Pastor Anton Ursprunguch was a pastor in Frankfurt-am-Main for more than three decades and was well-loved and popular throughout the region. He was a pastor at the St. Paulsgemeinde (1899-1925) and then at the Dreikönigsgemeinde in Sachsenhausen (1925-1933).
Pastor Urspruch’s wife Berta Grünebaum was Jewish, as were many of his friends. During the rise of National Socialism they came to him for help, and he provided them with ways of escaping arrest – certificates of baptism. Of the 700 certificates of baptism given to Jewish people in the Frankfurt churches between 1900 and 1934, more than 50 were issued by him, more than by any other minister.
He was the nephew of the composer of the same name (1850-1907), whose Piano Concerto can be heard here.
The Frankfurt Jewish community, prestigious families such as the Katzenellenbogen, Schmidt-Fellner and Brodnitz families, all had close friendships with this ebullient and well-liked minister. Almost all the members of these families, who were close with him and among themselves, were originally baptized as children or adults. Urspruch maintained contact with numerous Jewish or mixed Jewish-Christian families, baptized their children and conducted church marriages for them. Yet despite his earnest efforts members of all three families were arrested, taken to extermination and concentration camps and murdered.
In 1933, under pressure of work, ill health and under scrutiny for his efforts to help his wife’s community, he took early retirement “due to illness.” He was a marked man, and crushed by the fate of the Jewish community that he was unable to prevent. He died on May 3, 1942.
His efforts at protecting them did not go unnoticed, and Ursprung’s legacy was misused by his long-time opponent Pastor Georg Struckmeier (1885–1974) as evidence of what happened during those years. Struckmeier, who belonged to the German Christians and was a member of the Nazi party, tried to absolve himself and the church of any responsibility for their crimes. In his “Memories of the Time of National Socialist Tyranny” spoken on tape for the Frankfurt City Archives in 1962, he explains on the topic of “the Church and Judaism” that it was “a matter of course that the Christian churches had nothing to do with the persecution of Jews in the Third Reich, As evidence he cited the “baptizing” pastor of Frankfurt.
Prayer and reflection: I am shocked and horrified at the complex and tragic situation of my people during this period of history, and grateful for all who sought to help them. Anton Urspruch was one such person. His efforts to be a support and blessing did not go unnoticed, but there is no memorial to him, as far as I know. May his name and memory be for a blessing.
Lord, help us to do the best we can with what you give us, as you helped Anton Urspruch. May our lives be given in service to you and to all humanity, and may we leave a legacy for others of courage, faith and service. In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen.
Source: Evangelisch getauft – als »Juden« verfolgt – Hartmut Ludwig (Editor), Eberhard Röhm (Editor)
Anton and Berta Ursprung * November 23, 1869 in Frankfurt / Main, † May 3, 1942 in Bad Tölz: mated with Berta, born Green tree. 1890–1894 studied Protestant Theology in Halle; 1894 First Thenological Exam, 1896 Second Theological Exam; 1899–1925 pastor at the St. Paul congregation in Frankfurt / Main, 1925–1933 pastor at the Dreikönias congregation in Frankfurt-Sachsenhausen; 1933 early retirement “due to illness”. \
Yes, I also find myself constantly burdened when reading such stories. Being old enough to remember the shock in our family when we discovered in 1945 what had happened to our people generally and also within our own wider family, this never leaves me. But, as you say, one is thankful for those ‘righteous Gentiles’ who did what they could and even suffered with/for us. So, thank you for this posting on Urspruch. Martin