Thumbnail Profile of My Father

This thumbnail profile of my father appears in Protestantische Profile im Ruhrgebiet: 500 Lebensbilder aus 5 Jahrhunderten (Protestant Profiles in the Ruhr Region:  500 profiles from 5 centuries), edited byMichael Basse, Traugott Jähnichen and Harald Schroeter-Wittke, Hartmut Spenner publishers, Kamen (Germany) 2009, pp. 592-593.  The author is Hartmut Ludwig, a church historian and Doctor of Theology at the Humboldt University in Berlin.  The translation from the German is mine.

Nicolaus, Albrecht (Born May 8 1914 in Kiel, died July 16 1941 near Kiev).  “If I have one hope for this country, it is this, that it … may know that God himself did it, in order to awaken it once again and hopefully for the last time, with inconceivably hard mercy, from its unbounded dreams — dreams that cost too much blood, too much innocent blood — and, if it pleases HIM, to make a new beginning with it.”  Albrecht Nicolaus wrote these words to his wife Margot two days before the German onslaught on the Soviet Union.

Born on May 8 1914 in Kiel, he grew up in Essen-Werden, where his father was an office employee with Krupp.  After his high school completion exam (Abitur) in 1933 and his labor service (Arbeitsdienst), he studied theology in Marburg, Tübingen, Berlin and Basel from 1934 to 1938.  He belonged among the young theologians who identified already as students with the radical Bekennende Kirche (BK) and whose political analysis led them away from the Nazi state.  The theology of Karl Barth “became ever more precious to him in various trials by fire.”

Nicolaus asked Pastor Wilhelm Busch, head of the Protestant youth movement in Essen, for a “clear word” about the plebiscite of March 29, 1936, in which Hitler wanted the people to ratify his breach of the Treaty of Versailles via the German army’s march into the demilitarized Rhineland.  Nicolaus hesitated to “write a blank check for everything that will follow — and all this with a little ‘x’ — it is a real cross to bear!”  The Gestapo intercepted the letter.

After the Munich pact of September 1938, Nicolaus wrote to friends in England about his disappointment with the attitude of England and France toward Hitler’s demands.  “This is the policy of men who focus on guarding the peace while losing freedom and independence.  There is cowardice in the noisy celebrations of so many who feel that the war has been postponed for a little while.”  This letter also landed in Gestapo hands.

In the spring of 1939, Nicolaus sat for his first theological examination before the examining committee of the BK in the Rhineland.  In April 1939 he became vicar in Braunfels on the Lahn.  He was arrested there at the beginning of September.  At first, he refused to make any statement about his examination by the outlawed BK.  On December 24 he was released from prison in order to be drafted into the army.  The official screamed at his bride, “The pig is not worthy of the front.”  He was drafted in April 1940.  He married on October 3, 1940.  He sat for the second theological exam with the BK and was ordained on March 16, 1941, in Essen-Werden.

On June 20, he wrote his wife:  “God alone knows how torn up the heart of a Christian is in this war, on this side. … I stand at the gates of Russia and I am supposed to be fanatically enthusiastic about victory, victory, victory at any price — but if the censorship reads this letter, I will be liquidated tomorrow, a saboteur of victory, a miserable traitor!  Quo vadis, Germania?”

Albrecht Nicolaus became a casualty of war on July 16, 1941 near Rzadkowka in the Kiev district.

— Hartmut Ludwig

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