Help for Jews in Vienna - December 1st 1940
On March 12th 1938 the invasion of the German armed forces took place in Austria. Following its wake the Gestapo (secret state police) arrived to put into force the "Nürnberger Rassengesetze" (Nuremberg Racial Laws), and to take from the Jews liberty, homeland, right, and life.
191.481 Jews were concerned, most of them, namely 176.000, lived in Vienna. For all of them the distresses by the Gestapo came unexpectedly and completely unprepared.
Archbishop of Vienna was since 1932 Theodor Innitzer, who was born in 1875 in Weipert (Bohemia). In 1933 he was raised to the cardinals' rank. Very early he recognized the deadly endangerments by the Gestapo. First he entrusted Father Bichlmair SJ with charitable assistances for the Jews. After Father Bichlmair was arrested and banished, Innitzer founded the central "Archbishop Auxiliary Organization for non-Aryan Catholics" on December 1st 1940. It was subordinated directly to the Cardinal. He appointed Father Ludger Born SJ to its director, who was born in 1897 and entered the Society of Jesus in 1915.
It is almost unbelievable how many help this auxiliary organization has given up to the end of the war: Food, clothes, dwelling, hiding places, travel expenses, medical services, provision of papers for at home and abroad, care for children, old persons, and patients. Special praise deserves the Raphaelsverein (Raphael association) in Hamburg.
But the auxiliary organization had also many and courageous helpers: Laymen, ministers, monasteries; and a good co-operation with many organizations, e.g. with agencies of the Protestant church in Germany, with emergency committees in Rome, Lisbon, New York, and Buenos Aires.
The Viennese auxiliary organization shows that the "official church" did not only preach the love of one's neighbour but did also care under most difficult conditions for the Jewish fellow citizens who were threatened and pursued, outlawed and doomed. In a dangerous time it has carried out a historically memorable charity work in a utterly-fearless and self-sacrificing way.
Father Ludger Born, who had day and night to reckon with his arrest, survived. But those years did not pass without leaving their marks on him. Thus he suffered later two cardiac infarctions, and longer hospital stays. He died in Münster on November 26th 1980, at the high age of more than 80 years.
On 6 November 2008 in the yard of the archiepiscopal palace Cardinal Christoph Schönborn unveiled a commemorative plaque for the "Archiepiscopal Relief Organization for non-Aryan Catholics" which in 1940 was founded by Cardinal Theodor Innitzer and led by the Jesuit Father Ludger Born. The celebration took place after the presentation of the again as book published diary entries "Dass ihr uns nicht vergessen habt" [That you have not forgotten us] by Gertrud Steinitz-Metzler, an employee of the organization. The "Hilfsstelle für nichtarische Katholiken" helped hundreds of Catholic "non-Aryans" to escape to a safe country. When that was no longer possible the employees and Cardinal Innitzer remained in contact with the deported people and gave them apart from material aid above all the feeling to be not forgotten. Aside from and with Father Ludger Born SJ (1897 - 1980) a team worked to which Sister Verena of Caritas Socialis, Mrs. Ungar-Perner, Mrs. Dr. Elisabeth Charlotte Fuchs, Mrs. Gertrud Steinitz-Metzler and other helpers belonged.
Österreichische Provinz S.J.- Kurznachrichten 2008/16