Alfred Delp, S.J. (Mannheim, Grand Duchy of Baden, 15 September 1907 – Berlin, 2 February 1945), was a German Jesuit priest and philosopher of the German Resistance. A member of the inner Kreisau Circle resistance group, he is considered a significant figure in Catholic resistance to Nazism. Falsely implicated in the failed 1944 July Plot to overthrow Adolf Hitler, Delp was arrested and sentenced to death. He was executed in 1945.
Alfred Delp was born in Mannheim, Grand Duchy of Baden, to a Catholic mother and a Protestant father. Although he was baptised as a Catholic, he attended a Protestant elementary school and was confirmed in the Lutheran church in 1921. Following a bitter argument with the Lutheran pastor, he requested and received the sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation in the Catholic Church. His Catholic pastor recognized the boy's intelligence and love for learning and arranged for him to study at the Goetheschule in Dieburg. Possibly because of the dual upbringing, he became later an ardent proponent of radically better relations between the Churches.
Thereafter, Delp's youth was moulded mainly by the Bund Neudeutschland Catholic youth movement. Immediately after passing his Abitur – in which he was top of his class – he joined the Society of Jesus in 1926. Following philosophy studies at Pullach, he worked for 3 years as a prefect and sports teacher at Stella Matutina Kolleg in Feldkirch, Austria, where in 1933, he first experienced the Nazi regime, which forced an exodus of virtually all German students from Austria and thus the Stella Matutina by means of a punitive 1000 Mark fine to be paid by anyone entering Austria. With his Director, Fr Otto Faller and Professor Alois Grimm, he was among the first to arrive in the Black Forest, where the Jesuits opened Kolleg St. Blasien for some 300 students forced out of Austria. After St. Blasien, he completed his theology studies in Valkenburg, Holland (1934–1936), and in Frankfurt (1936–1937).
In 1935, Delp published his Tragic Existence, propagating a God-based humanism and reviewing the existentialism of Martin Heidegger. In 1937, Delp was ordained a Catholic priest in Munich. Delp had wanted to study for a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Munich, but he was refused admission to the university for political reasons. From 1939 on, he worked on the editorial staff of the Jesuit journal Stimmen der Zeit ("Voices of the Times"), until the Nazis suppressed it in April 1941. He was then assigned as rector of St. Georg Church, part of Heilig-Blut Parish in the Munich neighbourhood Bogenhausen. He preached both at Heilig-Blut and St. Georg, and also secretly helped Jews who were escaping to Switzerland through the underground.
Outspoken opposition to the Nazis by individual Jesuits resulted in harsh response from government officials, including imprisonment of priests in concentration camps. The government takeover of church property, "Klostersturm", resulted in the loss of valuable properties such as that of Stimmen der Zeit, and limited the work of the Jesuits in Germany. The Jesuit provincial, Augustin Rösch, Father Delp's superior in Munich, became active in the underground resistance to Hitler.
It was Rösch who introduced Delp to the Kreisau Circle. As of 1942, Delp met regularly with the clandestine group around Helmuth James Graf von Moltke to develop a model for a new social order after the Third Reich came to an end. Delp's role was to explain Catholic social teaching to the group, and to arrange contacts between Moltke and Catholic leaders, including Archbishop (later Cardinal) Konrad Preysing of Berlin and Johannes Dietz, bishop of Fulda.
After the 20 July plot to assassinate Hitler failed, a special Gestapo commission arrested and interrogated all known members of the Resistance. Delp was arrested in Munich on 28 July 1944 (eight days after Claus von Stauffenberg's attempt on Hitler's life), although he was not directly involved in the plot. He was transferred to Tegel Prison in Berlin. While in prison, he secretly began to say Mass and wrote letters, reflections on Advent, on Christmas, and other spiritual subjects, which were smuggled out of the prison before his trial. On 8 December 1944, Delp had a visit from Franz von Tattenbach SJ, sent by Rösch to receive his final vows to the Jesuit Order. This was supposedly forbidden, but the attending policemen did not understand what was going on. Delp wrote on the same day, “It was too much, what a fulfillment, I prayed for it so much, I gave my life away. My chains are now without any meaning, because God found me worthy of the 'Vincula amoris' (chains of love)”.
He was tried, together with Helmuth James Graf von Moltke, Franz Sperr, and Eugen Gerstenmaier, before the People's Court (Volksgerichtshof) on 9–11 January 1945, with Roland Freisler presiding. Delp, von Moltke, and Sperr were sentenced to death by hanging for high treason and treason. The court had dropped the charge against Delp of being aware of the 20 July plot, but his dedication to the Kreisau Circle, his work as a Jesuit priest, and his Christian-social worldview were enough to seal his fate.
While he was in prison, the Gestapo offered Delp his freedom in return for his leaving the Jesuits, but he rejected it. Delp, like all prisoners connected with 20 July, was required to wear handcuffs day and night. Prisoners being taken to execution were handcuffed with their hands behind their backs. The sentence was carried out on 2 February 1945 at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin. The very next day, Roland Freisler was killed in an air-raid. A special order by Heinrich Himmler required that the remains of all prisoners executed in connection with the 20 July Plot be cremated, and their ashes scattered over the sewage fields. Accordingly, the body of Alfred Delp was cremated and his ashes disposed of somewhere near Berlin; nobody knows where.
In September 1949, the superior Fr Otto Faller at Kolleg St. Blasien unveiled memorial plaques for two former educators and teachers slain by the Nazis, namely Alfred Delp and Alois Grimm, the latter's ashes being buried there. Some thirty years later, Kolleg St. Blasien named its new theatre hall after Alfred Delp. The Alfred Delp Memorial Chapel was built in Lampertheim, consecrated on 2 February 1965, at the 20th anniversary of his martyrdom. Many schools in Germany are named after Alfred Delp, among them one in Bremerhaven. In Mannheim, a Catholic student residence is named for him. The guesthouse on the campus of the Canisius College in Berlin also bears his name. In Dieburg, the uppermost level at the Gymnasium, the Alfred Delp School, the Catholic community centre, the Father Delp House, and a street are named after him. The Bundeswehr named its barracks in Donauwörth the Alfred-Delp-Kaserne. In 1955, the Wasserburgerstrasse, a street in Munich-Bogenhausen has been renamed to Delpstrasse, where Eva Braun resided from 1935 in a villa.
Fr Delp was included among the almost other 900 Catholics in a list of people having suffered a violent death for adherence to the Christian faith, published in 1999 as Zeugen für Christus. Das deutsche Martyrologium des 20. Jahrhunderts (Witnesses for Christ. The German Martyrology of the 20th century), prepared by Mgr Helmut Moll under the auspices of the German Bishops' Conference. Despite the book's subtitle, Fr Delp's appearing is a sign of respect with only informal significance and does not amount to beatification or the granting of liturgical veneration.
Delp's book In the Face of Death, published in 1956, gathered together his meditations, notes, fragments of his diary and letters, written during his six months imprisonment, and has been compared to Dietrich Bonhoeffer's, Letters and Papers from Prison. It is the first part of a trilogy that also includes Committed to the Earth and The Mighty God. The American edition of his Prison Meditations (1963), had an introduction by Thomas Merton, who considered him a mystic and his work "perhaps the most insightful Christian meditations of our time". The German edition of his Collected Works (1982–1988), was edited by Fr. Roman Bleistein SJ in five volumes.
Delp's is most well known for his writings that, after his arrest, were smuggled out of prison and published. Because his imprisonment was during the Christmas season, many of these last writings on the theme of Advent and the coming of Jesus. In one of his last letters, Delp wrote, "...all of life is Advent".  Many Christians continue to read and be inspired by Delp's life and witness.
Events in the year 1907 in Germany.Ad Sinarum gentem
Ad Sinarum gentem issued October 7, 1954, is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII to the Chinese people on the super-nationality of the Church.Anni sacri
Anni sacri (March 12, 1950) issued on the twelfth anniversary of his coronation, is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII on a program combating atheism.
The encyclical states:
The war is over but peace has not yet arrived. The reason for this is, that unjust lies are substituted for truth. In some countries the press turns against religion and ridicules religious feelings. In many others, there is continued persecution of the Christian faithful. It is therefore necessary in this Holy Year 1950, to preach the truth and the true gospel of Christ. Pope Pius XII calls for Church-wide efforts, to begin a veritable crusade of prayer among the faithful to implore suitable remedies for the present evils. He requests worldwide public prayers on March 26, Passion Sunday. The Pope will on that day descend into the Basilica of St. Peter to pray not only with the whole Catholic world. Those who, because of illness or old age or other reasons, cannot come to church, are requested to pray at home.Book of the First Monks
The Book of the First Monks (Latin: Decem Libri – Liber de Institutione Primorum Monacharum) is a medieval Catholic book in the contemplative and eremetic tradition of the Carmelite Order, thought to reflect the spirituality of the Prophet Elijah, honored as the Father of the Order.Canisius-Kolleg Berlin
The Canisius-Kolleg Berlin (CK) is a coeducational, private, and Catholic Gymnasium (German type of university-preparatory school) in Berlin, Germany directed by the Jesuits. The school is named after Saint Peter Canisius. It is known as one of Berlin's most prestigious schools.Dilectissima Nobis
Dilectissima Nobis, "On Oppression of the Church of Spain", is an encyclical issued by Pope Pius XI on June 3, 1933, in which he decried persecution of the Church in Spain, citing the expropriation of all Church buildings, episcopal residences, parish houses, seminaries and monasteries. He protested "serious offenses committed against the Divine Majesty, with the numerous violations of His sacrosanct rights and with so many transgressions of His laws, We have sent to heaven fervent prayers asking God to pardon the offenses against Him".Guigo II
Guigo II, sometimes referred to as Guy, or by the moniker "the Angelic", was a Carthusian monk and the 9th prior of Grande Chartreuse monastery, from 1174-80.
He died possibly in 1188 or 1193, and is distinct from both Guigo I, the 5th prior of the same monastery, and the late thirteenth-century Carthusian Guigo de Ponte.Hargesheim
Hargesheim is an Ortsgemeinde – a municipality belonging to a Verbandsgemeinde, a kind of collective municipality – in the Bad Kreuznach district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It belongs to the Verbandsgemeinde of Rüdesheim, whose seat is in the municipality of Rüdesheim an der Nahe. Hargesheim is a state-recognized tourism community.Hermann Josef Wehrle
Hermann Josef Wehrle (26 July 1899–14 September 1944) was a German Catholic priest who was killed after the 20 July plot.
Wehrle was born in Nuremberg and was drafted into the German Army in World War I. On 10 December 1918 he joined the Catholic Priest seminary at Fulda but quit soon and began to study Philosophy and catholic philosophy in Frankfurt. He worked as a journalist and at the public library of Frankfurt.In 1938 Wehrle worked at the public school of Marktbreit, but was forced to resign because of his lack of support for the Nazis. He then started to study catholic theology at the abbey of St. Ottilien. After the monastery was dissolved in April 1941 Wehrle joined the priest seminary of Freising and was ordained on 6 April 1942. He worked at the catholic congregations of Planegg and in Heilig Blut (Munich - Bogenhausen) and was in contact to Alfred Delp.On 13 December 1943 Ludwig Freiherr von Leonrod asked him under the seal of confession about the theological justification of a tyrannicide. Leonrod was involved in the 20 July plot and told the Gestapo about his confession. Wehrle was arrested on 18 August 1944 and examined as a witness in the trial against Leonrod.He was sentenced to death by the Volksgerichtshof on 14 September 1944 for his knowledge of the plot and killed the same day in Plötzensee prison next to Heinrich Graf zu Dohna-Schlobitten, Nikolaus von Üxküll-Gyllenband and Michael Graf von Matuschka.Iniquis afflictisque
Iniquis afflictisque (On the Persecution of the Church in Mexico) is an encyclical of Pope Pius XI promulgated on November 18, 1926, to denounce the persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico. It was one of three encyclicals concerning Mexico, including Acerba animi (1932) and Firmissimam Constantiamque (1937). The Mexican government at the time was engaging in violently anticlerical persecution of the Church and the Pope harshly criticised the government for its abuses. The Pope criticized the state's interference in matters of worship, outlawing of religious orders and the expropriation of Church property. He noted that, "Priests are ... deprived of all civil and political rights. They are thus placed in the same class with criminals and the insane."Invicti athletae
Invicti athletae (May 16, 1957) is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII to the bishops of the world on the 300th anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Andrew Bobola.
Some parts of the encyclical are addressed particularly to the Catholics of Poland.Jesuits and Nazi Germany
At the outbreak of World War II, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) had some 1700 members in Nazi Germany, divided into three provinces: Eastern, Lower and Upper Germany. Nazi leaders had some admiration for the discipline of the Jesuit order, but opposed its principles. Of the 152 Jesuits murdered by the Nazis across Europe, 27 died in captivity or its results, and 43 in the concentration camps.Hitler was anticlerical and had particular disdain for the Jesuits. The Jesuit Provincial, Augustin Rosch, ended the war on death row for his role in the July Plot to overthrow Hitler. The Catholic Church faced persecution in Nazi Germany and persecution was particularly severe in Poland. The Superior General of the Jesuits at the outbreak of War was Wlodzimierz Ledochowski, a Pole. Vatican Radio, which spoke out against Axis atrocities, was run by the Jesuit Filippo Soccorsi.Jesuits made up the largest contingent of clergy imprisoned in the Priest Barracks of Dachau Concentration Camp, where some 30 Jesuits died. Several Jesuits were prominent in the small German Resistance, including the influential martyr Alfred Delp of the Kreisau Circle. The German Jesuit Robert Leiber acted as intermediary between Pius XII and the German Resistance. Among the Jesuit victims of the Nazis, Germany's Rupert Mayer has been beatified. Among twelve Jesuit "Righteous Gentiles" recognised by Yad Vashem is Belgium's Jean-Baptiste Janssens, who was appointed Superior General of the Jesuits after the War.Ludwig Schwamb
Ludwig Schwamb (30 July 1890 in Undenheim – 23 January 1945 in Berlin) was a social-democratic jurist and politician who fought against the Nazi dictatorship in Germany as a member of the Kreisau Circle motivated by his Christian beliefs, and as a close colleague of Wilhelm Leuschner, which led to his execution as a resistance fighter.
Ludwig Schwamb came from a family with a rural Rheinhessen character. After his Abitur in Mainz, he studied law in Gießen, where he was a member of a Studentenverbindung. After being established as a lawyer for a short time, he chose a career in the civil service. In 1921, he became a graduate civil servant at the Alzey Finance Office and in 1925 he became a high government adviser in Oppenheim. After the trade unionist Wilhelm Leuschner, who was the same age as Schwamb, had become Hesse's interior minister in 1928, Schwamb's job changed and he became Leuschner's personal consultant, moving to Darmstadt, where he worked closely with Leuschner's press consultant, Carlo Mierendorff, who later became a Member of the Reichstag. Schwamb rose quickly to the Council of Ministers and the Council of State, but in 1933, after Hitler and the Nazis had seized power, he was removed from his position, as were many others whose political beliefs were at odds with the Party's goals
Thereafter, he was being watched by the police. He tried to no avail to build a law practice in Mainz, and in the end, he moved to Berlin where he worked as a syndic for the Tack shoe factory. By and by, after Leuschner, Mierendorff, and other leading social democrats were released from "protective custody" and concentration camps, Schwamb's flat slowly evolved into a conspiratorial meeting place for resistance fighters. Among these were also Julius Leber, who was working in Berlin as a coal dealer, the journalist Emil Henk (1883-1969) from the Heidelberg-Mannheim area, the co-founder of the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold and off-and-on press consultant in the Reich Interior Ministry Theodor Haubach, and also, after his release from Dachau concentration camp as of 1940 the later Rhineland-Palatinate Interior and Social Minister Jakob Steffan (1888-1957).
Like Leuschner and Mierendorff, Schwamb was also a member of the Kreisau Circle as of 1940, a resistance group that met on Helmuth James Graf von Moltke's estate in Lower Silesia, to which also belonged Peter Graf Yorck von Wartenburg (1904-1944) and Adam von Trott zu Solz, along with progressive educator and social democrat Adolf Reichwein from Bad Ems, the Jesuit priest Alfred Delp who grew up in Lampertheim in southern Hesse, and others influenced mainly by a Christian desire for reform. These included Schleswig-Holstein's later minister-president Theodor Steltzer, the later Speaker of the Bundestag Eugen Gerstenmaier, and the later Federal Minister for Displaced Persons, Refugees, and War Injured Hans Lukaschek.
There were also contacts with other important opponents of the Nazi régime.
While Wilhelm Leuschner, out of all the 20 July Plotters, was foreseen as the future Reich Interior Minister, Ludwig Schwamb, as the "political commissioner" of Defence District XII (Wiesbaden) in the area between Kassel and Heidelberg, was to coördinate the opposition forces, mobilize the civilian resistance groups, help prepare a general strike, safeguard the coördination with the resistance's military wing in this region whose resistance and trade unionist network was particularly widespread, and in the Hesse-Rhineland-Palatinate area, prepare a future democratic and social order.
Ludwig Schwamb was arrested on 23 July 1944 – three days after the failed assassination plot at the Wolf's Lair in East Prussia – in Frankfurt am Main, and after nearly six months in the Lehrter Straße Gestapo prison in Berlin, he was sentenced on 13 January 1945 to death at the Volksgerichtshof under Hitler's "blood judge" Roland Freisler. On 23 January 1945, Ludwig Schwamb was hanged along with nine other plotters at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin.
On 31 January 1945, Ludwig Schwamb's wife Elisabeth received news – without formality or proper form of address – of the death sentence and a notification about the execution which had been carried out. The message included the warning: "The publication of a death notice is not allowed." So there is no grave, only a memorial stone at the family plot, as well as various streets, squares and schools in Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate which recall Ludwig Schwamb's life and works.Protestant Church of Plötzensee
The Protestant Church of Plötzensee (German: Gemeindezentrum Plötzensee) is situated in Berlin-Charlottenburg-Nord and was inaugurated in 1970 as the second church building of the Protestant Congregation in North-Charlottenburg within the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia. As it is located close to the former Plötzensee Prison, the church-building was designed as a memorial for the victims of National Socialism. The paintings Plötzenseer Totentanz (Plötzensee Danse Macabre) painted by the Viennese artist Alfred Hrdlicka are an important part of this church.Sol de Fátima
Sol de Fátima is a Spanish-language Catholic devotional magazine published by the Blue Army of Our Lady and is devoted to the message of Our Lady of Fátima.Spanish mystics
The Spanish mystics are major figures in the Catholic Reformation of 16th and 17th century Spain. The goal of this movement was to reform the Church structurally and to renew it spiritually. The Spanish Mystics attempted to express in words their experience of a mystical communion with Christ.Stella Matutina (Jesuit school)
Stella Matutina in Feldkirch, Austria, was a Jesuit school that operated in 1651–1773, 1856–1938, and 1946–1979.Stimmen der Zeit
Stimmen der Zeit ("Voices of the times") is a monthly German magazine published since 1865 by Herder publishers. Its subtitle is Zeitschrift für christliche Kultur, and it publishes articles on Christian culture in the broad sense of the word. It is considered one of the most authoritative German journals in its field.
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