May 20, 1907 – August 9, 1943
Called to serve his country as a Nazi solider, Franz Jaegerstaetter eventually refused, and this husband and father of three daughters was executed because of it.
Born in St. Radegund in Upper Austria, Franz lost his father during World War I and was adopted after Heinrich Jaegerstaetter married Rosalia Huber. He became a farmer, married Franziska and lived his faith with quiet but intense conviction.
In 1938, he publicly opposed the German Anschluss (annexation) of Austria. The next year, he was drafted into the Austrian army, trained for seven months and then received a deferment. In 1940, he was called up again but allowed to return home at the request of the town’s mayor. He was in active service between October 1940 and April 1941, but was again deferred.
In February 1943, he was called up again and reported to army officials in Enns, Austria. When he refused to take the oath of loyalty to Hitler, he was imprisoned in Linz, then transferred to a prison in Berlin.
Challenged by his attorney that other Catholics were serving in the army, Franz responded, “I do not judge anyone. I can only judge myself.”
On Aug. 8, 1943, he wrote to Fransizka: “Dear wife and mother, …I beg you to forgive me if I have hurt or offended you, just as I have forgiven everything… I will surely beg the dear God, if I am permitted to enter heaven soon, that he will set aside a little place in heaven for all of you.”
Franz was beheaded and cremated the following day. In 1946, his ashes were reburied in St. Radegund near a memorial inscribed with his name and the names of almost 60 village men who died during their military service. He was beatified in Linz on Oct. 26, 2007. His “spiritual testament” is now in Rome’s St. Bartholomew Church as part of a shrine to 20th-century martyrs for their faith.
Reprinted with permission from Franciscan Media. FranciscanMedia.org.
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