>Four Catholic priests from Tirol and Vorarlberg

>From a booklet* I came across while visiting a village church. I’m not much into organized religion but since organized religion isn’t forcing me to live their way, I don’t hold anything against it.
That said, as all personal (and especially local) stories out of the time of the Third Reich interest me, I am passing these along. Four individuals is not much of a resistance in the time of Cardinal Innitzer, who, despite having said publicly that “There is only one Führer: Jesus Christ”, seemed to bend over backward to make the Nazis feel at home in Vienna. One assumes there were many others who simply kept their heads low, and others who used the political situation to their own benefit. Probably there were many who started out in vocal opposition, but then got a stiff warning (such as a few years at Buchenwald or Dachau) and stayed quiet for the duration of the Reich. These four priests did not quiet down, even under intense pressure to do so. For that, they paid with their lives.

Otto Neururer

Born, raised and ordained as a priest in Tirol, Neururer was working in the village of Götzens near Innsbruck when Hitler took over Austria. Probably watched carefully due to his activities with the Christian Social Movement, but brought in for “slander to the detriment of German marriage” when he advised a Tirolean woman against marrying a divorced man (who happened to be a Nazi and a friend of the Gauleiter.) Sent to Dachau, then Buchenwald. At Buchenwald in 1940 he baptized a fellow inmate, and was found out. He was hanged upside down from chains until he died, 34 hours later.

Jakob Gapp

From Tirol, ordained in Fribourg, Switzerland. Worked in Graz until the Anschluss, when his superiors sent him home to Tirol, hoping to avoid problems. He continued however, to speak out against Hitler, was banned from teaching, and urged to leave the country. The Gestapo followed him to Spain, and two agents posing as exiled Jews seeking catholic instruction befriended him and managed to get him over the border into Nazi-occupied France, where he was promptly arrested. He was brought to Berlin, and was tried and beheaded in 1943.

Carl Lampert
From Vorarlberg, ordained and active in Tirol. Remained an outspoken protester of National Socialist church policy despite several arrests, and time at Dachau and Sachenhausen concentration camps. Released in 1941 and moved to northern Germany, he was brought in again on charges of treason, spying, disrupting the war effort, consorting with the enemy and listening to foreign radio broadcasts (this last charge alone was punishable by death.) He was sentenced to death and beheaded in 1944.

Franz Reinisch (link in German)
Also from Vorlarberg, Reinisch was able to steer clear of the Nazis during his young career (he spent time studying law and then theology into the 30s), but was banned from speaking publicly by the Gestapo in 1940. He continued work in the church as a translator, in 1941 called up to the Wehrmacht, which includes a mandatory oath of allegiance to Hitler. This he refused to do, knowing it meant certain death. In 1942 he was arrested, tried, convicted and beheaded.

* Bischöfliches Priesterseminar Innsbruck-Feldkirch Heft 101 — Sommersemester 2008

>Reith bei Seefeld

>The Mittenwaldbahn (a railway to Munich which goes through some splendid mountain scenery, and I do mean through — it’s all bridges and tunnels til Bavaria) stops in the village of Reith bei Seefeld, which claims a cultural walking tour of sorts through it and its neighboring village, Leithen. Some of it was the usual, chapels and Madonnas, but a few items were interesting.
Reith saw its share of suffering from the World Wars — from the two wars it lost 28 men, which doesn’t sound like much until you remember how small this village is. Then in 1945 the Allies bombed it six times, dropping 300 bombs in attempts to destroy the rail line. This is an Allied bombshell from the time. (Note: Tirol was occupied by British forces after the war.)

In Leithen one finds the alleged birthplace of Thyrsus, a 9th-century giant known for being killed by the more-famous Haymon the Giant, who regretted the act enough to build the collegiate church in Wilten. Historical researchers presume that Haymon was a Bavarian aristocrat with neighbor issues; so far I found no light on who Thyrsus really was. He’s the one on the right in this fresco. The saga relates that when Thyrus was slayed, his blood spilled into the ground and became oil shale, as indeed there are shale deposits in the region around Seefeld and Scharnitz.
The Thirty Years’ War brought the Plague to Tirol. A wealthy Innsbruck merchant fled with his family to Leithen and fell ill there, but pledged to built this pillar, painted with scenes from the crucifixion, which he did in 1637. Often one finds not just a pillar but an entire church built out of gratitude for someone’s survival. Evidently many people made a lot of deals with God in the hopes of surviving the Plague, as Pestkirchen are abundant — in fact, there’s one at the end of my street.
This rock sticking out of the ground would probably have escaped notice completely if not for the list of monuments found on the walking tour, which I picked up at the tourist information desk. It was once a milestone, with the figure of St. Nicholas (Reith’s patron saint) attached to the base. In 1703 Bavarian soldiers (in the War of Spanish Succession) sacked the village and ripped out the saint. Ever since, the base has stood there as a memorial (to what, I’m not sure. Possibly as a reminder to hate the Germans and the French.)

So, the general consensus seems to be that there was a lot of fighting going on, just like anywhere. Centuries of peaceful co-existence, then something happens, blood is shed. And humans memorialize it afterward, as best they can.