Johannes Prassek

The Blessed Johannes Prassek (13 August 1911 – 10 November 1943) was a German Catholic priest, and one of the Lübeck martyrs, guillotined for opposing the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler in 1943.[1][2] Prassek was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011.[1]

Biography

Born in Barmbek, Prassek came from a working class Hamburg family, and financially struggled through his studies in theology. Ordained a priest at Osnabrück in 1937, he became a chaplain at Lübeck in 1939. A popular pastor, Prassek, impressed his congregation with his sermons, and work with young people. Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime was governing Germany, and in his theological discussion groups, Prassek often openly spoke of irreconcilable contradictions between Catholicism and Nazi ideology. He also established contact with forced labourers, and learned the Polish language in order to assist in his ministry work with them.[2]

Aged 30, in 1941, Prassek met Karl Friedrich Stellbrink, a pastor at the nearby Lutheran Church. They shared disapproval of the Nazi regime, and Prassek introduced Stellbrink to his Catholic colleagues, Frs Hermann Lange and Eduard Mueller. The four priests spoke publicly against the Nazis – initially discreetly – distributing pamphlets to friends and congregants.[3] They copied and distributed the anti-Nazi sermons of Bishop Clemens August von Galen of Münster.[1] Then, following the 28 March 1942 RAF air raid, after which Stellbrink tended wounded, he delivered a Palm Sunday sermon which attributed the bombing to divine punishment. Stellbrink was arrested, followed by the three Catholic priests.[3] Prassek had been denounced by a Gestapo informer. Arrested in May 1942, he was sentenced to death by the People's Court in June 1943, in the "Lübeck Christians’ Trial", and executed on 10 November 1943 in Hamburg, alongside the other priests.[2] Resigned to martyrdom, Prassek wrote to his family: "Who can oppress one who dies". The mingling of the blood of the four guillotined martyrs has become a symbol of German Ecumenism.[3]

See also

External links

  • Archidiocese of Hamburg. "Lübeck Martyrs: Johannes Prassek".

References

  1. ^ a b c Three priest-martyrs of Nazis beatified in Germany; Catholic News Agency; 25 June 2011
  2. ^ a b c Biography of Johannes Prassek; at German Resistance Memorial Centre; retrieved 30. Sep. 2013
  3. ^ a b c Beatification Of WWII Martyrs Divides Lutherans, Catholics; Huffington Post; By Omar Sacirbey; 20/6/2011
1943

1943 (MCMXLIII)

was a common year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar, the 1943rd year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 943rd year of the 2nd millennium, the 43rd year of the 20th century, and the 4th year of the 1940s decade.

Bombing of Lübeck in World War II

During World War II, the city of Lübeck was the first German city to be attacked in substantial numbers by the Royal Air Force. The attack on the night of 28 March 1942 created a firestorm that caused severe damage to the historic centre, with bombs destroying three of the main churches and large parts of the built-up area. It led to the retaliatory "Baedeker" raids on historic British cities.

Although a port, and home to several shipyards, including the Lübecker Flender-Werke, Lübeck was also a cultural centre and only lightly defended. The bombing on 28 March 1942 was the first major success for RAF Bomber Command against a German city, and followed the Area Bombing Directive issued to the RAF on 14 February 1942 which authorised the targeting of civilian areas.

Catholic Church and Nazi Germany

Popes Pius XI (1922–39) and Pius XII (1939–58) led the Roman Catholic Church through the rise and fall of Nazi Germany. Around a third of Germans were Catholic in the 1930s. The Church in Germany had spoken against the rise of Nazism, but the Catholic aligned Centre Party capitulated in 1933 and was banned. In the various 1933 elections the percentage of Catholics voting for the Nazis party was remarkably lower than the average. Nazi key ideologue Alfred Rosenberg was banned on the index of the Inquisition, presided by later pope Pius XII. Adolf Hitler and several key Nazis had been raised Catholic, but became hostile to the Church in adulthood. While Article 24 of the NSDAP party platform called for conditional toleration of Christian denominations and the 1933 Reichskonkordat treaty with the Vatican purported to guarantee religious freedom for Catholics, the Nazis were essentially hostile to Christianity and the Catholic Church faced persecution in Nazi Germany. Its press, schools and youth organisations were closed, much property confiscated and around one third of its clergy faced reprisals from authorities. Catholic lay leaders were targeted in the Night of the Long Knives purge. The Church hierarchy attempted to co-operate with the new government, but in 1937, the Papal Encyclical Mit brennender Sorge accused the government of "fundamental hostility" to the church.

Among the most courageous demonstrations of opposition inside Germany were the 1941 sermons of Bishop August von Galen of Münster. Nevertheless, wrote Alan Bullock "[n]either the Catholic Church nor the Evangelical Church... as institutions, felt it possible to take up an attitude of open opposition to the regime". In every country under German occupation, priests played a major part in rescuing Jews, but Catholic resistance to mistreatment of Jews in Germany was generally limited to fragmented and largely individual efforts. Mary Fulbrook wrote that when politics encroached on the church, Catholics were prepared to resist, but that the record was otherwise patchy and uneven, and that, with notable exceptions, "it seems that, for many Germans, adherence to the Christian faith proved compatible with at least passive acquiescence in, if not active support for, the Nazi dictatorship".Catholics fought on both sides in the Second World War. Hitler's invasion of predominantly Catholic Poland ignited the conflict in 1939. Here, especially in the areas of Poland annexed to the Reich—as in other annexed regions of Slovenia and Austria—Nazi persecution of the church was intense. Many clergy were targeted for extermination. Through his links to the German Resistance, Pope Pius XII warned the Allies of the planned Nazi invasion of the Low Countries in 1940. From that year, the Nazis gathered priest-dissidents in a dedicated clergy barracks at Dachau, where 95 percent of its 2,720 inmates were Catholic (mostly Poles, and 411 Germans) and 1,034 priests died there. Expropriation of church properties surged from 1941.

The Vatican, surrounded by Fascist Italy, was officially neutral during the war, but used diplomacy to aid victims and lobby for peace. Vatican Radio and other media spoke out against atrocities. While Nazi antisemitism embraced modern pseudo-scientific racial principles, ancient antipathies between Christianity and Judaism contributed to European antisemitism. During the Nazi era, the Church rescued many thousands of Jews by issuing false documents, lobbying Axis officials, hiding them in monasteries, convents, schools and elsewhere; including in the Vatican and papal residence at Castel Gandolfo. The Pope's role during this period is contested. The Reich Security Main Office called Pius XII a "mouthpiece" of the Jews. His first encyclical, Summi Pontificatus, called the invasion of Poland an "hour of darkness", his 1942 Christmas address denounced race murders and his Mystici corporis Christi encyclical (1943) denounced the murder of the handicapped.

Catholic resistance to Nazi Germany

Catholic resistance to Nazi Germany was a component of German resistance to Nazism and of Resistance during World War II. The role of the Church during the Nazi years was always, and remains however, a matter of much contention. Many writers, echoing Klaus Scholder, have concluded, "There was no Catholic resistance in Germany, there were only Catholics who resisted." The Vatican policy meant that the Pope never challenged Catholics to side either with National Socialism or with Catholic morality, and Pius XII was so adamant that Bolshevism represented the most terrible threat to the world that he remarked, 'Germany are a great nation who, in their fight against Bolshevism, are bleeding not only for their friends but also for the sake of their present enemies'. In a letter of autumn 1941 Pius XII wrote to Bishop Preysing, "We emphasise that, because the Church in Germany is dependent upon your public behaviour...in public declarations you are duty bound to exercise restraint" and "requires(d) you and your colleagues not to protest."From the outset of Nazi rule in 1933, issues emerged which brought the Church into conflict with the regime and persecution of the Church led Pope Pius XI to denounce the policies of the Nazi Government in the 1937 papal encyclical Mit brennender Sorge. His successor Pius XII faced the war years and provided intelligence to the Allies. Catholics fought on both sides in World War II and neither the Catholic nor Protestant churches as institutions were prepared to openly oppose the Nazi State.

An estimated one-third of German Catholic priests faced some form of reprisal from authorities and thousands of Catholic clergy and religious were sent to concentration camps. 400 Germans were among the 2,579 Catholic priests imprisoned in the clergy barracks at Dachau. While the head German bishop generally avoided confronting the regime, other bishops such as Preysing, Frings and Galen developed a Catholic critique of aspects of Nazism. Galen led Catholic protest against Nazi "euthanasia".Catholic resistance to mistreatment of Jews in Germany was generally limited to fragmented and largely individual efforts. But in every country under German occupation, priests played a major part in rescuing Jews. Israeli historian Pinchas Lapide estimated that Catholic rescue of Jews amounted to somewhere between 700,000 and 860,000 people - though the figure is contested. The martyrs St Maximilian Kolbe, Giuseppe Girotti and Bernhard Lichtenberg were among those killed in part for aiding Jews. Among the notable Catholic networks to rescue Jews and others were Hugh O'Flaherty's "Rome Escape Line", the Assisi Network and Poland's Żegota.

Relations between the Axis governments and the church varied. Bishops such as the Netherlands' Johannes de Jong, Belgium's Jozef-Ernest van Roey and France's Jules-Géraud Saliège issued major denunciations of Nazi treatment of Jews. Convents and nuns like Margit Slachta and Matylda Getter also led resistance. Vatican diplomats like Giuseppe Burzio in Slovakia, Filippo Bernardini in Switzerland and Angelo Roncalli in Turkey saved thousands. The nuncio to Budapest, Angelo Rotta, and Bucharest, Andrea Cassulo, have been recognised by Yad Vashem in Israel. The nationalist regimes in Slovakia and Croatia were pro-clerical, while in Slovene, Czech, Austrian and Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany, repression of the church was at its most severe and the Catholic religion was integral to much Polish resistance.

Decapitation

Decapitation is the complete separation of the head from the body. Such an injury is fatal to humans and most animals, since it deprives all other organs of the involuntary functions that are needed for the body to function, while the brain is deprived of oxygenated blood and blood pressure.

The term beheading refers to the act of deliberately decapitating a person, either as a means of murder or execution; it may be accomplished with an axe, sword, knife, or by mechanical means such as a guillotine. An executioner who carries out executions by beheading is called a headsman. Accidental decapitation can be the result of an explosion, car or industrial accident, improperly administered execution by hanging or other violent injury. Suicide by decapitation is rare but not unknown. The national laws of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Qatar permit beheading, but in practice, Saudi Arabia is the only country that continues to behead its offenders regularly as a punishment for crime.Less commonly, decapitation can also refer to the removal of the head from a body that is already dead. This might be done to take the head as a trophy, for public display, to make the deceased more difficult to identify, for cryonics, or for other, more esoteric reasons.

Eduard Müller (martyr)

The Blessed Eduard Müller (20 August 1911 – 10 November 1943) was a German Catholic priest and martyr. He was guillotined in a Hamburg prison by the Nazi authorities in November 1943, along with the three other Lübeck martyrs. Müller was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011.

Hermann Lange

The Blessed Hermann Lange (16 April 1912 – 10 November 1943) was a Roman Catholic priest and martyr of the Nazi period in Germany. He was guillotined in a Hamburg prison by the Nazi authorities in November 1943, along with the three other Lübeck martyrs. Lange was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011.Lange along with two Catholic priest colleagues – Johannes Prassek and Eduard Müller – along with Lutheran Pastor Karl Friedrich Stellbrink, spoke publicly against the Nazis – initially discreetly – distributing pamphlets to friends and congregants. They copied and distributed the anti-Nazi sermons of Bishop Clemens August von Galen of Münster. Then, following a March 28, 1942 RAF airraid, after which Stellbrink tended wounded, he delivered a Palm Sunday sermon which attributed the bombing to divine punishment. Stellbrink was arrested, followed by the three Catholic priests, and each were sentenced to death. The mingling of the blood of the four guillotined martyrs has become a symbol of German Ecumenism.

Karl Friedrich Stellbrink

Karl Friedrich Stellbrink (28 October 1894 – 10 November 1943) was a German Lutheran pastor, and one of the Lübeck martyrs, guillotined for opposing the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler.

List of people beatified by Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI beatified 843 people. The names listed below are from the Vatican website and are listed by year, then date. The locations given are the locations of the beatification ceremonies, not necessarily the birthplaces or homelands of the beatified.

Lübeck martyrs

The Lübeck Martyrs were three Roman Catholic priests – Johannes Prassek, Eduard Müller and Hermann Lange – and the Evangelical-Lutheran pastor Karl Friedrich Stellbrink. All four were executed by beheading on 10 November 1943 less than 3 minutes apart from each other at Hamburg's Holstenglacis Prison (then called Untersuchungshaftanstalt Hamburg-Stadt, in English: Investigative Custody Centre of the City of Hamburg). Eyewitnesses reported that the blood of the four clergymen literally ran together on the guillotine and on the floor. This impressed contemporaries as a symbol of the ecumenical character of the men's work and witness. That interpretation is supported by their last letters from prison, and statements they themselves made during their time of suffering, torture and imprisonment. "We are like brothers," Hermann Lange said.

People's Court (Germany)

The People's Court (German: Volksgerichtshof) was a Sondergericht ("special court") of Nazi Germany, set up outside the operations of the constitutional frame of law. Its headquarters were originally located in the former Prussian House of Lords in Berlin, later moved to the former Königsberg Wilhelmsgymnasium at Bellevuestrasse 15 in Potsdamer Platz (the location now occupied by the Sony Center; a marker is located on the sidewalk nearby).The court was established in 1934 by order of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, in response to his dissatisfaction at the outcome of the Reichstag fire trial, in which all but one of the defendants was acquitted. The court had jurisdiction over a rather broad array of "political offenses", which included crimes like black marketeering, work slowdowns, defeatism, and treason against the Third Reich. These crimes were viewed by the court as Wehrkraftzersetzung ("disintegration of defensive capability") and were accordingly punished severely; the death penalty was meted out in numerous cases.

The Court handed down an enormous number of death sentences under Judge-President Roland Freisler, including those that followed the plot to kill Hitler on 20 July 1944. Many of those found guilty by the Court were executed in Plötzensee Prison in Berlin. The proceedings of the court were often even less than show trials in that some cases, such as that of Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans Scholl and fellow White Rose activists, trials were concluded in less than an hour without evidence being presented or arguments made by either side. The president of the court often acted as prosecutor, denouncing defendants, then pronouncing his verdict and sentence without objection from defense counsel, who usually remained silent throughout. It almost always sided with the prosecution, to the point that being hauled before it was tantamount to a death sentence. While Nazi Germany was not a rule of law state, the People's Court frequently dispensed with even the nominal laws and procedures of regular German trials, and was thus easily characterized as a kangaroo court.

Sankt Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology

Sankt Georgen Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology (German: Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule Sankt Georgen) is a higher education Jesuit college in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

The school offers a 10-semester Magister in Catholic Theology and a 6-semester Bachelor in Philosophy. Post-graduate students may earn the degrees of Licentiate (Lic. theol.), Doctorate (Dr. theol., Ph.D.), or Habilitation (Dr. theol. habil.). Additional interdisciplinary programs are offered as well.

White Rose

The White Rose (German: die Weiße Rose) was a non-violent, intellectual resistance group in the Third Reich led by a group of students and a professor at the University of Munich. The group conducted an anonymous leaflet and graffiti campaign which called for active opposition to the Nazi party regime. Their activities started in Munich on 27 June 1942, and ended with the arrest of the core group by the Gestapo on 18 February 1943. They, as well as other members and supporters of the group who carried on distributing the pamphlets, faced show trials by the Nazi People's Court (Volksgerichtshof), and many of them were sentenced to death or imprisonment.

The group wrote, printed and initially distributed their pamphlets in the greater Munich region. Later on, secret carriers brought copies to other cities, mostly in the southern parts of Germany. In total, the White Rose authored six leaflets, which were multiplied and spread, in a total of about 15,000 copies. They denounced the Nazi regime's crimes and oppression, and called for resistance. In their second leaflet, they openly denounced the persecution and mass murder of the Jews. By the time of their arrest, the members of the White Rose were just about to establish contacts with other German resistance groups like the Kreisau Circle or the Schulze-Boysen/Harnack group of the Red Orchestra. Today, the White Rose is well-known both within Germany and worldwide.

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