Johannes Koch

Johannes Koch grew up in a Protestant Prussian household. He fought in World War I. Afterward, he studied theology, becoming acquainted with the writings of Karl Barth. Politically, Koch leaned toward Social Democracy during the Weimar era. As of 1927, he served as the pastor of the dual congregation of Oberwetz and Griedelbach in the Wetzlar district of the Rhineland Church’s Braunfels Synod. In 1934, he joined the Rhineland Brotherhood of Pastors. Conflict ensued in his congregations when he espoused support for the Confessing Church. In the following years, he was denounced repeatedly by both mayors and both village teachers. At the behest of the Gestapo, the state police monitored Koch’s activities and statements from early 1935 onward. Koch was not intimidated, however: He voiced criticism of the rampant Jew-baiting and submitted an invalid ballot for the 1936 Reichstag election. Koch was one of the few pastors who consistently refused to take the “oath to the Führer” in 1938. One year later, payments of the state subsidies for his pastor’s salary were stopped. Koch served in the Wehrmacht in 1939 and 1940 and simultaneously criticized the Protestant theology of war, which tended toward religious nationalism. After being discharged from the Wehrmacht for reasons of indispensability, he was again subjected to harassment by members of the Nazi party in Oberwetz. In 1941, he became temporary pastor in Gruiten. A proper call was not extended because Koch continued to refuse to take the loyalty oath. Koch did not receive a proper position as a pastor in Unterbarmen until 1946. He worked as a pastor in Schenkenschanz-Keeken from 1957 to 1965.

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