Flight from Active Military Service

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Following the outbreak of war, Gauger grappled with the issue of active military service and his response as a pacifist. He was unable to participate in Germany’s war of aggression, neither as a soldier at the front nor as an administrative official, since he felt that any involvement would only bring disaster and ruin to other countries. Gauger’s position isolated him in Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (the Luther Council). Gauger himself considered friends’ attempt to find him a job in Navy administration in Kiel too short-sighted.

He reacted to the summons for his physical examination for military service of April 24, 1940 and conscription directly afterward by attempting suicide but failed, however. With this deed, which he had announced to the Luther Council in writing, Gauger had wanted to spare his mother the ordeals of a trial against her son. After he going into hiding with the aid of Harald Poelchau, his brother Siegfried helped him make a dangerous escape to the Netherlands: Gauger had to swim the Rhine near Emmerich.

Surprised by the German invasion launched on May 10, 1940, one day after his arrival, Gauger had to give up his plans. He was unable – as planned – to travel onto England or to remain in the Netherlands where he was detained briefly. He was arrested on May 19, 1940 during a subsequent attempt to reach Switzerland via Germany and then England, and was shot and wounded and recaptured after an escape attempt during which he perhaps even sought death. As of May 22, 1940, Gauger was held in custody in Düsseldorf-Derendorf and interrogated by the Gestapo. In mid-June of 1940, the Gestapo recommended that Gauger be put on trial before the People’s Court. Gauger was remanded to “protective custody” on August 12, 1940 until his trial was over.

Gauger was eventually transferred to Buchenwald concentration camp in June of 1941 since he had – according to the Gestapo’s fabricated accusation – wanted to influence fellow inmates politically. Unlike his friend Hermann Stöhr (1898–1940), Gauger was not prosecuted under the criminal code in March of 1940 as a conscientious objector.

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  • © Landeskirchliches Archiv Hannover, D 15 III Nr. 1, Bl. 276

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