“To this end was I born, and for
this cause came I into the world,
That I should bear witness unto
The truth.” (John 18:37)
Paul and Margarete Schneider, October 1922
The Pastor Paul Schneider Association was founded in Weimar, Germany in 1997, with the principal purpose of sharing the story of this Third Reich Christian martyr. In conjunction with our German brothers and sisters, an American Chapter was established. The American Chapter convenes annually in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
The goals of the Association are:
- 1. To preserve the knowledge of Paul Schneider’s faithful witness in a day of moral ambiguity
- 2. To encourage other Christians to take a stand, when necessary, for faith and conscience
- 3. To influence our daily thought as to how a Christian life can be lived
Who was Paul Schneider?
Paul Robert Schneider was born in Pferdsfeld, Germany in 1897, the second of three sons born to Gustav and Elizabeth Schneider. He had a strong love for his mother and a great respect for his father, who was a pastor and an ardent patriot. Following military service in World War I, Paul Schneider began his theological studies and was ordained in Hochelheim in 1925. The following year, he married Margarete Dieterich, the daughter of a pastor. In 1927, the couple had their first son, followed by a daughter and four more sons.
When President von Hindenburg named Adolf Hitler Chancellor in 1933, Paul was the pastor of the Hochelheim church, having succeeded his father who died in 1926. Initially, Pastor Schneider believed that the new Chancellor, with the help of divine guidance, would lead Germany into a bright future. It did not take long for him to perceive the true character of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. Paul Schneider did not stand by idly as Nazi leaders ridiculed the morality of the Church. In writing and in preaching, he protested against the vitriol directed against the Church by Nazi officials. Pastor Schneider received no backing from his consistory. On the contrary, in order to placate Nazi officials who complained about Pastor Schneider, the consistory transferred him to a remote region of Germany.
Early in 1934, Paul Schneider and his family moved to Dickenschied, where he became pastor to the Dickenschied and Womrath congregations. That same year, Pastor Schneider became a member of the “Confessing Church,” a Protestant organization that opposed Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. Paul Schneider continued to bear witness to the truth. In March 1935, Nazi officials took Pastor Schneider into “protective custody,” a Nazi euphemism for “arrest.” They held him for a few days because he insisted on reading from the pulpit the synodal criticism of the government’s policy toward the Church.
Local Nazi officials summoned Paul Schneider for interrogations twelve times during the winter of 1935/1936. He continued to speak his mind and follow the dictates of his conscience. Some of Paul’s friends pleaded with him to avoid confrontation with the Nazis. He responded that he did not seek martyrdom, but that he had to follow his Lord. His primary responsibility was to prepare his family for eternal life – not to insure their material well-being.
In spring 1937, with the support of members of his presbytery, Pastor Schneider began the process of excommunicating parishioners who, because of their allegiance to the Nazi Party, engaged in conduct which violated congregational discipline. Complaints to Nazi officials by the censored led to the arrest of Pastor Schneider. Following two months in the Koblenz prison, officials released him with the warning not to return to the Rhineland, where his home and parish were located. Pastor Schneider knew that, if he returned to his flock, it would mean imprisonment in a concentration camp. Yet, the night before his release, he read in his Bible the story concerning the crisis confronted by Deborah. When Deborah summoned the twelve tribes together to confront the common enemy, only Nephtali and Zebulun responded. Pastor Schneider saw in this Old Testament story [Judges 5:18] a parallel to the crisis which the Church confronted in Nazi Germany, and he concluded that even if his was a minority voice, he must act in harmony with his conscience, and protest.
Following his release from prison, Pastor Schneider spent two months with his wife and a few family members and friends in Baden Baden and in Eschbach. He and Margarete returned home for Harvest Thanksgiving on October 3, 1937. Pastor Schneider was able to celebrate this occasion with his Dickenschied congregation, but local police arrested him as he journeyed to Womrath for an evening worship service.
Paul Schneider was incarcerated in Buchenwald, near Weimar, on November 27, 1937, just a few months after the camp opened. In the labor commandos, Pastor Schneider watched out for his fellow inmates. After being sentenced to solitary confinement, he preached the “Good News” from the window of his prison cell. He “earned” the new accommodations when he refused to remove his beret in tribute to Hitler on the Fhrer’s birthday, April 20, 1938. From his cell, Paul Schneider accused his captors and encouraged his fellow inmates. Each time he shouted out his cell window, he was flogged. As others had pleaded years earlier, the man who mopped the floors in the solitary confinement building begged Paul Schneider, “Please stop provoking the SS against you…They will beat you to death if you continue preaching from your cell window.” Nevertheless, Paul Schneider continued to bear witness to the truth.
On July 18, 1939, Paul Schneider was murdered with a lethal injection of strophanthin in the camp infirmary. Camp officials notified Margarete Schneider of her husband’s death and she made the long journey from Dickenschied to retrieve his body. Despite Gestapo surveillance, hundreds of people attended Pastor Schneider’s funeral, including many members of the Confessing Church. One of the pastors preached at the grave side, “May God grant that the witness of your shepherd, our brother, remain with you and continue to impact on future generations and that it remain vital and bear fruit in the entire Christian Church.”
We, the “future generation,” keep the witness of Pastor Paul Schneider alive through our Association.
Pastor Paul Schneider could never have “born witness to the truth” without the faithful support of his wife Margarete (Gretel).
With financial assistance from the Confessing Church, Mrs. Schneider, in early 1940, purchased a house in Wuppertal. An air raid in 1943 destroyed the house and the Schneider family lived the remaining war years with relatives in Tbingen. Mrs. Schneider remained active for six decades following the death of her husband. She organized women’s workgroups presenting lectures and Bible lessons. A publisher, stimulated by the account concerning Pastor Schneider, which he heard from an English woman in Locarno, urged Mrs. Schneider to prepare her biography about her husband – Paul Schneider – Der Prediger von Buchenwald, . She also offered her time during many summers in Dickenschied to Claude R. Foster in the preparation of his publication, The Buchenwald Apostle (see below). On her ninetieth birthday, Mrs. Schneider received the honorary citizenship award from Dickenschied. In the year 2000, she was awarded the silver Johannes Brenz Medal of the Wrttemberg Regional Church as well as the Great Service Cross of the Federal Republic of Germany. Mrs. Schneider died on December 27, 2002, twelve days before her ninety-ninth birthday. She was buried next to her husband in the Dickenschied cemetery.
We remember and recognize Margarete Schneider as a faithful witness alongside her husband.
Paul Schneider: Representative Christian martyr at Sant’ Egidio in Rome:
In his homily concerning twentieth-century Christian martyrs presented at the Coliseum in the spring of the year 2000, Pope John Paul II named Pastor Paul Schneider as representative for Protestant martyrs. On February 1, 2003, an ecumenical celebration took place at the Basilica of St. Bartolomeo in Rome. Representatives of Paul Schneider’s family, including Pastor Schneider’s daughter Eva-Maria and son Karl-Adolf, participated in the ceremony. Karl Adolf read a letter written by his father to his mother, one of the last letters Paul Schneider wrote during his internment in Buchenwald. The letter is on permanent exhibit in the St. Bartolomeo Church.
Interested in reading more about Paul Schneider?
You can order the definitive book about the life of Paul
Schneider, The Buchenwald Apostle, by Professor Claude R. Foster (Translated German edition also available)
Go to Website: www.angelfire.com/pa5/claudefoster
Available: 20-minute video about Paul Schneider
“You Mass Murderers – I accuse You”
PAL Format (Can request VHS)
Contact Brenda Gaydosh: email@example.com
For further information regarding the Pastor Paul Schneider
Association in America, please contact Brenda Gaydosh:
The Pastor Paul Schneider Association in Germany: