Gay clergyman viciously persecuted by the Nazis has been reinstated by his church, decades after his death
A gay clergyman who was persecuted by the Nazis because of his sexuality and was subsequently disrobed by his church has been posthumously reinstated in Germany.
Reverend Friedrich Klein was convicted of homosexual activity by a Nazi military tribunal in 1942, and was disrobed by his church a few months later.
He was later conscripted and vanished off the radar in the summer of 1944 on the Eastern Front.
The Berlin Immanuelkirche church has finally recognised the harm that was done in disrobing Klein, and has reversed the decision in a groundbreaking move, according to DW.
A church in Germany has recognised the ‘injustice’ of disrobing gay reverend Friedrich Klein thanks to the Nazis.
“Revoking the ordination rights of reverend Friedrich Klein on 20 January, 1942, has been recognised as an injustice and is declared null and void,” protestant bishop Christian Stablein told his congregation yesterday (2 September).
The incredible decision makes the Berlin church the first in Germany to formally re-ordain a disrobed gay pastor. It is not known how many other gay clergymen were persecuted by the Nazis.
The church’s current pastor Mark Pockrandt uncovered Klein’s story when going through the institution’s archives ahead of its 125th anniversary in 2018.
Revoking the ordination rights of reverend Friedrich Klein on 20 January, 1942, has been recognised as an injustice and is declared null and void.
Klein was born in 1905 and went on to join the Nazi party in 1933. However, he later moved to Berlin and lent his support to the efforts of another clergyman, Johannes Schwartzkopf, to stamp out discrimination against Jewish people and other oppressed groups.
When Klein’s sexuality was discovered, he was convicted by the Nazi party and sent to military prison. In July 1944, he was released and forced to fight for the Nazis, where he was likely deployed the frontline.
It is thought that he probably died within days of his release.
The church will investigate other cases where gay clergymen were disrobed because of their sexuality.
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Speaking to his congregation, bishop Christian Stablein said: “Because of this unjust treatment, much suffering has befallen people who wanted to live and to love differently and who were discriminated against in a dreadful way.”
The bishop said that the church intends to investigate other cases where gay clergymen were disrobed because of their sexuality.
The ceremony was mostly attended by older gay men, with numbers limited due to the coronavirus pandemic.
One gay man who attended the ceremony, who had campaigned for Klein’s re-ordination, said the bishop’s words had moved him deeply.
“I am grateful to him,” said Lothar Dönitz.
He said the bishop is surely “the first bishop from a German protestant church to have found these words”.