Monday, November 9, 2015


Veterans Day, renamed from Armistice Day as it had been since this end date of WWI, is about to be commemorated again Nov. 11th.   So many have suffered, and sacrificed in the plague of ongoing wars.  Also this week comes the 71st anniversary of the death of Otto Schimek, another one of the saintly many in WWII who would not fight for Hitler’s holocaust.    He died, a 19 year old, by Wermacht firing squad Nov. 14th, 1944, for desertion, and refusing orders to round up Polish citizens.  His last letter shows him to be a person of faith.   Very little has been written about him in English.  We need a new definition of hero.

Please read of my quest to write more below, pass the word of my yet unpublished article on him, and if you know anyone who might be able to help with his story please contact me, as we head off towards Vienna.


Dear Fr. Seibol and Mr. Kandutsch,
St Brigitta Church, Vienna, Austria

Pardon my English.
It was wonderful to talk with you about Otto Schimek of Vienna, born May 5, 1925 and baptized at your church, who at 19 years old, on Nov. 14, 1944, was executed by Wermacht firing squad for refusing orders in Poland.
I am a freelance writer, coming to Vienna, December 17 to Dec. 23rd, to further research the story of Otto Schimek [see Wikipedia entry].  Very little has been published on him in English. I've been searching for more verifiable sources, and hope to be able to find and interview some of Otto's family members, or Wermacht unit fellow soldiers, if some can still be found. I would like to come to your church, and prior to that, enlist the help of your parishioners and friends, to see if those people can be located for interviews when I come to Vienna, or if you have any new sources, well attributed, that I've not yet seen.
If possible I'd like to employ someone capable of acting as a translator/investigator in this project. I've been working on this story for 18 months [a rough introductory draft is below], and would very much appreciate your help in expanding and lending greater credibility, to enable publication here in the U.S.   Otto has been considered for sainthood, though the process is stalled.  The story of his life and death is a good example for us it seems, in a world too long at many wars, awash in refugees.  Thank you for your consideration, and all the help you can be.

Yours truly,
Michael McCarthy PA-C
Faith Perspective on War and Peace
Blue Water Pax Christi
2714 Stone St., Port Huron, MI  48060  USA
Please consider translating this for your parish newsletters, and announcements.
And you may also do this for my draft article below.  Thank you again.

                There were pilgrimages to the parish church in the area where he died, twice a year during the period when Poland, and all Eastern Europe, were breaking free of the Soviet Union and Communist control.  His name was celebrated in many circles, from the most devout to the purely political.  Lech Walesa of the Solidarity Union, leading the way to freedom for Poland in those times, praised Otto Schimek’s witness, that of a 19 year old Nazi soldier who wouldn’t kill Polish peasants in World War II.  Pope John Paul II wanted to visit his grave, but was at the last moment dissuaded by advisors.

                Now Otto Schimek’s story is buried, as well as his body missing—no reliable gravestone—an unknown soldier, who, as his last letter before he was executed for “deserting” testifies, was a courageous Catholic, a person faithful unto death.  He had refused to be part of Hitler’s lethal acts against Polish citizens.

                 Very little of his life has been written in English.  We know from German army records that he was born May 5, 1925 and died on November 14, 1944, for refusing to serve Hitler’s Wermacht forces.  Two books in Polish, and the website of the Catholic Church in Machowa Poland, give some detail to his short life, relying on his family’s accounts of his early life in a poor district of Vienna Austria, and the problems he had with recruitment into the German army.   He was raised to practice his faith, to do good for others, to go to mass on Sunday.  He missed some school helping his mother’s small sewing business.

                When conscripted into the armies of Hitler he told his family and others that he couldn’t kill anyone.  Then before his death he said again he couldn’t kill, “the war was provoked by the Germans and is not Christian."  In his final letter before his execution he said, "I am in a happy mood. What do we have to lose? Nothing, only our poor lives, as they cannot kill our souls. What a hope! Today, I am going to heaven, where the Father is waiting. May God guard you so that you will join me."
An Austrian Cardinal wrote in support of his cause, an Austrian Jesuit writer against.  A few journalists have investigated and are divided.  Most all Polish authors are convinced he was a hero of faith—a remarkable young man who followed his conscience. 

Padriac Kenney, a Professor of History and International Studies at Indiana University, and Director of their Polish Studies Center, has assisted in this effort to make better known to the U.S. public the story of Otto Schimek’s life and death.  He has this to say after reviewing the most relevant book [The Debate About Grenadier Schimek by Lech Niekrasz], published only in Polish.

“Niekrasz devotes the book to debunking, quite effectively, the writings of those who say Schimek was an ordinary deserter. And he does track down one old peasant who recalls the whole story and appears to confirm that Schimek really did hide two partisans, was found out and ordered to shoot them, refused, and was eventually executed. Niekrasz points out that execution was usually not the punishment for desertion, except in exceptional cases.”

A young Austrian soldier died by firing squad in 1944 for refusing the orders of an unjust war.  May we discover more of his story, which has similarity to that of the recently beatified Franz Jagerstatter who also wouldn’t fight for Hitler.  What a hope this gives in today’s world so wearied by wars without end, to all of us who take courage in the saving mercy of our God, whose justice transcends all borders.


Today’s Epistle from daily mass.  In celebrating the foundation of one of Catholicism’s early church buildings, Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, we come to the surprising truth that each of us is a sacred place, God dwelling within us. 

Brothers and sisters:
You are God’s building.
According to the grace of God given to me,
like a wise master builder I laid a foundation,
and another is building upon it.
But each one must be careful how he builds upon it,
for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there,
namely, Jesus Christ.

Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple,
God will destroy that person;
for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.

When we kill someone, even enemy, what temple have we desecrated?


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