Beatification candidates V: Two priests from Dachau and religious sister

23. 10. 2008
The fifth and last part of our series on Czech candidates of beatification presents two priest who served in German regions of Czechoslovakia. Both Richard Henkes and Engelmar Unzeitig died while serving to typhoid victims in the concentration camp of Dachau. The third candidate is Sister Eliska Pretschnerova, general superior of the School Sisters of St Francis.

Prague: Father Richard Henkes (1900-1945) was born in Ruppach, diocese of Limburg, Germany. In 1919 he entered the pallottines and having received the priestly ordination in 1925, he served in several schools of the congregation. In 1931 he was sent to the Upper Silesia, in that time a German region, and in 1941 was appointed pastor of Strahovice near the town Opava in Czechoslovakia. For his preaching and rejection of the Nazism, he was arrested in 1943 and sent to the concentration camp of Dachau. When an outbreak of typhoid occurred, he was one of 20 volunteers to take care of the sick. He died of the disease few weeks later, on Feb 2, 1945. Beatification process of Father Henkes was running in the diocese of Limburg in 2003-2007 and the documents have been sent to the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

 

Quite similar is the fate of Father Engelmar Unzeitig (1911-1945). Born as Hubert Unzeitig in a peasant family in Hradec nad Svitavou (in that time mainly German-inhabited region north of Brno), he decided to become a missionary and in 1927 he entered the Mariannhill congregation in Reimlingen, Germany, with a new religious name Engelmar. He was ordained priest in 1939 and after a short service in the Upper Austria, he was sent to a small parish in the Bohemian Forest ("Sumava"). In April 1941 he was arrested for "defending Jews" and sent to Dachau. Together with Father Henkes and other 18 priests he volunteered to help in the typhoid barrack and died on Mar 2, 1945, few weeks before the liberation of the camp by the US army. His beatification process was initiated on Jul 26, 1991, in Wurzburg, Germany, and its second stage was officially opened at the Vatican in May 1999.

 

Last in our series on the candidates of beatification is Sister Marie Eliska Pretschnerova (1911-1993). She was born as Anna Pretschnerova in Nove Zamky, Eastern Bohemia, and after her studies entered the Congregation of the School Sisters of St Francis. Having studied Mathematics and Physics at the Charles University in Prague, she taught at the congregation's grammar school until the Communist government abolished all religious orders in 1950. In 1969 she was allowed to travel to Rome and there she was elected general superior of the congregation and re-elected for another term 6 years later. After her return to Czechoslovakia in 1983 she served in the charity home in Hojesin and died there on May 4, 1993. Bishop Dominik Duka of Hradec Kralove opened her beatification process in 2001.