Auschwitz, 1941. After one prisoner has managed to escape, ten randomly chosen inmates are sentenced to death by starvation in the ›Hungerbunker‹. A man then steps forward and asks the camp commandant to exchange him for one of the doomed inmates. Who is this man? And what induces him to give his life for a man he doesn’t even know? This man is Polish Franciscan monk Maximilian Kolbe (1894–1941). With his life marred by tuberculosis from young adulthood, he established, against many odds, a Catholic magazine with a circulation of millions of copies and founded Europe’s largest monastery, Niepokalanów. There he gave refuge to Jews and other victims of persecution under the Nazi occupation and as a result ended up in the dungeons of the Gestapo and the camp hell of Auschwitz. In his novel ›The Hour of the Pelican‹, Walter Heinrich traces the life and death of Maximilian Kolbe. With great empathy – and his life-affirming esprit which again and again manifests itself in the book – he narrates the life of a man who stands by his belief and his ideals, to the last extremity.
»The ornithological symbolism often used in the novel gives the book its title. Like the pelican (who gives its blood to its young), Kolbe sacrifices his life for another human being. For a man who was a complete stranger to him. ›The Hour of the Pelican‹ never digresses to reach the heights of hagiolatry. Instead, its attractiveness rests on its narrative integrity. Walter Heinrich convincingly recreates an episode of contemporary history in the form of a novel.«Neue Zürcher Zeitung