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The Tragic Case of Ernst Lohmeyer

August 27, 2019

One of the books I’ve read during outpatient visits to the hospital over the last few weeks is a newly published book on Ernst Lohmeyer, a celebrated NT scholar who will be known to anyone in the field.  Among his numerous publications is his little monograph, Kyrios Jesus:  Eine Untersuchung zu Phil. 2, 5-11 (Heidelberg:  Carl Winters, 1928), in which he pioneered an analysis of the passage that treated it as having hymnic qualities.

The new book in question:  James R. Edwards, Between the Swastika and the Sickle:  The Life, Disappearance, and Execution of Ernst Lohmeyer (Eerdmans, 2019).   Lohmeyer opposed the Nazis, defended Jewish colleagues (especially during his time in the University of Breslau), was a member of the Confessing Church (who opposed the “German Christians” allied with the Nazis), and all the while produced some important scholarly publications.

The Nazi sympathizing leadership in Breslau gave him a disciplinary transfer to a post in the University of Greifswald.  There, he continued to produce scholarly work, and continued also to dissent from the Nazis.  He also was called up for army service, and was a unit commander on the Eastern front, where he behaved with commendable humanity in an inhuman situation.

After a time he was allowed to return to Greifswald and his academic duties.  When the war ended, Greifswald lay in the area of Soviet control.  The local Soviet leaders demanded that anyone who had been a member of the Nazi party should be dismissed from the university.  But Lohmeyer insisted that the policy agreed by the Allied powers should be observed, that only those who had actively engaged in Nazi policies should be dismissed.  This brought him the ire of the local authorities, and led to his fateful outcome.

In 1946 he was elected President of the University of Greifswald.  But on the night before his installation ceremony (March 1946) he was arrested by the Soviet NKVD, taken into custody (with no contact allowed with his wife or others), and then in September was executed.  No official word of what had happened to him emerged, however, and it was only after the collapse of the East German regime in 1989 that access was obtained to the relevant records.

Edwards tells a readable account of Lohmeyer and the circumstances of his life and tragic end.  He enlivens the account by relating his own personal interest in the matter and his efforts to research it.

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One Comment
  1. elizabeth koepping permalink

    You are so guts! Thank you for using your time so profitably by bring Ernst Lohmeyer to our notice. To survive one totalitarian regime only to be killed by another is indeed tragic. He knew what total power looked like, however it was clad: would that those of us who try to follow the God of justice mercy and love be ever alert to that lesson.

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