Hermann Alois Anton Thür was an Austrian, a Jew, a Catholic monk and priest, a Protestant Pastor, Anglican Vicar and Holocaust survivor. Today would have been his 120th birthday. He is one of a generation of “Jews in the Pew” whose lives and ministries were dramatically altered by the rise of National Socialism and the Second World War, many of whom are still unknown to the present generation of Jewish disciples of Yeshua, yet whose very existence and survival challenges us to learn from them and follow in their footsteps. What surprises me about Hermann Thür is how little we know about him, and how his life was lived without publicity or renown, but as a humble servant of God and others.
Hermann Thür (old German – “door” ) was born in Matzleinsdorf near Melk (Lower Austria), in the region of Vienna. See below the video of a pageant in 1909, in which he may well have participated.
At the age of eighteen he took his final school examinations at the Schottengymnasium in Vienna. After six month’s military service he became a novice in the Benedictine abbey which was part of the attached to the to the Institutde in Vienna where he studied from1919-1922 Catholic theology, and spent time in (1920/1921) in Rome. He was ordained in 1922 and was a cantoral priest (1922/1923). In 1924/1925 he undertook further studies in history, at the Faculty of Arts.
I would love to know more about his change from being a Catholic to Protestantism from 1926–1929 when he became a Protestant minister. He joined the Lutheran Church and studied at the Faculty for Protestant Theology in Vienna. In 1929 he served as an assistant minister and from 1930 was pastor in Kapfenberg. 
He was elected pastor on October 12, 1930 in Kapfenberg (by the congregation) and officially appointed (by the church leadership) on January 28, 1931.
Ordained on 1.3.1931 in Villach.
When he was asked by the OKR to prove his (purebred) Aryan ancestry, he was unable to do so. He was one of two Styrian pastors could not provide an exclusively Aryan family tree.
Thür (Thur) in Kapfenberg and Dr. Wölfel (Woelfel) in Fürstenfeld. One of them had to leave the Austrian church and country, the other was permitted to remain under exceptional conditions.
Since January 1931 he had been a pastor in Kapfenberg. After the invasion of German troops on March 12, 1938 and the “annexation” of Austria to the “Reich”, the Austrian Church also demanded “pastoral evidence” from its pastors. Already on May 11, 1938, the responsible superintendent Heinzelmann asked Hermann Thür for the relevant evidence.
On July 4, 1938, the latter replied: “For my wife [Hilda Theodora] , proof is readily available; I can provide proof on my mother’s side, but not on my father’s side. It was immediately clear to me that this would no longer be enough for the Evangelical Church in Austria.
“I was therefore on March 17th of the year at the church headquarters in Vienna and the Superintendent Dr. Eder explained the situation to me personally. He specifically instructed me to remain calm in office for the time being and from here to establish ties with foreign countries. [..] I will of course resolve my relationship here as soon as possible to remain in office.”
He was greatly pressured by the pastor, Karl Hubatschek, a fanatical National Socialist who had left the church in 1942. Thür also did not expect any support from the senior church leader Spanuth.
The latter wrote to Superintendent Heinzelmann: “May I allow myself the suggestion: ask not only about his [Thürs’] but especially about his wife’s ancestry; she looks even more Jewish than he looks” So Hermann Thür only had to ask the church authorities for a grace period.
On January 17, 1939, he wrote to Elder Spanuth: “Could you set it up so that I have a certain amount of leeway? I would suggest, for example: I quit my position in the pastorate on March 1st. If I should be ready to travel before this day, I would go on vacation for the rest of the time. It goes without saying that I will not pay for this vacation.”
Hermann Thür resigned on January 31, 1939 and followed Bishop Bell’s invitation to England. He was exempted from internment as an “enemy alien” and worked as assistant minister at St Saviour’s Brockley in South London. His details from the 1939 registration show him as “Assistant Priest, St Saviour’s” as his wife Hilda’s profession as “unpaid domestic duties”.
He became a member of the Church of England in 1939, was an assistant pastor in St Saviour’s Brockley Hill from 1940 to 1941, then in Wandsworth in London from 1941 to 1951. He now called himself Hermann Thur.
From 1951 to 1980, Hermann Thur was Vicar) was in the parish of Paston west of Knapton in the county of Norfolk.
His wife Hilda Theodora, was born on 25th September 1903, died at the age of 71, in 1974. I have not found any details of relatives or children.
Hermann died on 20th December 1984, in Sun Court Nursing Home in Sheringham, Norfolk, a few miles up the coast from his beloved church in Paston, at the age of 84.
Prayer and Reflection
Some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Yet Hermann Thür does not fit these categories, except that he was born into a world of turbulent times, and was faithful to his calling as a minister of the Good News of the Messiah wherever he was. I am curious to know his inner life of faith, his reasons for the choices that he made, and the impact and legacy of his life and ministry.
Thanks be to God for his servants!
With special thanks to Rev. Heribert Binder in Austria for his help with research, and Nicholas Bardswell for photos and information from Paston, Norfolk
Main source: “Evangelisch Getauft – Als “Juden” Verfolgt – Baptised as Protestants: Persecuted as Jews”.
Quelle / Source: RAMPLER Herbert,
Evangelische Pfarrer und Pfarrerinnen der Steiermark seit dem Toleranzpatent
Hgg. von der Historischen Landeskommission für Steiermark, XL. Bd., im Selbstverlag,
Protestant Clergy in Styria since the Tolerance Patent (Declaration of Tolerance) (1998)
Ed. by the Commission for History of the Federal State Styria, vol. XL., Graz: Self-publishing
It is so encouraging how many godly messianic Jews there were back in the 1930s! And of course Austria was and is particularly anti-semitic – I well remember working in the Tyrol as a travel agent back in the 1950s and having to keep quiet about being Jewish! Warmly, Martin