On July 6th 1986, Lothar Ernst Paul Kreyssig, passed away after living a life of honor and principle. This was especially so during times when it seemed these virtues were rapidly leaving the world forever.
A member of the Confessing Church, he spent his later years working vigorously to atone for the wrong his countrymen had wrought, believing that even those who resisted should have, and could have, done far more to stop the evil in their midst.
Trained in the law, in Leipzig, he became a district court judge. Soon he was transferred to Brandenburg an der Havel and his new duties were as a guardianship judge for the mentally ill.
Many people think of Nazi Germany as pioneers in the field of eugenics, but that is not really so. That distinction belongs to the United States and Great Britain, and included such names as Margaret Sanger and Sir Francis Galton. Still, the eager understudy, Germany made up time with persistence and passion.
By the summer of 1940 a program known as Aktion T4
was quietly in full swing. The flip-side to nationwide programs encouraging childbearing among Aryans, this program worked to create “Racial Hygene” by removing the ill, the infirm, the defective… the üntermenschen, from the gene-pool of the Master Race. A race for the New World Order.
But, being Germans, everything about this quiet program had to be nice and tidy, with all the documents organized and everything correct. And legal.
Judge Kreyssig kept seeing reams of odd paperwork, often nearly identical, except for the names, cross his desk for approval. Dozens, then hundreds of people were dying under his watch. He soon concluded that this was in fact a forced euthanasia program on a huge scale, and he was placing his own imprimatur on the horrible act.
He refused to do so.
Moreover, he wrote Minister of Justice Franz Gurtner, protesting in very strong terms the treatment of people under his charge, including now, prisoners and residents of a concentration camp, writing:
“What is right is what benefits the people. In the name of this frightful doctrine — as yet, uncontradicted by any guardian of rights in Germany — entire sectors of communal living are excluded from [having] rights, for example, all the concentration camps, and now, all hospitals and sanatoriums.”
Trusting in German Jurisprudence, Judge Kreyssig then filed criminal charges against the program administrator, and issued an injunction against the operation.
Judge Kreyssig was in for a rude awakening. He was called to a meeting by the Justice Minister, and shown a letter authorizing the Aktion T4 signed by Adolph Hitler himself.
This was the Führerprinzip (Leader Principle) in ‘action”. The Law must serve the State. The Leader embodies the State. Thus, the letter of the Law bends to the will of the Leader.
Horrified, but not stupid, Judge Kreyssig, this very powerful and respected jurist, narrowly avoided being sent by the Gestapo to a concentration camp himself. Marginalized over the next two years, he was finally forced to retire from the bench.
Most of us know of the trials of major political and military leaders of the Nazi regime at Nuremburg. There were also trials of morally corrupt Doctors, and of willing (or worse) Prosecutors and Judges.
It is said that when the Nazi Judges were tried by the Allies at Nuremburg, they looked everywhere for a Judge who under the Regime steadfastly refused to do evil. They found just one:
But, after refusing the seduction of the National Socialist German Workers Party, since the Judge lived in Saxony, he had a new problem. He was now in the “East Zone”… soon to become the new Deutsche Demokratishe Republik. Communist, East Germany.
And, THEY wanted him to be a Judge. Having seen this show before, he refused.
A life-long Evangelical (Protestant) Christian, instead he returned to a prior focus on his faith and community, becoming President of his church for the province of Saxony, and on to many other positions of community leadership.
Most noteworthy, in 1958 Mr. Kreyssig founded the Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (ARSP), an international organization that continues to this day.
This organization’s view, as an outgrowth of the ideology of Confessing Church roots, calls for “repentance and reversal” on the part of those who do harm to others. Thus, in the context of postwar Germany, not just individual or communal guilt, but an earnest and direct request to aid those who were harmed.
The ARSP sends nearly two hundred volunteers annually to engage in long- and short-term social work for survivors in Belgium, France, the UK, the Netherlands, Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Belarus, Ukraine, Israel and the U.S. Over the years thousands have served.
When faced with a society filled with mindless evil, Judge Kreyssig refused to bend. When lured by a sister-evil, he refused. Instead, Mr. Kreyssig worked the rest of his life for true reconciliation and encouraged others to follow his lead.
A model for us all.