To the editor,
Fr. Gerhard Hartmann was 10 years old when the Second World War began. He had barely turned 15 when he was sent to boot camp in the final days of WWII. Allowed one week to go home before being sent to the front, Fr. Gary hid his uniform and ran away. At no time did he fight for Hitler. In 14 years of knowing him, he never once spoke of himself as a Nazi or said that he was proud to have worked for them – what he wrote in his books confirms this.
Fr. Gary wrote three books about his life, numerous letters were received asking for the books and commending him as a priest. There were no letters of criticism or claims of abuse, only affection and respect for his career as a priest.
Fr. Gary frequently spoke of his experiences as a young man, fleeing both the Nazis and the Russians. He spoke and wrote of the ‘bunker’ in his village where people were hiding from the Russians but discovered. He was taken away as a captive to perform slave labour on a road gang and suffered extreme abuse and privation, tried to escape several times, finally succeeding by running through a burning field as the shots rang out behind him. Fr. Gary was a tiny man, weighed 87 pounds when he escaped and was quite crippled for life.
The confessional at St. Peter’s Catholic Church is now, and was in 1976, divided by a wall so that the pastor and penitent are in separate rooms.
The news article reports that the allegations were not proven in court. Why, when a man is dead and no longer able to defend himself has the diocese decided to condemn him? In the absence of evidence to support these accusations, and actual facts to the contrary, it appears that the diocese of Victoria seeks to elevate its own reputation for ‘truth’ and ‘justice’ on the back of a clergyman who is no longer able to defend himself.
Cathy McKinney, Sooke
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