Blessed Nikolaus Gross was eventually arrested for knowing about the failed assassination attempt on Hitler.
While many in Germany were lured by Adolf Hitler’s persuasive leadership, there was a remnant of individuals who saw the evil he did and worked hard against it. This included bold men such as Nikolaus Gross, who sought to fight for the lives of others.
Gross initially worked as a miner and was active in the St. Anthony’s Miners’ Association, becoming the editor-in-chief of its newspaper. However, political changes in Germany were presenting new challenges and he powerfully wrote in an edition of the newspaper in 1930, “As Catholic workers we reject Nazism not only for political and economic reasons, but decisively also, resolutely and clearly, on account of our religious and cultural attitude.”
Besides being a miner, Gross was also a loving husband and devoted father of seven children. He strove to foster their Catholic faith and taught them at a young age respect for the poor and suffering.
As the tides began to turn in favor of the Nazis, Gross was among the first to join the resistance. He continued to write, this time pamphlets to strengthen the faith of workers. Not surprisingly, his home was subject to searches and he was repeatedly interrogated. Gross knew something must be done and did all that he could to influence his fellow Germans, as is displayed in this 1943 message.
Sometimes, my heart becomes heavy and the task appears insoluble if I measure my own human imperfection and inadequacy against the greatness of the obligation and the weight of the responsibility. If a generation must pay the highest price, death, for its short life, we look for the answer in ourselves in vain. We find it only in Him in whose hand we are safe in life and in death. We never know what problems are waiting to test the power and strength of our souls … Man’s ways lie in obscurity. But even darkness is not without light. Hope and faith, which always hasten ahead of us, already have a presentiment of the breaking of a new dawn. If we know that the best thing in us, the soul, is immortal, then we also know that we shall meet each other again.
Being part of the resistance, Gross “was well informed of the plot to assassinate Hitler even though he took no part in its preparation and execution.” Then on July 20, 1944, the assassination attempt failed “when a bomb planted in a briefcase went off but did not kill the Nazi leader” and resulted in a swift investigation to discover all those involved.
Gross was arrested on August 12, 1944 because of his connection with those who planned the attempt. After being put in jail and tortured numerous times, he was finally executed on January 23, 1945.
The cause for his canonization began in 1988, and he was declared a martyr killed “in odium fidei” (in hatred of the faith) in 2001, with St. John Paul II beatifying him on October 7, 2001. The pope shared the following remark about the inspiration of his life.
Blessed Nikolaus Gross teaches us to obey God rather than men. Our time urgently needs convinced Christians, who listen to the voice of their conscience and have the courage to speak out when it is a question of the transcendence of the human person.
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