For the Rev. Hermann Scheipers, the experience of surviving a World War II concentration camp remains all too real.
The German priest was among some 3,000 priests imprisoned in concentration camps throughout Germany - particularly Dachau for Scheipers - for nearly five years, and also escaped a death march.
With the aid of interpreters, the 96-year-old Scheipers spoke in German to a blended crowd made up of both the general public and college students Monday night at the Pennsylvania College of Technology's Klump Academic Center.
The Rev. Hermann Scheipers prepares to speak Monday night at Klump Auditorium.
The priest was arrested in 1940 for saying Mass for Polish laborers, and when he refused to denounce the Catholic Church and leave the priesthood, he was sent to the Dachau concentration camp under what he later learned was an accusation of being an enemy of the state.
Scheipers said it was common belief among Hitler's regime that priests were considered enemies of the state, because they refused to accept Nazi ideology.
Scheipers said it was within the Nazi mindset that priests would cause a rampant upset among the people, as their teachings went against what was being politically dictated.
Scheipers described the horrors of working and living among the sickness, torture, horrific experiments and death that inundated Dachau.
The priest delivered the story of how his life was saved by his sister Anna and how her courage not only rescued Scheipers but about 500 other priests who were lined up to go, or would have later been sent, to the gas chambers.
Scheipers said his "death certificate" was signed when he was feeling faint during a role call session one morning in 1942, because he had become "completely exhausted from all the work" in the camp, not because he was sick.
When Anna got word by making illegal contact with other imprisoned priests from the outside that her brother was sentenced to die, she and her father entered the SS security main office, and Scheipers' sister insisted the officer guarantee her brother's safety.
It was then that orders were made to spare the lives of the priests.
"I owe this only to my faith," said Scheipers of the experience, crediting God for everything that transpired about 70 years ago.
"I told myself if God wants me to go to the concentration camp, he has responsibility over all my life," Scheipers said of his imprisonment by the Nazis. "You cannot imagine that suddenly I became calm in my inner being - all fear suddenly disappeared."
That feeling, his self-proclaimed "a-ha experience" - that epiphany - is when he realized his faith would help lead him.
"I was able to maintain this calmness for the whole 4 1/2 years (I was in the concentration camp)," he said. "Even in the worst situation ... I remained calm inside me."
The priest said as Hitler was "sneaking into power," he made it a point to help immunize his parishioners against the Nazi and Communist states, who became like "self-anointed gods."
Scheipers said those two states' ideology led to an inhumanity that killed an estimated 25 million people in concentration camps and nearly 100 million people under the Communist rule.