Scrapbookpages Blog

April 17, 2012

Two Catholic priests were crucified upside down at Buchenwald

Filed under: Buchenwald, Dachau, Germany — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 7:27 pm

A couple of days ago, I read an article written by Kathy Schiffer on this website.  This quote is from the article:

It was at Buchenwald that two Austrian priests, Otto Neururer and Mathias Spannlang, were crucified upside down on June 5, 1940.

I had never heard about this before I read the article, so I went to Wikipedia to find out more.  According to Wikipedia, it was that evil Nazi Martin Sommer who perpetrated this atrocity.  This quote from Wikipedia tells the story:

Walter Gerhard Martin Sommer (February 8, 1915 – June 7, 1988) was an SS Hauptscharführer (master sergeant) who served as a guard at the concentration camps of Dachau and Buchenwald. Sommer, known as the “Hangman of Buchenwald” was considered a depraved sadist who reportedly ordered two Austrian priests, Otto Neururer and Mathias Spannlang, crucified upside-down.

Note that Martin Sommer REPORTEDLY ordered this atrocity.  “Reportedly” is only slightly better than “allegedly.”

Wikipedia also says this about Martin Summer, who was put on trial by the Nazis themselves:

After the SS trial Sommer received a reduction in rank and was sentenced to a penal battalion fighting on the Eastern Front where he was wounded in a tank explosion, losing his left arm and right leg. He was taken captive by the Red Army and was detained as P.O.W. until 1950 when his prisoner status was upgraded to war criminal. He was released from Soviet captivity in 1955 as part of the negotiations conducted on behalf of Soviet held German prisoners by Konrad Adenauer.

Karl Otto Koch, the Commandant of Buchenwald, was also put on trial at the same time and he was sentenced to death for ordering the deaths of two prisoners.  How did Martin Sommer get off with such a light sentence after he had ordered the crucifixion of two priests?

I googled some more and found the website where Kathy Schiffer had apparently gotten her information.  Here is a quote from that website:

Neururer was arrested on the charge of “slander to the detriment of German marriage” and interned first in the concentration camp of Dachau and later in Buchenwald. The sadistic tortures to which he was subjected caused incredible suffering, but even so he shared his scarce food rations with prisoners who were even weaker than himself. In the Buchenwald camp he was approached by a prisoner who asked to be baptized. Perhaps he was an agent provocateur. Neururer suspected that the request could be a trap, but his sense of duty did not allow him to refuse. Two days later he was transferred to the much feared “bunker”, which in concentration camps was the place of extreme punishment. There he was hanged upside down until he died on 30 May 1940.

Being “hanged upside down until death” is not crucifixion.  Note also that Neururer was sent from Dachau to Buchenwald.  That doesn’t make any sense.  The priests were sent to Dachau from other camps so they could all be together. Note that the date is also different from the date given by Kathy Schiffer.

I previously blogged here, way back in 2010,  about the priests who were allegedly crucified at Buchenwald.

After a little more searching, I found this website which has some information about Otto Neuruer:

Otto Neururer was one of hundreds of priests who died under SS Nazi persecution.  “He was injected with Malaria by the “doctors” who conducted human lab experiments in the camps during that brutal time.

I believe that this version of the story is the truth.  This quote is from my own website:

Because of the fact that they were exempt from work, the priests were chosen as subjects for medical experiments, conducted by Dr. Klaus Schilling, on a cure for malaria. As a result of these experiments, many of the priests died.

This information is also from my own website:

In 1940, the German bishops and the Pope had persuaded Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler to concentrate all the priests imprisoned in the various concentration camps into one camp, and to house them all together in separate blocks with a chapel where they could say Mass.

In early December 1940, the priests already in Dachau were put into Barracks Block 26 near the end of the camp street. Within two weeks, they were joined by around 800 to 900 priests from Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Sachsenhausen, Auschwitz and other camps, who were put into Blocks 28 and 30. Block 30 was later converted into an infirmary barrack.

At first, the priests at Dachau were given special privileges such as a ration of wine, a loaf of bread for four men, and individual bunk beds. The priests were not required to work and they were allowed to celebrate Mass.

In October 1941, these privileges were taken away. Only the German priests were now allowed to say Mass. All non-German clergymen, including Poles, Dutchmen, Luxembourgers and Belgians, were removed from Block 26 and sent to Block 28. A wire fence was placed around Block 28 and a sentry stood guard. The non-German priests were now forced to work, just like the rest of the prisoners. Allegedly, this change happened because the Pope had made a speech on the radio in which he condemned the Nazis, and the German bishops had made a public protest about the treatment of the priests.


The Catholic priests were not sent to Dachau just because they were priests. Catholics and Protestants alike were arrested as “enemies of the state” but only if they preached against the Nazi government. An important policy of the Nazi party in Germany was called Gleichschaltung, a term that was coined in 1933 to mean that all German culture, religious practice, politics, and daily life should conform with Nazi ideology. This policy meant total control of thought, belief, and practice and it was used to systematically eradicate all anti-Nazi elements after Hitler came to power.

There were around 20 million Catholics and 20,000 priests in Nazi Germany. The vast majority of the German clergymen and the German people, including the 40 million Protestants, went along with Hitler’s ideology and were not persecuted by the Nazis.


Father William J. O’Malley, S.J. wrote the following regarding the priests who were arrested and sent to Dachau because they were actively helping the underground Resistance against the German occupation of Europe:

The 156 French, 63 Dutch, and 46 Belgians were primarily interned for their work in the Underground. If that were a crime, such men as Michel Riquet, S.J., surely had little defense; he was in contact with most of the leaders of the French Resistance and was their chaplain, writing forthright editorials for the underground press, sequestering Jews, POW’s, downed Allied airmen, feeding and clothing them, providing them with counterfeit papers and spiriting them into Spain and North Africa.


On December 7, 2009, a monument to the late Cardinal Josef Beran, who died in 1969, was unveiled by Prague Archbishop Cardinal Miloslav Vik in Prague, a city in the Czech Republic. Father Josef Beran was one of the priests who was a prisoner at Dachau; he was arrested and sent to Dachau after the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the Deputy Reich-Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, on May 27, 1942. Beran was accused of being a member of the Czech Resistance which killed Reinhard Heydrich.


Nerin E. Gun wrote in his book “The Day of the Americans” that Cardinal Faulhaber in Munich sent food packages to Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler right up to the time that the prisoners in the “Honor Bunker” were sent to the Tyrol for their own protection before the camp was liberated. Gun pointed out in his book that Hitler was Catholic and that “he paid his religious dues to the German Catholic Church until the day he died.” Hitler was never excommunicated by the Pope, according to Gun, and he never apostasized.

Here is another paragraph in the article by Kathy Schiffer which contains two mistakes:

Among the Buchenwald survivors were Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel; child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim; Austrian architect and industrial designer Henry P. Glass; and Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Clergy held inside its formidable walls included Yisrael Meir Lau, former Chief Rabbi of Israel; and Paul Schneider, German pastor, who died at the camp in 1939.

Photo of Paul Schneider hangs in his former cell in the bunker at Buchenwald

According to Wikipedia, Pastor Schneider was executed in his cell when he was injected with poison.  He was  a prisoner in Buchenwald for two years, during which time, he continued to preach against the Nazis from the window of his cell, which finally irritated the SS to the point where they executed him.

I previously blogged about Dietrich Bonhoeffer here.  He was not a survivor of Buchenwald.  He was moved to another camp and hanged on April 9, 1945, two days before Buchenwald was liberated on April 11, 1945.  Yisrael Meir Lau was a survivor of Buchenwald, but he was only 8 years old in 1945; it was after he survived Buchenwald that he became the Chief Rabbi of Israel.  I blogged about him here.


  1. It sends shivers down my spine to realize the martyred priests’ body parts might have been used to put some artsy touch on those infamous lampshades, carefully manufactured in Buchenwald and then exported as far as New Orleans.

    Comment by Eager for Answers — April 18, 2012 @ 4:10 pm

  2. Although we can’t perhaps be certain, bombing raids seem a more probable cause of some these accounts. In The White Rabbit – of Yeo-Thomas SOE agent in Buchenwald and elsewhere – there is an account of a successful air attack on his transport train into Germany and then direct hits on the Revier huts of his work camp after Buchenwald.

    Thekla made the news back in 1945 – for what is

    Comment by littlegreyrabbit — April 18, 2012 @ 12:20 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: