Soldier, Trial by Court Martial, Prisoner of War
Karl Steinbauer was released from Sachsenhausen concentration camp unexpectedly on December 22, 1939 and already drafted into the Wehrmacht in January of 1940, where he was sent to the pioneers. The charges still pending against him before the Special Court were dropped in May of 1940 because of an amnesty decree issued by Hitler when war broke out.
Steinbauer took part in the Russian campaign in 1941. In Latvia, he witnessed a mass execution of Jews by members of the SS. While deployed at the front, Steinbauer was awarded several military decorations, including the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Class. He considered these medals to be junk. In 1943, he was severely wounded in the leg. After lengthy hospital stays, he was only still deployed on the “home front”.
On Christmas and convalescence leave, Steinbauer preached a Christmas sermon in Illenschwang on December 25, 1943 and in Sinnbronn on the following day. A denunciation resulted in the filing of a criminal complaint against him for undermining the war effort. He was thus threatened with the death sentence.
Hans Meinzolt (1887–1967), vice president of the regional church office in Munich and lieutenant colonel at that time, defended Steinbauer at his trial before the Central Military Court in Berlin on September 27, 1944. Steinbauer presented his Christmas sermon before the court. It left a deep impression on the judges and, together with Meinzolt’s arguments in his defense, presumably saved his life: The trial ended with an acquittal.
Afterward, Steinbauer ensured that he was assigned to his home garrison in Ansbach. Setting out for a hospital because his leg wound had reopened, he was taken prisoner near Enheim. Following a stop in Worms, Steinbauer was interned in Marseille prisoner of war camp where he worked as camp chaplain and established a Protestant camp congregation.
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- © Landeskirchliches Archiv Nürnberg, LKR 50071 Steinbauer Karl