Katharina Staritz

Katharina Staritz, the daughter of a senior high school teacher, grew up in Breslau. In 1922, she started studying German, history and religion at the university there. In 1926, she transferred to the University of Marburg to earn a degree in Protestant theology, which she completed in 1928. That same year, she became the first woman to earn a doctorate from the University of Marburg’s School of Protestant Theology. Afterward, she completed a vicarage in the Old Prussian Church Province of Silesia. After passing her second theological examination in 1932, she was hired as a city vicar by the district synod of the city of Breslau in the summer of 1933. In keeping with the civil service regulations for women, she was not made a civil servant and ordained a vicar until 1938. Her duties as city vicar included “conversion classes”, which brought her into contact with Jews intending to convert to Christianity. In the process, she witnessed the tribulation of victims of Nazi persecution first hand. In November of 1938, she took over the management of the Silesian representative office of “Pastor Grüber’s Office”, which helped Christians of Jewish descent emigrate and supported them with ministry and social services. When all Jews were forced to wear the Star of David in September of 1941, she wrote a circular calling upon the pastors of Breslau not to exclude affected congregational members from worship services and to minister to them in particular. The Silesian church government consequently placed her on forced leave and pressed her to leave Breslau. Following the publication of a vitriolic article in the SS magazine “Das schwarze Korps”, she was arrested in Marburg, where she attended the university earlier, in March of 1942 and deported to Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp. Her sister Charlotte’s untiring efforts were instrumental in her sudden release from detention in May of 1943. In January of 1945, she fled with her sister and other family members from Breslau to Marburg before the advancing Red Army. In the early postwar years, she worked as a substitute pastor in the Evangelical Church of Electoral Hesse-Waldeck and drafted a law on female vicars. In 1950, she was the first ordained female theologian made a civil servant in the Evangelical Church in Hesse and Nassau. She was assigned to work with women and given a preaching and ministry assignment in Frankfurt am Main. Falling severely ill, she died soon afterward at the early age of fifty.

back to person back to person