Saturday, March 18, 2017

Gröber And No End

The proposed renaming of streets in Freiburg caused a flood of letters to the editor of our local newspaper Badische Zeitung. A name frequently mentioned and commented on was that of Conrad Gröber archbishop of Freiburg during the Nazi era and continuing after the war. Red Baron had mentioned Gröber's name in the context of a renaming of streets already in 2012.

New documents found in a Paris archive became recently available and prove that Gröbner not only became a Fördermitglied (supporting member) of the SS in 1934 but had a Jewish mistress in the early 1930s called Irene Fuchs. In the beginning of the 1920s as a parish priest at Messkirch (The place where Martin Heidegger dwelt) he had known Irene as a 16 year old girl. Her father had asked Gröber who was member of the advisory board of the Fürsorgeorganisation (caring organization) for endangered women, girls, and children to look after his daughter.

Irene studied law in Freiburg and there they met again when apparently she became Gröber's mistress. Already in 1931 Gröber noted: Sie zerfiel mit mir (we fell apart) but in 1933 he let her down. The question is: Did he ditch her because she was a Jew or had he started another affair? Apparently in those years a couple of ladies thought to be Gröber's Auserwählte (chosen one), a situation that led to some tensions.

Suddenly the SS-supporting archbishop had a problem while the Gestapo (Secret State Police) saw a possibility to get rid of him. They interrogated Irene Fuchs twice trying to prove that she and Gröber committed Rassenschande (racial defilement). But Irene held her tongue.

The Nazis convened with the Catholic church that the archbishop was to be questioned by his auxiliary bishop. Confronted during the interview with the facts Gröber ought to have said: Was haben Wir da bloß wieder gemacht? (What simply did We do again?). Later Gröber noted: Es ist ein Gegenwartskuriosum, dass man die Jüdin als Kronzeugin gegen mich deutschstämmigen Mann … aufruft und vernimmt (It is an oddity in the present time that one calls on and interrogates the Jewish woman as a key witness against me, an ethnic German). Some historians think that it was Gröber himself who denunciated Irene to Gauleiter Robert Wagner.

Gröber did not leave the SS voluntarily. Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler himself struck the archbishop from the membership list in 1938. When in the 1940s the Nazis started to attack the Catholic Church Gröber became a fierce adversary of the regime and was hailed as such after the war.

Archbishop Gröber in his sleeping and working room in 1946 (©Ezbischöfliches Archiv)
Irene Fuchs survived in her London exile, her father died before the war, and her mother was gassed in Auschwitz in 1944.

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