Christian Pastor and Resistance Figure. Born a pastor's son in a conservative family, he first joined the Navy after passing his school leaving exams (Abitur). He was assigned to the submarine service, where in August 1917 he became executive officer of U-151, which set a record of 55,000 tons of ships sunk in 151 days. He then became commanding officer of UC-67, where he served until war's end. He received the Iron Cross First Class for his service. Due to his conservative opposition to the Weimar Republic, he left the navy in 1919 and decided to become a pastor rather than become a farmer. He studied Lutheran theology from 1919 to 1923 at the University of Münster. During this time he served as a Freikorps commander during a revolt in that city. He was ordained in 1924 and became pastor of the Church of the Redeemer in Münster. In 1932 he was given the pastorate of the Lutheran church in Dahlem, a Berlin suburb, where he became friends with future German Field Marshal Model. When the Nazis took power he was at first in favor, as he thought they would bring a return to conservatism. But he stood directly opposed to the "Aryan Paragraph" (1933) as inimical to Christianity. He did at first try to form a compromise with the so-called "German Christians", but then formed with Barth and Bonhoeffer the Confessing Church in 1934 in opposition to the Nazi-controlled "German Church". He was arrested in 1937 and was released after his trial as he had already served more time than the sentence given him. But, likely on order of Rudolf Hess, he was rearrested almost immediately and spent the war interned in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps until war's end in 1945. The time in prison changed him. He had been anti-Semitic, but his experiences gave him a great compassion for people of all walks and beliefs. He was one of the leaders of the group that wrote the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt in October 1945, where the Church confessed that they had not done enough to resist the Nazis. From 1947 to 1961, he was head of the Protestant Church of Hesse and Nassau. After a meeting with Otto Hahn in 1954, he became a strong pacifist and anti-nuclear activist. He opposed the Vietnam war, visited with Ho Che Minh. He was elected president of the World Council of Churches in 1961. Among his many awards were the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, the 1966 Lenin Peace Prize, the East German Peace Medal, and the Albert Schweitzer Peace Medal and a number of honorary doctorates from world universities. He has had many streets, schools, and places named after him, and the German Post Office issued a stamp on his 100th birthday in 1992. His most famous quote is "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out...because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out...because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out..because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."
Bio by: Kenneth Gilbert