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Franz Jägerstätter

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Franz Jägerstätter
An icon depicting Franz Jägerstätter
Born May 20, 1907(1907-05-20), Sankt Radegund, Austria-Hungary
Died August 9, 1943 (aged 36), Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany
Venerated in Roman Catholicism
Beatified October 26, 2007, Linz, Austria by Pope Benedict XVI
Feast May 21
Patronage conscientious objectors

Franz Jägerstätter (May 20 1907 — 9 August 1943) (born as Franz Huber) was an Austrian conscientious objector during World War II and has been declared Blessed by the Roman Catholic Church.[1] As in most countries at the time, refusal to serve mandatory military service in war time was a criminal offense in Germany, and Jägerstätter was sentenced to death and executed.


Franz Jägerstätter (in English also spelt Franz Jaegerstaetter) was born in Sankt Radegund, Austria, a small village near Salzburg and Braunau am Inn. He was the illegitimate child of Rosalia Huber and Franz Bachmeier. He was first brought up by his grandmother, Elisabeth Huber. Franz's natural father was killed in World War I when he was still a child, and when his mother married, Franz was adopted by her husband, Heinrich Jägerstätter.

In his youth, Franz had gained a reputation for being a wild fellow, but, in general, his daily life was like that of most Austrian peasants. In 1933, he fathered an out of wedlock daughter, Hildegard Auer.[2]

In 1936, he married Franziska Schwaninger, a girl from a nearby village, and they went to Rome on their honeymoon. A Catholic by birth, he experienced a religious awakening - apparently about the time of his marriage – and later served as sexton of his parish church.

When German troops moved into Austria in 1938, Jägerstätter was the only person in the village to vote against the Anschluss. Although he was not involved with any political organization, and did undergo one brief period of military training, he remained openly anti-Nazi, and publicly declared he would not fight in the war.

Gedenktafel Franz Jaegerstaetter

Plaque to Franz Jägerstätter at the former Reichskriegsgericht in Berlin

After many delays, Jägerstätter was called to active duty in February, 1943. By this time, he had three daughters with his wife, the eldest not quite six. He maintained his position against fighting for the Third Reich, and was imprisoned, first at Linz, then at Berlin. After a military trial, he was sentenced to death and subsequently executed by guillotine on August 9, 1943, aged 36.


In June 2007 Pope Benedict XVI authorised the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to publish a decree that declares Jägerstätter a martyr.[3] With its publication the process of beatification was completed. The beatification ceremony took place on October 26, 2007 in Linz.[4][5] The ceremony was attended by his 94 year old widow, Franziska, and his four daughters.

The Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, said in the beatification sermon that Jägerstätter served as a model for Christians today who sometimes are confronted with "conditioning and manipulation of consciences and minds, sometimes through deceitful means." [6].

In literature

American sociologist Gordon Zahn wrote Jägerstätter's biography, In Solitary Witness: The Life and Death of Franz Jägerstätter (1964). Zahn happened upon the story while researching his book German Catholics and Hitler's Wars[7] in 1956 and became entranced with Jägerstätter's ultimate commitment to his faith and conscience, subsequently engaging in extensive research and interviews for the biography.

Israeli playwright Yehoshua Sobol based his play Eyewitness (2002) on Jägerstätter's story. It premiered in 2002 in a production by Tel Aviv's Cameri Theater, and has been performed abroad, titled "iWitness" (Hebrew: עד ראייה; lit. "eyewitness"). In the spring of 2004, an excerpt of the play was presented in the Cameri Theatre's symposium on "The Holocaust in Theatre."



  1. Zimmerman, Christopher M. (October-November 2009). "Blessed Franz Jägerstätter". The Catholic Worker (New York: The Catholic Worker) LXXVI (6): 3. 
  2. Biography of Jägerstätter (in German)
  3. Daily bulletin - Holy See Press Office (2007-06-01). "Promulgazione di Decreti della Congregazione delle Cause dei Santi". Press release. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  4. Martyr Chose God's Kingdom Over Hitler's: Franz Jägerstätter to Be Beatified Next Month Zenit News Agency September 3, 2007
  5. Template:Cite newspaper
  6. Thavis, John Cardinal beatifies Austrian killed for refusing to fight for Hitler Catholic News Service Oct-26-2007
  7. Michael Gallagher (2007 06 14). "Let us now praise Gordon Zahn". Retrieved 2009 11 10. 

External links

bar:Franz Jägerstätterla:Franciscus Jägerstätterru:Егерштеттер, Франц

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