Bernhard Lichtenberg

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Blessed Bernhard Lichtenberg
Bernhard-lichtenberg-Small5.tif
Fr. Bernhard Lichtenberg
Priest and martyr
Born 3 December 1875
Ohlau, Prussian Silesia, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire
Died 5 November 1943(1943-11-05) (aged 67)
While being transported from Berlin to Dachau concentration camp, Germany
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
(Germany)
Beatified 23 June 1996, Germany, by Pope John Paul II
Major shrine St. Hedwig's Cathedral,
Berlin, Germany

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.[1]

Life[edit]

Lichtenberg was born in Ohlau (now Oława), Prussian Silesia, near Breslau (now Wrocław), the second of five children. He studied theology in Innsbruck, Austria-Hungary and he also studied in Breslau (which is now polish Wroclaw) and was ordained in 1899.[2][3] Lichtenberg began his ministry in Berlin in 1900, as the pastor of Charlottenburg. He served as a military chaplain during World War I.[4]
During the period of 1913-1930 he was a minister at the cathedral Herz-Jesu-Gemeinde(Sacred Heart) in Be[5][dead link]

In 1932, the Bishop of Berlin appointed him as a canon of the Cathedral chapter of St. Hedwig.[2] His encouraging Catholics to view a screening of the film version of Erich Maria Remarques' anti-war film All Quiet on the Western Front, prompted a vicious attack by Joseph Goebbels' paper Der Angriff.[4] In 1933 the Secret State Police of Germany (Gestapo) had searched his house for the first time.[2]

Active in the Centre Party, in 1935 he went to Hermann Göring to protest against the cruelties of the concentration camps.[6][2]

Named provost of the cathedral, in 1938, Lichtenberg was put in charge of the Relief Office of the Berlin episcopate, which assisted many Catholics of Jewish descent in emigrating from the Third Reich.[4] After Kristallnacht, the first organized Nazi pogrom in Germany, Lichtenberg warned at the Berlin Church of Saint Hedwig: "The burning synagogue outside is also a house of God!" Until his arrest in October 1941, Lichtenberg would pray publicly for the persecuted Jews at the daily Vespers service. Bishop Konrad von Preysing later entrusted him with the task of helping the Jewish community of the city.[2]

He protested in person to Nazi officials against 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.[3] Deploring the regime of concentration camps like that of Dachau, he organized demonstrations against them outside certain camps.[7]

In 1941, Lichtenberg protested against the involuntary euthanasia programme by way of a letter to the chief physician of the Reich, Minister of Public Health Leonardo Conti (1900-1945).

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."[8]

The euthanasia in the health institutions of Nazi Germany was purportedly stopped soon after the church protests against euthanasia headed by the bishop Clemens August Graf von Galen and bishop Theophil Wurm.[5][dead link]

Lichtenberg was arrested on October 23, 1941 and condemned to two years in prison.[8][9] Because he was considered incorrigible, he was sent to the Dachau concentration camp, but he collapsed and died while in transit,[8] on 5 November 1943 in Hof, Bavaria.[3][2]

Veneration[edit]

Bernhard Lichtenberg bust, St. Mary's church, Hof

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 Olympic stadium in Berlin.[7] The date of his death, November 5 was designated as the liturgical memorial day of Bernard Lichtenberg by Pope John Paul II.[10]

Lichtenberg's tomb is situated in the crypt of St. Hedwig's Cathedral in Berlin. After the war, the building with the office of the archbishop of Berlin was named Bernhard Lichtenberg house.[7]

In the memorial area of the former concentration camp Esterwegen a memorial plaque was installed to honor Bernhard Lichtenberg for his activities for the prisoners of the camp.

In the historic center of the town of Hof, the area in front of St. Mary's church has since 2013 been named Bernhard-Lichtenberg-Platz and on the initiative of pastor Hans-Jürgen Wiedow a new parish center named after Bernhard Lichtenberg was constructed in 2016/17 under the St. Konrad's church in the town.[11]

Compositions[edit]

  • Motet: Psalm 59. Mit zwei Meditationen von Bernhard Lichtenberg. For soprano solo, choir, organ and instruments, from Helge Jung, Berlin 1988. (Prolog: Die grüne Saat, Psalm: Errette mich, mein Gott, beschütze mich, Epilog I: Gott ist die Liebe, Epilog II: Wer mich vor den Menschen bekennt). First performance: Choir of the St. Hedwig's Cathedral Berlin, direktor: Michael Witt.
  • Song: Dein Volk die dunklen Zeiten. Text and music: Florian Wilkes, Berlin 1995.
  • Song: Lasst uns den sel'gen Bernhard loben. Words: Josef Steiner, Berlin 1996. Melody: Gotteslob, no. 262, tune according to Loys Bourgeois 1551. In: Diözesananhang zum Gotteslob des Erzbistums Berlin.
  • Cantata: Wer glaubt kann widerstehn. For Spiker, vocal-solo, choir (SATB) and instruments from Ludger Stühlmeyer, Hof 1999. First performance: 31. Oktober 1999, ZDF, conzertchoir of the Hofer Symphoniker, director: Gottfried Hoffmann.
  • Song: Gepriesen bist du, herrlicher Gott, für Bernhard, den seligen Priester. Word: Alois Albrecht, Bamberg 2012, melody: Ludger Stühlmeyer, Hof 2012.
  • Vespers: Ludger Stühlmeyer, Gerechter unter den Völkern. Vesper zu Ehren des seligen Bernhard Lichtenberg. Mit einer Biografie und Zitaten. Geleitwort von Nuntius Eterovic. Verlag Sankt Michaelsbund, München 2017, ISBN 978-3-943135-90-9.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • 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."
  • Barbara Stühlmeyer, Ludger Stühlmeyer, Bernhard Lichtenberg. Ich werde meinem Gewissen folgen. Topos plus Verlagsgemeinschaft Kevelaer 2013, ISBN 978-3-836708-35-7.
  • Martin Persch: Lichtenberg, Bernhard. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Band 5, Bautz, Herzberg 1993, ISBN 3-88309-043-3, Sp. 20–23.

External links[edit]