|St.Maximilian Kolbe SP3RN|
Ham Radio’s Saint
By Lloyd – K3QNT
Deputy Camp Kommandant Karl Fritsch was screaming at the prisoners who been standing at attention for nearly nine hours on the parade field at Auschwitz on a brutally hot August day in 1941. “You! You! You! You! and….You!” The day before a fellow prisoner had escaped and as a result, 10 residents of Block-14 were automatically assigned to a starvation bunker to die. All the Deputy Kommandant needed to do now was pick which ones. Suddenly, Polish Sergeant Francis Gajownicznek, one of the chosen, cried out that he had a family and did not want to leave them as a widow and orphans. Then quietly and to the astonishment of all present another Polish prisoner, Maximilian Kolbe, stepped out of line, approached Colonel Fritsch and in fluent German said, “Take me instead. I am a Catholic Priest. I have no family. I am old and of no use to you.” Colonel Fritsch agreed and the condemned men were stripped naked and thrown into a camp basement with a dirt floor where they were denied food and water until every one of them, including Kolbe perished. Auschwitz was not a mythical “Hogan’s Heroes” prison. It was brutal death camp operated by the Nazi “SS” and Kolbe was not just any priest. Prior to his arrest in June of that year, he had founded Niepokalanow, an extraordinary Franciscan monastery who’s sole mission was communications. The five acre campus included a newspaper with over a million monthly circulation and a radio station. This enormous facility outside of Warsaw, employing over 700 monks was headed up by Father Maximilian Kolbe, OFM. Because of his selfless act, Maximilian Kolbe became a Martyr on August 14, 1941. The following day, his remains were turned to ashes in an Auschwitz oven.
In the late 1980s, I was looking forward to reading my QST which had just arrived at my home. I noted a small “Stray” that reported in October of 1982, a man named Maximilian Kolbe had just been canonized into the Catholic Church by Pope John Paul, II. The story mentioned that Kolbe, the “Martyr of Auschwitz” had held the Polish amateur radio call sign SP3RN, making him the first Canonized Saint to be a Ham. Several years later, I would become a founding member of the new Saint Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Westtown, PA. After our church became active, I organized a Special Event Station with the call, K3M. We operated from the parish offices immediately following the 12 O'clock Mass.
In the summer of 1998, I was working Dr. Ted Figlock, W1HGY on 40 meters. I mentioned during the QSO that the patron Saint of our local church was a Ham. Ted, himself of Polish decent, suggested that we establish a net to honor the accomplishments of this remarkable man. The 75 Meter Saint Maximilian Kolbe Net has been on the air for 22 years every Sunday @2400Z on 3814 kHz.
Over the years the net has welcomed thousands of check-ins from all over the USA, Caribbean Islands, South America, Canada and Europe. In 2005 we started a “Long Haul” net on 20 meters with the idea of attracting DX check-ins. The Net Control stations are Deacon George Carr, WA5KBH and Laurence Galle, K9EYZ. This net operates also on Sunday @ 2200Z on 14,341 khz. Our future plans include a new effort on 40 meters based in the mid-western United States operating on 7238 khz. The net frequencies were selected to signify some milestone in Kolbe’s life. 3814 kHz is the month and day of his death and14,341 kHz marks the year. 7238 kHz represents the founding of SP3RN at Niepokalanow in February of 1938. Net member Tony D’ Alonzo, K3ZA has recently begun a DMR Net to expand the reach of our Amateur Radio apostolate.
Today SP3RN is memorialized on-line with its own web site and QRZ.COM listing. In addition there is a For-TV movie, two documentaries and more than a dozen books written about Maximilian Kolbe, the most recent of which is: The Life of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Apostle of Mass Communications. published in 2019 by net member Bill La May, K3RMW. There are dozens of Saint Maximilian Kolbe Radio Clubs in Brazil, Puerto Rico, Italy, Spain, Japan, Poland and the United States. If you would like to learn more about SP3RN and the Saint Maximilian Kolbe Net, join us any Sunday on 80, 40 or 20 meters. You can also visit www.saintmaxnet.org for net history and details.
Thank you Lloyd, for the wonderful memorial. St. Max - Ora Pro Nobis!
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!