Schneider, Paul Roberts

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Schneider, Paul Roberts, born 29-08-1897 in Pferdsfeld, Germany, 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 Paul von Hindenburg named Adolf Hitler (see Hitler parents).

   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 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 03-10-1937. 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 27-11-1937, just a few months after the camp opened.

In the labour 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 Führer’s birthday, 20-04-1938. 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.

Death and burial ground Schneider, Paul Roberts

   On 18-07-1939, age 41, 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 on the local cemetery of Pferdsfeld, 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.”

 

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