In the photograph, a 4×6 postcard format dating from 1915, we see a group of nurses apparently standing around seven doctors from the Czech town of Hranice, located about 200 miles east of Prague.
Dariusz Giemza, a historian by trade and a great collector of old postcards, decided to buy it at an online auction and made a surprising discovery: among the women in the group was … Edith Stein.
Last June, as Giemza consulted the website of an antique store, he discovered that a black and white postcard from Hranice in Moravia was up for auction. At first he was interested in it as a beautiful historical postcard, but when he looked at it more closely, a face told him something.
“I looked closely at this face and suspected that it was Edith Stein. When I saw the date on the back—May 6, 1915—and the location—Hranice in Moravia—I was almost totally convinced,” he says. “I knew the details of Edith Stein’s biography. I knew that she had been in the field hospital in Hranice for six months, from April to September 1915. Everything matched: the face, the dates, the place.”
The hospital in Hranice, Moravia, was established in early October 1914. When the future saint arrived there in April 1915, 150 sisters were caring for the wounded from Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, Italy, and even Turkey. Edith, having received her nursing training at All Saints Hospital in Wrocław, joined them for a tough six-month period of medical service in the typhoid ward.
In her book, Life in a Jewish Family, Edith Stein actually devotes an entire chapter to those six months. She describes in detail her duties and difficulties.
“We know that she left Breslau for Hranice; she began her journey at six in the morning. She then received an enameled nurse’s badge and a black ribbon with a red cross on a white background. She disembarked at noon in Hranice. We also know that Edith traveled with two other volunteers,” says the historian. “She explains that the hospital was far from the city and that they had to rent a car. She also reports that at the hospital, photographs were taken of the rooms, views with rows of beds and night tables. Later, the sick and wounded could send them as postcards to their relatives.”
A wink from the saint
As soon as Dariusz Giemza received the postcard, he decided to have it authenticated by professionals.
”I sent the file to three places, including Rome and Wrocław, to people who know everything about Edith, to be absolutely sure,” he emphasizes. “Their answers came quickly and were unanimous: it’s definitely her!”
The information written in German on the back, i.e., the address of the person to whom the postcard was sent, the date, the stamp, and the postmark should also make it possible to take further steps. “It may be possible to reach the family of the person who received the postcard with the patron saint of Europe,” says the researcher.
How to explain the fact that this card was found in this way?
For the historian, no doubt, it’s a wink from the saint. “I think it was a gift from St. Edith to the town of Duszniki-Zdrój,” he says. “She surely appreciated the fact that Dusznik made 2022 a year dedicated to Edith Stein in memory of the 80th anniversary of her martyrdom at Auschwitz.”