1st May 1948 Passing of Johannes Lesser – Faithful Pastor, Prussian Nationalist, “Half-Jew” #otdimjh

Johannes was the son of Heinrich Lesser, a Jewish bookseller from Halle who converted to Christianity in 1864, three years before Johannes was born on 17 February 1867. For most of his life this did not affect his career or ministry, but when the Nazi Party came to power, he was forced to retire early, denied a pension, and died on May 1st,  1948.

Johannes studied theology in Halle and Berlin, and was ordained in 1894 in the Lutheran church. He was a pastor in Wegenstedt (1894-1899), Höhnstedt (1899-1908), Müchlein (1908-10), and from 1910-1933 in Luckenwalde, an industrial area near Berlin, until 1933, when he was forced to  retire as a “half-Jew”.

Luckenwalde was an industrial city.  In the Weimar Republic, more than 90 percent of the approximately 26,000 inhabitants were politically left-wing, and the majority of the workers were also unionized.  63% were Protestant and 26.2% were non-denominational.  In 1926, 5000 parishioners left the church.  That was astonishingly high at the time.  The anti-church free thinker movement had a considerable influence. 

Lesser was a conservative politically and a liberal theologically, but above all a faithful servant of church and nation, an archetypal Prussian nationalist. His manner and style were forceful, authoritative and commanding. Yet when the Nuremberg Laws were passed (1935) forbidding those with Jewish ancestry from serving  in the professions, his popularity waned and he became an embarrassment to  friends, colleagues and ecclesiastical authorities. Despite being the district superintendent for churches in the Luckenwalde region, the rise to power of the National Socialists and the accompanying growth in influence of the German Christians who supported Hitler meant that he could no longer  serve as a minister.

At first Lesser tried to keep the peace between the German Christians and those who would become the “Confessing Church”, following Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemoller and Karl Barth. The Barmen Declaration (1934) affirmed that no civil leader or authority could usurp the authority of God. He took the oath of loyalty to the State Commissioner August Jäger on 27 June 1933 adding in his own handwriting “I sign this declaration in the expectation that nothing will be expected from me that is contrary to my vow of ordination.”

Now at the age of sixty-six and having served nearly 40 years in ministry, he had been suffering from health problems for some time and was only able to carry out his office sporadically. He asked to retire early, and the fact that Lesser was “half-Jewish” contributed to this decision. On September 21, 1933, he took part in the meeting of the parish church council for the last time.  The chairman, Pastor Gleiniger, thanked him for his work.  Lesser declined later invitations in order to save the congregation from having to face difficulties.   He moved away from Luckenwalde where he had been known and respected, to live with one of his sons in Weinböhla near Dresden. In what became East Germany he received no pension after the war, and died on May 1, 1948.

Reflection and prayer.

A long and active life in ministry shortened by the rise to power of the National Socialists, Lesser escaped arrest and deportation – probably by going under the radar away from where he was well-known. We know little of this man’s inner soul, his faith perspective, and it seems he had little regard for his Jewish identity until it put him in danger. Yet his life and ministry bear witness to the faithfulness of God in the midst of the difficult times and circumstances in which he lived. May his name be  and memory be for a blessing!

Psalm 8 For the director of music. According to gittith. [1] A psalm of David.

1 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.

2 From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

4 what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?

5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honour.

6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet:

7 all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field,

8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

9 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Source: Evangelish Getauft – als “Juden” Verfolgt [Baptised as Protestants, Persecuted as “Jews”], Theologen jüdischer Herkunft in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus – Ein Gedenkbuch. Eds. Hartmut Ludwig/Eberhard RöhmCalwer, 2014

eds. Hartmut Ludwig/Eberhard Röhm

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29 April 1916 – Birth of Ludwig Dewitz – Holocaust refugee, Old Testament theologian, Messianic apologist #otdimjh

Born Ludwig Richard Max Heymann, studied theology in Berlin 1934-36, worked in Sheffield UK and Italy with Mildmay Mission 1937-49, leader of Emmanuel Messianic Congregation, Baltimore, 1950-59, Professor of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary, 1959-1984.

Ludwig R.M. Dewitz, 1916-2000 – Obituary by Davison Philips ’43 President Emeritus, Columbia Seminary, USA

The life of Professor Ludwig Dewitz, who died November 1, 2000, reveals a pattern unlike that of any other faculty member in Columbia Seminary’s history. He not only survived the hazards and demonic forces that threatened his early life, but came to faith and ministry during one of the great crises of the twentieth century. He experienced the tumultuous history of two World Wars, the Holocaust, awesome economic depressions and ecclesiastical changes, yet believed and served the Sovereign God.

Stephania H. Davis, in her Atlanta Journal/Constitution article after his death, wrote, “He was a German, a Christian, and a Jew.” In all the chapters of his extraordinary life in Germany, England, Italy, and the United States, he survived and grew in faith and scholarship. Dewitz used his intellectual and spiritual gifts in teaching the Bible, and particularly the Old Testament. He lived and grew in the nurture of the church and his family and friends throughout the 84 years of his long and faithful life. From a 12-year-old boy in Germany to his major task as Columbia’s professor of Old Testament, he lived out his faith. In retirement, to the applause of his friends, he married his long-time friend, Miriam Brodsky, and they both were important members of the seminary community.

With thanks to Elliot Klayman – Messianic Literature Outreach

He was born in Danzig, Germany, on April 29, 1916, of Jewish parents, was adopted and grew up in Berlin. He became a Christian at a camp for boys in the Black Forest. A series of amazing events led him to England, Italy, Baltimore, Maryland, and Decatur, Georgia. It was far more than a collection of coincidences: it was in reality the work of God in that young man’s life. It began as he heard a growing flood of alarming statements about Jews, the least of which were those of the notorious minister of Nazi propaganda, Dr. Goebbels, “We shall treat the Jews as we treat flowers, only we shall not give them any water.”

For a time, Dewitz was able to study at a theological college, and later on, at an institution which had Ludwig Richard Max Dezvitz, professor emeritus of Old Testament been called into being by the Confessing Church in opposition to the teaching given at official universities. Then, one morning the Gestapo appeared, warning that further gatherings would have serious consequences. The future seemed nothing but a big continued on page 9 “question mark/’ as Dewitz described it.

In the summer of 1936, Dewitz was unexpectedly invited to a meeting in Germany with the Rev. S. H. Wilkinson, director of the Mildmay Mission to the Jews in England, who offered him a position in London. Providentially, this took place shortly after he learned that his birth mother was Jewish. His adoptive parents were required to provide a birth certificate to the Nazi authorities, and that put his life in serious danger. The following year, he fled to England. As he crossed over the border from Germany to Holland, he felt both joy and sorrow. The joy came from feeling that he would survive and carry on his ministry.

The sorrow was the feeling that he had left his home and might never experience it again. Even in England, as World War II spread across Europe and threatened Great Britain, Dewitz was interned for the duration as a German citizen. In the internment camp he began to teach the Bible, and he continued to do so with enthusiasm and effectiveness all of his life.

He also studied at the University of London by extension courses to qualify for the Bachelor of Divinity degree. Ordained for ministry by the Waldensian Church of Italy in 1949, Dewitz brought little more with him to the United States than these experiences, his degree, and his commitment as a Christian and a minister. While serving as a missionary to the Jews in Baltimore, Maryland, he studied with William F. Albright at Johns Hopkins University and received the Ph.D. in 1960. He was an exceptional linguist, mastering more than 10 languages.

Dewitz came to Columbia Seminary in 1959 as professor of Old Testament. He began an amazing and fruitful career of instruction, pastoral care, and ministry in the Presbyterian Church. After his retirement in 1983, he continued to be in great demand as a Bible teacher and preacher. His former students waited in line to secure a time in his schedule for teaching and preaching in their churches. Professor Dewitz had friends around the world, and wherever he traveled, he received hospitality from a variety of friends in various countries and cultures. Dr. Dewitz made demands on students and was sometimes disappointed in their efforts. He need not have been concerned, for most of his students came to know, respect, and admire him. He not only taught in a traditional way, but often had students sing Hebrew psalms or songs as a teaching method. His teaching beyond the campus embraced a wide variety of settings, such as youth conferences, Sunday school classes, women’s meetings, presbytery and synod programs, clergy seminars, and Young Life leadership training sessions.

One of Dewitz’s most enjoyable extracurricular activities was the regular opera classes which he held in his home. Students and staff were invited to listen to his introduction of the works and then enjoy his treasured recordings or radio broadcasts. He rarely missed Metropolitan Opera performances in Atlanta. Those who knew him often speak of many treasured associations in these varied settings. The truest thing that could be said about Ludwig Dewitz is that in his ministry he faithfully served under the authority of the God who led him through danger and disaster to a useful lifetime of witness and ministry.

Davison Philips ’43 President Emeritus

I was fortunate to meet Ludwig Dewitz in his final years at one of the International Hebrew Christian Alliance Executive Conferences – I think in the UK. I was a very new and junior member of this organisation, and he was a senior citizen and elder statesman. I was struck by his sharp intellect and gracious manner, and I think Harcourt Samuel and others looked to him as one of the finest minds in the Hebrew Christian movement of their day. I reproduce the essay he wrote celebrating the 80th birthday of H L Ellison, as part of a book of tributes to another esteemed biblical scholar and Hebrew Christian. Another point of interest – Dewitz overlapped at Columbia with Walter Brueggemann, another profound Old Testament theologian – and I wonder what influence he may have had on Brueggemann’s own sensitivity to Jewish and post-supersessionist readings of Scripture – a topic for some PhD student somewhere!

Prayer and reflection:

Lord, who would have foreseen the circumstances of Ludwig Dewitz’s life? Yet what an amazing tapestry you wove around the details of his walk of faith, and what a contribution he has made to our understanding of scripture and his witness to the Messiah. Thank you for his testimony, his scholarship and his faith – in Yeshua the Messiah’s name we pray.







1 "The Concept of Balance in the Old Testament"
… By Ludwig R. Dewitz
The Concept of Balance In The Old Testament Ludwig R. Dewitz 

If one tried to define a certain trend in recent publications pertaining to the Old Testament field of Biblical studies, it could be said that "balance" is one of the dominating factors. Anderson's panel discussions on The Old Testament and Christian Faith as well as Westermann's collection of Essays on Old Testament Hermeneutics, Barr's books on The Semantics of Biblical Language and Biblical Words for Time, the theologies of Eichrodt, Vriezen and v. Rad, however much they may differ as to method, these books focus attention on all factors involved, thus avoiding a position of imbalance. 

In this connection it is striking to note that two essays, dealing with Egypt and Mesopotamia respectively, in Frankfort's publication The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man state that the decline of these two cultures might be traced to an inherent imbalance in them. Wilson concludes: "Egypt had not had the opportunity or the capacity to work out the interrelation of man and God in terms satisfactory to both. To put it in a different context, Egypt had not had the opportunity or the capacity to work out the interrelation of the individual and the community in terms of benefit to both." 1 Similarly Jacobsen remarks concerning Mesopotamia: "Divine will and human ethics proved incom- mensurable," and then comments on the "Dialogue of Pessi- mism": "With this denial of all values, denial that a 'good life' existed, we end our survey of Mesopotamian speculative thought." 2 

We believe that one of the factors which gave Israel's faith abiding vitality when other cultures died is the factor of balance. Israel's theological thought, religious practice and social structure were balanced in such a way that from its beginning (continues here - https://archive.org/stream/colutheolo5731964colu/colutheolo5731964colu_djvu.txt)

Ludwig Dewitz is a graduate of the Universities of London and Johns Hopkins. This paper is the text of his Inaugural Address as Professor of Old Testament Languages, Literature and Exegesis, delivered in the Columbia Presbyterian Church, Decatur, Georgia, on March 18, 1964.
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21st March 1958 Passing of Franz Ehrenberg, German Jewish Theologian and teacher of Franz Rosenzweig


Hans Philipp Ehrenberg (4 June 1883 – 21 March 1958) was a German Jewish philosopher and theologian. One of the co-founders of the Confessing Church, he was forced to emigrate to England because of his Jewish ancestry and his opposition to National Socialism.

a pastor with Jewish ancestry from Westphalia who, after a
short imprisonment in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, emigrated
to England in 1939 with assistance from Dietrich Bonhoe√er.50

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4 February 1874 Robert Liefmann, Professor of Economics born #otdimjh

4 February 1874 Robert Liefmann, Professor of Economics born #otdimjh

Robert Liefmann was born the son of the wealthy Jewish merchant Sammy Liefmann and his wife Auguste Juliane. He studied economics and law in Freiburg, Berlin, Munich and Brussels.   

At the suggestion of Max Weber , he did his doctorate on business associations and antitrust and received his habilitation (after studies in England) with Magnus Biermer in Gießen in 1900. In 1904 he became an associate professor in Freiburg im Breisgau, where he was appointed full professor of economics.

In 1907 he undertook an extensive study trip through the USA, where his main areas of research were in economic organizational forms and the connections between business and psychology. In addition to corporate forms in the narrower sense, his institutional economic interests primarily concerned with  cartels and trusts. Even before the First World War , Liefmann was regarded not only in Germany, but also abroad as a luminary in the field of cartel law. In 1913 he attracted public attention through his controversy with Wilhelm Merton about the role of the Metal Company and its subsidiary, the Metal Bank, in the international metal trade.

During the First World War, Liefmann was a balloon pilot in the Vosges for a few months before he was transferred to higher education. In the early twenties he developed myasthenia , which meant that he was temporarily dependent on a wheelchair.

In 1933, his teaching position at the girls’ school and his approval for health insurance were withdrawn in the course of the first National Socialist measures. He was also excluded from the university. Although his parents had joined the Protestant faith and Robert, like his sisters, had been baptized as a Protestant, they were considered to be full Jews. Despite the circumstances, the family did not want to leave their homeland and Robert Liefmann even set aside a large amount in his will as a foundation for the University of Freiburg, with the aim of promoting the further development of his economic theory teaching.

On October 22, 1940, he and his sisters Else and Martha and all Jews from Baden and the Palatinate were deported to Camp de Gurs in southern France at the foot of the Pyrenees. There they lived separately from each other under the most primitive conditions. With the help and mediation of the secretary of the World Council of Churches in Geneva , Adolf Freudenberg , who was married to Elsa Liefmann, a cousin of the siblings, they were granted a holiday in February 1941. However, Robert Liefmann was already doomed to die and died a few days later in Morlaàs, 50 km away . It is also tragic that a little later he received permission through the University of New York to emigrate. Only his sisters were able to leave the country or flee to relatives in Switzerland.


In Germany, the family’s assets were confiscated, the property sold, and the house at Goethestrasse 33 was expropriated by the German Reich. The building was used by the Gestapo until the end of the war. Then it was confiscated by the French occupying powers, whose military police used it as a base. It then was transferred to the state of Baden-Württemberg , which established a police station there from 1949 to 2000. Today the Liefmann House is used as a guest house by the University of Freiburg. In memory of those humiliated by the National Socialists, Marlis Meckel reconstructed their life paths in 2006 and placed solperstein (“stumbling  block”) in their memory. The first solperstein was for Robert Liefmann in front of his former home, Goethestrasse 33. The inscription reads:

Stumbling stone for Robert Liefmann
Here lived
Prof. Dr. Robert Liefmann
Born in 1874
Deported in 1940
Died 20.03.1941 in Morlaàs

Prayer and reflection: A great mind whose views on economics have continued to influence thinking of cartels and the metal broking industry but caught up in the torrents that flowed through Germany and led to his death. How much of a disciple of Yeshua was Liefmann? Only God can judge! How Jewish? Enough  to  lose his life and his contribution to knowledge, civilization and the betterment of humanity cut short.  Oh Lord, forgive us our sins as we forgive the sins of others, knowing that you, the Judge of all nations, will act  justly and show mercy. In our Messiah Yeshua’s name,  who reconciles Israel and the nations we pray. Amen.

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3 February 2020 IHCA International Hebrew Christian Allliance Magazines available to download #otdimjh

Due to the kindness of a friend a vital resource for the research and history of Jewish disciples of Yeshua is now newly available online and to download. If you want to know about the history of Hebrew Christianity, Jewish Christians in antiquity and up to the present, and the modern Messianic Jewish movement, these magazines are an invaluable tool. Heroes and heroines of the modern Hebrew Christian movement of the 20th century, such as Sir Leon Levison, Harcourt Samuel, Jacob Jocz, Heinz Leuner, Hugh Schonfield and many others come alive through their articles, reviews and reports.

Here are the first few volumes – follow the links and let me know if you have a problem downloading.

Volume 2 April 1929 – January 1930

Volume 3

Volume 3 April 1930 – January 1931

Volume 4 here

Volume 4

Volumes 6 – 40 and other resources

Prayer – Thank you, Lord, for the rich history and legacy of the IHCA. May it inspire, challenge and teach us what it means to be a Jewish disciple of Yeshua today. May their memory be a blessing, and an ongoing faithful witness to your faithfulness to Israel, all nations and all creation, in the name of our Messiah Yeshua – Amen.

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21 January 2020 German court may reject appeal to remove anti-Semitic ‘Jew pig’ relic #otdimjh

German court may reject appeal to remove anti-Semitic ‘Jew pig’ relic – Times of Israel report

NAUMBURG, Germany (AP) — A court in eastern Germany indicated Tuesday that it will likely reject a Jewish man’s bid to force the removal of an ugly remnant of centuries of anti-Semitism from a church where Martin Luther once preached.

The Naumburg court’s senate said, at a hearing, that “it will maybe reject the appeal,” court spokesman Henning Haberland told reporters.

“The senate could not follow the plaintiff’s opinion that the defamatory sculpture can be seen as an expression of disregard in its current presentation,” Haberland said.

The verdict will be announced on February 4.

In this January 14, 2020 photo the so-called Judensau, or “Jew pig,” sculpture is displayed on the facade of the Stadtkirche (Town Church) in Wittenberg, Germany. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

The so-called Judensau, or “Jew pig,” sculpture on the Town Church in Wittenberg dates back to around 1300. It is perhaps the best-known of more than 20 such anti-Semitic relics from the Middle Ages that still adorn churches across Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

Located four meters (13 feet) above the ground on a corner of the church, it depicts Jews suckling on the teats of a sow, while a rabbi lifts the animal’s tail. In 1570, after the Protestant Reformation, an inscription referring to an anti-Jewish tract by Luther was added.

Judaism considers pigs impure and no one disputes that the sculpture is deliberately offensive. But there is strong disagreement about what to do with the relief.

Tuesday’s hearing was the second round in the legal dispute, which comes at a time of mounting concern about anti-Semitism in Germany. In May, a court ruled against plaintiff Michael Duellmann, who wants the relief to be taken off the church and put in the nearby Luther House museum.Plaintiff Michael Duellmann speaks prior to a trial at the Higher Regional Court in Naumburg, Germany, January 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

Judges in Dessau rejected arguments that he has a right to have the sculpture removed because it formally constitutes slander and the parish is legally responsible.

The relief “is a terrible falsification of Judaism … a defamation of and insult to the Jewish people,” Duellmann says, arguing that it has “a terrible effect up to this day.”Volker Buchloh, Presiding Judge at the Higher Regional Court in Naumburg, Germany, center, opens a trial on January 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

When the church was renovated in the early 1980s, the parish decided to leave the sandstone sculpture in place, and it was also restored. In 1988, a memorial was built on the ground underneath it, referring to the persecution of Jews and the killing of 6 million in the Nazi Holocaust.

Pastor Johannes Block from the Town Church says the church also considers the sculpture unacceptably insulting. However, he argues it “no longer speaks for itself as a solitary piece, but is embedded in a culture of remembrance” thanks to the memorial.In this January 14, 2020 photo, pedestrians walk beside the Stadtkirche (Town Church) in Wittenberg, Germany. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

“We don’t want to hide or abolish history, but take the path of reconciliation with and through history,” he says.

In Berlin, the federal commissioner for Jewish life in Germany told reporters he favored putting the relief down into a museum.In this January 14, 2020 photo, pastor Johannes Block is seen in the Stadtkirche (Town Church) in Wittenberg, Germany. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

“This would be a good contribution by the church to overcome anti-Semitism,” Felix Klein told reporters ahead of the court hearing.”

Prayer and Reflection – This case is ongoing, and may go not only to the Federal Court in Germany but also to the United Nations, as it is a world heritage site. It was never the intention to go to law, but rather to seek repentance and reconciliation between Lutherans and the Jewish people by relocating this abusive and antisemitic object as a practical demonstration of the fruits of repentance.

A prayer of forgiveness from the Jewish prayer book – I hereby forgive anyone who has angered or provoked me or sinned against me, physically or financially or by failing to give me due respect, or in any other matter relating to me, involuntarily or willingly, inadvertently or deliberately, whether in word or deed: let no one incur punishment because of me. (Jonathan Sacks, Koren Siddur, 294)

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13 January 1901 Birth of Josef Wölfel, patriotic Austrian pastor with Jewish mother #otdimjh

Josef Wölfel

Josef Wölfel was born in 1901 in Güns (Hungarian “Köszeg”), a city that came to Hungary after the end of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, two kilometres from today’s Austrian border. After completing voluntary military service with the Hungarian army from July 1919 to  January 1920 he studied philosophy in Budapest and received his PhD in 1925.  After a short teaching post, he studied Protestant Theology in Vienna and Tübingen (SS 1930), which he completed in 1930 with the First Theological Exam in Vienna.  During his studies in Vienna, he was tutor for the children of the Hungarian ambassador. 

Baptised as Protestants: Persecuted as Jews – p374-5

This was followed by further training as an independent clergyman, in September 1930 as a clerical assistant in Vienna-Floridsdorf, from February 1932 in Vienna-Landstrasse and from July 1934 as a personal vicar in the local community.  From October 1936 Wölfel was pastor of Fürstenfeld (Styria). 

After the invasion of German troops on March 12, 1938 and the “annexation” of Austria to the “Reich”, the Austrian Church also asked its pastors for proof of Aryan identity.  On April 6, 1938, the President of the Upper Church Council in Vienna, Robert Kauer, declared to the Ministry of Education that the majority of the few Protestant pastors of Jewish descent had the intention of leaving Austrian church service forever, “the intent of which the Church authorities believes it must promote in every respect.” (Unterköfler, 124). 

Accordingly, on May 11, 1938, the highest church authority asked Wölfel for a corresponding declaration regarding his “Aryan descent”.  He could not give this because he was considered a “first-degree hybrid” in the sense of the Nuremberg Laws.  Instead, on June 13, 1938, he turned to the Church council with the request for “professional equality with full Aryans”. He gave the reason that his paternal ancestors – traceable from the 16th century – were “Aryans”.  His mother, however, was a Jew by birth, and was baptisted before his parents married. She died when he was five years old.

Most of all, Wölfel cited his German nationalistic political views, which he had shown by belonging to the German minority movement in what was then nationalistic Hungary. After  1919 he could not stay in Hungary, but decided on Austria.  “And so I should like to expressly request that a life that has so far been clear and unambiguous in its direction and in its decisions should not be judged in the opposite direction.”

Superintendent Heinzelmann did not want to follow the Wölfel’s argument and  wrote on September 26, 1938 to the church council: “Since Pastor Dr.  Wölfel in Fürstenfeld was not able to provide proof of his Aryan descent properly, he should be carefully informed that he would soon have to find a post outside the Austrian Protestant Church and should familiarize himself with the idea of ​​giving up the pastorate in Fürstenfeld.

Hermann Thür, Austrian Jewish Pastor who escaped to England

This was In contrast to his colleague Pastor Hermann Thür in Kapfenberg (another non-Aryan Jewish Christian, also a“ first-degree hybrid ”, who had given up all hope of remaining with his church and fled to England.

Josef Wölfel had better chances.  On October 12, 1938, Superintendent Spanuth supported him in a letter to Superintendent Heinzelmann with two reasons:

1. In 1919, at the time of the Soviet Republic in Hungary, Wölfel had fought against communism with a weapon in his hand: “Therefore he couldn’t for one  be equated with those who fought as Jews or half-Jews in the World War and for the party?”

2. The situation of the Fürstenfeld community would justify his remaining. The Church government seemed to have endorsed this assessment.  In September 1940 he offered a sum of money in the event that Wölfel could no longer give religious instruction at state schools because of his lineage and that a representation would be necessary. 

Wölfel therefore initially remained a pastor in Fürstenfeld until the end of January 1941. On January 31, 1941, he resigned from his post and was assigned to the pastor’s office in Vienna-Schwechat as a “itinerant pastor”, but was not dismissed from service.  Until the end of the war he was employed as a reserve hospital priest in Vienna.  After the end of the Nazi regime, Josef Wölfel was a pastor in Klosterneuburg from 1947 until his death.  At the request of the presbytery, he had continued to care for the community beyond retirement age.  He died in 1973 in Klosterneuburg.  (Eberhard Röhm – my apologies for inaccuracies in style and translation!)

Astrid Schweighofer: Religious seekers in the modern age. Conversions from Judaism to Protestantism in Vienna around 1900

Prayer and reflection. My heart goes out again to this halachically Jewish, proudly patriotic German nationalist, who tried as hard as possible to remain in pastoral ministry in an Austria that was deeply antisemitic and supportive of the anti-Aryan laws of Nazi Germany. What a quandary! Just to stay alive, yet alone continue to practice in your chosen profession and follow your calling, was hard enough. His political views did not lead him to sympathise with  Bonhoeffer, Niemöller and the Confessing Church, or perhaps he new that resistance would be futile, and quickly lead to discovery and death. How might  you and I have responded? Would we have had the courage to resist evil? Would we have even believed that was the right thing to do?  “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone!” (John 8:7)

* January 13, 1901 in Güns (today Köszeg / Hungary), † September 2, 1973 in Klostererneuburg (Austria);  married.  with Margarethe, née  Jandl;  two children.  1919–1920 voluntary military service;  Studied philosophy in Budapest: 1925 doctorate in Dr.  phil;  then studied theology in Vienna and Tübingen: 1930 first theological exam in Vienna;  from September 1930 spiritual assistant in Vienna-Floridsdorf, from February 1932 in Vienna-Landstrasse;  October 1934 Ordination;  1936–1941 pastor in Fürstenfeld;  1941–1946 “flying pastor” for the parish office in Vienna-Schwechat;  1947-1973 pastor in Klosterneuburg. 


Zwischen Kreuz und Hakenkreuz – Evangelische Pfarrgemeinde

Astrid Schweighofer: Religiöse Sucher in der Moderne. Konversionen vom Judentum zum Protestantismus in Wien um 1900, Arbeiten zur Kirchengeschichte, Band 126. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2015, XXIV, 493 S., Hardcover, € 99,95, ISBN 978-3-11-036767-6.

Some questions, additions and corrections kindly supplied by my friend Heribert Binder, to be incorporated in a revised version of this post:

Herbert Ramplers book confirms on the whole the article posted in jewinthepew.org from 13th of January 2020, except one particular detail: 

Rampler says (p 294): 

Since the 1st of February 1941 Woelfel was working als a ”flying pastor” („fliegender Pfarrer”) of the Lutheran parish „Wien-Schwechat”.

And after that from1st of Nov. 1946 until his death in 1973 he again served as an officially installed pastor in Korneuburg. 

The website „jewinthepew”  characterizes his activities during the same period as:

… „itinerant pastor” … “employed as a reserve hospital priest in Vienna.” (p. 5) 

These two statements can somehow be rhymed with a lot of imagination.

BUT there is ONE bigger problem in view to that period between February 1941 and October 1947:

The book „Quellentexte zur Österr. Evangelischen Kirchengeschichte 1918 – 1945”, which is a collection of original documents from the Protestant church in Austria (being significant for the events and developments from 1918 to 1945), contains an official circular to all pastors and parishes, dated 8th of July 1945, in which Bishop May informs the clergy an den congregations about the actual (still chaotic) situation in the first months after the end of WW II. 

 In this context the bishop shared the good news, that (in the period of time 1941 to 1946)

… “Dr. Wölfel administered ((the Lutheran parish of)) St. Aegyd a. N.  and was … protected (rescued / saved) from evil” (bewahrt vor Bösem).

This information (in an official document!) poses an almost impossible puzzle!

One has to take into account that the small village from November 1944 to April 1945 was dominated by a subcamp of the Mauthausen concentration camp,  in which around 500 prisoners were driven to forced labor by around 50 SS men.

A protestant pastor, born from a Jewish mother, was a prominent personality in the life of a village,  and therefore Dr. Woelfel would have been much more in danger in St. Aegyd than in Vienna.For a serious biographical sketch of Dr. Woelfel’s life the following questions must be answered:

Where lived and worked Dr. Woelfel 1941 – 1945 really?

Was he (as a „flying pastor”) a vacancy representative in some different parishes in „Niederdonau” (today: “Lower Austria”) included the parish of St. Aegyd? Perhaps also included temporarily a ministry as pastor in Viennese hospitals? 

Or was he all the time in St. Aegyd even during the six months of closest neighborhood to the SS Concentration Camp? Nearly unimaginable!

Did Bishop May mistakenly transmit fake news or only partially correct information?

to be continued…

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12 January 1903 Birth of Theodor Carlebach, Farmer, Pastor and Vicar #otdimjh

Theodor Carlebach came from a well-respected Jewish family in Germany, which spread in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Ernst Carlebach (1838-1923) moved from Mannheim to Heidelberg in 1863 and founded a book and art antiquarian business there.  His son Rudolf (1870-1917) came to Mannheim as a notary in 1900 and married Lili Goldmann in 1901.  They had two sons: Theodor and Alfred (born February 4, 1905).  His father Rudolf Carlebach wrote several books on legal history.  When he died in 1917 and his wife had to go to hospital, the sons went to their grandparents in Heidelberg. 

As chairman of the synagogue council, Ernst Carlebach was very influential and strengthened the more conservative direction of the generally liberal Jewish community in Heidelberg.  Little information is available for Theodor Carlebach from 1917 to 1933: he received an agricultural education.  To do this, he often spent several months at various locations: from May to July 1919 he was a private student of Max Maier, a well-known educator in Weinheim.  Other places were: Reichenau, Mohring, Strasbourg, Untersiggingen and Gut Hohenhausen.  He then worked as an assistant to a Jewish charity in Berlin and helped young people at risk until the Nazis prevented him from doing so.  He prepared for the university by “a fairly extensive self-taught course” (letter of June 14, 1934 to the University of Tübingen).  1933/1934 he studied in Freiburg im Breisgau.  The year 1933 saw a profound turning point for the Carlebach brothers as “full Jews”: Alfred Carlebach, who had studied law in Berlin and Heidelberg since 1929, dropped out of study in February 1933 and emigrated to Palestine in 1934.  Theodor Carlebach turned to Christianity and was baptized on July 30, 1934 by parish priest Johannes Schneider in the Eberhardskirche in Tübingen.  Three theology students were witnesses. 

From 1934 to 1937/1938 he studied Protestant theology as a guest student in Tübingen, in the winter semester 1934/1935 in Erlangen and in the winter semester 1935/1936 in Marburg.  In the winter semester of 1936/1937 he continued his studies at the illegal church college of the Confessing Church in Wuppertal-Elberfeld.  Perhaps he continued to study underground even after the Gestapo closed the university.  In his spare time he helped at the children’s church service in Wuppertal – until the November pogrom in 1938.

In January 1939, Theodor Carlebach tried to emigrate to England with the help of Pastor Hermann Maas in Heidelberg and the “Pastor Grüber” office in Berlin.  His name can be found on two lists of theologians who were able to come to England at the invitation of Bishop George Bell.  According to a list, Pastor Adolf Freudenberg suggested Carlebach to emigrate to Venezuela because he had an agricultural and theological education and could therefore work as a pastor and farmer. 

He arrived in England on July 21, 1939.  After the war began, Carlebach – like all Germans – was interned on the Isle of Man.  From 1939 to 1942 he studied theology at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford, passed both theological exams, was ordained a deacon in September 1942 and a priest in the Diocese of Southwark (London) in 1943.  From 1942 to 1953 he was a clergyman (curate) in various parishes in south London: from 1942 to 1945 at St. Andrews Church in Lambeth, from 1945 to 1946 at Holy Trinity Church in Richmond, Surrey, from 1946 to 1949  at St. James Church in West Streatham, from 1949 to 1950 at St. James in Gravesend / Kent, from 1950 to 1953 at St. Paul’s in Salisbury / Wiltshire. 

Theodor Carlebach married to the widow Hilda Axcell in Gravesend.  Her daughter Christine was born in 1951 (and is a friend of many in the Messianic movement).  From 1953 to 1973 he was a priest in parishes in the counties of Derbyshire and Staffordshire (central England): from 1953 to 1961 Vicar in Swadlincote, from 1961 to 1970 Vicar St. Luke’s in Bilston and from 1970 to 1973 Curate St. Luke’s and St.  Paul’s in Leek.  His wife Hilda helped him with community work.  Rev. Theodor Carlebach was remembered as a calm-tempered man.  In retirement the Carlebachs lived in Streetly and belonged to the Church of the Brethren.  Theodor Carlebach died in Streetly in August 1977.  (Hartmut Ludwig)

Prayer and Reflection: I met Christine Carlebach in the 1980s but had not idea of her family’s history. I am now full of admiration and gratitude for men and women like Theodor, for the trials they went through, for the faith they demonstrated, and for those who helped them along the way. This important chapter in the history of Jewish disciples of Jesus stands as a reminder of the faithfulness of God in the times of genocide and trauma that have affected our people over the millennia, but whose survival demonstrates the preservation of a remnant despite all odds. May we honour their memory by living out their faith and convictions!

Theodor Carlebach * January 12, 1903 in Mannheim, † August 30, 1977 in Streetly (England);  Verth.  with Hilda, née  Allen, used  Axcell (1919-2010);  one daughter 1912-1917 high school Mannheim;  Agricultural training;  Jewish welfare organization in Berlin;  1933/1934 studies in Freiburg;  July 30, 1934 baptism;  1934–1937 theological studies in Tübingen, Erlangen, Marburg, Wuppertal: July 1939 emigration;  Studied theology in Qxford;  Ordained deacon in 1942 and priest in 1943;  1943–1973 Reverend of the Anglican Church.



Click to access LP_4299_Evangelisch_getauft.pdf

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7 January 1977 Passing of Adolph Freudenberg – Friend of Bonhoeffer, Lawyer, Pastor, Ecumenist #otdimjh

Adolph Freudenberg – WCC archive

Adolf Freudenberg, who because of his marriage to a “non-Aryan” woman had to emigrate to England in March 1939, was a diplomat and a member of the Confessing Church. He was a personal friend of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and hosted him on his visits to London. After April 1939, in London he organized the refugee work for the provisional World Council of Churches, which he later carried out from Switzerland.

Adolf Emil Freudenberg (* 4. April 1894 in Weinheim; † 7. Januar 1977 in Bad Vilbel) war ein deutscher Diplomat und evangelischer Pfarrer.

After graduating with a legal doctorate Adolf Freudenberg joined as a lawyer in the service of the Foreign Office. In 1934 he was Legal Chief in the cultural policy department.

Adolph and Elsa Freudenberg

Due to the Jewish descent of his wife Elsa Liefmann (born February 19, 1897, † December 1, 1988), a cousin of Robert Liefmann, he retired from public service in 1934 and began a year later, at the Bethel Theological College of the Confessing Church to study theology. He was ordained by the Dahlem Brotherhood.

In 1939 he succeeded in emigrating, first to London, where he was admitted to the German Lutheran Church of St. George and its pastor Julius Rieger. The Ecumenical Council of Churches, which was being set up, entrusted him with the care of refugees from Germany and brought him to Geneva in the summer of 1939 to build the Council’s refugee agency. Here he also repeatedly hosted Dietrich Bonhoeffer during his conspiratorial trips to Geneva during the Second World War .

After the war Freudenberg belonged to the first ecumenical delegation in the run-up to the Stuttgart confession of guilt over the Holocaust.

Holy Spirit Church in Heilsberg

In 1947 he returned to Germany and became pastor of the refugee settlement Heilsberg in Bad Vilbel, at the Protestant Holy Spirit Church. In 1952 he founded the “Protestant Working Group for Service to Israel in Hesse and Nassau”, the current working group Church and Israel in the Protestant Church of Hesse and Nassau .

His daughter, born in 1922 Brigitte († 1986) was a Protestant theologian and parish worker and was married to Helmut Gollwitzer .

They belong to the Freudenberg family, which owns the Freudenberg Group .

Letter from Bonhoeffer: To Henry Smith Leiper
Dear Dr. Leiper,
I have just received a letter from Dr. Freudenberg asking me urgently not to take over the refugee-post if I wish to go back to Germany. He also calls my attention to the fact that there are many of our confessional pastors who will never be able to return to Germany and from whom, therefore, I should not take away the chance of this post. I hope you will be able to spare an hour of your time to-morrow for me. We must get clear about it.

With many thanks and best regards, Yours ever
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I hope you have got my last letter.(http://ms.augsburgfortress.org/downloads/0800698150Chapter1.pdf?redirected=true p176)

Prayer and Reflection. It is deeply moving to see the courage and perseverance of these accidental saints. Simply by being married to someone who was Jewish, the course of Freudenberg’s life, like many others, took an unlikely turn. His legal and political skills were turned to the work of survival, then resistance, then post-war reconciliation. Thank God for such unintentional service, to Germany, the Church, the Jewish people, and all humanity! May Freudenberg’s name and memory be for a blessing, and may we too be inspired to make a difference in a needy and suffering world. In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen.

Visits to Geneva. In: Wolf-Dieter Zimmermann (ed.), Meetings with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. 4th edition, Christian Kaiser Verlag , Munich 1969, pp. 158-161
Two speeches. Hrsg. German Coordinating Council of the Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation , Frankfurt 1955. Contains: Task and Limit of Tolerance by Eugen Gerstenmaier . Speech for the opening of the Week of Brotherhood , Munich, March 6, 1955; The obligatory background of our work by Freudenberg. Speech held at the board meeting of the German Coordination Council, Offenbach, 2 June 1955
Anti-Semitism, Judaism, State of Israel. Voice, Frankfurt 1963 (Series: Answers, 3)
In the outdoors Geneva. [1] In: “Liberators being dragged to death!” Ecumenism through closed borders 1939-1945 (= series of reading signs). Vorw. Helmut Gollwitzer. Kaiser, Munich 1989 ISBN 3459015918 P. 16-6. [2]
as publisher: Save it! French and the Geneva Ecumenism in the service of the persecuted of the Third Reich. Protestant publishing house Zollikon EVZ, Zurich 1969 [3]
Au-delà des frontières. L’action du Conseil Ecumenique des Eglises, in Les clandestins de Dieu. CIMADE 1939–1944 Hgg. Jeanne Merle d’Aubigné, Violette Mouchon, Émile C. Fabre. Fayard, Paris 1968; again Labor & Fides, Geneva 1989 ISBN 2830905881 pp. 39–61 (in French). In English: God’s underground. CIMADE 1939–1945: accounts of the activity of the French Protestant church during the German occupation of the country in World War II. Compilation and contributions: Jeanne Merle d’Aubigné and Violette Mouchon. Hrsg. Emile C. Fabre. Introduction Marc Boegner ; a chapter on CIMADE today. Translated by William and Patricia Nottingham. Bethany, St. Louis (Missouri), 1970

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6 January 1215 Death of Saint Raymund de Peñaforte, Medieval Polemicist, Mission Strategist and Patron Saint of Lawyers #otdimjh

From Richard Harvey: Raimundus Martini and the Pugio Fidei

Raymond de Peñaforte was born in Villafrance del Penades in Northern Spain between 1175-1180. He trained at the University of Bologna (1210). On graduation in 1216 he received his doctorate and teaching licence, and returned to Barcelona where he became instructor in the Seminary. He entered the Benedictine Order of Preachers (Ordo Praedicatorum) in 1222.

The Decretales, a compendium of Canon Law and anti-Jewish legislation

In 1230 he was chosen by Pope Gregory IX to be his personal confessor, and remained in Rome where he influenced Papal policy towards Jews and Moslems, and the fortunes of the Dominican Order. Whilst in Rome he edited Gratian’s Decretum and compiled the Decretales, a comprehensive summary of previous ecclesiastic legislation on social interaction and missionary expansion amongst Jews and Moslems. This led to increased missionary activity and standardised new methods of approach.

Peñaforte chose Raymond Martini to study at the Studium Arabicum founded in 1250 for the study of Arabic and Hebrew. Those who passed through the school received the licentia disputandi giving them the privileges, resources and protection necessary to itinerant friars wishing to engage Jews and Moslems in dispute on matters of faith. The first s t u d i u m was in Murcia, with others in Jativa, Valencia, Barcelona and Tunis.

Raymond de Peñaforte regulated procedures against heresy, and petitioned James I of Aragon to support such activities. Peñaforte encouraged Thomas Aquinas to write the Summa Contra Gentiles as a means of attracting converts to Christianity.

Whilst at Rome he edited and revised the constitution of the Dominican Order. In 1238 he was appointed Master General, but relinquished the post two years later, and returned to the convent at Barcelona. In 1263 he was present at the Debate between Astruc Ben Porta (Nachmanides) and Paulo Christiani, and is referred to in the proceedings7.

Raymond de Peñaforte was responsible, with Paulo Christiani, for the organising and structuring of the debate as a test case for the new argumentation developed by the Dominicans. He presided over subsequent measures taken against the Jewish community of Barcelona and the marshalling of Christian missionary forces throughout Europe8. After the debate four decrees were issued by James I in compliance with the friars’ aspirations. Jews were compelled to attend Christian sermons; blasphemies were to be expurgated from the Talmud and other Jewish writings; a censorship commission was established; and Paulo Christiani was empowered to continue and expand his missionising activities.

According to Nachmanides’ report of events Raymond de Peñaforte was to be found in the Synagogue of Barcelona eight days after the

debate of 1262 preaching on the Trinity. He died in in Barcelona on the sixth of January 1275, having combined services to the Dominican Order and Catholic Church with a wealth of scholastic work and legal reform. Not only had he set the scene for Martini’s activities, but had through his own endeavours laid down the overall strategy, if not the specific tactics, of the apologetic approach Martini would develope.

Prayer and Reflection. Despite the scholarship and personal engagement with Jews, Jewish Christians and Muslim’s, Penaforte’s motives, method and message were primarily hostile and polemical. Whilst the arguments he compiled were the most up-to-date, the schools he formed the most effective in equipping preachers, and the men he influenced such as Thomas Aquninas, Paulo Christiani and Raymundus Martini the most significant contributors to Jewish-Christian debate in the Middle Ages, his legacy is one of forced sermons, conversions under duress and the exacerbation of Jewish mistrust and fear of Christians. Whilst he is honoured and remembered as a saint today, his memory is bad news for Jews and shows the church how much it needs to repent of, and seek forgiveness and reconciliation for its anti-judaism. Lord have mercy!

Collect for 7th January


O God, who adorned the Priest Saint Raymond with the virtue of outstanding mercy and compassion for sinners and for captives, grant us, through his intercession, that, released from slavery to sin, we may carry out in freedom of spirit what is pleasing to you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


San Raimondo da Penafort – Vito Carrera 1602 cm 356×281 olio su tela presso la Cappella del SS. Rosario, Verona

Saint Raymond of Penafort, a Dominican priest who worked to aid Christian captives during the era of the Crusades and also helped organize the Church’s legal code, will be celebrated liturgically on Jan. 7.

A contemporary of Saint Thomas Aquinas, he inspired the theologian to write the “Summa Contra Gentiles” for the conversion of non-Catholics. At least 10,000 Muslims reportedly converted as a result of St. Raymond’s evangelistic labors.

Descended from a noble family with ties to the royal house of Aragon, Raymond of Penafort was born during 1175 in the Catalonian region of modern-day Spain near Barcelona.

He advanced quickly in his studies, showing such a gift for philosophy that he was appointed to teach the subject in Barcelona by age 20. As a teacher, the young man worked to harmonize reason with the profession and practice of Catholic faith and morals. This included a notable concern for the poor and suffering.

Around age 30 the Spanish scholar went to study secular and Church law at Bologna in Italy. He earned his doctorate and taught there until 1219, when the Bishop of Barcelona gave him an official position in the diocese. During 1222, the 47-year-old Raymond joined the Dominican order, in which he would spend the next 53 years of his remarkably long life.

As a penance for the intellectual pride he had once demonstrated, the former professor was asked to write a manual of moral theology for use by confessors. The resulting “Summa Casuum” was the first of his pioneering contributions to the Church. Meanwhile, in keeping with his order’s dedication to preaching, the Dominican priest strove to spread the faith and bring back lapsed and lost members of the Church.

During his time in Barcelona, Raymond helped Saint Peter Nolasco and King James of Aragon to establish the Order of Our Lady of Mercy, whose members sought to ransom those taken captive in Muslim territory. During this same period Raymond promoted the Crusades through preaching, encouraging the faithful to defend their civilization from foreign threats.

Pope Gregory IX called the Dominican priest to Rome in 1230, asking him to compile the Church’s various decisions and decrees into one systematic and uniform collection. The resulting five books served for centuries as a basis of the Church’s internal legal system. Raymond was the Pope’s personal confessor and close adviser during this time, and nearly became the Archbishop of Tarragona in 1235. But the Dominican did not want to lead the archdiocese, and is said to have turned down the appointment.

Later in the decade, Raymond was chosen to lead the Dominicans, though he did so for only two years due to his advancing age. Ironically, however, he would live on for more than three decades after resigning from this post. During this time he was able to focus on the fundamentals of his vocation: praising God in prayer, making him known through preaching, and making his blessings manifest in the world. Raymond’s later achievements included the establishment of language schools to aid in the evangelization of non-Christians.

St. Raymond of Penafort’s long pilgrimage of faith ended on Jan. 6, 1275, approximately 100 years after his birth. Pope Clement VIII canonized him in 1601. His patronage extends toward lawyers in general, and canon lawyers in particular.

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