The four martyrs of Lubeck

Three priests and a Lutheran minister were beheaded for treason Nov. 10, 1943. Their blood ran together, in the ultimate ecumenical gesture. This summer, the priests will be beatified, and the minister honored.

That honor isn’t quite enough for some Lutherans, who think that Catholics should beatify non-Catholics. But Lutherans don’t do saints. They could, but they don’t. Maybe the fuss is really about their own collaboration with the Nazis:

Rev. Stellbrink, 49 when he died, has been described as a prickly character who initially was an eager supporter of the Nazi party. The World War I veteran soon became disillusioned with Nazism, especially its anti-clericalism, and began to criticize it. He was expelled from the party in 1937 for refusing to denounce his friendship with Jews.

In 1941, he met Father Prassek at a funeral and increasingly began speaking against the Nazis by building a friendship with the younger priest, who had resolutely opposed Hitler’s regime.

Rev. Stellbrink was the first Protestant cleric to be executed in Germany. Unlike his Catholic friends, he received no support from his church, which rehabilitated him only 50 years later, noting its “pain and shame” at the disgraceful treatment of the heroic pastor.


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