In November 1938 the Kristallnacht pogrom in Germany offered the world a brazen display of the Nazi persecution of the Jews. Many Church officials turned a blind eye, but not Bernard Lichtenberg, provost of St. Hedwig’s Cathedral. He condemned the attack and from then on regularly prayed publicly for the Jews and other victims of persecution. He later denounced the Nazi policy of “euthanasia.” In a letter to the Chief Physician of the state he wrote, “As a human being, a Christian, a priest, and a German, I demand of you that you answer for the crimes that have been perpetrated at your bidding, and with your consent, and which will call forth the vengeance of the Lord on the heads of the German people.”
In October 1941 the Gestapo raided his home. There, they found a sermon he had planned to deliver, denouncing the Reich Minister of Propaganda’s claim that anyone greeting a Jew on the street was guilty of treason. He had intended to remind his flock of Christ’s commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Lichtenberg was arrested and served two years in Tegel Prison. When the Gestapo offered to free him if he would refrain from preaching, he asked instead to be deported to Poland with the Jews. He was remanded to Dachau concentration camp but fell ill and died in transit on November 5, 1943. He was beatified in 1996.
“Outside, the Temple is burning, and this too is a house of God. . . . The Jews are my brothers and sisters, also created with an immortal soul by God!”—Blessed Bernard Lichtenberg