The Kaufmann family member Bernhard Herzfeld was born in the Berlin Sophiengemeinde district. Their son Bernhard was baptized here in April 1915 and confirmed in March 1927. After the death of his father in 1924, his mother married the merchant Franz Weber in March 1928. In September 1933, he adopted her two sons. They no longer had to carry the typical Jewish name “Herzfeld”. That did not change the fact that they were considered “half-Jews” by their biological father in the Nazi era.
A difficult time began for Bernhard Weber in 1933, because he began to experience all the evils of Nazi racial hatred/ The German-Christian parish councilor Lietzensee (Charlottenburg) dismissed him as youth leader. He was “mobbed by many on the street as a “Jew Pig” (Judenschwein). “The hatred against me was all the more angry because – as long as I still had the opportunity to do so – I vigorously attended public meetings etc. to preserve the ‘Protestant Youth’ and fought to prevent our group from being integrated into the “Hitler Youth” (Life Story, 1947).
At university he lost his rights and economic privileges due to his exclusion from the German Student Union. These disappointments caused his German-national idealism, but also his belief, to go into a crisis. Then he heard about Luther’s theology of the cross and read Karl Barth’s “Theological Existence Today!”. So he learned what theology really is. The Barmen Declaration in 1934 showed him “that I can only belong to the Confessing Church”. He promoted it wherever he could. As a “passionate fighter against Nazi ideologies and measures”, he was part of the “Brotherhood of Young Theologians” in Berlin. Theologians gathered in it, who consistently followed the decisions of the Barman and Dahlemer confessional synods of 1934, recognizing only their fraternal council as church leaders and rejecting compromises with the German Christians.
After studying theology in Berlin from 1930 to 1935, he took the first theological exam in November 1935 before being commissioned by the Berlin Fraternal Council. After the Vicariate from 1935 to 1937 with Pastor Willy Praetorius in Berlin-Lichterfelde, he attended the Preaching Classes of the Confessing Church in Bloestau (East Prussia) at his own request since April 1937. When its director Hans Joachim Iwand was expelled from East Prussia, all the clergy went with him to Jordan (part of the Prussian province of Brandenburg / Neumark) to complete their training there. The theology and the experience of the brotherhood of Confessing Christians deeply influenced Weber.
From September 1937 he was again a Praedicant (official preacher) in Berlin-Lichterfelde, then an assistant preacher. He built up youth work and was not afraid to fight the Hitler Youth. He was interrogated by the Gestapo and once appeared before the special court.
His young disciples later explained: “For us boys he was the model of a passionate fighter for the truth and for the sole authority of the Word of God.”
In June 1938 he passed the Second Theological Examination of the Brotherhood. In June 1938 he was ordained by Superintendent Martin Albertz in the Jesus Christ Church in Berlin-Dahlem. Weber rejected requests by the ordination panel to be under German Christian regulation: “I am bound to the path of the Confessing Church. The brother council will arrange everything that is necessary for me. ”
On April 1, 1940 he was drafted into the army, but was soon released as a“ first-degree mischling (hybrid)”. From June 1940 he was an assistant preacher with Pastor Heinrich Grüber in Berlin-Kaulsdorf. Grüber entrusted him with the care of the “first-degree mixed race (mischling)”.
During a Bible class in Weber’s at Pastor Grüber‘s office in Berlin, Oranienburger Strasse 20, he met Wilma Seelig (1916-2008), who was also a “half-Jew”. They married on May 24, 1941.
After Grűber’s arrest in December 1940, Weber initially stayed in Berlin-Kaulsdorf. The German-Christian superintendent Johannes Schleuning denounced him in the consistory, which is why he had to leave the community. From June 1941 to January 1946 he was an assistant preacher in Proschim (Spremberg district). Since the Webers kept silent about being “half-Jews,” the risk of discovery was always great. Again there were conflicts with the NSDAP (National Socialist Workers), the family fled from the Red Army in 1945 to Flensburg, where Weber was a youth pastor. They returned in February 1946. Weber became pastor of Sorno (1946-1950) and Cottbus (1950-1956). From 1947 to 1956 he was also a parish priest. On July 1, 1956, he became superintendent in Fürstenwalde. Weber campaigned for persecuted people in the GDR and enjoyed a high reputation in the church communities. In July 1961 he died not yet 50 years old.
Prayer and Reflection: We cannot but be moved by the faith, passion and perseverance of this godly pastor, his ongoing ministry whilst always in danger of discovery, and his preaching of the Good News of the Messiah to all who would listen. We are filled with compassion and admiration for those like Bernhard and Wilma, themselves Jewish, German and disciples of Yeshua, who lived and served in dark times under genocidal tyranny. May God have mercy on all those who live under persecution, and may God have mercy on us with our comforts and freedoms, if we do not step in to resist evil and make for true peace and reconciliation – witnessing to the love and self-giving of our Messiah Yeshua. Amen.
Summary: Bernhard Weber (until 1933 Bernhard Herzfeld) Born December 28, 1911 in Berlin, died July 27, 1961 in Berlin; married. Wilma, née Seelig, three sons. 1930-1935 studied theology in Berlin; 1935 First theological examination; 1935-1940 Vicar, later Predicant and auxiliary preacher in Berlin-Lichterfelde; 1937 preaching seminar in Bloestau; 1938 Second theological examination and ordination; 1940 Wehrmacht; 1940–1941 auxiliary preacher in Berlin-Kaulsdorf; 1941–1946 auxiliary preacher in Proschim; 1946-1950 pastor in Sorno, 1950-1956 in Cottbus; 1956-1961 superintendent in Fürstenwalde.
Source: Evangelisch Getauft – Als “Juden” Velogt – Baptised as Protestants, Persecuted as Jews – eds. Hartmut Ludwig, Everhard Röhm, 2014, Calwer Verlag, pp.360-1. (Hartmut Ludwig)