Wednesday, June 15, 2016


 Every once in a while a story comes across my screen that I feel is worth sharing-  This priest reminds me of our good friend Venerable Father Walter Ciszek (see Blog Mar. 15, 2012).

FATHER HERMANN SCHEIPERS died June 2 at the venerable age of  102.  He was the last Catholic priest imprisoned in the Dachau concentration camp  to die.

He was a young priest in 1940 when he was arrested by the Nazis. Dachau, near Munich, had a large population of priests: some 95% of the 2,720 clergymen imprisoned there were Catholic.

His work among young people, soon after his ordination, drew the attention of the Nazis. Because he was sympathetic to Polish forced laborers, celebrating Mass with them and hearing their confessions, he was arrested in 1940 and brought to Dachau five months later. His file stated the true reason for his arrest: “Scheipers is a fanatical proponent of the Catholic Church and thus likely to cause unrest among the population.”

Father Scheipers recalled the way the camp commander welcomed him and his fellow inmates: “You are without honor, without help and without rights. Here, you can either work or perish.”

Father wore the number 24255 on his prison uniform and worked along side the other prisoners as slave laborers.  “The only thing one could do was escape or pray,” Father Scheipers recalled in his memoirs,  Balancing Act – Priest Under Two Dictatorships.  In an interview in 2009 with Greg Hayes, Father Scheipers described the horrors of living and working in this death camp. In spite of the hard life Father Scheipers was always  aware of the closeness of God. 

At one point he was in danger of being sent to the gas chamber, but was spared death when his twin sister, Anna, pleaded with officials in Berlin, warning them of a strong reaction among the Catholic population if the execution was carried out. The courageous Anna also helped save around 500 other priests from the gas chambers.

Fr. Hermann Scheipers in 2011, photographed in Dresden on the occasion of the beatification of Alojs Andritzki, who was killed in Dachau in 1943. Father Scheipers and Blessed Alojs were both in the camp’s sickbay with typhoid fever for some time.

 A fellow priest was not as lucky, and years later, Father Scheipers would movingly recall how he gave him his ration of bread before he was taken to his death. “Every time when I celebrate Mass and break the bread, I think of that,” he said.

In April of 1945, Father Scheipers managed to escape from a death march towards Bad Tölz. It was in Bad Tölz that Amon Goeth, commandant of the Nazi concentration camp in Płaszów, in German-occupied Poland during World War II, was arrested and sent for trial in Poland.

After the war Father returned to his former place of work in the Diocese of Dresden-Meißen. There he resisted those in power in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). When Father Scheipers found his Stasi file after the fall of communism, he discovered that 15 spies had been on his case and that a trial against him for distributing subversive propaganda was to be convened.  “I was in Dachau for the exact same reasons,” he said.  Basically all for being a Catholic priest trying to spread the gospel of Christ!

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