Station:  Installation “Pastor Umfrid – Then and Now”, Bell Tower
M: „"What happened yesterday in this town – it wasn’t right," ...
F: ... cried Pastor Hermann Umfrid from the pulpit in March 1933.
M: Those words – in German, of course -- are written in reverse on the pavement in front of the church. You can only read them if you look in the curved mirror. But what had happened?
F: Hermann Umfrid was pastor of the Protestant parish of St. James from 1929 to 1934. He was popular, regarded as cosmopolitan, with a modern outlook; he played the violin, and he had a good relationship with the Jewish community. Then, on the 25th of March 1933, everything changed.
M: A gang of bellowing storm troopers overran Niederstetten barely two months after the Nazis took power. They searched the homes of Jewish residents and subjected them to brutal beatings. Some suffered life-threatening injuries.
F: Many places in the Tauber Valley experienced an organized rampage on that day. In the neighbouring village of Creglingen, people even died. The pogrom of the 25th of March 1933 is commemorated in Creglingen’s Jewish Museum, which also has an audio tour.
M: The next day, at the Sunday service, Pastor Umfrid spoke out.
M: "What happened yesterday in this town – it wasn’t right"…
F: … he declared from the pulpit.
M: "I call upon you all to help ensure that the German people’s shield of honour remains bright!"
F: There were consequences to his sermon. While some of the faithful went home heartened, others called on him to retract his sermon. Pastor Umfrid refused. But his initial support among some local people gradually crumbled.
M: "Politics has no place in the pulpit", was the message. But Pastor Umfrid continued to support his Jewish fellow citizens against the Nazi fanatics. He was not to be deterred!
F: In January 1934, the Nazi party’s district leader, the Kreisleiter, asked the pastor to resign his ministry. Umfrid could no longer count on solidarity from local people. He suffered a nervous breakdown and subsequently took his own life on the 21st of January 1934, leaving behind a wife and four daughters. He was 42 years old.
M: And Niederstetten’s Jewish residents lost one of their most important advocates.
F: In honour of Hermann Umfrid, a trail called the "Tachelespfad", roughly the “Straight Talk Trail” was inaugurated in October 2021. The installation here at the church commemorates the pastor who told it as it was, and refused to be silenced. It’s one of six stops designed to ensure we never forget.
M: Your next stop is also part of the Tacheles Trail. It’s at Rathausgasse 2.
Fotos: © Trüpschuch