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“Why I Love Azaleas"

Sister Carol Marie Wildt with Leia and Ben at SIU Carbondale on April 1, 2019 for a presentation on Sister Mary Imma Josefa Mack.Leia Ruebling and Benjamin Reese, students of Carola Daffner, Associate Professor of German at Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale, Illinois, started a German translation project where they discovered the role women played in the resistance to the Third Reich. Their discovery led them to want to know more. As their student project unfolded, a traveling World War II (WWII) exhibit was brought to SIU titled, “Long Live Freedom!” Youth Resistance in the Third Reich. Sister Carol Marie Wildt was asked to be an opening speaker for the traveling exhibit. She presented “Why I Love Azaleas,” an account of Sister Mary Imma Mack’s experience as a candidate for the School Sisters of Notre Dame during WWII.

You can watch the presentation of Sister Carol Marie given on Monday, April 1.

Catholic Nuns and Nazi Resistance: A Youth's Courage at Dachau
from Saluki World on Vimeo.

After the presentation, Leia was asked for her thoughts on Sister Mary Imma and she said, “I can’t believe she was our age (20) and would bike 21 miles one way to get to Dachau. That in itself is absolutely mind blowing.” Leia and Ben’s project has helped them realize the important role women played during WWII and the need to educate the public. Leia says, “The biggest takeaway is to realize how easy we have it now. We are very lucky to know that women took these chances and opportunities to really fight for what they believed in. That is liberating in itself. We don’t want the women’s stories to be forgotten. People need to learn that women played a big role.”

Learn more about the student’s project through the SIU newspaper.


On November 14, 2018, Sister Carol Marie Wildt gave a presentation at Fontbonne University in St. Louis, about Sister Mary Imma (Josefa) Mack’s memoir titled “Why I Love Azaleas.” The presentation was shared with an audience interested in gaining a better understanding of the challenges sisters faced during World War II. As a candidate to become a School Sister of Notre Dame, Sister Imma, at the age of 20, visited the Dachau concentration camp weekly for 11 months, prior to its liberation in April 1945. Sister Carol Marie stated, “She risked her life to help the prisoners, trusting in God’s protection, the support of her family and sisters in community, along with a network of collaborators.”

In June 2018, sisters and associates made note cards for theSister Mary Imma Mack was born in Mockenlohe, Germany, February 10, 1924, and baptized as Josefa. She was only 9 when Hitler came into power. At the age of 14, Josefa expressed a desire to be a School Sister of Notre Dame. She was accustomed to the School Sisters because her aunt was a needlework teacher at the convent in Pfaffenhofen. Josefa spent the winter of 1937 with her aunt learning how to cook and shop. During this time, she learned about the School Sisters and their political views toward the Third Reich. As she stated in her memoir, the sisters were, “explicit, [with] absolute rejection," of the Third Reich. According to Sister Imma, as early as 1937, “Religious teachers were banished from almost all the elementary schools, and the teachers’ training schools belonging to religious communities were closed.” Since Josefa showed an interest in becoming a School Sister of Notre Dame, she was sent to a convent boarding school and then entered the candidature in Munich in 1940. In April 1942, Josefa was missioned to an orphanage in Freising, Germany.


If you would like to purchase a copy of the book “Why I Love Azaleas” by Sister Mary Imma (Josef) Mack please contact:

Sister Carol Marie Wildt, SSND
320 East Ripa Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63125


Want to learn more?


School Sisters of Notre Dame

320 East Ripa Avenue

St. Louis, MO 63125

Phone: 314-561-4100



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