Was the former Archbishop of Freiburg Conrad Grober anti-Semitic and a Nazi stapes holder? Or one of the few who protested against Hitler's regime of injustice? A conference of historians attempted to take stock of the research to date.
Freiburg diocese debates its former archbishops: not just Robert Zollitsch's responsibility or omission in clearing up abuse cases. But also about the integrity of Conrad Grober (1872-1948), who led the southwest diocese during the Nazi regime of injustice.
Must the charismatic preacher Grober be remembered as an anti-Semite or as a supporter of underground aid to Jews? Or rather, as one of the few church leaders who protested early on against the systematic euthanasia murder of disabled people?
Recently, Grober's hometown of Mebkirch organized a conference of historians to compile the latest research on the bishop's life and work. Particularly in the current agitated political mood, careful consideration is needed, said Mebkirch's mayor Arne Zwick, explaining the objective.
Career of Grober
Grober came from a family of craftsmen in Mebkirch. Boys' convict and grammar school in Constance were followed by theological studies in Freiburg. Finally, he transferred to the renowned Germanicum Seminary in Rome, where he was ordained a priest in 1897 and received his doctorate in 1898.
Grober was parish priest in Ettenheim and Karlsruhe, cathedral priest in Constance, then cathedral chaplain in Freiburg and one of the first radio preachers. Thanks also to his contacts with the then Pope's ambassador and later Pope Eugenio Pacelli, he was appointed Bishop of Meissen in 1931.
Popular with the church people
Just one year later, Grober moved to the southwest as Archbishop of Freiburg. In an action that, as diocesan archivist Christoph Schmider points out, was controversial under canon law and unique, because the Freiburg cathedral chapter was simply ignored in this personnel matter.
But Grober quickly won over his church people. During his sermons, some of which lasted two hours, there was not a free seat left in the overcrowded cathedral. Contemporary witnesses raved about Grober's humanizing character. At the same time the archbishop was capricious and egocentric.
Close connection to the SS
Then the civilizing break of 1933. After Hitler's seizure of power, Grober hoped for ecclesiastical cooperation with the National Socialists. And joined the support association of the SS. The Heidenheim historian Wolfgang Proske points out that Grober ordered church buildings to be flagged with the swastika flag on "patriotic occasions". The Hitler salute was also common in religious education classes. Conversely, Nazi celebrities from South Baden had marched in Catholic processions.
Catholic faith placed above Nazi ideology
On the other hand, the archbishop supported the Caritas activist Gertrud Luckner in her rescue operations for Jews who had converted to Christianity. Attacks against the churchman followed in the Nazi diatribe "Alemanne" for placing the Catholic faith above Nazi ideology.
And Grober's protests against the Nazi euthanasia murder program were also unpleasantly received by those in power. They did not dare to take direct action against the churchman until the end. Just as Grober did not call for resistance against the criminal state.
New documents prove denunciation of Irene Fuchs
At the Mebkirch historians' conference Proske now presented new accusations. He cited newly discovered documents which, in his view, prove that in 1936 and again in 1938 Grober denounced Irene Fuchs, a lawyer from Constance with whom he was acquainted, to the Nazi authorities as a "Jew who took revenge" and thus endangered her life.
The background to the two letters was an article in the Nazi newspaper "Der Sturmer," which stated that Grober had a sexual relationship with Fuchs. Grober publicly rejected the accusations. Proske now interprets the two letters as attempts by Grober to get Fuchs out of the way through the short official channels.
Documents were deliberately leaked to Nazi rulers?
Meanwhile, the Wurzburg church historian Dominik Burkhard recently announced that the files and letters cited by Proske would be examined in greater detail. It is also conceivable, for example, that the documents were deliberately leaked to the Nazis by Grober's rivals within the church in order to harm Grober. Thus, the recent meeting could not paint a conclusive picture of Grober.