Gerhard Klinkicht – a decision with a clear conscience
In the time period between 1933 and 1945, many people in Europe made very bad decisions. We know that from today’s point of view. I do not want to judge because I think nobody knows how he or she would have acted in those days. Instead, I would rather tell you the story of a man decided to do something right in April 1945.
The war was long lost for the German troops but Adolf Hitler, who was in the Führerbunker in Berlin, did not want to accept this. Many lives were wasted unnecessarily. Some people wanted to put an end to this senseless war. In April 1945, unknown resistance fighters climbed up the south tower of St. Stephen’s Cathedral and hoisted a white flag as a sign of surrender. In those days the Germany troops were locked in fierce battles with the Red Army across the Danube Canal close to Schwedenplatz. The Nazis blew up all bridges across the Danube Canal to prevent the Russians from crossing it. Also these battles should be in vain for the German troops. In this so called “Battle for Vienna” (- Schlacht um Wien), in which the city was finally liberated, about 80.000 russian soldiers lost their lives. Not only the monument at Schwarzenbergplatz is dedicated to these soldiers but also hidden behind the church at the Central Cemetery there is a cemetery of about 2.000 russian soldiers who lost their lives in this battle.
The news of the white flag on St. Stephen’s Cathedral is said to haven even reached Adolf Hitler in the Führerbunker. Reportedly he was outraged. An order was issued: St. Stephen’s Cathedral should be bulldozed with 100 grenades… and if that is not enough, shooting should continue until the complete destruction.
This command was handed over by the city commander Dietrich to the Wehrmacht Captain Gerhard Klinkicht. And here he made his decision of clear conscience. He did not execute the command and so the cathedral was spared a senseless destruction. But what Gerhard Klinkicht did was actually insubordination. That was high treason! And that actually meant death penalty in those days!
Probably due to the turmoil of the last days of WW2 Gerhard Klinkicht survived his decision. He remained loyal to St. Stephen’s Cathedral throughout his entire life and donated a total of about 150.000 Euros for the renovation and preservation of our landmark. At the foot of the South Tower, an inscription commemorates his decision of conscience in April 1945.
These and other stories can be heard in my guided tour “Everything about St. Stephen’s Cathedral”.