August Froehlich (26 January 1891 – 22 June 1942) was a German Roman Catholic priest. In his pastoral activity he opposed National Socialism. He stood up for rights of German Catholics and of Polish forced labourers, martyred in Dachau concentration camp.
August Froehlich was born in 1891 in a well-to-do business family in Königshütte (now Chorzów) in Prussian Silesia. In 1912 young Froehlich started theological studies in Breslau to become a priest, but before completing it, at the break of the First World War, he was mobilized. He served in the elite 1st (Emperor Alexander) Guards Grenadiers. Soon, while on the Russian front, on 3rd of July, 1915, in one of the first battles, he was seriously injured. Mistakenly taken for dead, he was left on the battlefield, found alive only the following day by German military medics. After his recovery, he resumed his military service, this time in France. Among other medals he received the Iron Cross - first and second class. He was wounded again and became a POW. He returned home to Breslau from British imprisonment in the autumn 1920, two years after the end of the war. He continued his theological studies in the theology faculty at the Breslau University. On 19th of June, 1921 August Froehlich was ordained a priest by Cardinal Adolf Bertram in the cathedral of Breslau Diocese. After his first mass in his home parish Saint Barbara in Königshütte, he was appointed by the Bishop of Breslau to the autonomous Berlin ecclesiastic province. He worked in Berlin and Pomerania.
He spent his first years in Berlin as an assistant priest. German economy was in post-war crisis, there was high inflation. For the young priest it was natural to use large part of his inheritance and his income to support impoverished families. He supported "press apostolate" by distributing Catholic daily press and a church bulletin. Thus Catholics had access to newspapers, which were an alternative to non-Christian and, indeed, anti-Christian militant Nazi party press. He showed passive opposition to the Nazi regime. e. g. he refused to join 1935 collection for the Nazi state, in order to be able to support his own charity works. This made local group leader of NSDAP to organise a public confrontation. He would also refuse to say the Nazi greeting Heil Hitler and encouraged his parishioners to use traditional greeting Grüß Gott - praised be God. In his letter to the Reichsarbeitsdienstgruppe in Bad Polzin dated 23rd of September, 1935, Father Froehlich explained his reasons why he would end also his letters with the Praise God greeting:
"Grüß Gott" ends my letters for following reasons: for all Christians the greeting "Praise God" is an old German greeting, as is also "Gelobt sei Jesus Christus" („Praise Jesus Christ“) for the Catholics. (…) In your previous letter you forebode me to do church announcements after the Sunday mass because, according to you, the faithful would feel pressure. I request that also you avoid any pressure in spreading your political world view, as you expect from me regarding my religious world view. Political and religious world views may win (…) by conviction, never, however, by pressure. According to Concordat, i.e. on the word of the leader (führer), free religious activity is promised to every Catholic. I wear therefore proudly the uniform of a priest and use Catholic greeting, as you do it also with your uniform and greeting. I have at least just as much courage to show my uniform and my greeting, as I assume you do with your.
From 1937 to 1942 he lived in Rathenow as a parish priest in the church of Saint Georg. Numerous Polish forced labourers worked in the Rathenow area. Because Polish Catholics were not allowed to participate in German worship, August Froehlich and his assistant priest celebrated separate Sunday Masses for them. When he heard about maltreatment of Polish forced labourers (e.g. of a pregnant woman), he brought that courageously into public and spoke about it during church announcements. That caused reaction of Nazi authorities. He was arrested. On 28th of July, 1941 he was transferred from Potsdam prison to a concentration camp. In the period of eleven months he was in three concentration camps: Buchenwald, Ravensbrück and, finally, Dachau, where he died because of bad prison conditions on 22nd of June, 1942.
- Commemorative plaque in a cript of St. Hedwig's Cathedral in Berlin,
- Commemorative plaque in a church of St. Josef in Berlin-Rudow,
- Commemorative plaque in a church of St. Paul in Drawsko Pomorskie,
- Street named his name August-Froehlich-Straße in Berlin-Rudow,
- Street named his name Pfarrer-Froehlich-Straße in Rathenow.
- Annette Froehlich: Pfarrer August Froehlich : vom Widerstand gegen NS-Willkür zum Märtyrer. Bautz, Nordhausen 2009. ISBN 978-3-88309-494-6
- Karl-Joseph Hummel, Christoph Kösters, Zwangsarbeit und katholische Kirche 1939-1945. Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2008. ISBN 978-3-506-75689-3
- Gerhard Lange: Pfarrer August Froehlich. In: Zeugen für Christus. Das deutsche Martyrologium des 20. Jahrhunderts. Hrsg. von Helmut Moll im Auftrag der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz. Paderborn 1999, S. 94–97
- Benedicta Maria Kempner: Priester vor Hitlers Tribunalen, str. 87-91. Verlag Rütten & Loening, München 1966, 1967, 1996. ISBN 978-3-570-12292-1
- Reimund Schnabel: Die Frommen in der Hölle, Geistliche in Dachau. Berlin 1966
- Heinz Kühn: Blutzeugen des Bistums Berlin. Klausener, Lichtenberg, Lampert, Lorenz, Simoleit, Mandrella, Hirsch, Wachsmann, Metzger, Schäfer, Willimsky, Lenzel, Froehlich. Morus-Verlag, Berlin 1952
- Josef Mörsdorf: August Froehlich. Pfarrer von Rathenow. Morus-Verlag, Berlin 1947
- Kurt Willig: Berliner Priester im Konzentrationslager in: Petrusblatt Nr. 4, Bistum Berlin 1945
- The German Resistance Memorial Center: Priest August Froehlich (English)
- Website of Archidiocese of Berlin: Reminiscence of priest August Froehlich as a victim of nazism (German)