A Bridge Builder and a Holocaust Hero
The Fellowship | December 22, 2016
Life: September 26, 1900 – August 31, 1995
Why you should know her: A Christian social worker, Gertrud Luckner who not only saved Jews and fought Nazism during WWII, but built bridges between Christians and Jews once the war ended.
Born to German parents in Liverpool, England, after which the family moved back to Germany, Gertrud Luckner was orphaned at an early age. Raised in Germany, she returned to England for college, also working with the poor.
Gertrud returned to Germany for her doctorate degree, focusing on the unemployed – the theme of helping those less-fortunate than herself would be a recurring one.
When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Gertrud, who was a pacifist, began arranging exit strategies for the Jews threatened by Hitler’s regime. Gertrud learned of the Nazis’ genocidal plans by reading foreign newspapers at the university library, as the German media dared not report on the atrocities. Because of being informed, she was one of the first to attempt action against the Nazis.
After Kristallnacht, Gertrud bicycled around Freiburg, visiting her Jewish friends and neighbors to show her care and solidarity. She did more than that, though, securing safe passage for many refugees, sending food and clothing to those already interned, and finding safe places for Jews to hide.
During the war, Gertrud traveled through Germany establishing an underground network that supported Jewish individuals and communities. This not only allowed Jews to be smuggled out of Germany, but also communicated the atrocities of the Holocaust to the outside world.
By 1943, Gertrud was under constant Gestapo surveillance. In March, as she was taking a train to Berlin with funds for the last of that city’s Jews, Gertrud Luckner was arrested and sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp, where she was imprisoned for the rest of the war.
Gertrud survived Ravensbrück, and after the war returned to social work. She not only assisted victims of persecution, but also devoted herself to building bridge between Christians and Jews, even visiting Israel in 1951 as one of the first Germans to do so. Yad Vashem recognized Gertrud Luckner as Righteous Among the Nations for her selfless and courageous work for others, work she kept doing until her death nearly 30 years later.