Nazi march © KNA
Berlin pastor Friedrich Klein was dismissed from ministry by the Protestant state church in early 1943 for homosexuality. 77 years later, Klein was publicly rehabilitated at a memorial service on Tuesday.
The Protestant Church in Berlin was the first church in Germany to publicly rehabilitate a homosexual pastor who had been persecuted under the Nazis. At a memorial service in Berlin's Immanuel Church on Tuesday, the bishop of the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia (EKBO), Christian Stablein, read out a statement from the church leadership restoring the public reputation of pastor Friedrich Heinrich Klein.
Klein, who was born in Homburg (Saar) in 1905, was dismissed as a pastor of the Immanuel congregation in Berlin during the Nazi era at the beginning of 1943 because of homosexuality by the then ecclesiastical consistory of Mark Brandenburg. The church leadership informed him that he had thus "lost the right to all official emoluments and to pensions, as well as the authority to use the official title and the rights of clerical status".
Klein's story became present again through old files
Previously, in 1942, the pastor had been sentenced to three years in prison by the Nazi Reich War Court for "seducing a 19-year-old man into unnatural fornication". He was initially imprisoned in Torgau, Saxony. He was later sent on front parole and has been considered missing since August 1944.
Today's parish priest Mark Pockrandt came across Klein's fate in 2018 while sifting through old files. The congregational church council (GKR) of the Immanuel congregation in Prenzlauer Berg then demanded that the responsible church district of Stadtmitte and the state church "come to terms with the case of Friedrich Klein and rehabilitate the unlawfully convicted man.". In this way, the church leadership wanted the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) to rehabilitate all employees who had been removed from church service because of their sexual orientation, it was said.
The 1. September is no coincidence
The timing of Klein's now public rehabilitation on 1. September is not a date chosen at random. 85 years ago, on 1. September 1935, the Nazis tightened Paragraph 175 of the Reich Penal Code. It criminalized sexual acts between persons of the male sex since 1872. It was not abolished in the Federal Republic of Germany until 1994. Moreover, on 1. September 1939 the beginning of World War II.
The church leadership's public statement on Klein is not simply "something made right," Bishop Stablein emphasized in his sermon. The rehabilitation comes too late. "I say it very carefully: it is a step on the way to conversion," said the bishop.
Public word of repentance or theological statement planned
After 1945, the discrimination continued, "in words and deeds, publicly and behind closed doors". "For far too long, we have calmed ourselves down, we have accepted it all, we have suppressed it, we have shared responsibility for the screaming injustice, we have kept quiet about it," Stablein said.
The bishop announced that the regional church would not only deal with cases of discrimination among the Nazis. Plans include a public word of repentance or theological statement in the summer of 2021. In addition, a contact point is to be created for those affected in the regional church.