First Detention, Public Speaking and Residence Ban
Karl Steinbauer contravened the government’s order to display the flag on church buildings and have the bells rung during Reichstag elections on March 29, 1936 because of electoral fraud. He was arrested in the parsonage in Penzberg on June 20, 1936 and detained in Weilheim jail. Although he was released a few days later following a protest by Penzberg church council, Weilheim district administration imposed a public speaking ban for the entire German Reich for his constant subversive agitation and a residence ban for Upper Bavaria on Steinbauer on July 1, 1936 at the order of the Reich Ministry of Church Affairs. He had no intention of observing this ban.
The clergy of Ebenhausen District Church Congress showed their solidarity with Steinbauer and declared in a statement of July 5, 1936: We all must and will obey God more than human beings; we all can neither submit to a preaching ban, which a government authority pronounces on us, nor can we allow ourselves to be prevented from preaching God’s word in parishes to which we have been assigned in our installation. For this reason, we declare unanimously that Mr. Vicar Steinbauer’s cause is our own cause. At the same time, the signatories of the statement asked the regional church consistory to undertake all steps to defend the freedom of preaching the Gospel.
The church government sought to get the Weilheim district administration to lift the public speaking and residence ban. Since it feared his immediate arrest in the event he returned to Penzberg, the church government arranged with Steinbauer that he should take vacation and not return to his parish until the ban had been lifted. The church government’s efforts came to naught, however. The regional church consistory consequently decided that Steinbauer had to accept the residence ban.
Steinbauer’s ties to his Penzberg parish conflicted with the residence ban. He felt the public speaking ban contradicted Jesus’s Great Commission. Upon learning of the regional church consistory’s decision, Steinbauer responded that he could not under any circumstance burden his conscience with setting the precedent in such a matter. He would thus only pave the way for the Gestapo to introduce new methods to get transfers and to remove and to silence troublesome pastors (K. Steinbauer, Zeugnis 2, 52, 56).
Against his convictions, Steinbauer nevertheless allowed the regional church consistory to persuade him to take a call in Augsburg for the time being. He asked Christoph Simon, an assistant pastor in Augsburg, to trade jobs with him and to take on ministering to Penzberg parish so that he would not be abandoning it. In Augsburg, Steinbauer himself had to submit seine sermons to the dean. He asked the regional church consistory to lift this “sermon censorship” but Regional Bishop Hans Meiser (1881–1956) refused in light of the given circumstances.
Penzberg church council was not agreed with the regional church consistory’s action. In a letter of July 30, 1936, it demanded that the regional church consistory recall Mr. Steinbauer again to his parish in Penzberg even against the residence ban (K. Steinbauer, Zeugnis 2, 61). When serious differences of opinion with the regional church consistory could not be resolved, Penzberg church council announced on August 24, 1936 that it was recalling Steinbauer to Penzberg on its own authority because its conscience didnot allow it to bring itself to let the regional church consistory have final responsibility in the Steinbauer matter (K. Steinbauer, Zeugnis 2, 77). The church council simultaneously asked the signatories of the statement from the Ebenhausen District Church Congress for their support.
Steinbauer was summoned to the Gestapo on August 3, 1936 because of his preaching in Augsburg. He made reference to his ordination vows and Jesus’s Great Commission. On August 10, the Gestapo notified him that the preaching ban had been lifted but threatened him with further actions because of the content of his sermons. Steinbauer replied, You are threatening me with Dachauconcentration camp. ... But look, I am threatened by something far more awful than Dachau. I am threatened by the Last Judgment. ... The day will come on which every person, Adolf Hitler and you and I, will be on our knees before the returning Christ (K. Steinbauer, Zeugnis 2, 70f).
Following further efforts on the part of the regional church consistory, the residence ban was also finally lifted on September 26, 1936 and Steinbauer was able to return to Penzberg.
Source / title
- © 1+2: Evangelische Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte München, A 30.15