Concentration Camp Internment and Murder

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In Buchenwald concentration camp, Gauger was assigned to a penal company that had to work in a quarry under harshest conditions. After the war, Gauger’s fellow prisoner Alfred Leikam (1915–1992) recounted Gauger’s doubts about the righteousness of God and is despair about most Christians’ attitudes toward the regime.

On July 14, 1941 Gauger was taken with around ninety of the prisoners from Buchenwald to the former sanatorium at Pirna-Sonnenstein. One of the Nazi’s infamous euthanasia centers, Sonnenstein served to exterminate of so-called “life unworthy of living” from 1940 onward. 14,000 people with incurable illnesses or disabilities were killed there starting in 1940.

The killings were expanded in the summer of 1941. More than one thousand predominantly Jewish prisoners were taken from concentration camps on disguised “transports of invalids” (Action “14f13”) to Sonnenstein in order to be gassed there. Martin Gauger was one of them. He died in the gas chamber on July 15, 1941. Buchenwald’s camp doctor sent the family a fictitious medical history one week later, on July 23. The death certificate listed a heart attack.

Martin Gauger’s urn was buried in his father’s grave on August 11, 1941. His brother Joachim’s eulogy dealt with the Christian hope for justice in a new heaven and on a new earth (2 Peter 3:13).

How should the Church have conducted itself in this case? Gauger’s fundamental pacifism and his decision not to serve in the military met with a lack of understanding among the leaders of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (the Luther Council). Protestants held the conviction that Christians were required to serve in the military. He was therefore dismissed from his job with the Bavarian Regional Church on June 4, 1940.

There is no evidence to support the assertion that Gauger was mentally disturbed (K. Meier, Kirchenkampf 3, 573). Bishops Theophil Wurm and Hans Meiser turned down the Gauger family’s request of June of 1941 to press at least for criminal proceedings against Gauger. Martin Gauger’s name did not appear on any of the Confessing Church’s intercessory prayer lists, either.

Source / title

  • © Gedenkstätte Pirna-Sonnenstein

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