Aid for the Persecuted Sylten Family

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The Mörike couple took a lively interest in the fate of persecuted members of the Confessing Church and, among other things, supported detainees in concentration camps with food packages.

With no regard for the constant surveillance by the Gestapo, they invited Walter Sylten, the twelve-year old son of Pastor Werner Sylten detained in Dachau concentration camp, to spend his summer vacation in 1942 away from the metropolis Berlin in the country air of Flacht. He was supposed to recover physically and emotionally among the horde of children and under the care of mother Mörike.

The boy’s father, Werner Sylten, was considered a “half-Jew” and had been dismissed as director of one of the Inner Mission’s home for girls in Thuringia in 1936. As of 1939, he had been the deputy director of the Confessing Church’s aid agency for persecuted Christians of Jewish descent, “Pastor Grüber’s Office” in Berlin.

He had been widowed since January of 1935. Brunhilde Lehder, a member of the staff at the home for girls in Köstrin whom Werner Sylten, a “non-Aryan”, could not marry, had assumed the maternal role for his two underage sons. Sylten had turned down the opportunity offered to emigrate to England. After the Gestapo closed down “Pastor Grüber’s Office” in February of 1941, Werner Sylten was arrested, like Pastor Heinrich Grüber before him, and taken to Dachau concentration camp.

On August 4, 1942, Gertrud Mörike wrote to her daughter Dorle about her “vacation child”: Walter Sylten also does what one tells him and is quite at home with us. My heart goes out to the lad for he has not had a mother for 7 years and his father has been in Dachau for 1 1/2 years [Kreisjugendring Esslingen e. V. (Ed.): Du sollst Dich nicht vorenthalten, 50].

On August 26, 1942, three weeks after Gertrud Mörike wrote the letter to her daughter, Werner Sylten was transferred from Dachau on a transport of invalids to the euthanasia center in Hartheim near Linz and murdered there. Walter Sylten and his four year older brother Reinhard were then complete orphans.

Source / title

  • © Private collection of Walter Sylten, Berlin

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