Trial before the People's Court

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While in prison, Metzger wrote an extensive account of his actions and his career as a pacifist in July of 1943 (K. Drobisch, Krieg, 118–138) as well as a candid statement for a Reich Minister (Ibid., 115–118). Since an interrogation by an investigating judge never materialized, he additionally annotated his memorandum for the investigating judge and the Reich attorney general (Excerpts: Ibid., 138–142).

The trial against Metzger for conspiracy to commit high treason and aiding and abetting the enemy was held on October 14, 1943 and presided over by the infamous Roland Freisler (1893–1945). After a “trial” lasting just a bit longer than one hour, during which his peace efforts since 1917 were incriminatingly introduced, Metzger was sentenced to death for aiding and abetting the enemy according to section 91 of the criminal code. He was taken to Brandenburg Prison, where he studied theology, penned poems and actively corresponded with Sisters of Christ the King under harsh conditions.

The Ordinariate of Freiburg kept abreast of Metzger’s case through Bishop Heinrich Wienken (1883–1961), head of the Fulda Conference of Bishops’ Episcopal Commissariat, and bore the costs for his defense lawyer Rudolf Dix († 1952). On October 9, 1943 Gröber characterized Metzger before Dix as an extremely idealistic but apolitical individual out of touch with reality. The dreamer Max was a hyper-philanthropist but no criminal (H. Ott, Dokumentation, 310–312).

Although, Gröber also called Metzger a naive idealist before Freisler, the Reich Minister of Justice and the Reich attorney general on October 16, 1943, he clearly disassociated himself from the diocesan priest’s crime. Gröber’s plea for clemency to the latter two is irritating as well: Metzger could atone for his crime by dying heroically at the front. (Ibid., 313f.).

Max Josef Metzger was executed by guillotine in Brandenburg Prison on April 17, 1944. Thanks to the efforts of the Sisters of Christ the King, his body was quietly buried in Brandenburg Commentary on April 21. Metzger’s body was moved to St. Hedwig’s Cemetery in Berlin on September 18, 1946, his mortal remains were laid to rest in Meitingen cemetery on April 27, 1968.

The Berlin regional court lifted the death sentence against Max Josef Metzger on March 6, 1997.

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  • © Archiv des Christkönigs-Instituts, Meitingen