A Father of 7 Who Defied the Nazis

Nikolaus Gross on the Church´s List of Martyrs

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 15, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Among the three decrees of martyrdom announced recently by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints was that of German Nikolaus Gross.

A father of seven, Gross´ opposition to Nazism cost him his life. As a nonviolent opponent of the regime, he worked for the revolt of consciences against Hitler.

Gross´ model life would in time be well summarized by the Diocese of Essen, in the motto chosen for the celebration of his beatification last Oct. 7: "Faith, Love, Cross."

Born in Niederwenigern, near Essen, in 1898, Gross first worked in the mines. At 19 he registered in the Christian miners´ labor union, and at 20 he became a member of the Zentrum Christian Party. By 22 he was secretary of young miners, and began to work with Westdeutschen Arbeiterzeitung, the newspaper of the Catholic Workers´ Movement. Two years later, he was its director.

From his headquarters in Cologne, he kept his readers informed about the harmful effects of Nazi propaganda.

"We, Catholic workers, strongly and clearly reject National Socialism, not only for political and economic reasons, but also, decidedly, because of our religious and cultural position," he said. Gross worked with the most distinguished Catholic intellectuals who opposed the regime, such as Jesuit Father Alfred Delp, and layman Emil Letterhaus, who had a similar end.

What was important to Gross was to witness and transmit the faith. In 1943 he wrote: "The majority of great enterprises result from daily fulfillment of one´s duty in small, everyday things. What is valuable in the doing is our special love for the poor and the sick."

Difficulties had begun with the advent of the Nazi regime. The newspaper was declared an "enemy of the state," and closed down in 1938. It continued, however, to publish an underground edition.

Although Gross and his companions were not implicated in the July 20 attempt to assassinate the "Führer," he and members of his group were either imprisoned or executed. In Gross´ underground writings confiscated by the Gestapo, he said: "If we are asked to do something that goes against God or the faith, not only can we not do so, but we must refuse to obey."

In January 1945, Nikolaus Gross was executed in the Berlin-Plotzensee prison. His body was incinerated and the ashes shattered.