The Four Lübeck Martyrs
On the 10th of November 1943 four clergymen, the Lutheran Pastor Karl Friedrich Stellbrink and the Catholic priests Hermann Lange, Eduard Müller and Johannes Prassek were executed in the Hamburg Prison Holstenglacis by guillotinening. The National-socialist "Volksgerichtshof" (People's Court) had sentenced all four in the summer of 1943 to death because of "defeatism, malice, favouring the enemy and listening to enemy broadcasts.
Political "co-ordination" was one of the instruments of rule by the national-socialist regime: Silence, obedience, adherence to the rules were demanded categorically by the state. The four Lübeck clergymen opposed such „Allmachtsanspruch" or all-encompassing claim of authority. They recognised the contradiction between Christian beliefs and the racist and atheistic ideology of the National Socialists. The recognition of this contradiction forced them not to remain mute. They did not stay on the sidelines and refrain from speaking out. The longer these injustices remained, the more they felt compelled to follow the commands of God rather than those of men, who reigned with terror and had begun a war of annihilation.
What distinguishes these four also is the fact that in the face of national-socialist despotism they overcame the divide between the two faiths to find a common path to fight and act together.
They had a model to follow: The Bishop of Münster, Clemens August Graf von Galen. The Four copied the sermons of the bishop and distributed them. They felt, like many others, the liberating tone of these sermons, which broke the silence and proclaimed aloud the thoughts many had in their hearts, when the Nazi action for the "destruction of unworthy lives" began, the euthanasia of innocent mentally retarded persons.
The Lübeck clergymen paid for this resistance with their lives. This sacrifice did not shorten the war, did not cause the regime to tremble. But these four are witnesses of a better world in a world of disaster and evil. They were witness to truth over lies, to dignity over contempt, witness to faith in the Lord during a time when some men brashly claimed God's throne as their own.
With this witness, sealed by their deaths, these four Lübeck clergymen are bound together as martyrs and are there for us today to follow their example. They stood together for the Church of Jesus Christ which calls injustice by name, exposes the lie and honours the compassion of God as the spring of life.
Together they died. They knew that they were in God's presence; "We are brothers" said Hermann Lange. In reality they witnessed a common bond which overcame the divide. The divisions of faiths became secondary. This is what should encourage us today to follow that which they by example had in spirit, faith and action.
Original GermanText: Ökumenischer Arbeitskreis „Lübecker Märtyrer"
English Translation: Hans-Heinrich Boeker, Wyoming, Australia