(CH) The incredible story of the priest ordained amidst the horrors Dachau


Following on from my blog last Thursday on the book The Priest Barracks by Guillaume Zeller, it is worth recording one other extraordinary circumstance that took place in the concentration camp: the ordination of a young deacon, Karl Leisner. Born in 1915, he grew up in Kleve, and entered the Munich seminary in 1934. In 1939 he was ordained a deacon prior to ordination. Shortly afterwards, he was diagnosed with TB and was sent to a sanatorium. While there, he was reported by a fellow patient for making a brief remark critical of Hitler and was arrested and interned.

On 14 December 1941, he was moved to Dachau and assigned to the priests’ block. Under the harsh conditions of the camp his TB worsened and his hopes of being ordained a priest seemed unachievable. Then, as Providence would have it, Bishop Gabriel Piguet of Clermont-Ferrand arrived in Dachau as a fellow-prisoner on 6 September 1944 – and only a bishop is authorised to confer the sacrament of ordination. This was duly requested for Leisner by a Belgian priest, Fr de Coninck.

Bishop Piguet agreed, on condition that the ordination was authorised by the bishop with whom Leisner was affiliated and also that of the Archbishop of Munich, as Dachau was in his diocese. These authorisations were obtained clandestinely through the good offices of a young woman, Josefa Imma Mack (she was later to become a nun). She used to visit the plant shop at the edge of the compound at Dachau, where flowers and food grown by the prisoners was sold to the public, and where she was able to communicate with priest-prisoners assigned to work there.

Read it all.

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Posted in Church History, Germany, Roman Catholic

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