The picture above is of Franz Jägerstätter and his wife Franziska Schwaninger on their wedding day Thursday April 9, 1936, the day before good Friday known as Holy Thursday.
Prior to Franz meeting his wife he had a bit of a reputation. A native of Radegund, near Salzburg. In his younger years he was regarded as a bit of a troublemaker, involved in several fights and the owner of the first motorcycle in the locality ,and even had a child out of wedlock. However he settled down after he met Franziska Schwaninger in 1935. He became a devout Catholic.
The couple did have 3 children
When German troops moved into Austria in March 1938, Jägerstätter rejected the offered position as Radegund mayor. He was the only person in the village to vote against the Anschluss in the plebiscite of 10 April 1938. Franz was also disturbed by the reports of the T4 Euthanasia program.
Three times he was called up for active service but he always refused.He became known as a conscientious objector who, for reasons of faith, refused to go fight for Hitler. He knew this could cost him his life.
In many writings, Franz told of his reasons for his actions: for him, to fight and kill people so that the godless Nazi regime could conquer and enslave ever more of the world’s peoples would mean becoming personally guilty. Franz prayed, fasted and sought advice. He also requested a talk with the Diocesan Bishop of Linz, Joseph Calasanz Fliesser.
The Bishop explained to Franz that, as the father of a family, it was not his task to decide whether the war was righteous or unrighteous. Franziska had accompanied her husband to Linz, but did not take part in his talk with the Bishop. She recalled the moment when her husband came out of the Bishop’s office: “’He was very sad, and told me: ‘They don’t dare themselves, or it’ll be their turn next:’ Franz’s main impression was that the Bishop did not dare to speak openly, because he didn’t know him – after all, Franz could have been a spy.”
In February 1943, when he received his last summons to Linz military barracks for active service with a motorised unit, he explained his intention of refusing to fight in what he regarded as an immoral war. He stated that he could not be both a Nazi and a Catholic He was promptly arrested and sent on to Berlin to stand trial before a court martial.
After two months in the Wehrmacht Prison in Linz, he was transferred to Berlin-Tegel.
There he was executed on August 9th. In one of the last letters before his death he wrote the well-known sentence: “If I write with my hands tied, it is still better than if the will were tied.” One of his last statements was “If the Church stays silent in the face of evil, what difference would it make if no church were ever opened again?”
By all accounts Franz was a hero and if there had been more people like him, God knows how the was would have gone.
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