MARTYRS OF NORTH KOREA
“Abbot-Bishop Boniface Sauer, OSB, Father Benedict Kim, OSB and Companions”
This is a collection of brief biographies of the thirty-six Martyrs of North Korea whose cause for beatification was officially opened in May 2007. The group includes Benedictine monks from the Ottilien and Beuron Congregations, Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing, and the clergy and laity of the present day Diocese of Hamheung.
The biographies are all translated from German sources with the exception of the four women martyrs. Their biographical sketches are readily available in English on the website of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing (www.osb-tutzing.pcn.net). However, they are included here in this collection for the sake of completeness. Father Willibrord Driever, OSB, the vice-postulator, provides the biographies of the German monks on the website of St. Ottilien Archabbey. The information on the Korean monks and clergy is drawn, for the most part, from the obituary sheets of 1951 and 1957 as well as Schicksal in Korea, 2nd ed St. Ottilien: EOS Verlag, 1974.
The biographical sketch of Abbot-Bishop Boniface Sauer is presented first. After that the sequence follows the date of death. The biographies are preceded by a brief historical note and a chronological list of the martyrs according to the day of death. A brief note on sources available in English concludes the collection.
Joel Macul, OSB
ABBOT-BISHOP BONIFACE (JOSEF) SAUER
(10 December 1877 – 7 February 1950)
ABBOT-BISHOP OF TOKWON,
ADMINISTRATOR OF THE APOSTOLIC VICARIATE OF HAMHEUNG
An abridged account from the pen of Fr. Olaf Graf, a Tokwon missionary who witnessed and shared in the efforts of the abbot-bishop, will inform us about the life and work of the Abbot-Bishop:
“One day in the last year of the nineteenth century, a gifted and ambitious young man who was born on 10 December 1877 as the son of simple farming people in Oberufhausen, Diocese of Fulda, Upper Hesse, knocked at the door of the mission monastery of St. Ottilien asking to be admitted.” He took his vows on 4 February 1900 as Frater Bonifatius. In the fall of that same year he took his final exams in Münster, Westphalia and, having already completed his philosophy course, was ordained a priest in Dillingen three years later on 26 July 1903. The talent and loyalty of the young cleric to his ideals prompted the superiors soon after his ordination to entrust him with the leadership of the study house there, founded in 1889 and named St. Bonifatiuskolleg, after his and Fulda’s patron.
When St. Ottilien took on missionary work in Korea in 1909 and founded a monastery in Seoul, this task was given to Fr. Boniface. Thanks to the sending of brothers and priests, a hopeful beginning was effected. The large vocational school quickly gained a reputation. However, the First World War soon brought obstacles. The monastery in Seoul became an abbey in 1913—the first Benedictine abbey in the Far East. Through the abbatial blessing that took place in St. Ottilien on 8 June 1913, Fr. Boniface became the first abbot of Seoul. Because of the world war the French missionaries lost much personnel and the Benedictines were entrusted with an apostolic vicariate that was newly created in 1920. It stretched from Wonsan to the confluence of the Amur and Urssun (Sungari) Rivers. Fr. Boniface became the apostolic vicar of Wonsan. Fr. Boniface was ordained bishop in Seoul on 1 May 1921. He transferred the abbey from Seoul to Tokwon, near Wonsan, in 1927 and in 1928 arranged to have the large territory divided into the Ilan and Yenki Missions.
Bishop Sauer was anxious to create a Christian center in Tokown with a regional seminary. He succeeded thanks to a staff of competent co-workers. Fr. Olaf reports about that:
To name only a few of those who stood by his side in the building up and leadership of the abbey: the priors, Fr. Chrysostom Schmid (later archabbot of St. Ottilien) and Fr. Lucius Roth; in the seminary, Fr. Anselm Romer was the rector with lecturers like Fr. Rupert Klingseis and Fr. Arnulf Schleicher; in the mission itself were the veterans and pioneers like Fr. Callist Hiemer and Fr. Fabian Damm; not least were the monastery workshops in the proven hands of master brothers like Br. Januarius Schrötter, Br. Ildefons Flötzinger and the widely known Good Samaritan Br. Joseph Grahamer. According to their abilities each of the above named, and the rest not mentioned here, contributed in picking up Father Abbot Bishop’s ideas and making them a reality. Without being a markedly born leader, he remained the center of his foundation and authority suited him, certainly that power of his office as abbot and bishop, but even more from a certain gentlemanly kindness, from the figure of a father by the way he spoke and lived.
As a man of faith he knew that everything depended on God’s special help. Therefore, time and again he asked his friends and benefactors in Europe for their prayers. He was personally undemanding. So with the awareness of his high office was joined an appealing modesty. Let us let Fr. Olaf describe how fundamentally important that was for him and the mission work:
In Bishop Sauer’s character sketch an essential trait would be missing if one would not point out his prudence and discretion, his courtesy, in themselves typical requirements of a successful diplomat, but in him connected with a genuine kindness coming from the heart. No wonder that such qualities soon won the sympathy of the hard-headed and cool military and politicians such as all the Japanese governor generals, who in the period from 1920 to 1945 headed the government in Seoul and visited him annually at least once a year in Tokwon.
The life and character sketch of Bishop Boniface is strikingly complemented by statements of the first Korean bishop, Archbishop Paul M. Ro of Seoul. He speaks very appreciatively of the work of Bishop Boniface and his mission team beginning with the initial period in Seoul and the importance of the vocational school in Seoul. He writes about the beginnings of the missionary work of the Benedictines in North Korea and Manchuria and summarizes it:
North and South Hamgyeong Province were seen as mission country at that time, wilderness and virgin territory. After the Benedictines had begun to evangelize there, the Catholic Church began to spread within a few years. Churches were built everywhere; schools and other ecclesiastical structures came up so that the province of Hamheung became a flourishing vicariate.
He is especially proud in mentioning Tokwon’s translation of missing parts of the New Testament. At the time in Korea only the four gospels and the Acts of the Apostles had been translated. The bishop assessed the work of the Benedictines in the area of liturgy as follows:
In addition, the Benedictines published a Korean missal and enlightened the Christian people about a positive and active participation in Holy Mass by the publication of an explanation of the Mass. And that was already forty to fifty years before the Second Vatican Council! If you celebrate Holy Mass today in Korean, then you use the missal that the Benedictines had already published forty to fifty years ago. If you think back on it, you can only say that the Benedictines have not only done a very great service for the Hamheung diocese, but for all of Korea.
The archbishop gratefully remembers the support, especially the moral support, which he personally experienced from Bishop Sauer in the years from 1942 on. That was during a period which he identifies as under oppression. Two areas of assistance that he as archbishop of Seoul, but also the Korean church, experienced from the abbot-bishop and from Tokwon:
Among the various forms of assistance, the help in the matter of the seminary is especially memorable for me. Some months after my being named bishop, I received the command from the general government to close the Seoul seminary and to dismiss the students at once. The reason was that the seminary was not a civilly approved school. That was like a bolt of lightning. I immediately visited Bishop Sauer and urgently asked for help. Bishop Sauer called together the priests teaching in the Tokwon seminary and ordered the unconditional acceptance of all the students of the major seminary of Seoul into the seminary of Tokwon. The Tokwon seminary was, at the time, the only one in Korea that had received state recognition as a professional school. The priest professors there, in compliance with the bishop’s order and in spite of all the difficulties and sacrifice, immediately took into the school all the students from the major seminary of Seoul and immediately resumed teaching without objection. Then the Seoul seminarians did their philosophy and theology studies and became very good priests. Now they are working in the Seoul diocese and in other dioceses as competent priests in various positions.
Hardly had the Second World War broken out, then the connection of the Korean church with various Western countries was completely broken… One must say that the Benedictines made a very great contribution to the Catholic Church in Korea. That they came to Korea, I regard as an act of God’s mysterious providence and I offer God profound thanks for that…
According to the report of Archbishop Ro, the abbey of Tokwon must have been a great bulwark of Christianity in North Korea. For the communists of North Korea it was a thorn in their side and had to be eradicated root and branch. They began doing that on 9 May 1949. However, just like the Nazis, they wanted to justify their actions with some suitable grounds. The communists contended a brother had printed and put out anti-communist literature. Although an inquiry was made among all the members of Tokwon, nothing was known about it. The matter remained unclear. However, perhaps the suspicion should not be dismissed that, similar to Gestapo methods, an accomplice of the communists had the incriminating material printed on the monastery printing press.
On 9 May 1949 the journey of suffering began for the bishop and his community. Of the European missionaries, forty-two returned to Europe in January 1954 after four years of suffering while nineteen lie in the blood drenched earth of Korea and of the remaining six there is no trace.
For Bishop Boniface the prison in Pyongyang became the final station of his life. Fr. Olaf reports about that:
The prison cell of Bishop Boniface, better to call it a cage, did not even measure 2x2 meters; it also held the bucket that served as a toilet. When he arrived in the prison, his pectoral cross and cassock were taken from him and he was given the blue, ugly convict’s outfit, assigned to those condemned. He was in absolute solitary confinement for half a year. According to prison regulations he could only brush his teeth with some salt; not once in the period could he wash his hands or his face…Only in November, when the winter cold was setting in and his asthma was worsening, did he get a helper and nurse in Br. Gregor. When the bishop became weaker and more frail and the brother asked the people for some milk or some eggs, the only answer he got was: “Earlier these animals ate good feed, in return they should now suffer only want.” Three days before his death, Bishop Boniface said to Br. Gregor, “It is so embarrassing for me that my water just comes unconsciously and I have diarrhea…If I move, I cannot sleep because of the pain. The many sores I have from lying here are very painful….Let me go home!”
Father Abbot-Bishop was otherwise quite clearly conscious when he spoke these sentences. He knew only too well that going back home to Tokwon Abbey was out of the question and so he must have meant another liberating homecoming which would soon be granted him. Just three days before his death would be the fiftieth anniversary of his profession and the contrast must have shaken him. This golden jubilee day would have been a feast in his monastic home in Tokwon and his episcopal see of Wonsan and now the abandonment in this narrow prison pen…! Only on the next to the last day before his death did he become temporarily unconscious and sometimes confused in his speech. His body was only a skeleton. Finally, on 7 February 1950 at six o’clock on a cold winter morning he gave his soul back to the creator. Besides Br. Gregor none of the other prisoners knew of the death of their father since they all lay completely locked up in their cells. Br. Gregor had taken great care and nursed the sick bishop day and night. He himself had neither bed nor blanket and only lay on the bare planks of the prison floor to get some rest. After the death of the bishop he lay in his cell for a month sick from all the stress…
A word of clarification on the death of Bishop Boniface in prison: The majority of the Tokwon community was moved from Pyongyang to an internment camp–Oksadok–from June to August 1949. However, the bishop and some priests who had exercised a leadership role together with a few brothers remained in prison until the proceedings as dangerous criminals took place in October 1950 and they were killed. The bishop and Fr. Rupert Klingseis, however, died before this date. It is quite certain that they also would have been killed in October.
Boniface Sauer (1877–1950)
Abbot and Bishop in Korea (1921–1950)
Abbot Godfrey Sieber, O.S.B.
Abbot-Bishop Boniface Sauer died in 1950 as a prisoner of the communists who declared war on the Christian Church after their take-over in North Korea. Like many others, among them in particular foreign missionaries, Sauer also became a victim of the persecution of Christians. In this way, he may, in the truest sense of the word, be held as a martyr for the faith.
Boniface Sauer was born on 10 January 1877 in Oberufhausen in Hesse and baptized with the name Josef. Due to his above average talents, his parents sent him to the Gymnasium or secondary school. However, he had to break off his studies when he completed his exam after the fifth year of secondary school because his father was very sick. Later, it would not be easy for him to complete his Gymnasium course. Only in the autumn of 1900, when he was already in the monastery, was he able to take the school leaving exam in Münster.
He asked for admittance to the Benedictine Monastery of St. Ottilien and began his novitiate as Frater Boniface. On 4 February 1900 he made his monastic profession. Because he had already studied philosophy before his entrance, he went immediately to Dillingen for theological studies and was ordained a priest there on 26 July 1903. Named the director of the house of studies for the Benedictines, he remained in Dillingen until in 1908 he received a completely new assignment. Abbot Norbert Weber had promised the French missionary bishop, Gustave Mutel, to send Benedictine Missionaries to Korea, and now he was entrusting Father Boniface along with Father Dominikus Enshoff with exploring the possibilities of a foundation in the Far East. The two priests arrived in Seoul at the end of February 1909. After they had acquired a suitable piece of property for the planned monastery, Father Dominikus traveled back to Germany in August 1909. Father Boniface remained in Korea in order to set things up for the new foundation. While he was waiting for further personnel to arrive from the mother abbey – two priests and four brothers arrived in December – he devoted himself intensively to the study of Japanese. This was necessary because of the position that the Japanese held in East Asia. They had taken over Korea as a protectorate in 1904. In 1910 they quietly annexed the peninsula and became the determining factor not only in the political but also in the cultural life of Korea, especially since the immigration of Japanese families to Korea was promoted in every way.
Taking into account the situation, Father Boniface made a great effort to cooperate with the Japanese. He maintained excellent relations with the highest authorities. Thus it comes as no surprise that up until the Second World War all the Japanese governor generals established contact with the Benedictine Abbey in Seoul and later Tokwon and often paid a visit. In Admiral Saito, who was governor from 1919 to 1929, Abbot Boniface had a special patron and friend of the monastery. The success of acquiring a plot of land and constructing the mission was not least of all possible because Sauer was ever loyal to the Japanese authorities and, furthermore, had a good knowledge of the Japanese language. In comparison, he found Korean a difficult language throughout his life. All of this may have played a role in the brutality of the Korean communists towards the German missionaries after the defeat of Japanese.
On 6 December 1909 the Benedictines opened their new monastery in the capital city of Seoul. A week later, on 13 December, Rome raised the “Monastery of St. Benedict” to a conventual priory. Father Boniface, who was entrusted with the office of prior, now bore the responsibility for the placement of the monks and the further development of the monastery. Right from the start he put his focus on the school apostolate and the setting up of workshops. By 1911 the Benedictines had opened a teachers’ training school at the monastery in Seoul. In addition to that, came a trade school that very soon won high praise from the Japanese authorities. On 13 May 1913 the priory was made an abbey. Father Boniface, who at the time was attending the general chapter in Germany, was named the first abbot. Bishop Maximilian von Lingg of Augsburg conferred the abbatial blessing on him on 8 June 1913 in the abbey church of St. Ottilien. In November of the same year he returned again to Korea.
The First World War brought far-reaching changes for the Benedictine missionaries. The connection with their homeland was broken. Four brothers had to do military service in the German colony of Tsingtao and were only able to return to the abbey in 1920. But the war brought about a deterioration in the previously good relationship between the German Benedictines and the French missionaries. Fortunately the close friendship between Bishop Mutel and Abbot Boniface remained untouched by it. Among the French priests there was a noticeable resentment against the Germans. They showed no cooperation whatsoever when the Benedictines tries to get a larger area in which to do pastoral work in the capital city and rejected every concession in this matter. Abbot Boniface was pressured even more by his priests to enter into negotiations for a separate mission territory although he himself would rather have held off in this matter. For him an exemplary monastic life held priority. He wanted to avoid any pastoral obligations that would isolate the priests from the monastic community. But in the end he gave into their pressure and called in Bishop Mutel in whose hands the ecclesiastical jurisdiction lay. That led to the Congregation of the Propaganda Fide handing over to the Benedictines the newly created Apostolic Vicariate of Wonsan on 5 August 1920. It turned out to be a relatively narrow strip of land on the east coast of North Korea. This was extended on 19 March 1921 to include southeast Manchuria. Abbot Boniface was named the ordinary of this territory on 25 August 1920 and received the episcopal ordination on 1 May 1921 from Bishop Mutel. The missionary work forced Sauer to transfer the abbey in Seoul, which lay outside his mission territory, to Tokwon in the immediate vicinity of Wonsan in the south of the vicariate. The negative attitude of the French missionaries even went so far as to prevent the Benedictines from retaining a plot of land in Seoul on which to construct a mission procura. For that reason some confreres reproached their abbot for not having effectively enough pursued the justifiable demands of the Benedictines.
The construction of the new abbey in Tokwon began in the autumn of 1926. A year later the community transferred from Seoul to the newly finished monastery in Tokwon. The seminary was built in 1927–1928 and from 1929–1931 the monastery church was constructed in the neo-Romanesque style. After the erection of the monastery and seminary buildings and the large church, the abbey was an imposing sight with its neo-Romanesque church towers and was a landmark visible for some distance away.
With regard to the apostolate at the abbey and the strategy for the mission work, the abbot-bishop set the tone. With the construction of a printing press, he very quickly made Tokwon an important center for the publication of liturgical, catechetical and spiritual books in Korean. Together with Abbot-Bishop Theodore Breher of Yenki, Manchuria, he laid the ground work for a genuine Benedictine tradition in East Asia to which Waegwan Abbey in South Korea also later committed itself. The training of candidates for religious life and the priesthood was a special interest of Abbot-Bishop Boniface. Thus he allowed the minor seminary that was set up in Seoul in 1921 to expand after the transfer to Tokwon and complimented it with a major seminary. In his mission strategy, the social involvement of the Benedictines played an important role along side the pastoral engagement. Within merely twenty years Sauer succeeded in establishing two dozen mission parishes of which almost every one had a school recognized by the government.
The successful missionary and monastic apostolate came to a sudden standstill with the defeat of the Japanese and the take over by the Communist party. During the night of 9– 10 May 1949 the Korean police forced their way into the abbey and arrested the superiors. Later the entire European personnel together with the Korean priests were also arrested. In a mock trial they were charged with supposed anti-communist sabotage and sentenced. Eight priests and three brothers were executed in Pyongyang in October 1950. The rest met up with the sisters in a labor camp. There nineteen of them died because of the conditions in the camp. The survivors were released after four years of imprisonment and returned to their homeland.
Abbot-Bishop Sauer, who was plagued by painful attacks of asthma, spent a half year in solitary confinement in Pyongyang. The inhuman treatment that he suffered there soon made him a candidate for death. On 7 February 1950 he died in the presence of Brother Gregor Giegerich, who shared the tiny cell with the bishop for three months. He succumbed to the prison conditions eight months after the bishop. Whether and where the bodily remains of Abbot-Bishop Sauer were buried could never be determined.
REVEREND MATTHIAS CHOI
(+11 May 1949)
Reverend Matthias Sano Choi was born on 3 March 1909 in Ampen, in the Territorial Abbey of Tokwon. He was ordained a priest on 2 April 1938. He apparently served for some time in the parish in Kosan. However, at some point he seems to have been transferred to the abbey and was teaching church history in the seminary. He was arrested there on 11 May 1949 and brought with the others to the prison in Pyongyang.
Fr. Eligius Kohler describes Father Matthias’ condition in the prison cell in Pyongyang:
In my cell there is, among others, Fr. Matthias Choe, a Korean priest. He has been suffering for years from TB. Two years ago he had an appendix operation. The wound had never healed; puss constantly drips out. We don’t have anything to use to dress the wound. Only after much and prolonged begging we manage from time to time to get some toilet paper. We cover his wound with this. He can hardly eat and becomes weaker. The policemen are always shouting he must not lie down but sit as everyone else. Several times he lies unconscious. While he is unconsciousness, he laments and sighs. I pray some prayers for the dying for him and give him general absolution. From time to time his situation seems to improve. He is a picture of utter misery¬–neither living nor dying, an image of permanent agony.
There is no further indication in this report of when he actually died.
REVEREND GABRIEL KOU
(+14 May 1949)
Reverend Gabriel Kou was born on 25 July 1912 in Seoul. He was ordained a priest on 25 March 1940. For some time he was a prefect in the seminary. By 1948 he is the parish priest in Hungnam. The arrest in December 1948 of Fr. Dagobert Enk as the cellarer in Tokwon caused Fr. Gabriel Frömmer to be transferred from Hoeryong to the abbey to take his place. In the meantime, Father Gabriel was transferred from Hungnam to Hoeryong. At the end of April 1949 he traveled to Wonsan to preach the annual retreat to the Korean sisters in the priory. He was arrested in bed during the night of 10–11 May and brought with missionaries and Korean priests of the abbey to Pyongyang.
Father Fabian Damm, the superior of the mission in Wonsan, describes what happened that night:
…We got into the car. Passing by I saw the brightly lit windows of the sisters’ convent and an ambulance parked on the road. The sisters, too, were being invited for a “brief consultation.” Our car stopped – not in front of the police post, for we drove in a different direction all together – but behind the railway station, between two railway tracks. A few steps and we were standing in front of a single railway car, the windows covered with white sheets. “Get in” said the man with the revolver. Then we stood face to face with the brethren from Tokwon. They had arrived half an hour before us. Twenty minutes later the doors opened again. White veils. Our sisters arrived. Whether the Deo gratias with which Mother Prioress greeted us was meant to express the joy about the arrest or the joy and the consolation that they were united with us, we never learned. The doors were opened and closed often that night. Next was the Korean priest, Father Gabriel Kou. A few days before, he had come to us in Wonsan from his station at Hoeryong to give a retreat to the Korean sisters. In the evening I had talked to him suggesting whether it might not be better to interrupt the retreat and go home. But he preferred to stay on. When I was waking up my confreres, I had managed to pass by the door of his room in spite of the one accompanying me––after all he was not a member of my local community – hoping that he might manage to escape. But when they searched the house right after we had left, he was found and was brought along as a fellow prisoner. After a longer interval Abbot-Bishop Boniface, Fr. Prior Lucius, Fr. Subprior Arnulf, Fr. Rupert, who had already been summoned for a “meeting” by the police three days ago, and Fr. Dagobert, whose “meeting” had already lasted for five months, arrived and received a tumultuous welcome from us. They were followed later by Fr. Kunibert and Fr. Knut from Kosan, then Fr. Josef together with catechists from Kowon and Fr. Gregor, a Catholic teacher and the catechist Maria from Yonghung.…
Father Gabriel was taken along in the train with the monks and sisters to the prison in Pyongyang.
We can only assume that he suffered the same fate as those remained in the prison.
BROTHER PETRUS (JOSEF VALENTIN) GERNERT, OSB
(14 February 1882 – 3 July 1949)
Josef Valentin Gernert was born on 14 February 1882 in Kleinwallstadt, diocese of Würzburg. After his school days he worked for various masters as a houseboy and a farm laborer. In 1908 he entered St. Ludwig’s Conventual Priory, the predecessor of Münsterschwarzach Abbey that was re-established in 1914. On 11 July 1909 Br. Petrus made his profession and then was sent to the Seoul monastery in Korea on 7 January 1911. He arrived there in company with Abbot Norbert Weber together with three other Brothers and two priests. (Of the Brothers who came with him, Brother Markus Metzger and Brother Hilarius Hoiß were to also suffer and die in Oksadok). In Seoul he was at first responsible for the agricultural operation of the monastery.
After the transfer of the abbey from Seoul to Tokwon in the vicinity of the port city of Wonsan had been concluded, the supervision of the construction of the new monastery was handed over to Br. Petrus in 1927 and from 1931 on also that of the large abbey church. The chronicle reported of Br. Petrus: “Brother Petrus was the great general practitioner and faithful supporter of the monastery, a never tiring manager and builder.”
After the communists came to power in North Korea, Br. Petrus together with the German priests, Brothers and Sisters of the mission territory was taken away to Pyongyang on the night of 11 – 12 May 1949. Soon afterwards with some forty persons in the total group of missionaries, he came to the prison and forced-labor camp of Oksadok. There Br. Petrus died of malnourishment on 3 July 1949 at the age of 67. He was the first of the prisoners to die. His confreres buried him in the camp area.
Report of the camp doctor Sister Diomedes Meffert OSB
I never met Brother Petrus Gernert myself. The Brothers told me about him and that he had already suffered very much from diarrhea in prison. He quietly withdrew by himself into his corner and prayed almost constantly. The difficult journey up to the camp, during which there was no possibility to stop and rest, so that the Brothers carried him in places, really wore him out. He mostly lay quietly on his bed praying. During the night of 2 to 3 July he passed away so quietly and peacefully that his neighbor did not even notice and he lay close beside him. His was the first grave on the stony mountainside above our camp. And when I stood in front of it for the first time, I was afraid to think of how many others would lie beside it.
BROTHER MARKUS (SIMON) METZGER OSB
(26 January 1879 – 3 August 1949)
Simon Metzger was born on 26 January 1879 in Monatshausen, Traubing, in the Diocese of Augsburg, not far from Tutzing, as the illegitimate son of Theresa Metzger, a servant girl at St. Georgen in Dießen. He was a very gifted man.
At the end of 1897 he entered St. Ottilien and become Brother Markus. He made profession on 14 October 1900 at St. Ottilien and then from 1903 until 1905 he was in the missions of East Africa. However, he could not bear the climate there and so returned.
On 7 January 1911 Brother Simon was sent to Seoul. He served the monastery there as house master, keeping it clean and in order. His final station was the prison in Pyongyang and the camp at Oksadok where he had been thrown because of his faith. It was there that he died of malnutrition on 3 August 1949 and was buried.
Report of the camp doctor Sister Diomedes Meffert OSB
Brother Markus Metzger was already severely swollen when I came to the camp. Because of the hustle and bustle of the construction work in the camp, there was no quiet spot for him. He so yearned for this, and in the small room of the mud house it was too stuffy for him. So he would fill his small canteen with something to which we gave the name coffee, and walk with weary slow steps over to the brook. There he had discovered a quiet spot under the branches of a willow tree that offered him what he was looking for. He spent the day in quiet and prayer and was seen in the camp only at meal times. Day by day the swelling increased and his strength decreased. Because his legs would no longer carry him to his favorite spot, he moved his place to a rubbish heap in a dilapidated shed on the “village square.” He no longer enjoyed the food; he was terribly tormented by thirst. Camphor injections, the only medicine that was available, hardly brought him any relief. At the end of July he was beset by severe dehydration. That drained him of the last of his strength. In his modest and refined manner, he wanted to bother no one, clearly declining, if anyone wanted to help him. He dragged himself behind the house right up until the end.
On 2 August the old shed had to “be removed,” and so from 10 o’clock on he had to remain in the hut. The day was pure martyrdom for him. In the evening he was still fairly fresh and very lively when I went to sleep. After midnight he had to go out, and tried to do it, as always, on his own. Gasping for air and moaning from pain, he returned and collapsed in front of the hut. With that I awoke in the next room, and when I hurried to him, he was already crawling to his place on all fours. His pulse was quite weak. A camphor injection was ineffective now. Ten minutes later I held him dead in my arms. How much he had rejoiced on hearing the news that the priests were to come in the next few days. He longed so much to receive the viaticum. But God summoned his faithful servant to himself before that. He had already been carried to the grave, when, on 6 August, the last transport of our fellow prisoners arrived.
BROTHER EUGEN (MICHAEL) OSTERMEIER
(17 September 1885 – 14 September 1949)
Michael Ostermeier was born on 17 September 1885 in St. Ursula’s Parish, Munich. His parents were the farmer Josef Ostermeier and Creszentia. He attended the lower classes of the Gymnasium in Donauwörth and Munich, but gave up after the fourth class and devoted himself to training in business. Coming from a deeply religious family, he led a strictly moral life as was acknowledged on all sides. At the end of 1904 he entered St. Ottilien as a Brother candidate and become Br. Eugen. He made his profession at St. Ottilien on 3 February 1907. Perpetual profession followed on 3 February 1910. He was sent to Seoul on 1 September 1912. During the First World War he was assigned to the fort in Tsingtao as a medical orderly. Taken prisoner by the British, he was soon sent back to Seoul due to the terms of the Geneva Convention.
Brother Eugene was trained as a gardener at St. Ottilien. In Seoul he acquired great merit by laying out and caring for a large vineyard. It so happened that during the Second World War, Tokwon, where he again devoted himself to the vineyard, was able to supply Mass wine to all the priests in Korea, while all other sources dried up and were locked out. Out of hatred for the Christian faith he was put into the prisons of Pyongyang and Oksadok. He died on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, 14 September 1949 in Oksadok and there awaits the blessed resurrection.
Report of the camp doctor Sister Diomedes Meffert OSB
Brother Eugen Ostermeier was already in poor health before coming to the prison camp. He was no longer able to keep up with the constant work in the camp. However, he wanted to contribute to the livelihood of our community and he had got it into his head to extract gold from the briskly trickling streams around the camp. (Many areas in Korea have gold bearing sand.) Because he was already 64 years old, the police gladly left him alone. But while he was building an apparatus for doing this, his intestinal problems grew visibly worse. For a long time the condition looked like dysentery. Bacteriological examinations were impossible. But when his strength rapidly diminished and his appearance began to change, I suspected a cancerous tumor on the large intestines. This was confirmed by an examination in the final days of his life. Brother Eugen was childlike and pious and had gladly offered his life as a sacrifice. I remember well how happy he was when on 12 September the Sisters sang a Marian song in front of the dying man’s room. On the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, 14 September 1949, he passed to his heavenly home. He was laid out in a vacant field among the autumn blue asters and then buried with his deceased confreres on the mountain.
BROTHER BASILIUS (MARTIN) HAUSER
(10 November 1886 – 14 February 1950)
Martin Hauser was born as the illegitimate son of the servant girl Theres H. (officially from Munich) on 10 November 1886 in Polling, which belongs to Flossing parish, district of Mühldorf in Upper Bavaria. Up until the age of ten he was a weak child. He was an altar server for some years. As an apprentice baker, he was so beaten by his rough master with the dog whip that his mother ordered him to break off the apprenticeship. He worked for some years as a baker’s assistant. In the autumn of 1910 he decided to ask for admittance to St. Ottilien. The parish priest of Inzell wrote an excellent recommendation for him in view of his moral and religious life, and so he was accepted. He became Brother Basilius and took his religious vows on 12 October 1913. On 3 May 1914 he was sent to Seoul. In Seoul and Tokwon he was the monastery cook until he willingly suffered death for his faith in the prison at Oksadok on 14 February 1950.
Report of the camp doctor Sister Diomedes Meffert OSB
Brother Basilius together with another confrere did the cooking during the first days until the Sisters took over the camp kitchen. His time in the prison did not leave him unaffected, and the poor diet weakened him. As sunny and happy as he was, he now, setting aside his position of many years, buckled down to construction work, hauling stones, joining the carpenters and mixing the clay with water for the plaster by treading on it with his feet. Like everyone else, he wanted to be part of the common work as much as his strength would allow; but his enthusiasm was so great that his legs began to swell and he became tired and apathetic. But apparently it was already too late. Although he could take care of himself from Christmas on, the edema increased more and more. From the beginning of 1950 on abdominal fluids also increased. He suffered frightfully from anxiety and thirst. And the diet in the camp was not easily digestible in such an illness. He often sighed, “May I now just once slaughter a small sick chicken? Chicken soup, that’s what I would like.” But the sick chickens had to die without fulfilling their purpose; they were not allowed to be slaughtered. And our beloved patients had to do without…In indescribable agony – for we had no diuretic nor instruments to make a puncture – our good Brother Basilius went to his eternal home on 14 February 1950.
FATHER RUPERT (JOSEF) KLINGSEIS
(5 January 1890 – 6 April 1950)
Father Rupert was born on 5 January 1890 in the Maria–Hilf parish in Munich–Au as the son of the day laborer Ulrich Klingseis and his beloved wife Helene, née Hartinger. His fine aptitude commended Josef for studies. There are reports from class four of the progymnasium at St. Ottilien at hand from 1903. After completing the gymnasium he entered St. Ottilien as a choir novice in the fall of 1910 and on 8 October 1911 took his holy vows at St. Ottilien as Frater Rupert. He was sent to Sant’ Anselmo in Rome for his philosophy studies and returned home after a year with a licentiate. He then studied theology partly in Munich and partly in Ettal (the temporary theologate for the Benedictines at the beginning of the war). He made his solemn profession on 11 October 1914. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Maximillian von Lingg on 16 July 1915. His father had died early. His mother then found a home at St. Ottilien. His older brother Ulrich worked for several years as a typesetter in the monastery’s printing press.
Father Rupert was active giving lectures in philosophy in our congregation’s philosophy college at St. Ottilien. He was the director from 1922–1930. For five years he also held the office of subprior in the archabbey. The year 1930 was a significant one for him. The former lecturer in philosophy in Tokwon, Korea, Fr. Chrysostom Schmid, came back to the archabbey as he was elected coadjutor abbot. Father Rupert was then designated to take over his position as a lecturer in Tokwon in the regional seminary there and on 9 November 1930 received the mission cross. There for more than fifteen years he was able to live his academic life without disturbance, until in 1945, the Russian Army occupied the Territorial Abbey and more and more restrictions were imposed on the inhabitants of the monastery. Thus, for fifteen years Father Rupert introduced the future missionaries of the Ottilien Congregation into the mysteries of logic, epistemology and other disciplines in St. Ottilien; he did the same for almost twenty years to the Korean seminaries in Tokwon.
On 9 May 1949 Tokwon Abbey was confiscated by the Communists and the confreres carried off and imprisoned. According to the Agentia Internationale Fides, Father Rupert died of starvation and other deprivations on Holy Thursday, 6 April 1950, in the prison of Pyongyang and was buried there beside Bishop Boniface Sauer himself.
BROTHER PASCHAL (JOHANN BAPTIST) FANGAUER
(8 January 1882 – 16 April 1950)
Johann Fangauer was born on 8 January 1882 in Eglfing, community of Köfering, not far from Regensburg. His parents were Michael Fangauer and his wife Maria, née Wankerl. His father was a mercenary soldier and also a small farmer. The family was large, and the eleven children were raised in the fear of God. One son, Dr. Georg, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, celebrated his first Mass in his home parish in 1910; two daughters went to the monastery in Zams, Tirol; another joined the Mallersdorf Sisters and became superior in Waldsassen. Michael, who was born in 1876, entered St. Ottilien in 1900 and became Brother Barnabas, an extremely competent gardener, who for over thirty years managed the monastery gardens at St. Ottilien – a truly exemplary monk.
Johann followed his brother Barnabas to St. Ottilien in the summer of 1905, like wise as a brother candidate, after he had already been trained in this field as an assistant gardener. In 1904 he had received a large certificate of commendation from the Bavarian Horticultural Society in Munich. In the monastery he worked under his brother in the garden. He took his monastic vows on 20 October 1907 as brother Paschalis; on 7 November 1909 Brother Paschalis was sent to Seoul. Thus he belonged to the team of the founding members of this new monastery.
Wherever obedience called him, he laid out the vegetable gardens and the orchard and looked after the vineyard. In the First World War he, like Br Eugen Ostermeier, was called up to the military at Qingdao and then became a Japanese prisoner of war (1914–1920). At the confiscation of Tokwon, Brother Paschalis first went to the prison in Pyongyang and then to the prison camp of Oksadok in Chonchon where he died on White Sunday, 16 April 1950, of malnutrition.
Report of the camp doctor Sister Diomedes Meffert OSB
Br. Paschal Fangauer had a course of illness similar to that of Br. Basilius. His stomach and intestinal troubles dated from the time he was in Wonsan and naturally had gotten considerably worse in the prison due to the unfamiliar and rough diet. But at first, he did not let this get him down. He tried to assist everywhere and was very enthusiastic in bundling the brushwood that we used in vast quantities for cooking and heating in the kitchen and in the residences. He was extremely tough and did not stop taking a cold shower in the small stream at night if at all possible until shortly before his death. The cold-water treatment always did him good and no doubt extended his life for a few weeks. But illness took its accustomed course: chronic diarrhea – fatigue – abdominal fluid – heart failure. Brother Pascal had been an extremely capable gardener, but he was also a very prayerful man and completely given over to the will of the Lord. Many times in his last weeks he expressed his gratitude that God had given him this period of rest and reflection to prepare for a good death. He was quite content and ready to follow the call of the Lord into eternity after he had received the sacraments of the dying. He passed away on White Sunday, 16 April 1950, and was buried beside his confreres.
REVEREND PETRUS LEE
(+25 June 1950)
Reverend Petrus Lee was born in Seoul on 18 May 1912 and was ordained on 25 March 1940.
He was stationed for a while in the parish in Wonson. He was executed in Cheungjin in June 1950.
REVEREND PETRUS KIM
(+26 JUNE 1950)
SR. M. EVA (EUGENIE) SCHÜTZ
Date of Birth: April 10, 1899
Birth Place: Bernried, Germany
Date of First Profession: August 30, 1926 at Tutzing Mother House.
Date of Missioning: September 4, 1926 to Wonsan, North Korea
Date of Death: August 10, 1950 at Oksadok, North Korea
Sister Eva’s mother died as a young woman leaving two little children and so Sr. Eva and her brother were raised by her mother’s sister.
Sr. Eva loved everyone and everything in Korea. Since Sr. Eva was gentle and amiable by nature, she was loved by all the Korean Sisters. She was the subprioress three times consecutively and second novice mistress in the Wonsan motherhouse. Then she was sent to Singosan station as its first superior. Sr. Eva was a born missionary, but at the Singosan mission, she suffered because of a bad heart condition. Even then, whenever she had time or with whomsoever she met, she did her best to lead people to her loving God.
The first half of 1945 was a very hard time, when the Second World War was ending and Japanese military power was declining. During this period, Sr. Eva had been the superior of Hamheung station. After this, she was transfered to the Wonsan motherhouse to be its main seamstress and vestiarian. After the Second World War when the Russian army occupied North Korea, the wives of the Russian military officers came to the convent to have their dresses made and admired her sewing skills. Thus, there were lots of sewing requests from the Russians and this in turn helped the Wonsan convent’s financial situation which was not the best at that time. Sr. Eva handled everything accurately and cleverly and thus she earned the esteem and admiration of people. In her great missionary fervor she tried her best to draw every single soul closer to God.
Sr. Eva died in Oksadok, a communist labor camp in the mountains of North Korea. Let’s listen to what the doctor, Sr. Diomedes Meffert OSB, wrote about her death:
Even before the disbandment of our house by the communists, Sr. Eva had been suffering with a very weak heart. After our arrest, the extremely poor situation of the three months’ imprisonment made her condition much worse. While going up to the labor camp, the scorching heat of the August sun beat down on all of us and Sr. Eva’s weak heart could not stand the situation and so she fainted. I quickly injected her heart with a stimulant. The head of the labor camp wanted to take her alive to the camp and so he let her ride a cow uphill to the labor camp. Sr. Eva arrived safely at the labor camp site. But her body continued to be swollen and she developed stomach ailments and intestinal disorders. She suffered greatly but she was not bedridden until Christmas 1949.
Afterwards she was completely bedridden but without pillows, bed, or mattress or any kind of under-beddings; we could hear her groaning pitifully. I tried my best but could not treat her properly because in the labor camp there was no medicine and no instrument for any kind of proper treatment. I drained off some water from her swollen legs with the help of pointed straw ends just a week before her death. The water was drained from her legs drop by drop through the straw. As expected, her legs became infected through this straw and Sr. Eva suffered and groaned with a high fever. I tried all the medications that I possessed but to no avail. Like St. Lawrence who was martyred on the red-hot grill, Sr. Eva died on 10 August with a high fever and extreme pain, offering her life as a sacrifice to God. Her face was covered with a bridal veil and crowned with a bridal flower wreath. Her coffin was carried up to the burial site along the mountain path lined with summer flowers.
Thus, Sr. Eva died in fever and pain within one year in Oksadok. Sr. Eva lived her vowed life of twenty-four years as a true missionary in Korea. At her death, she was fifty-one years old. Her tomb is halfway up a hillside in Kanggye, Chagang Province, North Korea.
Sister Eva Schütz
Death of Sister Eva
Sister Gertrude Link, OSB
Sister Eva Schütz, who in years past had so lovingly treated me with healing clay and who could hardly believe that all her hopes were doomed to failure with me, was the first of the sisters at Oksadok to go home to God. We did not begrudge her taking the lead. On the contrary, many would gladly have been in her place.
Already during the ascent to Oksadok, Sister Eva had suffered a collapse. Since the spring of 1950, she had been sickly and was enduring a difficult and very painful decline. Her fever and diarrhea kept getting worse.
The night of August 9–10 will always remain unforgettable to me. Sister Eva suffered so much that she wanted, like a child, to keep holding my hand. If I released her hand in order to help Sister Diomedes, she would call for me until I sat near her again, her hands in mine. When the signal for work assignments was sounded, I had to leave her and go to the center of the camp. Being in charge of one work group, I could not simple stay away. Sister Diomedes also had to be there for this was the chance to fight her toughest battles for her sick and weak charges who were ordered to the fields without mercy. She fought for everyone, often with a very loud voice. Sometimes this scared the guards and made them give in, allowing Sister Diomedes to let them rest for that day. But she did not always succeed. That morning I heard within me Sister Eva’s pleading voice, “Please, do stay with me!”
It broke my heart. I begged Hannes, the policeman accompanying our group, to dispense me from work just for that day because Sister Eva was dying. His cold “No” infuriated me. I left him standing there and went up to the “fortress” to the “Sneak.” He also yelled at me that the work had been assigned and I would have to go. Sister Diomedes would be there.
But she could not manage alone because of the other patients in the camp. Again I pleaded, “This sister is dying and calling my name like a child calling for its mother!”
“She can die alone! Get to work!” His brutality enraged me so that I could barely control myself. Yet with forced calmness and probably in a trembling voice, I just asked him, “Didn’t you have a mother?” He did not answer. For a while he stood before me, mute, his jaws twisting. I looked to the ground until–half against his will–he snapped, “All right, stay this forenoon, but then you must go to work!” I nodded my thanks and ran off. Hannes accepted the decision swiftly and let me run on up to Sister Eva, who was only partly conscious, yet still calling for me. Gratefully she opened her eyes when I clasped her hands between mine.
Sister Diomedes and I had plenty to do that morning, for water ran like a fountain from her infected wound. We had to catch it with some rags so the dirt floor would not be softened. Change the rag, wash it out, dry it in the boiling hot August sun, lay it under her again. This was our main job. We prayed softly together until God took our Sister to himself. On 10 August, like St. Lawrence lying on his gridiron, she offered her life to God in great readiness.
We fashioned a stretcher of two poles and a straw pallet, laboriously lifting the body so bloated with fluid and carried it some distance from the camp. There was a dilapidated little hut of twigs, which at least protected the body from the cruel rays of the sun. Before darkness fell, the brothers carried her to her grave. For Sister Eva all sorrow had ended. In the following dreadful time of the death march, we often thought of her, thanking God that he has spared her from that.
Sister Eva Schütz
SISTER EVA SCHÜTZ
Report of the camp doctor Sr. Diomedes Meffert OSB
Sister Eva Schütz was active both in the sisters’ house in Wonsan and in other mission stations and had a special inclination and ability to deal with the Korean women whom she prepared for baptism. Even before being arrested she was somewhat sickly and had a weak heart. The three months in prison were particularly troublesome for her and the painful ascent to the camp in the burning heat of August did the rest. She suffered a dizzy spell on the way and I was called down from the camp to make sure she came up alive. With a camphor injection she managed to make it up safe and sound on the back of an ox. She recovered slowly and did what she could in the sewing room, pitiable as the place was. In spite of the constant swelling and the stomach and intestinal ailments, she was on her feet up until Christmas 1949. Then began a long, agonizing period on her sick bed. (Sick bed…? No bed, no mattress, no pillow, no bed sheets–who could imagine that! It was the same miserable condition for all our patients.) At first she put her hopes on the Kneipp treatment in the stream, then on this or that little herb, but nothing could help or slow down the disaster. Sudden discharges of water alternated with severe swelling. Last week she scratched one of her severely swollen legs with a straw. The water trickled down constantly day and night; an infection developed, which was to be expected. The fever could not be averted by any means at hand and on 10 August, like St. Lawrence lying on the grill, she willingly and readily offered her life to God as a sacrifice. She wore a veil and the bridal wreath and was laid out among a profusion of white spirea.
In October 1950 the White Troops advanced ever closer against the North and since it was feared that we would fall into the hands of the ‘enemy,’ we were brought in a mad rush on 23 October to the extreme north. The following three months were the worst that we experienced and cost us four dead.