Blessed Jakob Gapp (1897-1943) clashed with the National Socialist ideals of the Nazi party because of his Catholic faith and zeal for justice. His voice was a problem for the Nazis, but Fr. Gapp was not a man easily silenced.
Jakob Gapp joined the Society of Mary shortly after serving in the Italian front during World War I. Awarded for his bravery in battle, ultimately it would be this very bravery in the service of Christ that would see him martyred. Gapp became a priest and while World War I had ended, it had sowed the seed that would eventually result in a new ideology, National Socialism.
With the rise of the Third Reich and their annexation of Fr. Gapp’s home country of Austria in 1938, Fr. Gapp took every opportunity to disseminate the teaching of Pius XI’s encyclical letter, Mit Brennender Sorge (With Ardent Concern). This encyclical denounced fundamental aspects of Nazi ideology, which Fr. Gapp considered antithetical to Catholic belief. When questioned, Fr. Gapp’s catechism students related to Gestapo spies that Gapp taught that “Jews are good and that we have to love them,” a benign and inoffensive statement in more reasonable times.
Gapp’s vociferous denunciation of National Socialism resulted first in his transferal as his teachings were both dangerous to speak, but also to hear. He found his way to Bordeaux, the birthplace of his Society, and eventually Spain, a German ally at the time. It was there agents of the Gestapo, pretending to be Jews seeking to convert to the Catholic faith, entrapped Fr. Gapp, and arrested him.
Fr. Gapp explained to his interrogators that a truly Catholic priest must resist National Socialism. While he did not wish to obligate anyone to act as he did, he could not in good conscience do anything other than speak against the errors of Nazism. This and other proofs of treason would be sufficient to send Fr. Gapp to his execution by the blade of the guillotine. We honor Fr. Gapp as a courageous voice speaking truth to ideological power at a time when violence and the threat thereof were weighted heavier than the truth.