This is the last letter from Archbishop Profittlich to his relatives in Germany where he let it be known that he had decided to stay with his flock in Estonia and not to return to Germany. It was written on 8 February 1941. He accepted his destiny; he accepted Christ’s will. He could not leave his people: “And when it finally became clear that I had to stay, my happiness was so great that I prayed Te Deum out of gratitude and joy.”

First Holy Communion in Tallinn in 1931. Bishop Eduard Profittlich and priest Henri Werling.

Eduard Profittlich memorial plaque in St. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral in Tallinn (unveiled 11/9/1990).

Eduard Profittlich
(1890-1942)

Eduard Profittlich was born in the Rhineland in Birresdorf in 1890. His Catholic parents supported his education as he was a talented child, yet he joined the Jesuit Order in 1913 against their will. Profittlich was ordained as a priest in 1922 and a year later, he expressed his wish to join the Jesuit mission in Russia, which would have included hunger relief for suffering people as well as spiritual care for their souls.>

The Soviet government did not allow Jesuits into the country, yet the Pontificia Commissio pro Russia representative who visited Estonia in 1926 saw Estonia as a Christian outpost in the vicinity of Russia. Profittlich was sent to Tallinn in 1930 to serve as a priest for the congregation of St. Peter and St. Paul’s Cathedral. In 1931, the Apostolic Administration of Estonia was joined together with the mission for Russia and Profittlich was appointed apostolic administrator in Estonia.

In just a few years, Profittlich succeeded in restoring Catholic congregations in numerous Estonian cities, and laid the foundation for Catholic youth work and for the monthly periodical Kiriku Elu [Church Life]. Diplomatic relations were established between the Republic of Estonia and the Vatican in 1933. E. Profittlich was ordained titular archbishop on 27 December 1936.

After 1 September 1939 the German Reich organised the resettlement of Germans from Estonia, which would have given Profittlich the right to leave Estonia, but he did not even consider it. With the annexation of Estonia in the summer of 1940, the laws of the Soviet Union went into effect. Profittlich realised that if he remained in Estonia, either prison or being sent to Siberia awaited him. Yet he could not leave his clerical vows and his obligations as a priest. If he were to leave, it could only be by order of the pope. The Vatican remained silent for two months, and thereafter recommended that he remain with his congregation. On the night of 26 June 1941, when NKVD operatives arrested him. E. Profittlich was sentenced to death on 21 November 1941 on the basis of fabricated charges, yet the Soviets did not manage to execute him. The Jesuit who as a young man had wanted to help Russia’s famine victims died in the inhumane conditions of a Russian prison on 22 February 1942.