Albert Merz

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Brandenburg-Görden Prison (1931)

Albert Merz (d. April 3, 1941) was a German Christadelphian who was executed for refusing to bear arms in the Second World War.[1]

Albert Merz belonged to the Merz family of southern Germany who were leading members of what was then known as the Urchristen ("Primitive Christian"),[2] which was the German name for the Christadelphian church in Germany. The Urchristen church had its German origins due in part to the efforts of a Stuttgart tradesman Albert Maier who had travelled to the United States before World War 1 and had been introduced to Christadelphian beliefs while residing in America. Albert Maier subsequently joined the Christadelphian church there and then returned to Germany to the Stuttgart area before start of hostilities. His efforts to introduce others to Christadelphian teaching was instrumental in establishing the Christadelphian church in southern Germany.

After the Nazi rise to power in 1933, the Christadelphian church, or as they were then known - the Urchristen, attracted particular attention for their pro-Jewish views and their belief that God would restore the Jews to a national homeland in Israel.[3]

The first member of the Merz family to be incarcerated was August Merz who was condemned to a concentration camp for religious and political prisoners in 1938, where he survived six years until the camp was liberated in 1945. The next was Rudolf Merz who was committed to an insane asylum for his pacifist views. He too survived.[4]

Albert Merz was called up for military service in early 1941, but immediately refused on the basis of conscientious objection as his brothers had done before him. He was sent to the Brandenburg-Görden Prison where he was executed on April 3, 1941.[5]

He wrote a farewell letter to his parents and siblings containing the poem:

"What you are, be it all totally
not only the blossoms, the bright,
but also the leaf, the simple,
has significance for the crown." [6]

His reference to a "crown" (German Kranz, laurel crown) is probably an allusion to Christadelphian belief in resurrection[7] and 2 Timothy 4:8.

References[edit]

  1. ^ James Irvin Lichti Houses on the sand?: pacifist denominations in Nazi Germany 2008 Page 65 "Albert Merz was executed in Brandenburg military detention prison on April 3, 1941; his brother Rudolf was also incarcerated. Both refused to bear arms. "
  2. ^ The German Christadelphians largely ceased using this name and adopted the Anglicized name Die Christadelphians in the early 1980s after the appearance of the Universal Life religion which also used the name
  3. ^ Bogner "Das Jahr 1933, ein Schicksalsjahr der Weltgeschichte, brachte auch für uns einschneidende Veränderungen. Hitlers Feindschaft gegen die Juden richtete sich auch gegen uns, weil wir Freunde Israels sind. Einige Brüder, die zum Wehrdienst eingezogen werden sollten, verweigerten diesen und wurden deshalb zu je eineinhalb Jahren Gefängnis verurteilt."
  4. ^ Bogner "Dann kam der zweite Weltkrieg. Nun wurde Bruder August Merz ins Konzentrationslager gebracht, wo er sechs Jahre bis zum Kriegsende ausharren musste. Sein Bruder Rudolf wurde in eine Irrenanstalt eingewiesen und dort ebenfalls bis zum Kriegsende festgehalten."
  5. ^ Bogner "Ende des Jahres 1940, im zweiten Kriegsjahr, ist Bruder Albert Merz zum Wehrdienst aufgerufen und nach Kriegsdienstverweigerung am 4. April 1941 in Berlin hingerichtet worden. Ein leuchtendes Vorbild im Glauben war er noch mit seinem Abschiedsbrief aus dem Gefängnis in Berlin, indem er die Geschwister zur Treue im Glauben ermahnte und die Kinder zum Gehorsam gegen ihre Eltern."
  6. ^ “Was du bist, das sei auch ganz, nicht allein die Blüt‘, die lichte, sondern auch das Blatt, das schlichte, hat Bedeutung für den Kranz.”
  7. ^ See, e.g., H. P. Mansfield, The Resurrection of the Dead.