A Social Worker’s Holy Holocaust Work

The Fellowship  |  April 6, 2021

Social worker Gertrud Luckner, Rigteous Gentile
Social worker Gertrud Luckner, Rigteous Gentile

A Christian social worker, Gertrud Luckner not only saved Jews and fought Nazism during WWII, but built bridges between Christians and Jews once the war ended.

Helping the Poor

Born to German parents in Liverpool, England, after which the family moved back to Germany, Gertrud Luckner found herself orphaned at an early age. Raised in Germany, she returned to England for college, also working with the poor.

Back in Germany for her doctorate degree, Gertrud focused on the unemployed – the theme of helping those less-fortunate than herself a recurring one in her life.

Acting Against the Nazis

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Gertrud, a pacifist, arranged exit strategies for 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. Well-informed, she acted out as 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, the Gestapo constantly followed and spied on Gertrud. In March, as she rode a train to Berlin with funds for the last of that city’s Jews, Nazis arrested Gertrud Luckner and sent her to Ravensbrück concentration camp, where she remained a prisoner for the rest of the war.

The Social Worker Survives

Gertrud survived Ravensbrück, and after the war returned to being a social worker. 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.

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