Helper of Victims of Persecution
Werner Sylten started working for “Pastor Grüber’s Office” in Berlin in December of 1938. This central Protestant aid agency for Christians of Jewish descent helped affected individuals emigrate from Germany, sought to lessen their material needs, tried to place the elderly and infirm in homes and ministered to and provided schooling for children and young people. At first, Sylten was in charge of the ministry department and later became Heinrich Grüber’s deputy. Once Grüber again increased his work in his parish in Berlin in November of 1939, Sylten more or less ran the office.
Like Werner Sylten, the majority of staff in “Pastor Grüber’s Office” was also affected by the Nuremberg Laws themselves. Many of them refrained from escaping themselves at first in order to get others to safety. In peril himself, Sylten also turned down a visa, which would have enabled him to leave for England. He believed there were more urgent cases than his. In March of 1940, he was able to rent a house and send for his sons and his companion in life, Brunhilde Lehder. He had one last year with his family in Köpenick-Wendenschloss near Berlin.
Heinrich Grüber was arrested at the end 1940. The Gestapo closed down “Pastor Grüber’s Office” in early 1941. Sylten was put in charge of wrapping up the office. He hoped however to be able to continue his charitable and pastoral work for victims of persecution and wanted to establish a new aid agency to this end. This never happened: Werner Sylten was arrested on February 27, 1941 for allegedly complicity in an anonymous pamphlet on the misery of Christian Jews in Austria.
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- © Archiv der Bonhoeffer-Gemeinde London