Edith Stein Biography

Edith Stein, a philosopher and theologian, played a significant role in shaping the consciousness of Germany during challenging times. Born into a Jewish family, she later converted to Catholicism and became one of the greatest philosophers of her time. Her contributions as a philosopher and theological authority continue to resonate in Germany today. Despite her remarkable achievements, Stein’s work was deemed a threat by the Nazi regime, leading to her tragic demise in a concentration camp. However, it is important to note that Stein’s journey to becoming a renowned philosopher was not an overnight success. She studied at the University of Cologne and earned a Ph.D. equivalent degree before assuming an assistant role at the University of Freiberg. Her accomplishments remain a subject of study for historians worldwide.

Quick Facts

  • German Celebrities Born In October
  • Also Known As: Saint Teresia Benedicta a Cruce, Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
  • Died At Age: 50
  • Family: father: Emmanuel Charles McCarthy
  • Born Country: Poland
  • Saints
  • Theologians
  • Died on: August 9, 1942
  • Place of death: Auschwitz concentration camp, Oswiecim, Poland
  • Notable Alumni: University Of Breslau, Schlesische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, University Of Freiburg
  • Cause of Death: Auschwitz Concentration Camp
  • City: Wrocław, Poland
  • More Facts
  • Education: University Of Göttingen, University Of Freiburg, Schlesische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, University Of Breslau

Childhood & Early Life

Edith Stein was born on October 12, 1891, in the town of Breslau in Prussia. She was born into a Jewish family and was the youngest of 11 children. Her mother, Auguste Stein, was a progressive individual who encouraged all her children to excel in their studies. Edith was known to be a gifted student and excelled in all subjects. Her father passed away when she was young, so her mother took on the responsibility of raising her. After finishing high school, Edith was sent to study at the University of Breslau.

Academic Career and Influences

In 1915, Edith Stein’s academic career was interrupted when she had to work as a volunteer for the International Red Cross. She worked as a nurse at a hospital in Moravia, an experience that would greatly influence her life. In 1916, she completed her education and was awarded a doctorate degree in philosophy from the University of Freiburg. Her thesis, titled “On the Problem of Empathy,” was guided by the noted philosopher Edmund Husserl.

Conversion to Catholicism and Teaching Career

In 1921, during a holiday in her native Breslau, Edith Stein, who had become an atheist, developed an interest in Catholicism after reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila. The following year, she was baptized and in 1923, she was appointed as a teacher at a Dominican nuns’ school in Speyer. During her time there, she translated the works of St. Teresa and learned about Catholic philosophy. After leaving the nuns’ school, she joined the Institute of Pedagogy in Munster as a lecturer in 1932. However, her time at the institute was cut short due to the anti-Semitic laws passed by the Nazi regime.

Life in the Carmelite Convent and Tragic End

In 1934, Edith Stein joined the Carmelite convent in Cologne and took on the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. She completed her first famous philosophical treatise, “Finite and Eternal Being,” during her time there. In 1938, she was transferred to a branch of the Carmelite convent in the Netherlands due to growing Nazi intolerance. She continued to work on philosophical works during her time in the Netherlands. However, in 1942, she was taken to Auschwitz by the Gestapo and tragically killed in one of the gas chambers.

Legacy and Canonization

Edith Stein was beatified as a martyr on May 1, 1987, by Pope John Paul II and was later canonized by him on October 11, 1998, in Vatican City. She is also known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. On June 6, 2014, the 70th anniversary of D-Day, Prince Charles dedicated a bell to her at Bayeux Cathedral. Throughout her life, Edith Stein immersed herself in philosophical studies and left behind a significant body of work, including her most celebrated work, “The Science of the Cross.”

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