As a child I remember become extremely excited when my grandmother offered to take me to the Marytown Shrine in Chicago. St. Maximilian Kolbe was my idol growing up as a young God-fearing child, and I even chose him as my confirmation saint (Yes I am a confirmed Catholic, I laugh at it too).
But what was it that made Maximilian Kolbe so attractive to me? He was probably even one of the people that contributed to my atheism!
Maximilian Kolbe was at a Concentration camp when a prisoner escaped, since he was not found the Nazi’s killed one of every ten prisoners left in the cell the man escaped from. When a man that was chosen to die cried out that he had a wife and children at home, Maximilian stepped up, not out of religious fear of the Lord, but out of compassion and humility. Maximilian offered his own life instead of the man with children.
As a secularist I believe Maximilian Kolbe, although unknown to most non-Catholics, was one of the greatest men of the 20th century.