Franz Jägerstätter poses on his motorcycle. From right to left – Franz Jägerstätter; his stepfather, Heinrich Jägerstätter; his mother, Rosalia Jägerstätter; and Aloisia Sommerauer, Franz’s cousin and foster sister.

The first page of Franz’s last essay, written while he was in prison. The first sentence reads, “Now I’ll write down a few words as they come to me from my heart. Although I am writing them with my hands in chains, this is still much better than if my will were in chains.”

Easter 1943: Franz Jägerstätter’s daughters; Loisi, Rosi, and Maria, holding a sign that reads, “Dear Father, come [home] soon.” Franz was in jail in Linz and was later executed.

Franz Jägerstätter

Franz Jägerstätter (1907-1943) – born as a child of a single mother, as the poverty of his parents didn’t allow them to marry. For ten years he was raised by his grandmother; after his mother married he was claimed by her husband. In his youth he wrote poems indicating his idealism, and for some time he worked outside the region of his birth. In 1933 his illegitimate daughter was born; in 1936 he married Franziska Schwaninger, who came from a deeply Catholic family. Contrary to custom, they didn’t organize a wedding reception, but instead traveled to Rome for their wedding trip, which was a rarity. His wife strengthened Franz’s spiritual life, and they had three daughters together. After Austria’s annexation into Germany (1938), he was a public opponent of Nazism, believing it to be incompatible with Christianity. In the referendum he voted against the Anschluss, but his vote was falsified by local authorities fearing repressions. Despite social pressure, Jägerstätter refused any contacts with the state, even accepting child benefits. He quit the volunteer fire brigade when it declared cooperation with the NSDAP. In October 1940 he was called for military training. At the time, despite repressions, he joined the Third Order of Saint Francis. Due to the support of local authorities, he was deferred from military service. After returning, he worked as a sacristan, and in letters and notes he expressed his objections to dictatorship and war. He attended mass nearly every day, prayed a lot, fasted and did penance. He decided to refuse to serve in the military even at the cost of his life. It happened in March 1943 – after being arrested, he was transported to Berlin; he was sentenced to death in July and executed on 9 August. In 1997 the sentence was formally overturned, and on 23 October 2007 Jägerstätter was pronounced blessed in Linz.