edith Stein left Edmund Husserl’s assistant job because she wanted to work independently. The first time he visited Husserl again after his conversion was in 1930 . She had a discussion with him about the new faith in which she would have liked him to participate as well. After that he wrote a surprising phrase: “After each encounter that makes me feel the impossibility of directly influencing, the impulse towards my own holocaust sharpens in me.”

After the death of his colleague, Adolf Reinach, he lived with his widow and was in charge of the ordering of the texts of the deceased. There he became involved for the first time with a living Christianity, within a family sorely tried by pain. The contact with Max Scheler and, finally, the reading of the “Life of Santa Teresa de Ávila ” helped her to convince herself of the truth of Catholicism. On the first day of the year 1922, she was baptized and assumed the name Theresia Hedwig.

In January 1922 Edith Stein was baptized. It was the day of the Circumcision of Jesus , the reception of Jesus in the line of Abraham . She was standing before the baptismal font, dressed in the white nuptial mantle of Hedwig Conrad-Martius, who acted as godmother. “I had stopped practicing my Hebrew religion and felt like a Hebrew again only after my return to Godhead.” Now you will always be aware, and not only intellectually, but tangibly, of belonging to the lineage of Christ . On the feast of Candelaria , a feast whose origin also dates back to the Old Testament , it was confirmed by the Bishop of Speyer in his private chapel.


Immediately after her conversion, Edith Stein aspires to enter Carmel, but her spiritual advisers, the Vicar General of Speyer and Father Przywara, SJ, prevent her from taking this step. She then accepted a job as a teacher of German and history at the Institute and seminary for teachers of the Dominican Convent of La Magdalena de Espira until Easter 1931 . At the insistence of Archiabad Raphael Walter, from the Beuron convent, makes long trips to give lectures, especially on women’s issues. «During the period immediately preceding and also long after my conversion … I believed that leading a religious life meant renouncing all earthly things and living only with one’s mind set on God. Gradually, however, I have come to realize that this world demands many other things from us … I even believe that the more one is drawn to God, the more one must come out of oneself, in the sense of going to world to bring there a divine reason to live. His work schedule is huge. Translates letters and diaries from the pre-Catholic period by Newmann and the work Quaestiones disputatae de veritate by Thomas Aquinas, in a very free version for the love of dialogue with modern philosophy.

Father Erich Przywara, SJ, encouraged her to also write her own philosophical works. He learned that it is possible “to practice science in the service of God … only for this reason have I been able to decide to start a series of scientific works.” He always finds the necessary strength for his life and work in the Benedictine convent of Beuron, where he goes to spend the most important festivals of the ecclesiastical year.

Catholic chair

In 1932 he was assigned a professorship at a Catholic institution, the Institute for Scientific Pedagogy in Münster , where you have the opportunity to develop their own anthropology . Here he finds the way to unite science and faith, and to make this question understandable to others. All his life he only wanted to be an “instrument of God.” “Whoever comes to me, I wish to lead him.”

During the period 1930-33 she had devoted herself to the topics of pedagogy and female training. The texts of these years, together with a short essay on Saint Elizabeth of Hungary , were collected in the volume “Formation and vocation of women” ( 1949 ). In the course of the first year of Carmelite life he wrote “The Church’s Prayer” and “The Christmas Mystery”, two interesting pamphlets full of deep and genuine religious sentiment. Then, on the advice of his superiors, he composed the monumental work “The finite being and the eternal being” (1950), in which he examines everything created and uncreated to carry out a synthesis between Saint Thomas Aquinas.and modern philosophy; in regard to the latter he gave a singular preference to the ideology of Husserl’s phenomenological school.

Archiabad Walzer, of Beuron, no longer prevented him from entering a Carmelite convent. During the time that he was in Speyer, he had already made the vow of poverty, chastity and obedience. In 1933 he presented himself to the Mother Prioress of the Carmelite Monastery of Colonia. «Only the passion of Christ can help us, not human activity. My wish is to participate in it ». Once again Edith Stein went to Breslau to say goodbye to her mother and family. October 12 was the last day he spent at home, his birthday and, at the same time, the Hebrew Feast of Tabernacles.

Edith Stein accompanies her mother to the synagogue . It was not an easy day for the two women. «Why have you met [the Christian faith]? I don’t want to say anything against him [Jesus Christ]. He must have been a good man. But why have they become God? His mother cried. The next morning Edith Stein took the train for Cologne. “He could not have a ravishing joy. It was too tremendous what he left behind. But I was very calm, in the port of the will of God ». Each week he will write a letter to his mother afterwards. You will not receive a reply. Your sister Rosa will send you news from home.

Auschwitz concentration camp

On October 14, Edith Stein entered the Carmelite monastery in Cologne. The 14 of April of 1934 , took place the ceremony of taking the habit. The Archiabad of Beuron celebrated mass. From that moment on, Edith Stein will bear the name of “Sister Teresa Benedicta de la Cruz.”

When he foresaw the resurgence of the persecution against the Hebrews and realized the danger that his presence missed for the monastery, he asked to be transferred abroad; On the last night of the year 1938, she was accompanied by a doctor friend to the border of Holland , a country where she received foster care at the Echt convent. There he wrote his last and second great work: “The Science of the Cross” ( 1950 ), an interpretation of the mystique of Saint John of the Cross in the light of the phenomenological method.


Sr. Teresa Benedicta de la Cruz

But before to end the manuscript was arrested on 2 August of the 1942 by German police (Netherlands had been, meanwhile, invaded and occupied) and bound by force out of Echt. Carried first to the field of concentration of Amerfoort and then to that of Westerbork , was last seen at the station of Schifferstadt, in a sealed wagon, by one of his students, which said, “hello my name to the sisters from Speyer and tell them they’re taking me east. ‘ The trip ended in the Auschwitz camp and in the gas chamber.

In 1950 the publishers Herder (Germany) and Nauwelaerts (Belgium) jointly began the publication, in five volumes, of the main works of the author. An interesting anthology of them was published in London in an English translation by H. Graef (1956). Edith Stein was beatified in 1987 and canonized in 1998 by John Paul II .


  • Training and vocation of women .
  • The prayer of the church .
  • The mystery of Christmas .
  • The science of the cross.
  • The finite being and the eternal being. (Considered her masterpiece): In the work Being finite and being eternal, Edith Stein leads us to assume that the concept of truth is the synthetic convergence of Aristotelianism , Thomism and phenomenology : truth is being itself that opens space, that is revealed, that is manifested, that is discovered, to human intelligence.

The structure of this monographic work is set out in four chapters, described as follows:

  • In the first chapter, the statement of the problem, which is summarized in the description of the path of Truth that Edith Stein proposes for a Christian “philosophy”, in her work Being finite and being eternal.
  • The second chapter refers to the historical context of the author, her biography; its philosophical and religious influences; and its contributions and characteristics.
  • The meaning of a Christian Philosophy, based on the question: what is Truth? Seeker of Truth. Relationship between Philosophy and mysticism; are the issues I raise in this third chapter.
  • In the fourth chapter I present Edith Stein’s proposal for the man of today, which due to her life experience dialectically contrasts on these six points: rationalism, pragmatism, the degradation of the inner life, the dragging force of society, the lack of hope, in addition, of the attitude of many towards the Church.

Words of John Paul II at his beatification

Words were pronounced by Pope John Paul II on the occasion of the beatification of Edith Stein in Cologne, on May 1 , 1987 :

We bow deeply to the testimony of the life and death of Edith Stein, extraordinary daughter of Israel and daughter of Carmel at the same time, Sister Teresa Benedicta de la Cruz; a personality that brings together in its rich life a dramatic synthesis of our century. The synthesis of a history full of deep wounds that continue to hurt even today …; synthesis at the same time of the full truth about man, in a heart that was restless and dissatisfied until it found rest in God


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