Blank Ballot for the 1936 Plebiscite

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The German government had citizens declare their approval of the entry of German troops in the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland in a plebiscite and the Reichstag election on March 29, 1936. Along with 203 Yes votes, two empty ballots were cast in Oberwetz by Johannes Koch and his wife. Protesters gathered before the parsonage on the evening of the election. The pastor and his wife were assaulted verbally and a window was smashed. He was subjected to coarse abuse in the period afterward.

Johannes Koch consequently wrote a letter to the German Chancellor in which he explained his action. Agreeing with Hitler’s foreign policy course, he nevertheless had reservations about the weltanschauung, cultural, church, school and educational policy of the last three years. He also criticized the compulsory nature of the plebiscite and the insignificance of the Reichstag. At the same time, he underscored his patriotism und his willingness to even give his life for the German people.

To calm the situation in the congregation, the responsible district president asked the consistory to transfer Koch, which it refused to do just as the provincial church committee of the Rhine province refused. Koch himself had been planning to change parishes for some time but did not want to yield to force. The political pressure did not let up, however.

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  • © AEKR Düsseldorf, Best. 51, Personalakte Johannes Koch-Mehrin

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