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Friedrich Benesch’s national socialist past

Friedrich Benesch (1907-1991) played an important role in the Christian Community – as principal of many years standing of the Priests’ seminar in Stuttgart and as a lecturer worldwide much in demand. Before being ordained as a priest in 1947, he had worked as a Protestant minister in Siebenbürgen, being an enthusiastic Nation­al Socialist.

Before being finally ordained, every candidate has to describe his life so far to the priests of the Christian Community. You don’t find anything in Benesch’s curriculum vitae about his politically excessive work. Whether he told the former head of the Christian Community, Emil Bock, about this under the seal of the confession, is not established; if he did so, his confession was neither so complete nor truthful that, for example, his repeated attempts to join the SS became known.

At Benesch’s 100th anniversary Hans-Werner Schroeder undertook the task to describe in an extensive biography even the breaks in Benesch’s life which became more and more pronounced as Benesch’s own – scanty – reports contain obvious discrepancies. Schroeder’s biography tries to create clarity as much as possible; but inconsistencies and riddles remain.

Benesch – who, in later years, was also said by some people to be of domineering behaviour and lacking self-control – was certainly not a National Socialist after the war. But that he fanatically and ardently adhered to National Socialism earlier, evokes questions for the governing body of the Christian Community which can hardly be solved after his death.

The Christian Community does not tolerate any political agitation in its congregations. It works always for equality and equal respect of all people. Nationalism and racism have no place in its communities. This was one of the reasons for the suppression which it suffered in Germany from 1934 on and which in 1941 culminated in its ban and the arrest of its co-workers. Jews were never excluded from its altars – in full awareness of the risk.

Working through a biography doesn’t mean to sit in judgement on a misguided human being. But the Christian Community considers it as a misfortune that one of its co-workers was accepted into its circle before the leadership and the priests could have knowledge of his past.

Hanover, 3rd January 2009
Frank Hörtreiter
Public-relations officer of the Christian Community