Franz Jägerstätter

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Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, O.F.S.
Plakat Jaegerstaetter.JPG
Franz Jaegerstaetter
Martyr
Born (1907-05-20)20 May 1907
Sankt Radegund, Upper Austria
Austria-Hungary
Died 9 August 1943(1943-08-09) (aged 36)
Brandenburg-Görden Prison
Nazi Germany
Honored in
Secular Franciscan Order
Beatified 26 October 2007, Linz, Austria by Pope Benedict XVI
Feast May 21
Patronage Conscientious objectors

Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, O.F.S., (in English also spelt Jaegerstaetter) (20 May 1907 — 9 August 1943) (born as Franz Huber) was an Austrian conscientious objector during World War II. Jägerstätter was sentenced to death and executed. He was later declared a martyr and beatified by the Catholic Church.

Life[edit]

Jägerstätter farmstead in St Radegund

Jägerstätter was born in Sankt Radegund, Upper Austria, a small village between Salzburg and Braunau am Inn. He was the illegitimate child of Rosalia Huber, a chambermaid, and Franz Bachmeier, a farmer.[1] He was first cared for by his grandmother, Elisabeth Huber. Franz's natural father was killed in World War I when he was still a child, and when his mother married in 1917, Franz was adopted by her husband, Heinrich Jägerstätter.

In his youth, Franz gained a reputation for being a wild fellow, but, in general, his daily life was like that of most Austrian peasants. He worked as a farmhand and also as a miner in Eisenerz, until in 1933 he inherited the farmstead of his foster father. In that same year, he fathered an out-of-wedlock daughter, Hildegard Auer.[2] On Maundy Thursday of 1936, he married Franziska Schwaninger (1913–2013), a deeply religious woman. After the ceremony, the bridal couple proceeded on a pilgrimage to Rome. The marriage produced three daughters.

When German troops moved into Austria in 1938, Jägerstätter was the only person in the village to vote against the Anschluss in the plebiscite of 10 April. The local authorities suppressed his dissent and announced unanimous approval. Although he was not involved with any political organization and did undergo one brief period of military training, he remained openly anti-Nazi. He joined the Third Order of Saint Francis in 1940 and worked as a sacristan at the local parish church, being deferred from military service several times. In 1940, aged 33, he had been conscripted into the German army and completed basic training. Returning home in 1941 under an exemption as a farmer, he began to examine the morality of the war and discussed this with his bishop. Jägerstätter's wife later recalled, “He was very sad, and said to me: ‘They don’t dare themselves, or it’ll be their turn next:’ Franz’s main impression was that the Bishop did not dare to speak openly, because he didn’t know him – after all, Franz could have been a spy.”[3]

Arrest and death[edit]

Plaque to Franz Jägerstätter at the former Reichskriegsgericht in Berlin

After many delays, Jägerstätter was finally called to active duty on 23 February 1943. By this time, he had three daughters with his wife, the eldest not quite six. He maintained his position against fighting for the Third Reich and upon entering into the Wehrmacht on March 1 declared his conscientious objection. His offer to serve as a paramedic was ignored.[4] A priest from his village visited him in jail and tried to talk him into serving, but did not succeed. He was immediately imprisoned, first at Linz, then at Berlin-Tegel.

Accused of Wehrkraftzersetzung (undermining of military morale), after a military trial at the Reichskriegsgericht he was sentenced to death on 6 July and subsequently executed by guillotine at Brandenburg-Görden Prison on 9 August 1943, aged 36. In 1946, his ashes were buried at the Sankt Radegund cemetery.

icon depicting Franz Jägerstätter

Legacy and beatification[edit]

Jägerstätter was criticized by his countrymen, especially Catholics who had served in the military, for failing in his duty as a husband and father. The municipality of Sankt Radegund at first refused to put his name on the local war memorial and a pension for his widow was not approved until 1950.

Jägerstätter's fate was not well known until 1964, when US sociologist Gordon Zahn published his biography, In Solitary Witness. A 1971 film treatment of his life by director Axel Corti starred Kurt Weinzierl. His case was a topic of the annual Braunauer Zeitgeschichte-Tage conference in 1995. The death sentence was nullified by the Landgericht Berlin on 7 May 1997. A Stolperstein for Jägerstätter in Sankt Radegund was laid in 2006.[5]

In June 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued an apostolic exhortation declaring Jägerstätter a martyr. On 26 October 2007, he was beatified in a ceremony held by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins at the New Cathedral in Linz.[6] His feast day is the day of his christening, 21 May.

Bibliography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Independent , Austrian farmer executed for defying Nazis on path to sainthood, 27 October 2007
  2. ^ Biography of Jägerstätter (in German)
  3. ^ "Franz Jägerstätter 1907 – 1943 - Martyr"
  4. ^ "Bl. Franz Jägerstätter (1907-1943)", Vatican News Service
  5. ^ "Stolperstein erinnert an Wehrdienstverweigerer Franz Jägerstätter" (in German). Evangelischer Presseverband für Bayern. 2006-08-07. Retrieved 2011-03-07. 
  6. ^ "Franz Jägerstätter- Against the Stream". ¡Presente! 13 (Spring): 3. 2008. 

External links[edit]