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Thoughts about the Lübeck Martyrs

What is it that stirs people when they think of the Lübeck Martyrs? Are there still any personal recollections by contemporaries? What is so impressive about these clergymen? Here you can read what very different Christians have written.

Their eyes seem to speak to us

„I am the same age as Hans Boeker [see below] but we grew up in such different circumstances. Living in a small town on the Queensland coast my parents and their friends could discuss politics and disagree with whatever our government was doing without fear while Hans grew up in such a different atmosphere. Remembering conversations in my home between family and friends I know much was known about conditions in Germany under the Nazis but I doubt anyone knew in depth the savagery that the regime was inflicting on its own people.

Hans introduced me to the Luebeck Martyrs some months ago and it is difficult to really express my feelings as I read the material Hans gave me and what I gleaned from sites on the Internet. Certainly there are feelings of horror at the fate of these fine men and others who were brave enough to speak out against what was happening around them. Their letters written just a few hours before death are remarkable. They are upsetting to read but so inspiring and I have read them several times. Looking at their photos their eyes seem to speak to us.

I have referred the subject of the Luebeck Martyrs to others who are interested in history in general and a schoolteacher who will no doubt make good use of it. We will all be thinking of Luebeck, especially on the day of beatification. I wonder what the Martyrs will be thinking as they look on.“

Maeve Jowett Davies, Gosford, Australia

My Prayers have become more exciting

“I myself grew up at that time in Tripsrath near Geilenkirchen and was well aware of the need to talk cautiously. Our young pastor expressed his opinions quite freely when untruths about the Church were bandied about. Thus, altar boys (my brother was one of them) were ‘interviewed’ by members of the Gestapo about their relationship with the parish priest and their answers deliberately misconstrued. When my mother learned about it she went to the presbytery the same night to see Fr. Ernst Reichardt, telling him what had occurred. Apparently, my mother was not the only one to warn him; Two days later he was gone; a businessman with a car had taken him across the Dutch border (This was still before WWII). We had never heard anything about the Lübeck Martyrs. This horrifying story has only now become fully clear to me, although my husband Hans-Heinrich had previously told me about it when talking about his youth in Lübeck; it appears almost as if the powers of state had tried to make them appear weak and frightened, by all means. But their strong, unshakeable faith has shown them as the heroes of martyrdom. And they went their last way not alone: the Saviour went with them, by their side. They went together to the Father. Somehow, my prayers have become more ‘exciting’; having read the books, I feel that they all – especially Chaplain Prassek – had a way to enliven a prayer. They will be with me forever.”

Trudi Boeker, Wyoming, Australia

To Live the Veneration of the Martyrs today

“Whoever celebrates the beatification of the Lübeck Martyrs must also publicly take a stand today against all attempts to carry Nazi propaganda into the streets and into the hearts of men, especially the young. It is because of this that I wish many Catholics to take part in devotions, processions and rallies against a parade of Neo-Nazis in Lübeck on the 26th of March, 2011”.

Pfarrer Joachim Kirchhoff, Lübeck

To carry on the Legacy of the Martyrs responsibly

“The tyrant dies and his dominion ends„the Martyr dies and his dominion begins“. As with this quote by Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813–1855, Danish Philosopher, Theologian and Author) may we as human beings and also Christians carry on the legacy responsibly and include the past in the awareness of the present, to be able to answer in the future with a quote by Otto Weiß: ‘It will be a great, great time which no longer needs heroes and martyrs’. As Christians we have the responsibility, ‘The four Lübeck Martyrs’ as a monument, because there will be no redress!”

Conni Stefanski, Timmendorfer Strand

A Memory which revives me

“I emigrated to Australia in 1952. In the year 1980 we visited Lübeck and revived many memories: we wandered through the well-known streets and appeared to be back in time: This is where we pressed all the door-bells, here we pinched apples. How nice it was in Lübeck at that time, despite war and distress. And everything at a time, particularly in the Diaspora, when, being Catholic, could invite suspicious looks from fellow men. As a then member of the Herz Jesu Parish (1930-1948) the news about the Beatification next year of the Lübeck Martyrs was the impulse for me to gather more information about the events after Palm Sunday 1942 for myself and those dear to me. I was born in Marien-Krankenhaus (St. Mary’s Hospital) and received my Baptism, First Holy Communion and Confirmation in the Herz Jesu Church, the latter by Bishop Berning of Osnabrück. I attended the Parish School (under Sr. Canisia) behind the church for one year until its closure in 1938. Thus, I knew all the priests personally, including Dean Bültel.

Vicar Lange gave us altar boy instructions; he was like a school teacher to us. Adjunct Müller took us on bicycle tours and was liked very much by the youth; he was more like an older friend and one did not have any hesitation to talk to him, had one got into any mischief. Chaplain Prassek was rather more strict, but always thought-provoking, yet respected by the boys. Dean Bültel in our eyes as boys was almost as powerful as a bishop. Thus, it is a memory for me which enlivens: I have had the honour to have known these priests personally. And how many people have had the chance in their lives to have held the hand of a martyr, to have prayed with him and to have been blessed by him?”

Hans-Heinrich Boeker, Wyoming, Australia

Not lost the Clear Sight

“The more I occupy myself with the Lübeck Martyrs, the more I am impressed by their humanness and normalcy. Their courage to stand up to the all-pervading ideology of National-Socialism appears to conform to the inner logic of their priestly calling. Because of the implicitness of their committal to pastoral care they cross the boundary of what is permitted and find themselves at once in opposition. It is their great gift not to have lost clear sight in a strong belief of another, God-imbued world. I wish for this gift also in our time”.

Georg Bergner, Youth Chaplain of the Archdiocese of Hamburg

A great Strength to comfort

„When I think about the Lübeck Martyrs, two thoughts come to mind: 1. The example of these four friends who by their common paths in life and faith advocated the one liberating gospel and sealed this advocacy with their ‘blood flowing together’, makes me feel an ecumenism which looks to the things that unite, not those which divide. 2. I am always touched anew when I read quotes from letters of those clergymen, in which these young men, sentenced to death, despite their grim situation, could muster such courageous strength to comfort their relatives and friends”.

Roland Keiss, Lantershofen

Prayer for Courage and Perseverance

“Lord, bestow upon me the unshakable Faith of the Martyrs, and their headiness. Give to me but a small part of the courage and perseverance of the Four. Allow me to feel you as they felt You. Let me have their confidence and trust in You, the gift to see You and to hear Your Word, as they did. Help me to understand the purpose of all their miseries and that their martyrdom allows us to find our way to You. Forgive my weakness and minuteness, my fears and doubts, to be able to suffer a path like theirs. Turn my weakness into courage, hectic eagerness into forbearance and patience, doubts into Trust and darkness into light. Amen”.

Anke Laumayer, nee. Stellbrink, Grand-daughter of Pastor Stellbrink

To pass on the Embers 

“I affiliate the Beatification of the Lübeck Martyrs with a quote by the former Chaplain of Herz Jesu Parish in Lübeck, Peter Otto, who in a sermon on the anniversary of their deaths aptly said what has become imprinted on me: ‘It does not come down to preserve the ashes, but to pass on the embers!’”

Robert J. Olbricht, Lübeck

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