Monday 27. June 2022

International Jagerstatter-Commemoration 2019: Resistance also lives from Memory


The central idea at the international Jagerstatter commemoration in St. Radegund and Tarsdorf on August 8 and 9, 2019 was: "Provocateurs of Remembrance" such as Blessed Franz Jagerstatter and Blessed Restituta Kafka.

They are role models for the question: Where do Christians have to courageously resist today?



Lecture: Provocateur of resistance and reconciliation, who started the cycle of love again


In the parish hall of Tarsdorf Sister Dr. Ruth Beinhauer from Vienna spoke about her co-sister, the "provocateur of the faith - the blessed Restituta Kafka in resistance", whose 125th birthday in the year 2019 is commemorated. Beinhauer is herself a Franciscan Sister of Christian Love ("Hartmann Schwester") from Vienna, lived in Rome for twelve years and is Vice Postulator of the beatification and canonization process for Restituta Kafka. She is currently preparing the first issue of Sr. Restituta's letters from prison in the Vienna Regional Court.


In 1896 Sr. Restituta Kafka came with her family from Moravian Husovice (Hussowitz) near Brno to Vienna. At the age of 19 she joined the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Love and received the religious name "Maria Restituta". After the First World War, she became a nurse in the hospital Moedling. In 1938, after the "Anschluss" of Austria to Nazi Germany, she refused to remove the crucifixes from the hospital rooms. In addition, she was accused of dictating and reading two dissident texts. Arrested by the Gestapo directly from the operating room, she was beheaded in Vienna in 1943 for "favoring the enemy and preparing for high treason" after having been in prison for one year.


In her lecture Sister Ruth Beinhauer pointed out that Franz Jagerstatter and Restituta Kafka, both murdered in 1943, were "the two representatives of Austria, united on the altar of the Martyrs under National Socialism in an incomparable sacral memorial site: on the Tiber Island in Rome in the basilica of San Bartolomeo all'Isola, dedicated to the martyrs of the 20th and 21st centuries from all continents and from the most diverse dictatorships in the world, not just Catholics". Beinhauer underlined some similarities that connect Franz Jagerstatter and Sr. Restituta Kafka.


Both came from humble backgrounds and proved that a clear mind and natural religiosity were sufficient to see through the criminal and anti-Christian intentions of National Socialism. For both of them, active resistance to National Socialism was not a sacrifice, but an unquestionable and irreversible matter of course, from which neither friend nor foe could dissuade them, nor did they fear death. Both had set signs against the war for and the oath of allegiance to the criminal Hitler. Sr. Beinhauer commented: "Franz Jagerstatter did this especially as a personally affected man, in his own right", this means, by his own conscientious refusal, Sr. Restituta by dictating of a - circulating in circles of the Austrian Freedom Movement - soldier's song, which called on the Austrian soldiers ‘No longer fighting for the brown slave kingdom’. Both were initially misjudged and criticized by their own church, "because they did not limit their religious beliefs to apolitical hidden prayers, but also expressed them through politically effective acts of resistance and because they - unlike many too diplomatic church representatives - could not keep silent about the blatant injustice", Sr. Beinhauer explained.


Referring to the title of her lecture, Sr. Beinhauer emphasized that "provoking" by faith in a threefold way: 1. challenging others, but also oneself, 2. evoking faith or openness to the faith, 3. promoting, protecting and defending faith - in a faith-hostile, indifferent, or fanatic environment it is always a prophetic sign of contradiction, as testified by the life and death of Sr. Restituta. The death sentence against Sr. Restituta was a blunt signal of intimidation to the Catholic Church: we have no qualms about sending a nun to the scaffold! Sr. Beinhauer literally said: "Probably for image reasons, Sr. Restituta remained under the Nazi tyranny the only religious nun condemned to death and actually executed."


In the time of her imprisonment, Sr. Restituta had become an encourager for her fellow prisoners, "who did not know that she was a nun because she lived so naturally and companionably without pious attitudes as a fellow prisoner", as Sr. Ruth Beinhauer reported. So she fed a sick child murderer, gave her potatoes to a malnourished pregnant woman, provided for milk and butter also for Jewish women. Sr. Beinhauer said about her fellow sister: "She testified Christ less through words than through her being, above all, she strengthened the fellow prisoners in their human dignity and intellectual strength." This unbiased, strengthening effect from person to person Sr. Restituta also opened the hearts of the Communists at that time, the church and Catholic institutions mostly kept them at a distance like an infectious disease and rejected them as interlocutors, as Sr. Beinhauer describes: "Just as Sr. Restituta provoked through resistance and for resistance, she also provoked through reconciliation and for reconciliation. She looked with respectful openness at her fellow human beings and Communist prisoners, considered everything "behind", possibly changed her mind, sometimes regretted many prejudices, turned around, changed direction, created a new base of encounters on an equal footing. She brought development where, for example, communists and Catholics have come to a standstill because of misunderstandings, mistakes, wrong actions and sins (on both sides), sand in gear, or communication in general, the cycle of love back in motion."


On June 21, 1998, Sr. Restituta was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Vienna. Her liturgical memorial day is October 29 (day of the death sentence in 1942).



Courageous action instead of listless watching


Just as faith lives from the remembrance and community-building strengthening of the Eucharistic sacrifice, in a metaphorical sense, resistance also lives from the memory and community-building, empowering realization of the sacrifice - the sacrifices made by people and those who sacrificed themselves, Sr. Ruth Beinhauer is convinced of this. Sr. Restituta Kafka, like Franz Jagerstatter and others, was not only a provocateur of the faith but, as a martyr from the resistance, at the same time a permanent provocateur of memory. Sr. Beinhauer's appeal: "Straightforward and risk-taking people like Franz Jagerstatter and Restituta Kafka should give us this necessary impetus, touch us to get out of our" standby mode", from the impassive watching, and always activate us to the courage to emerge from the safety of the anonymous mass of 'bystanders', to risk better action and to take other people on our way." Finally, Sr. Ruth Beinhauer asked each Christian the question: "Where do I as a Christian today in society, politics and - sometimes even in the church - work against it, contradict and resist, to let evil or non-good not go unchallenged? What means can, may and should I use for this? In other words, where do I have to become a provocateur of the faith?"


Sr. Ruth Beinhauer
Lecture of Sr. Ruth Beinhauer

© Martin Pilgram 



A piece of the Gospel realized in life


After the lecture, a foot pilgrimage led from Tarsdorf to St. Radegund, where at 4 o'clock in the afternoon a devotion to the hour of death of Franz Jagerstatter took place, which was prepared and administered by Pax Christi. The devotion was musically accompanied by a grandson and two great-grandchildren of Franz and Franziska Jagerstatter.



International exchange


Numerous participants from Germany and Italy were present. Many have made this annual pilgrimage to St Radegund for decades. Among them was a conscientious objector, who was detained in Italy for months, authors writing about Franz Jagerstatter, people working for refugees and Lizzy Bentley from Los Angeles, writer/producer of the new Jagerstatter movie "A Hidden Life". She was accompanied by her 18 year old son Isaiah, for whom this commemoration was “a great experience and a life memory”.


In order to get to know each other better and to find out from which part of the countries participants had come, an introductory round was held that was translated into Italian or German likewise to inform people about the background and motivation of people coming to the Jagerstatter commemoration. This gave a deep insight into the diverse groups that are linked to Franz Jagerstatter and their attachment to his cause. The furthest Italian participant came from Tarent, a couple from Bologna declared that they had first met and fallen I love during an earlier Jagerstatter commemoration in St Radegund. It was nice to see how far the message of Blessed Franz Jagerstatter has spread.



Commemorating victims of the Nazi regime


Before the Mass in the evening, the names of the nearly 200 people from the deanery Ostermiething and the city of Braunau, who had been persecuted by the Nazi regime from 1934 - 1945, were read out on the Jagerstatter Square in front of the church St. Radegund.


A foot pilgrimage led from Tarsdorf to St. Radegund
the names of the nearly 200 people from the deanery Ostermiething and the city of Braunau, who had been persecuted by the Nazi regime from 1934 - 1945, were read out on the Jagerstatter Square
the names of the nearly 200 people from the deanery Ostermiething and the city of Braunau, who had been persecuted by the Nazi regime from 1934 - 1945, were read out on the Jagerstatter Square

© Martin Pilgram 



Holy Mass


In the evening Bishop em. Maximilian Aichern celebrated the Holy Mass in the parish church of St. Radegund, which was musically accompanied by the church choir St. Radegund. In his sermon Bishop Aichern referred to Blessed Franz Jagerstatter and Blessed Restituta Kafka as well as to St. Benedicta from the Cross, the Carmelite Edith Stein, who was murdered on August 9, 1942 in the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau and whose memorial day is celebrated by the Catholic church on August 9. Bishop Aichern emphasized that Christians like Edith Stein, Sister Restituta Kafka and Franz Jagerstatter are "a piece of Gospel realized in life".


Bishop em. Maximilian Aichern celebrated the Holy Mass in the parish church of St. Radegund
Bishop em. Maximilian Aichern
Commemoration at the grave
Commemoration at the grave
Grave of Franz und Franziska Jagerstatter
Grave of Franz und Franziska Jagerstatter
Commemoration at the grave
Commemoration at the grave
Bishop em. Maximilian Aichern with Maria Dammer, one of the daughters of Franz and Franziska. mit Bischof em. Maximilian Aichern beim Grab von Franz und Franziska Jägerstätter. Bishop em. Maximilian Aichern with Maria Dammer, one of the daughters of

© Martin Pilgram | © Elisabeth Jungmeier


Translated by Elisabeth Jungmeier

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