Franz Jägerstätter was born in Austria in May 1907.
He was married to Franziska and together they had three daughters.
When the Nazi party took control of Austria in 1938 Franz refused any collaboration right from the start.
In 1940 he was called up for military service. His home village twice declared him indispensible so he was allowed home to work on his farm after six months training. In 1943 he refused to obey another call-up.
People tried to persuade him to reconsider his decision… His mother All his fellow Catholics in his village The priests to whom he turned for guidance Even the bishop told him it was his duty to serve ‘It is not for you to say whether your nation’s war is just or unjust’
Franziska hoped for a way out but stood by him in his decision.
I would be acting against my religious conscience… …if I were to fight for the national socialist state… …I cannot be a national socialist and a Catholic at the same time… …there are circumstances when one has to obey God more than people… …by virtue of the commandment… …you shall love your neighbour as yourself… …I am not permitted to fight… …nevertheless I am ready to serve as a medical orderly.
For ‘subverting military forces’ Franz Jägerstätter was sentenced to death. On 9 August 1943 he was beheaded in Brandenburg/Havel Prison. His offer to serve as a medical orderly was not accepted.
‘I am convinced that it is still best that I speak the truth, even if it costs me my life. For you will not find it written in any of the commandments of God or of the Church that a man is obliged under pain of sin to take an oath committing him to obey whatever might be commanded of him by a secular ruler.’ Franz Jägerstätter, letter from prison, 1943
On 26 October 2007 Franz Jägerstätter was recognised as a martyr and beatified by the Catholic Church.
‘Even if I write these words with my hands in chains, I still find that much better than if my will were in chains. Neither prison, nor chains, nor sentence of death, can separate me from the love of God, can rob a man of his faith and his free will. Obviously, God gives so much strength to those who love Him and who do not give priority to the world rather than to eternity. The power of God cannot be overcome.’ Franz Jägerstätter, after his sentence, Berlin, July 1943