|Blessed Bernhard Lichtenberg|
Fr. Bernhard Lichtenberg
|Priest and martyr|
|Born||3 December 1875
Ohlau, Prussian Silesia, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
|Died||5 November 1943
While being transported from Berlin to Dachau concentration camp, Germany
|Honored in||Roman Catholic Church
|Beatified||23 June 1996, Germany, by Pope John Paul II|
|Major shrine||St. Hedwig's Cathedral,
The Blessed Bernhard Lichtenberg (3 December 1875 – 5 November 1943) was a German Roman Catholic priest and theologian, who died while in the custody of forces of the Third Reich. He has been awarded the title of Righteous among the Nations, and has been beatified by the Catholic Church.
Lichtenberg began his ministry in Berlin in 1900 as the pastor of Charlottenburg. For a time he also was a member of the local parliament for the Centre Party. In 1931, the Bishop of Berlin appointed him as a canon of the Cathedral chapter of St. Hedwig and in 1938 as provost of the cathedral, entrusting to him the task of helping Jewish community of the city. After Kristallnacht, the first organized Nazi pogrom in Germany, Lichtenberg would pray publicly for the Jews at Vespers services.
He protested in person to Nazi officials the arrest and killing of the sick and mentally ill as well as the persecution of the Jews. At first, the Nazis dismissed the priest as a nuisance. Father Lichtenberg was warned that he was in danger of being arrested for his activities, but he continued nonetheless. Deploring the regime of concentration camps like that of Dachau, he organized demonstrations against them outside certain camps.
In 1942, Lichtenberg protested against the euthanasia programme by way of a letter to the chief physician of the Reich
I, as a human being, a Christian, a priest, and a German, demand of you, Chief Physician of the Reich, that you answer for the crimes that have been perpetrated at your bidding, and with your consent, and which will call forth the vengeance of the Lord on the heads of the German people."
Lichtenberg was arrested and condemned to prison. Because he was considered incorrigible, he was sent to the Dachau concentration camp, but he collapsed and died while in transit, on 5 November 1943.
On 23 June 1996, Pope John Paul II declared Lichtenberg and Karl Leisner "blessed" martyrs. The beatification ceremony took place during a Mass celebrated in the stadium that Hitler had constructed for the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.
- Bernhard Lichtenberg article at Yad Vashem.
- Gilbert, Sir Martin, The Second World War: A Complete History, p. 228, MacMillan 2004
- Kevin P. Spicer, “Resisting the Third Reich: The Catholic Clergy in Hitler's Berlin,” (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2004). See chapter 7, "The Unique Path of Bernhard Lichtenberg."