Juliusz Bursche

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Bursche in 1938

Juliusz Bursche (September 19, 1862 in Kalisz – February 20, 1942?) was a bishop of the Evangelical-Augsburg Church in Poland. A vocal opponent of Nazi Germany, after the German invasion of Poland in 1939 he was arrested by the Germans, tortured, and sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp where he died.

Youth[edit]

Bursche was born as the first child to Ernst Wilhelm Bursche, Vicar of the Lutheran church at Kalisz and his wife Mathilda, born Müller. The family went to Zgierz near Łódź, where his father became Protestant pastor. Bursche studied Lutheran divinity at the University of Tartu and became a member of the "Konwent Polonia" (Polish student fraternity, established in 1828), where he was influenced by the ideas of Leopold Otto, a Lutheran pastor at Warsaw. Otto wanted to overcome the stereotype of Catholic = Polish and Lutheran = German.

Protestant Pastor[edit]

Bursche started working as a Vicar at Warsaw in 1884 and married Amalie Helena Krusche in 1885. After a short time as a pastor at Żyrardów he returned to the Warsaw Lutheran congregation in 1888. In 1904 he was elected as General-Superintendent of the Protestant Church in Congress Poland. In 1905 he instituted the use of the Polish language in Lutheran church services, which had previously been ministered only in German.

After the outbreak of World War I in 1914 the Russian administration of Congress Poland began to deport members of the Lutheran church, considering them as Germans. Bursche was sent to Moscow in 1915, where he remained until the Russian February Revolution in 1917. He returned to German–occupied Warsaw in February 1918 and became a member of the Regency Council of the Kingdom of Poland. After the foundation of the Second Polish Republic he was a member of the Polish delegation at the Paris Peace Conference, and attempted to incorporate the predominantly Lutheran area of Masuria into the Polish state. According to the Treaty of Versailles the East Prussian plebiscite took place on July 20, 1920 and Bursche became the chairman of the Masurian Plebiscite Committee, organizing the unsuccessful Polish publicity campaign in East Prussia. Over the period 1922–39 he issued the Polish newspaper in Masuria Gazeta Mazurska.

In 1936 the Polish government acknowledged the Evangelical-Augsburg (i.e. Lutheran) Church in Poland and Bursche became Poland's first Lutheran bishop. Because of his staunchly pro-Polish policy the German minority in Poland, most of them Lutherans, opposed his guidance and founded an independent Lutheran church in Poland in spring 1939.

World War II[edit]

After the German Invasion of Poland in September 1939 Bursche was captured by the Sicherheitsdienst on October 3, 1939 and imprisoned at Radom, after October 13, 1939 at the central Gestapo – Prison in Berlin. In January 1940 he was sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, in the end of February 1942 his family received the information that Bursche died on February 20, 1942 in Berlin–Moabit Prison. The exact circumstances of his death and even the real date and place are unknown.

Family[edit]

Bursche's son Stefan was killed by the Gestapo in 1940, his daughter Helena, director of the Lutheran Anna – Wasa Lyceum in Warsaw, died in 1975, his daughter Aniela, journalist at the Lutheran newspaper Zwiestun, died in 1980 in Warsaw.

Bursche's brothers:

  • Edmund Bursche, Lutheran Pastor (July 17, 1881 – July 26, 1940 Mauthausen concentration camp)
  • Alfred Bursche, Lawyer (November 16, 1883 – January 15, 1942 Mauthausen concentration camp)
  • Teodor Bursche, Architect (May 31, 1893 – March 15, 1965)

Literature[edit]

  • Paweł Dubiel, Józef Kozak: Polacy w II wojnie światowej: kim byli, co robili, Oficyna Wydawnicza RYTM, Warsaw, 2003
  • Eugeniusz Szulc, Cmentarz Ewangelicko-Augsburski w Warszawie, Warsaw 1989.