Call for a Statement against Persecution of Jews
Jewish forced laborers had to start erecting Milbertshofen camp in the Am Hart neighborhood of Munich on March 17, 1941. Jews and so-called non-Aryan Christians, who performed forced labor in local businesses, were interned there. The camp simultaneously served as a way station for deportations to the East. The first transport with 999 prisoners departed on November 20, 1941 for Kaunas (Kovno) where everyone was gunned down upon arrival.
The so-called “yellow star” symbolizing the exclusion of the Jewish population had been introduced in Germany shortly before. It originated in occupied Poland. The Jews of the city of Wloclawec (Leslau) were forced to wear a yellow chevron on their clothing for the first time at the end of October 1939. The Jewish badge was introduced in the Cracow District in November. As of December 1, 1939, all Jews in Polish territory occupied by the Germans had to wear an armband with a blue Star of David against a white background.
Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels pushed the introduction of a publicly visible symbol for Jews in the German Reich and Hitler gave his consent on August 20, 1941. The Reich Ministry of the Interior and the Reich Main Security Office consequently formulated a police regulation that went into force on September 15, 1941. It required every person in the German Reich who was considered a Jew according to the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 to wear a yellow star visibly and sewn securely on the left breast of a garment from the age of six on (Reich Legal Gazette I, 1941, 547). So-called “mixed blood” and Jewish spouses in “privileged mixed marriages” were exempt but Jewish men in childless mixed marriages were not. This regulation included tight restrictions on travel.
As a result, the Reich Church Office (German Evangelical Church Office) issued a circular on December 22, 1941 to every church government, calling on them to make provisions to bar baptized “non-Aryans” from church life. Signs prohibiting them were posted in German Christian churches. The Councils of Brethren and the Confessing Church’s governing body, the Second Provisional Church Government, protested to the German Evangelical Church against this exclusion of baptized “non-Aryans”, as did Regional Bishop Wurm(1868–1953). The Bavarian regional church ignored the directive from Berlin and continued treating “non-Aryans” as “fellow believers”.
Making reference to his efforts to move the German Evangelical Church Committee to issue a statement supporting racially persecuted church members in 1933, von Pechmann once again turned to Regional Bishop Meiser in order to induce him to issue a protest from the Protestant regional churches against the harassment of the Jews, their exclusion from public life and their mistreatment. Von Pechmann did not harbor any illusions about his prospects for success. He could, however, very well imagine a collective Christian statement in support of the victims of persecution as a symbol of ecumenical unity, which was profoundly important to him.
Despite his warning that Christians could also be similarly threatened in the future and silence about the Jews’ current plight would make Christians complicit, Regional Bishop Meiser did not heed the plea of his longstanding colleague.
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- © Landeskirchliches Archiv Nürnberg, NL Meiser Nr. 62