He was born on the 22nd of January 1913 in Chełmża, as the third of six children of Ludwik and Marta née Olszewska. He finished the primary and middle school in Chełmża. On the 21st of March 1927 he joined the Zawisza Czarny Scouts Squad. Soon he joined the Solidarity of Our Lady. Both organizations have had a considerable impact on his attitude and character. He successively obtained new levels and functions in the scouts.
In 1931 Frelichowski entered the Seminary in Pelplin. During his studies between 1933 and 1936 he was the Scoutmaster of the Seminarians Scout Association. He took the holy orders on the 14th of March 1937. First, he worked as the chaplain and personal secretary of the bishop of Chełmno, Stanisław Wojciech Okoniewski, in Pelplin and on the 2nd of July 1938 he was named curate in the Assumption of Mary Church in Toruń. He made good use of his scouting experience in his pastoral work. He easily made friends with young people and he was well-liked. Just before the outbreak of the war Frelichowski participated in the preparations of the scouts for difficult tasks and responsibilities that could be ahead of them in case of war.
On the 11th of September 1939 Rev Frelichowski has been arrested by the Germans together with the other priests from his parish. The priests were detained in a prison in Toruń and then released. On the 18th of October Rev Frelichowski has been arrested again and put in prison in the Fort VII where he spent three months. During his arrest he organized the religious life of the prisoners. Rev Wojciech Gajdus, co-prisoner of Rev Frelichowski, wrote:
“…there was a dark, vaulted bakery in Fort VII. Just behind the oven, by the wall, there was some space where Wicek was confessing. In the dark, boys and men were coming to the corner of the bakery. There waited a man who made peace between souls and God. Many times I saw begging gestures, exhorting God or human, joining them in one. I saw people who came back from the confessional-bakery, from the man who always waited there… This priest confessed like everybody else. What made those confessions so different? It was Wicek, he caught God directly and you could feel this moment; something in his voice… transmitted an echo of a voice that you could rarely hear, giving the heart this beat, in which a hungry person found bread, an empty found fulfillment that made him carry on and trust.”
On the 10th of January 1940 Rev Frelichowski, together with other priests, has been transported to the camp in Nowy Port in Gdańsk where he lived for almost a month. In the last days of January he was transferred to Stutthof camp.
In Stutthof, the priests were forced to do the most difficult work. Often during the evening assemblies they were punished by whipping for committing alleged transgressions, e.g. “bad workmanship”. During one of these assemblies, Rev Frelichowski wanted to give courage to other prisoners and was the first one to submit himself to whipping. When one of the prisoners died, Rev Frelichowski dared to celebrate the funeral, a thing that was strictly prohibited in the camp, and was severely beaten by the Germans. On the 21st of March 1940, the Holy Thursday, and on the 24th of March, the Easter, Rev Frelichowski participated in the organization and celebration of Holy Masses. Both of which took place in the priests’ block before the morning reveille and were kept in secret.
On the Holy Friday, the 22nd of March 1940, the SS-men were particularly cruel to the priests. They ordered them to lie on the ground, while the lagerführer trampled on them and beat them with a stick. Rev Frelichowski consoled the maltreated priests with Saint Paul’s words speaking about filling up “in one’s own flesh that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ”.
During his imprisonment in Stutthof, Rev Frelichowski also worked in carrying out corpses from the area and in quarries situated in the Grenzdorf sub-camp. On the 9th of April 1940 the priest was sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp in a transport of 1000 prisoners. In this camp he was given no. 20966.
In Sachsenhausen the priest was humiliated and persecuted. The chief of the quarantine block, the criminal Hugo Krey, wanted to humiliate Rev Frelichowski in front of the SS-men and the other prisoners. He named him his “bishop” and while shaving the priest’s head he ordered to leave on his head a shape of a zucchetto. Rev Frelichowski calmly endured those insults. Then he was transferred to block no. 56 and engaged in unloading barges and carrying bricks to the newly built crematorium. Apart from the slave work he lead and developed the religious life in the camp.
In mid-December 1940, Rev Frelichowski together with the other priests has been transferred to KL Dachau, where he survived another four years and died a martyr’s death. In Dachau he was given number 22492.
On the 23rd of February 1945, suffering from typhus and pneumonia, Rev Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski died in the area of block no. 7. The authorities of the camp gave their consent to show his body in public in the mortuary. The chief of the department, Frelichowski’s friend and a student of medicine, Stanisław Bieńka took two bones out of the right hand’s ring finger to secure the relics and made a plaster death mask. The mask and one of the bones have been buried in the camp and later, after the camp’s liberation, they were given to the priest’s mother, Marta Frelichowska. The second bone has been set into the wall in the Assumption of Mary Church in Toruń.
In 1964 Kazimierz J. Kowalski, the bishop of Chełmno, began the information proceedings on the holiness of life and the heroic virtues of Rev S. Frelichowski. In 1992, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints handed over the research work to the Diocese in Toruń. On the 18th of February 1995 the research has been finished. In 1999, Pope John Paul II exalted Rev Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski. In 1948, Rev Frelichowski has been posthumously awarded with the Officer's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta and in 1995 with the Silver Polish Scout Association Cross of Merit. One of the squares in Toruń has been named after him, as well as the bell of the parish church in Jastrzębie.
Source: Elżbieta Grot „Błogosławieni męczennicy obozu Stutthof” Gdańsk 1999.
Tłumaczenie: Katarzyna Flis