Franz REITER was a Jehovah’s Witness who had been born in Munderfing (in the Braunau district of Upper Austria) on April 28, 1903. He lived in Salzburg from 1928 on and worked as a bartender while living as a subtenant in the apartment of Käthe Ellmauer, the janitor at 48 Auerspergstraße.
The 36 year old Franz »Pinzgerl« [meaning little pincers] REITER declined on religious grounds to serve in the military when Germany launched WWII. He was sentenced to death by the Reichskriegsgericht (Military Supreme Court) on November 24, 1939 and was beheaded in Berlin’s Plötzensee prison on January 6, 1940.1
The day before his execution he wrote a parting letter to his family:
My darling mother and dear brothers and sisters!
[…] I got my sentence today and am not afraid, even though it is a death sentence and will be carried out tomorrow morning. I have gotten my strength from God as have Christians from time immemorial. The apostles wrote that whoever is born of God cannot sin, and that includes me. That’s what I testified to you, and you have acknowledged it. Please don’t be sad my dears.
It would be good for all of you to know the Scriptures better so we can see each other again at the resurrection if you all remain steadfast unto death. I commend my spirit to the Most High, who created it. . […]
until we meet again, your Franz.
1 On January 6, 1940 four other Jehovah’s Witnesses from Salzburg were executed at Berlin-Plötzensee: Johann Ellmauer, Gottfried Herzog, Franz Mittendorfer and Johann Nobis. On January 26, 1940 they were followed by Matthias Nobis.
Along with the two Salzburgers Johann Pichler and Josef Wegscheider who were shot in Glanegg (just south of Salzburg) they are the eight Salzburgers who refused military service on religious grounds who have since been rehabilitated.
Translation: Stan Nadel
Laid 23.03.2012 at Salzburg, Auerspergstraße 48