Decades after his death a gay clergyman persecuted by the Nazi as part of their so-called moral crusade to racially and culturally purify the German race has been posthumously reinstated by his church.
“Revoking the ordination rights of Reverend Friedrich Klein on January 20, 1943, has been recognised as an injustice and is declared null and void,” Protestant Bishop Christian Stäblein told a congregation recently held at Berlin’s Immanuelkirche church. The ceremony, held in Klein’s honour, was as full as is permitted given coronavirus restrictions with between 80 and 90 guests in attendance, many of them older gay men.
Nine years after Hitler came into power, Friedrich Klein was convicted of homosexual activity by a Nazi military tribunal. Following the conviction the church was quick to disrobe the clergyman.
Sentenced to two years imprisonment upon his release in the summer of 1944 Klein was conscripted to fight for the Nazi’s on the Eastern Front, where he was likely killed during combat at the age of just 39.
It is unknown how many other gay clergymen were persecuted by the Nazis. However, with 100,000 historical arrests of men found to have violated Nazi Germany’s laws against homosexuality there are likely to be many more. Records show that up to 15,000 of these men may have died in concentration camps alongside individuals from the Jewish and other persecuted minorities.
It may be a first-but according to Marion Gardei, the Berlin church group’s official responsible for ‘the culture of remembrance’, the city-state church wants to “continue pursuing the rehabilitation of all homosexual victims.” And that “they intend to do more research, to prepare a theological statement on the issue, and to set up an advice body for present-day complaints or queries.”
Lothar Dönitz, an LGBTQI activist who has long been vocal in his campaigning for Klein’s re-ordination, said that he found the service to be deeply moving.
“I am grateful to him, Bishop Christian Stäblein is surely ‘the first bishop from a German protestant church to have found these words’.”