Tag Archives: Nazis

His crime…He Baptized another Prisoner—His “Reward”—He was hanged upside down. Meet Otto Neururer; the first priest executed in a Nazi concentration camp

Blessed Otto Neururer                                             commons.wikipediia.org

By Larry Peterson

The word  “Holocaust” has a number of synonyms:  annihilation, extermination, carnage, genocide, and slaughter, might be a few.   We tend to think of the “millions’ who perished but we rarely think of them as individuals unless some story grabs our attention such as; “The Diary of Anne Frank”,  “The Devil’s Arithmetic”, or bios about St. Maximilian Kolbe,, or St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). What follows is the story of a simple, humble priest who simply loved his God, his Faith, and his fellow man. His name was Father Otto Neururer.

Each and every one of the people who had their very God-given existence taken away from them was like all of us.  They had their hopes and dreams.  They had families and friends. They loved, they worked, they played, they enjoyed holidays and walks in the park on a Sunday afternoon where the kids might feed the ducks or the squirrels.  They quietly embraced the dignity of their own selves, just as we all try to do. They were proud of their families and their jobs and professions.  They were living their God-given life.

And then they came. The other people. The ones in power. The ones who held the power of life and death in their hands.The ones who had the “law” on their side and the people following them willing to carry it out, no matter how heinous; even ready to commit torture and murder under the “rule of law.”

Yet through all of the Godless depravity that filled the very hearts and souls of those carrying out this abhorrent treatment of their fellow human beings there always rises an unquenchable love,  and respect for life from some of the victims. They try to help others who are suffering. Many who offer this Godly assistance are tortured and murdered for doing so.

Otto Neururer was born in Tyrol, Austria on March 25, 1881. He was the twelfth and youngest child of a peasant farmer, Alois Neururer and his wife, Hildegard. When Otto was eight, his dad died. His mom,  a devout Catholic, began suffering bouts of depression. Otto was a bit frail and also timid and, like his mom, also began experiencing bouts of depression. However, he did have a brilliant mind and recognized his vocation to the priesthood.  He followed his calling and was able to enter the seminary when he was 21 years old.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1907 and celebrated his first Mass in his hometown. He wanted to join the Jesuits and do missionary work, but his frail health prevented that. He served as a  parish priest, teacher, and was finally assigned as pastor to  St. Peter and Paul Parish in Innsbruck.

In 1938, while he was still pastor, a young woman came to him for advice. She wanted his opinion on whether or not she should marry a divorced man. Father Neururer knew of this man and that he was a philanderer and a con-artist. He advised the woman against marrying him. She told her “fiancé” that she could not marry him and why. He was good friends with the Nazi party leader in the area and reported Father Otto to him. On December 15,1938, Father Otto was promptly arrested and charged with, “slander to the detriment of German marriage.”

On March 3, 1939, he was sent to Dachau, the first concentration camp established by the Nazis,  also known as the “priest’s barracks.” Here he was routinely tortured, but this would not be his last stop. On September 26, 1939, he was sent to Buchenwald, which was under the command of Martin Sommer, aka “the Hangman of Buchenwald.” This would be Father’s last stop.

A prisoner came to Father Otto and asked him to baptize him. The kindly priest could not decline and did as asked. The priest realized he was being ‘set-up” but would not refuse in case he was mistaken. He was not wrong, and Martin Bormann decided to make an example of the priest. He ordered him taken to the “punishment block” and hung upside down.

The chaplain who witnessed Father Otto’s torturous death said he never complained. The priest lived for 34 hours, and even towards the end, he could be heard mumbling his prayers. He died on May 30, 1940. He was fifty-eight years old. He was the first of more than 2600 Catholic priests killed during the Holocaust.

Father Otto Neururer died “in odium fidei” and was beatified at St. Peter’s Basilica on November 24, 1996, by Pope St. John Paul II.

Blessed Otto Neururer, please pray for us all.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Mother Maria Skobtsova—She had two titles: The “Saint of the Open Door” and The “Trash Can Saint” She was also Martyred by the Nazis

St. Maria Skobtsova                                                       www.pravoslavia.ru

By Larry Peterson

What follows is a brief story about a woman who would have had to be considered one of the most unlikely candidates for sainthood. A chain-smoking, twice divorced, left leaning nun with a brilliant mind and a heart so big she just could never love enough. However, being part of the Roman Church or the Eastern Orthodox Church mattered not to the Nazis; Catholic was Catholic.

Elizaveta Pilenko was born in Latvia, inside the Russian empire, in 1891. Her parents were devout Orthodox and also quite wealthy. Elizaveta embraced her Catholic faith easily and with open arms. By the time she was seven she was asking her mom if she could become a nun. But when Elizaveta was a teenager, her father died.

The girl was crushed and her heart experienced a profound sorrow that left her feeling empty inside. Her faith crumbled like stale crackers.   Elizaveta decided that God’s “nonexistence” was well known to adults but kept secret from children. Her childhood was over. She entered into a personal sea of nothingness called atheism. She was quoted as having said, “If there is no justice, then there is no God.”

Elizaveta’s widowed mom moved the family to St. Petersburg in 1906. It took Elizaveta no time to get involved with some of the radical literary circles within the city. But she soon found herself disappointed in the young “revolutionaries” she was involved with. They all seemed to do nothing but talk, talk, talk and never were willing to put their words into deeds. She said, “…they will not understand that to die for the revolution means to feel a rope around one’s neck.”

In 1910, at the age of eighteen, she married, Dimitri Kuzmin-Karaviev, who was an alcoholic. This marriage lasted only three years but, during this time, Elizaveta gave birth to her first child Gaiana, published a  book of poetry, and began to study theology. Even though a woman, she was accepted into the theological academy of the Alexander Nevsky  Monastery in St. Petersburg. Soon, she began to realize that Christ did, truly, exist.

In 1918, while living in the town of Anapa, she was arrested as a Bolshevik and put on trial. However, a local judge, Daniel Skobstova, fell in love with her, married her, and saved her life. Soon she was pregnant with her second child. The family fled to Georgia and she gave birth to another son, Yuri. Then, moving to Yugoslavia, she gave birth to her second daughter, Anastasia.  In 1923, it was onto Paris.

In 1926 her daughter, Anastasia, died from influenza.  Then her second marriage failed and Yuri went to live with his father. More heartache struck when in  1935, her oldest daughter, Gaiana, suddenly died.  This altered Elizaveta’s life immensely. She yearned to care those who were struggling with disabilities, drug addiction, and mental illness. Her bishop encouraged her to become a nun but she would only do so if she could stay with the poor and downtrodden. Things went her way. Her husband granted her an ecclesiastical divorce and she became a nun. Her name became Mother Maria Skobstova.

Mother Maria managed to rent a house in Paris and moved in calling it her “convent”. It became known for its “open door” for refugees, the poor and even the lonely. Father Sergei Bulgakov became he her confessor and Father Dmitri Klepinin took on the job as house chaplain. Word spread quickly and those in need began flocking to Mother Maria’s convent. She was sleeping in the basement near the boiler and using an upstairs room as the chapel. The dining area doubled as a classroom. More room was needed.

Two years later an old, beat up house was found in an area of Paris where there were many Russian refugees. Here, instead of twenty-five people, she could take in a hundred. There were also stables in the back which became the new church. Then came the 10th of May, 1940.  Hitler’s army invaded France. One month and fifteen days later, it was over. The Fall of France was complete.

It happened quickly. The Jewish people began coming to Mother Maria for fake baptismal certificates and for refuge. Father Dimitri would provide the “papers” and Mother Maria would hide as many people as she could. She was even sneaking into a local stadium where many Jews were being held. She would smuggle in food and water and one time managed to smuggle four children out in a garbage truck.

Mother Maria, her son Yuri and Father Dimitri fought the good fight as long as they could. Father Dimitri and Yuri were arrested by the Gestapo first. They were sent to the Dora Concentration Camp where they both died, Yuri being executed on  February 6, 1944 and Father Dimitri dying on a dirt floor of pneumonia four days later.

Mother Maria Skobstova was arrested on February 10, 1943 and was sent to Ravensbruck. the infamous concentration camp for women. Mother Maria lasted two years, until Holy Week, 1945.  She was sent to the gas chamber and died for Christ on Holy Saturday. The war ended shortly thereafter.

Mother Maria, along with Father Dimitri, and Yuri, were canonized on January 16, 2004 in the Cathedral of Saint Alexander Nevsky in Paris. Their feast day is July 20.

We ask them all to pray for us.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Christoph Probst: He was a Husband and Father, and at the age of 23 the Nazis made him a Martyr

Christoph Probst & Sophie Scholl                                     fair.use

By Larry Peterson

Christoph Probst was born on November 6, 1919, in Bavaria, Germany. His dad, Herman Probst, was a scholar who specialized in Asian culture, Eastern religions, and the language, Sanscrit. Hermann maintained an intellectual environment at home and Christoph thrived within it.

However, inside the Probst home all was not peaceful and content. Christoph’s parents divorced when he was still a young boy, and  His father remarried Elise Jaffee, who was Jewish. Shortly after his second marriage, Hermann Probst committed suicide. How this affected Christoph is unknown, but his contempt for Nazi ideology grew stronger.

There was some money available, and Christoph was admitted to a boarding school at Landheim Schondorf, a school mostly devoted to the fine arts. The school was not an institution that supported Nazi ideas.  It was here that Christoph met a young man named Alexander Schmorell.

Alexander had been born in the Ural Mountains of Russia and had come to Germany with his father when his mother died. Christoph and Alexander had much in common; both young men had lost parents. Upon graduating high school, the two close friends were required to enter the National Labor Service.

Upon leaving the Labor Service, Christoph met and married Herta Dohm. Herta would have  three children, Michael, Vincent, and Katherina. Christoph then entered the University of Munich to study medicine. It was during this time that he and his best friend, Alexander,  met up with Hans Scholl, the founder of the White Rose. They all thought alike. They despised Adolf Hitler and hated Nazism.

The name, White Rose, signified non-violence and peaceful protest. It was a group that simply wanted to exert intellectual resistance to the Third Reich. In March of 1942, the White Rose began their clandestine assault against the Nazi regime. Their weapons of attack were leaflets. They began mailing the leaflets to random names they picked from the phone book. They tried to find doctors, lawyers, musicians, and scholars.

Then they began leaving them around the different college campuses such as the University of Hamburg and their school, the University of Munich. The leaflets begged the German citizens to fight back against the tyrannical Nazis.

Christoph joined the group after they had started distributing the leaflets. The group tried their best to keep Christoph in a low-profile position. He did not even write leaflets. He was the only one of the group married with two children and they all wanted to do their best to protect his family. So did he.

Christoph had never been born into a specific religion but he always was drawn to religion and the existence of God. His friends were Catholic and their faith influenced him greatly. Soon, he would embrace it fully.

The White Rose group had produced and distributed five different leaflets. The distribution of the leaflets had spread from Munich and to other cities. Over 15, 000 leaflets were used to attack Nazi crimes, oppression, and the mass murder of the Jews. The White Rose quickly climbed to a top spot on the Nazi wanted list.

Christoph finally lent his hand to the leaflets production by designing the layout for the sixth one. This is the one that Hans Scholl had in his pocket when he was arrested. It would prove to be the only evidence of Christoph’s involvement with the White Rose.

On February 18, 1943, Hans and Sophie Scholl were distributing the leaflets on campus when a caretaker spotted them doing so. The man, being a “good Nazi,” quickly reported them to the authorities. The Gestapo took them into custody. Hans and Sophie were searched and they found the leaflet. Handwriting samples taken led them to Christoph.

Hans, his sister, Sophie, and Christoph were interrogated relentlessly by the Gestapo and then taken to the People’s Court. The date was February 21, 1943. They were accused of treason and sentenced to death. German law stated that they should have a ninety-day wait before execution. It made no difference in the “People’s Court.”  They would die that very day.

Christoph, born into no religion, asked if a Catholic priest could visit him. He requested to be baptized and was received into the faith. Sometime during the following hour, he and his two friends, Hans and Sophie, were guillotined.

On November 3, 1999, Christoph Probst was included in the Martyrology of the Catholic Church.

Blessed Christoph Probst, please pray for us.

©Larry Peterson 2018

Pope Pius XII and His Confidant; Father Giovanni Ferrofino; Together, they Quietly Managed the Rescue of Thousands of Jews during World War II

POPE PIUS XII – UNDATED – (AP-PHOTO)

By Larry Peterson

There is still controversy surrounding Pope Pius XII and his perceived indifference to the crimes the Nazis were committing during World War II. The Pope was constantly bombarded with pleas for help on behalf of the Jews but, as head of the Vatican state, had to feign neutrality. However, his apparent lack of action was a ruse, and the Holy Father was more than willing to take the abuse that came with it.

In 1940 the papal secretary of state was asked to intercede to keep Jews in Spain from being deported to Germany. A similar request was made for Jews in Lithuania. Even the Assistant Chief of the U.S. delegation to the Vatican, Harold Tittman, asked the Pope to condemn the atrocities. The Vatican claimed “neutrality” suggesting that Catholics in German-held lands might be affected. The papacy did nothing, or so it seemed.

Behind the scenes, Pope Pius XII sheltered a small number of Jews and asked select friends to see if they might find ways to help the Jews.  Of course, there was his low-profile, secret weapon, Father Giovanni Ferrofino.

Father Giovanni’s mission came directly from Pope Pius XII. He had orders that sent him first to the Portuguese president asking him to grant visas for Jews seeking refuge in his country. Then he was sent to the Dominican Republic where twice a year he asked for 800 visas for Jews to travel from Portugal to the island nation.

They communicated via double-encrypted messages which Father Giovanni would have to decode. Then he would travel for two days with the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Maurilio Silvani, so the request could be delivered by hand directly to the Dominican leader, General Raphael Trujillo.

Most of these refugees would eventually travel from the Dominican Republic to other countries finding final refuge in the United States, Canada, Cuba, and Mexico.

These clandestine operations took place from 1939 thru 1945. During that time over 10,000 Jews were saved from the Holocaust. Pope Pius XII was the mastermind behind the operation. However, the mission could never have been accomplished without Giovanni Ferrofino.

On November 28, 1961, Giovanni Ferrofino was consecrated as the Titular Archbishop of Zenopolis (an ancient Roman city) and then appointed Apostolic Nuncio to Ecuador, a position he resigned from in 1970.

In 2010, The Yad Vashem  Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem honored Archbishop Ferrofino for his help in saving so many Jews during the Holocaust. He was declared “Righteous Among Nations.”

Archbishop Ferrofino died on December 20, 2010. He was 98 years old. He is counted among the many unsung heroes of World War II.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2018

The “Angel of Auschwitz”– Venerable Angela Maria of the Heart of Jesus

Venerable Angela Maris-The “Angel of Auschwitz”
Photo Credit: Joachim Schäfer – Ökumenisches Heiligenlexikon.

By Larry Peterson

Maria Cacilia Autsch was born in Rollecken, Germany, on March 26,1900. She was the fifth of seven children and her dad, August, worked very hard as a machinist to keep his family fed. He and his wife, Amalia, were devout and knowledgeable Catholics and worked diligently to pass the faith on to their children.

The family had little money, so when Maria was fifteen, she went to work as a nanny. Her mom died in 1921 and Maria had to keep on working to help the family. Maria had always known she was being called to religious service and harbored her disappointment at not being able to do so. Her family came first, and she turned her future over to Jesus.

Finally, on September 27, 1933, she was able to enter the convent of the Trinitarian Order in Austria. It was the Spanish branch, and the Spanish had been the first women religious to come to Austria. The purpose of the sisters was to help in securing the release of captive prisoners and also working as nurses, teachers, and helping the poor and those in need.

On July 4, 1934, Maria Cacilia Autsch received a new name. She received her habit and along with it the name of Angela Maria of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. On August 20 she took her first vow. Her duties were running the nursery school, teaching embroidery, caring for the sick and even helping with the fieldwork. At last, on September 28, 1938, she made her final vows.

By that time the Nazis had taken over Austria, and they wanted to seize the monastery where the sisters lived. Sister Angela defended their home and argued that it was legally Spanish property and the Nazis had no right to it. She even contacted the Spanish consul in Vienna and the Nazis, in an attempt to keep their activities quiet, relented. However, Sister Angela Maria was now on their radar.

It was August 10, 1940, when the most innocent of moments changed Sister Angela’s life forever. She had gone to buy some milk and bumped into a few women she knew. They began to converse, and Sister told them she had heard that the Allies had sunk a German ship and many Germans had died in the disaster. She finished by saying that she thought “Hitler was a calamity for Europe.”

One of the Austrian women was a Nazi sympathizer and reported her to the Gestapo. Her file was found, and she was arrested soon after. The charges were for “insulting the leader” and “sedition of the population.”  All attempts by her co-sisters to obtain her release were simply ignored, and Mother Superior pleaded for her release with the head of the Gestapo several times but to no avail. Even the Spanish consul could not save her.

Sister Angela Maria of the Heart of Jesus spent seventeen days at the brutal police detention center in Innsbruck. She was then assigned prisoner # 4651. With her name now a number and without trial, she was transported to the women’s camp at Ravensbruck.

True to her calling as a Trinitarian Sister, Angela Maria,  in the most horrendous place imaginable, went right to work representing Jesus. Many reported of her unceasing efforts to maintain human dignity. She is frequently beaten by the guards but, as one inmate reported, “her smile and courage was a ray of sunshine in deepest hell.”

On  August 16, 1942, she was transferred to the death camp at Auschwitz and assigned to the medical department. Because of her continued  good spirit, self-sacrificing helpfulness and her efforts to alleviate as much misery as she could, she became known as the “Angel of Auschwitz.” Many of the other prisoners had no idea she was a Catholic nun.

In October 1942, Sister Angela came down with Typhus. She never fully recovered from this disease and was placed in the SS hospital as a nurse. On December 23, 1943, a bombing raid began, and Sister Angela was killed when she was struck in the chest with shrapnel that pierced her lungs.

On May 21, 2018, Pope Francis recognized the “heroic virtues” of Servant of God, Angela Maria of the Heart of Jesus. She now has the title of “Venerable” before her name, and the next step in her journey to canonization will be beatification.

We ask Venerable Angela Maria of the Heart of Jesus, to pray for us all.

 

Copyright Larry Peterson 2018