>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.
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.
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.
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