She was born into a practising Jewish family. She had a distinguished career as a philosopher and received a doctorate at the University of Freiburg, but her academic career was impeded because she was a woman.
Reading the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Ávila brought about her conversion to Catholicism and she was baptized on 1 January 1922. She taught at a Dominican girls’ school and studied Catholic philosophy. She became a lecturer at the Institute for Pedagogy at Münster but was thrown out of her post in 1933 as a result of the Nazi régime’s anti-Semitic legislation.
She entered a Carmelite monastery in Cologne and took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. Her order moved her to the Netherlands to keep her safe from the growing Nazi threat. While a Carmelite she wrote an important philosophical book, seeking to combine the phenomenology of her former teacher Edmund Husserl with the philosophy of Aquinas, and she also wrote on St John of the Cross.
On 20 July 1942 the Dutch Bishops’ Conference had a statement read in all churches condemning Nazi racism. In retaliation the authorities ordered the arrest of all Jewish converts to Christianity. Teresa Benedicta was taken to Auschwitz and killed on 9 August 1942.
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