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Hermann Scheipers

Hermann Scheipers, Passport photo, ca. 1925
Hermann Scheipers, Passport photo, ca. 1925

When I suggested the idea of publishing a lot of photos from his private collection on the Porta Polonica website, Hermann Scheipers replied in flawless Polish “W porządku!” (“That’s fine!”). Hermann Scheipers is a Catholic priest who will be 102 on 24th July 2015. There is not the slightest doubt that he is held in veneration by Polish people living in Germany. In 1940 he was thrown into prison for his exemplary commitment to the welfare of Polish forced labourers. Not long afterwards he was sent to the concentration camp in Dachau where he narrowly escaped the gas chamber thanks to the help of his twin sister Anna.

And today I am talking to him in Ochtrup (Westphalia), where he now lives, to hear once more the incredible stations of his life and his suffering under two German dictatorships. My immediate impression is that Scheipers is only too willing to speak about his experiences. Although his voice is rather shaky he still exudes the power, conviction and self-confidence that surely helped him survive the monstrous conditions in the concentration camp, and even to endure the death march after the camp was evacuated in 1945. (For more, see the conversation in the mediatheque between Hermann Scheipers and Jacek Barski on 12th May 2015 in Ochtrup). 

Hermann Scheipers is a man of action, bursting with ideas. And a man of faith. You can see this simply from the photos of him that go back a complete century. His appearance is full of charisma, inner conviction, single-mindedness and tenacity. His mystifying smile, even on the photos from his time in a concentration camp, radiates confidence, joy and an active Christian belief that faith knows no fear.

Hermann Scheipers was born on 24th July 1913 in Ochtrup. In 1928 he passed his A-level examinations in Rheine, and one year later he liberated himself symbolically from his previous life when, during the first anniversary celebrations of his leaving school, he threw his old school books into the Ems and decided to become a priest. Nonetheless he has remained open to the world and interested in foreign countries and languages. During his lifetime he has travelled through France by bike, and even managed with the help of a trick to get himself a trip on a cruise to Norway promoted by the Nazi organisation “Strength through Joy”.

On 1st August 1937 he was ordained as a priest in St. Peters Cathedral in Bautzen and took up the post of chaplain in Hubertusburg near Leipzig. Even then he began making contacts with the many Poles living there. In his book “Balancing Act” (1939) he describes a remarkable episode: “In 1939 I drove a Polish woman to Leipzig because she wanted to visit the Polish Embassy there. It was the day after the so-called “Night of Broken Glass”. We drove through the shards of broken shop windows, a number of Jews were standing in the water from the River Pleiße, and the embassy courtyard was packed with Polish Jews in search of protection”.

After the German invasion of Poland, which triggered off the Second World War on 1st September 1939, the priest was confronted for the first time with the injustices inflicted on Poland by the Germans, when Polish citizens were deported to Germany as slave labourers. Without further ado Hermann Scheipers organised pastoral care for them, since it was not expressly forbidden to hold supplementary church services for Polish forced labourers. With the help of an interpreter from the forced labour camp in Mahlis, who translated the gospel into Polish, he prepared a Sunday service for the Poles.

The Mayor of Hubertusburg promptly reported it to the Gestapo in Leipzig. In 1940 Scheipers was summoned there for interrogation. Here he was arrested on the grounds of his refusal to refute his faith and calling as a priest and to disassociate himself from providing pastoral care to Polish forced labourers. On 24th December 1940 at 4 o’clock in the afternoon he was taken into “protective custody”, an act of supreme cynicism. Thus began a life of martyrdom in Nazi Germany. On 20th March 1941 he was taken to the concentration camp in Dachau. Here more than 1000 priests and other clergy were permanently thrown together in Block 26, where they were subject to a daily programme of humiliation and torment.

Mediathek Sorted

Mediathek
  • Hermann Scheipers and his twin sister Anna, ca. 1917

    Hermann Scheipers and his twin sister

    Hermann Scheipers and his twin sister Anna, ca. 1917
  • The Scheipers family in Ochtrup, 1926

    The Scheipers family

    The Scheipers family in Ochtrup, 1926
  • Hermann Scheipers as a Boy Scout, 1930

    Hermann Scheipers 1930

    Hermann Scheipers as a Boy Scout, 1930
  • Front: Commemorative card “The first year students at the grammar school in Rheine”, 1929

    Commemorative card

    Front: Commemorative card “The first year students at the grammar school in Rheine”, 1929
  • Back: The rear side of the commemorative card “The first year students at the grammar school in Rheine”, 1929

    Commemorative card

    Back: The rear side of the commemorative card “The first year students at the grammar school in Rheine”, 1929
  • Symbolic entry into maturity: old school books are thrown into the River Ems from a bridge in Rheine, 1929

    Symbolic entry into maturity

    Symbolic entry into maturity: old school books are thrown into the River Ems from a bridge in Rheine, 1929
  • Norwegian Cruise, ca. 1936. The trip cost 45 Reichsmarks. Hermann Scheipers earned this as an assistant to Father Hubert Winckelmann from Greven

    Norwegian Cruise, ca. 1936

    Norwegian Cruise, ca. 1936. The trip cost 45 Reichsmarks. Hermann Scheipers earned this as an assistant to Father Hubert Winckelmann from Greven
  • Hermann and Anna Scheipers ca. 1933

    Hermann and Anna Scheipers

    Hermann and Anna Scheipers ca. 1933
  • Hermann Scheipers, 1932

    Hermann Scheipers, 1932

    Hermann Scheipers, 1932
  • Hermann Scheipers, Passport photo, ca. 1925

    Passport photo

    Hermann Scheipers, Passport photo, ca. 1925
  • The rear side of the passport photo with a handwritten remark “You are so much more warm-hearted than your picture”

    Rear side of the passport photo

    The rear side of the passport photo with a handwritten remark “You are so much more warm-hearted than your picture”
  • Hermann Scheipers in Ochtrup in front of his parents’ rented house, 1937

    Hermann Scheipers 1937

    Hermann Scheipers in Ochtrup in front of his parents’ rented house, 1937
  • Hermann Scheipers with his sister Anna (left) in Hubertusburg before October 1940

    Hermann Scheipers with his sister Anna

    Hermann Scheipers with his sister Anna (left) in Hubertusburg before October 1940
  • Hermann Scheipers with his own Brennabor car, 1937

    Hermann Scheipers 1937

    Hermann Scheipers with his own Brennabor car, 1937
  • The back of the photo with his own car with a handwritten remark: “1. car, Brennabor, Battery on the running board”.

    Handwritten remark

    The back of the photo with his own car with a handwritten remark: “1. car, Brennabor, Battery on the running board”.
  • The Dachau concentration camp, ca. 1941

    The Dachau concentration camp

    The Dachau concentration camp, ca. 1941
  • Prisoners in Dachau

    Prisoners in Dachau (1)

    Prisoners in Dachau
  • Prisoners in Dachau

    Prisoners in Dachau (2)

    Prisoners in Dachau
  • Prisoners in Dachau

    Prisoners in Dachau (3)

    Prisoners in Dachau
  • Prisoners in Dachau

    Prisoners in Dachau (4)

    Prisoners in Dachau
  • Prisoners in Dachau

    Prisoners in Dachau (5)

    Prisoners in Dachau
  • Prisoners in Dachau

    Prisoners in Dachau (6)

    Prisoners in Dachau
  • Prisoners in Dachau

    Prisoners in Dachau (7)

    Prisoners in Dachau
  • Prisoners in Dachau

    Prisoners in Dachau (8)

    Prisoners in Dachau
  • The Dachau concentration camp – experiments on hypothermia with people

    The Dachau concentration camp

    The Dachau concentration camp – experiments on hypothermia with people
  • Hermann Scheipers in the concentration camp at Dachau at the end of 1944. The photo was secretly taken in a storeroom. Left, Pastor Burkhard (Bishopric of Augsburg); in the middle, Scheipers in a “Zebra” jacket he borrowed from a fellow prisoner; right, Pastor Neunzig (Bishopric of Trier)

    The photo was secretly taken

    Hermann Scheipers in the concentration camp at Dachau at the end of 1944. The photo was secretly taken in a storeroom.
  • The rear side of the photo with handwritten remarks by Scheipers

    The rear side of the photo

    The rear side of the photo with handwritten remarks by Scheipers
  • Church service for the priests in the Dachau concentration camp, 1944

    Church service Dachau

    Church service for the priests in the Dachau concentration camp, 1944
  • The rear side of the photo of the church service for priests in the Dachau concentration camp in 1944, with a handwritten remark by Hermann Scheipers: “Church service of the priests in Dachau (Most of the prisoners are wearing torn suits with a sewn-on X, because there were no more “Zebra” prisoners’ clothes in 1944)

    The rear side of the photo

    The rear side of the photo of the church service for priests in the Dachau concentration camp in 1944, with a handwritten remark by Hermann Scheipers
  • Death march after the evacuation of the Dachau concentration camp at the end of April 1945. Here, a death march through Grünewald (South of Munich). The photo was secretly taken by a citizen of Grünewald

    Death march after the evacuation

    Death march after the evacuation of the Dachau concentration camp at the end of April 1945. Here, a death march through Grünewald (South of Munich).
  • Death march after the evacuation of the Dachau concentration camp at the end of April 1945. Here, a death march through Grünewald (South of Munich). The photo was secretly taken by a citizen of Grünewald

    Death march after the evacuation

    Death march after the evacuation of the Dachau concentration camp at the end of April 1945. Here, a death march through Grünewald (South of Munich).
  • Hermann Scheipers in April 1945

    Hermann Scheipers in April 1945

    Hermann Scheipers in April 1945
  • Hermann Scheipers’ personal identity card, issued in Starnberg on the 16th May 1945

    Personal identity card 1945

    Hermann Scheipers’ personal identity card, issued in Starnberg on the 16th May 1945
  • Rear of Hermann Scheipers’ personal identity card, issued in Starnberg on the 16th May 1945

    Rear of personal identity card

    Rear of Hermann Scheipers’ personal identity card, issued in Starnberg on the 16th May 1945
  • Hermann Scheipers at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Fuchsberg chapel in Schirgiswalde, 1960

    Hermann Scheipers 1960

    Hermann Scheipers at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Fuchsberg chapel in Schirgiswalde, 1960
  • Hermann Scheipers on a trip to Poland, 1963

    On a trip to Poland, 1963

    Hermann Scheipers on a trip to Poland, 1963
  • The funeral of Bishop Trochta in Leitmeritz / Czechoslovakia 1974. The silent sermon given by bishops and cardinals because they were banned from speaking. Fourth from the left in the first row, the Archbishop of Kraków, Karol Wojtyla

    The funeral of Bishop Trochta

    The funeral of Bishop Trochta in Leitmeritz / Czechoslovakia 1974. The silent sermon given by bishops and cardinals because they were banned from speaking.
  • The wreath which Hermann Scheipers laid at Trochta’s grave in the name of the German priests in Dachau

    Wreath for Bishop Trochta

    The wreath which Hermann Scheipers laid at Trochta’s grave in the name of the German priests in Dachau
  • The Archbishop of Kraków, Karol Wojtyla, at the funeral of Bishop Trochta in Leitmeritz, 1974

    The Archbishop of Kraków

    The Archbishop of Kraków, Karol Wojtyla, at the funeral of Bishop Trochta in Leitmeritz, 1974
  • Scheipers’ sister Anna with the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, 2002

    Scheipers’ sister Anna

    Scheipers’ sister Anna with the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, 2002
  • Hermann Scheipers with Volker Schlöndorff, 2004

    Hermann Scheipers 2004

    Hermann Scheipers with Volker Schlöndorff, 2004
  • Hermann Scheipers in front of the White House in Washington D.C., 2009. He made the journey at the invitation of the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport

    Hermann Scheipers in Washington D.C.

    Hermann Scheipers in front of the White House in Washington D.C., 2009. He made the journey at the invitation of the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport
  • Dir gehört mein Leben (DE)

    Die Geschichte von Anna und Hermann Scheipers - 29 min
  • I owe you my life (EN)

    The story of Anna and Hermann Scheipers - 29 min
  • Moje życie należy do ciebie (PL)

    Historia Anny i Hermanna Scheipersów - 29 min
  • Speech of the General Consul of the Republic of Poland in Cologne Jan Sobczak on the occasion of the presentation of the Knights Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland to Hermann Scheipers on 26th February 2013 in Ochtrup.

    Speech of the General Consul

    Speech of the General Consul of the Republic of Poland in Cologne Jan Sobczak
  • The Order is awarded

    The Order is awarded

    The Order is awarded
  • General Consul Jan Sobczak (l. to r.), Hermann Scheipers with the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Verdienstkreuz am Bande) and the Polish Order

    General Consul Jan Sobczak

    General Consul Jan Sobczak (l. to r.), Hermann Scheipers with the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Polish Order
  • The certificate of the Order containing the signature of the President of the Republic of Poland, Bronisław Komorowski

    The certificate of the Order

    The certificate of the Order containing the signature of the President of the Republic of Poland, Bronisław Komorowski
  • Hermann Scheipers´ speech of thanks

    Hermann Scheipers´ speech of thanks

    Hermann Scheipers´ speech of thanks
  • Hermann Scheipers

    A unique document of contemporary history. A current conversation with Hermann Scheipers in front of the camera.
  • Stoplerstein Hermann Scheipers

    Stoplerstein für Prälat Hermann Scheipers

    Der Stolperstein mit Lebensdaten von Hermann Scheipers wurde am 3. Februar 2018 vor der früheren elterlichen Wohnung in das Pflaster des Bürgersteiges eingesetzt.
  • Gedenktafel für Anna und Hermann Scheipers

    Gedenktafel für Anna und Hermann Scheipers

    Die Gedenktafel erinnert an die besondere Zivilcourage der Zwillinge Anne und Hermann Scheipers.
  • The Grave of Hermann Scheipers in Ochtrup

    The Grave of Hermann Scheipers in Ochtrup

    The Grave of Hermann Scheipers in Ochtrup - Alter Friedhof at the Alte Maate (bottom on the right).
  • The Grave of Hermann Scheipers

    The Grave of Hermann Scheipers

    The Grave of Hermann Scheipers in Ochtrup (Alter Friedhof in Alte Maate).