The Third Candle of the Justpeace Advent Wreath

Franz Jagerstatter, Martyr

Franz was an Austrian farmer who refused to serve in Hitler's army.

Meditation on the 3rd Sunday of Advent lectionary readings

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Questions Franz prepared for his discussions with priests and his bishop about his conscientious objection to military service:

What Catholic can dare to say that these raids which Germany has carried out in several countries, and is still carrying out, constitute a just and holy war? Who dares to assert that only one person among the German people bears the responsibility in this war?

Why then did so many millions of Germans have to give their "yes" or "no"? Can one be reproached today for lacking patriotism? Do we still even have a mother country in this world? For if a country is supposed to be my mother country, it may not just impose duties -- one must also have rights, and do we have rights here today? If someone becomes ineducable and might be a burden on the state, what happens to them? Would such a mother country be worth defending at all? -- which we cannot speak of anyway, because Germany was attacked by no one. Once, I believe, we would have had the right to defend ourselves, and that was four years ago when we were still Austrians."

Regarding appeals on behalf of his duty to his wife and son: Again and again, people try to trouble my conscience over my wife and children. Is an action any better because one is married and has children? Is it better or worse because thousands of other Catholics are doing the same?

Regarding the silence of the German hierarchy: If the Church stays silent in the face of what is happening, what difference would it make if no church were ever opened again?

From the court record of the trial of F. Jagerstatter of 6 July 1943, at which he was condemned to death for sedition.

"In February 1943 the accused was again called up, by written command, for active service with motorised replacement unit 17 in Enns from 25 February 1943. At first he ignored the call-up, because he rejects National Socialism and therefore does not wish to do military service. Under pressure from relatives and the persuasion of his local priest, he finally reported on 1 March 1943 to the permanent company at motorised replacement unit 17 in Enns, but immediately announced that because of his religious views he refused to do armed military service. During questioning by the court officer, despite detailed instruction and advice as to the consequences of his conduct, he maintained his negative attitude. He explained that if he fought for the National Socialist state, he would be acting against his religious conscience.

He also assumed this negative attitude during questioning by the court investigating officer of Division No 487 in Linz, and by the representative of the national court martial. However, he declared himself willing to serve as a medical orderly as an act of Christian charity. At the main trial he repeated his statements and added that it was only during the last year he had reached the conviction that as a believing Catholic he could not perform military service, he could not simultaneously be a National Socialist and a Catholic; that was impossible. If he had obeyed the earlier call-up papers, he had done so because at that time he had regarded it as sinful not to obey the commands of the state. Now God had made him think that it was not a sin to reject armed service; there were things over which one should obey God more than man: because of the command "Love thy neighbor as thyself" he could not fight with weapons.

He was beheaded August 9, 1943 at 4 PM.