A Martyr of the First Commandment

Italian Died for Refusing to Take Oath to Hitler

BOLZANO, Italy, MARCH 26, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Josef Mayr-Nusser, known as a “martyr of the First Commandment,” was sentenced to death by the Nazis for refusing to take an oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler.

Mayr-Nusser’s cause for beatification has been concluded at the diocesan phase. At a Mass marking the anniversary of Mayr-Nusser’s death, Bishop Manfred Scheuer, of Innsbruck, Austria, said he was a “martyr of the First Commandment” and “a witness of faith, of conscience and of love toward others.”

During World War II, Mayr-Nusser was forcibly drafted by the Nazis. Leaving his wife Hildegard and newborn son Albert, Mayr-Nusser was sent to Prussia.

After his training he was required to swear an oath to Hitler, saying, “I swear to you, Adolf Hitler, Führer and chancellor of the Reich, faithfulness and courage; I solemnly promise to you and the superiors designated by you faithfulness until death; may God help me.”

When the day came for the oath, Oct. 4, 1944, Mayr-Nusser refused to swear to Hitler in the name of God. His faith and his conscience, he said, would not allow it.

Knowing his wife shared his commitment to God, Mayr-Nusser wrote her from prison, “You wouldn’t be my wife if you expected something different.”

Mayr-Nusser was transferred to Danzig and put on trial. He was condemned to death for defiance and died from dysentery on Feb. 24, 1945, on the way to the concentration camp of Dachau. He was clutching a rosary and a Bible.