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Karl Veidt

Karl Veidt was a pastor of the Paulskirche. He is considered a German nationalist and before 1933 was a member of the German National People‘s Party (DNVP), for which he sat in the Reichstag until 1929. He distanced himself from the party before 1933 because of its rapprochement with Hitler, but even after 1933 he did not criticise the National Socialists. He only had disputes within the church.

Nevertheless, Veidt was arrested twice by the Gestapo and taken to the Klapperfeld police prison. The first time, for 4 days on the day after Lent Sunday 1937 and the second time in February 1941 for 4 weeks.

The first arrest in 1937

After the first arrest Veidt, together with his colleagues Fricke and Klein, were summoned to Bürgerstraße for questioning. From there they were taken to the Klapperfeld police prison. The reason for the arrest was apparently a speech Veidt had given six months earlier, because of which he was accused of defeatism and undermining the German will to defend itself, because in it, with reference to Dibelius, he did not see the question of war from the Christian point of view solely in terms of duty to the people and the fatherland and in obedience to the authorities.

»The interrogation partly took on agitated forms. In the end I was told that I was under arrest. The two other confreres were also subject to arrest. Fricke as co-author of the statement, Klein because he had read it out. Apart from that, we were treated very lightly. We were taken to prison in the ‚Green Minna‘. This was the first time I got to know the police prison in Klapperfeldstraße.

It is a strange feeling when you experience for the first time as a prisoner how the prison gate and cell door open in front of you and close behind you. But I knew who I was and was quite confident. Fricke had heard from an official that we would be detained for about 10 days. I was pretty hungry that day. At the gate I had to hand over everything I had in my pocket, my braces and tie were taken off. My wife was called, two of my children brought me warm clothes and some laundry to the prison. In the cell I looked around a bit, 3.50 m in length, about 2 m wide, on the left the cot, tilted up during the day, down at night. On the right, a table and a chair were set into the wall, both folded up at night because there would otherwise have been no room when the bed was lowered. The small window was at an unreachable height. The heavy wooden bed was only supported by a very worn mattress, which had to be laid out properly, so that sleep was almost impossible during the first and second night. Despite my request, I could not get a watch, a pocket knife or a New Testament. Fortunately, the officer who checked my pockets had not found my official diary, which contained the Watchwords. These short words of the Holy Scriptures, which were particularly well suited to my situation in those days, strengthened me wonderfully. Daily routine: get up at 6 a.m., clean the cell, then black coffee with dry bread, about 11 a.m. walk of half an hour in the small prison yard, 1 a.m. lunch, 5 p.m. dinner. At 6 o‘clock one could lower the cot and lie down. About every half hour the light on the ceiling was turned on from the outside so that the officer could take a look in through the peephole on the door. The worst enemies that afflict a prisoner are uncertainty, inactivity and the impossibility of knowing the time of day. Even the renunciation of other self-evident customs is torturous. One cannot cut one‘s nails, one is forced to peel potatoes with one‘s fingernails. During my later imprisonment, I spent a few days in the remand prison, where things were better in some respects.

For example, you were given cutlery for your meal, which was then immediately taken away again. I soon had a special method for space and time management. I determined how many steps I needed in my cell for a period of 72 pulse beats and how often I had to go back and forth in my cell; with this I could firstly easily calculate how many steps I needed for 10 minutes, half an hour or an hour and what distances I covered. In this way, I could make walks in my community or in the area around Frankfurt in my mind. This was a great source of strength. I also thought of my loved ones at home and of the community. So I tried inwardly to overcome the monotony and the heavy thoughts. This first detention ended after only four days. The three of us who were arrested had our confirmation the following Sunday. Two of my children were involved in the confirmation which I had to hold. This circumstance contributed to our relatively quick release. We were set free with sharp warnings. Later I was to get to know the prison cell a little more thoroughly.«

The second arrest in 1941

»It was only in prison that I learned the reason for my arrest: favouring a half-Jew by falsely certifying an ancestral passport. When I heard that it was only a question of the passport, not of political or ecclesiastical matters, I was very reassured, and I knew that nothing wrong could have happened in the certification of the passport.[*] Again came the usual procedure at the gate. This time they left me nothing that could have eased the monotony of the cell. The only exceptions were two newspapers and some magazines of the Senckenberg Natural Research Society, which my wife smuggled into my cell through a helpful police officer. I knew their contents almost by heart when I came out of the cell. My daughters, Klärchen and Hede, had brought me another suit in the meantime. When they saw me from afar through the iron barred door and called out ‚Papa‘ to me, it sounded like angelic voices. Then cell 43 took me in again. Again, the same eerie moment when the iron door closes behind you, which can only be opened again from the outside.«

[*] Veidt‘s further remarks in his memoirs, also indicate that he did not understand the signing of the ancestor‘s passport as a conscious act of assistance, but only signed it because he trusted his community aide to check the documents carefully.

Source: Werner Becher (Hg.): Karl Veidt (1879–1946). Paulskirchenpfarrer und Reichstagsabgeordneter, Darmstadt und Kassel 2006