Kurt Müller (1902 - 1958)

Kurt Müller was a lawyer in a Bremen law firm as of 1930. A member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and an opponent of Nazism, he soon came under the scrutiny of the Gestapo. In November 1935 he was put into “protective custody” and subsequently suspected of “illegal subversive activities in a Marxist-communist sense” and incarcerated for three months. He was no longer allowed to work as a lawyer. Müller, who had close contacts to a congregation of the Confessing Church in Bremen, decided to become a pastor. He went to Basel in 1938 to study theology with Karl Barth, a cofounder of the Confessing Church. He was ordained as a pastor in Switzerland in January 1942 and returned to Germany the same year, becoming the leader of the small reformed congregation in Stuttgart-Degerloch.

Müller became the business manager of the Church Theological Society, an association in the Protestant state church in Württemberg with close ties to the Confessing Church. Some of its supporters followed the call of Karl Barth to “save as many Jews as possible.” Together with friends in Berlin, especially Gertrud Staewen, Müller began helping those in need. With his wife Elisabeth and other helpers in the congregation and in Württemberg, Kurt Müller supported more than a dozen Jews in hiding. The Stuttgart parsonage was thus Max and Ines Krakauer’s first stop in August 1943 when they fled to Württemberg.

When Cioma Schönhaus, a Jewish graphic artist in hiding, fled to southern Germany in September 1942 by bicycle from Berlin, and suddenly appeared a the Müllers’ doorstep, he was also given night quarters until he set off for the Swiss border.

Together with Vicar Heinz Welke of Frankfurt, Müller organized the escape of Margarete Knewitz, a “non-Aryan” who had been baptized Protestant, to northern Germany in mid-1944, where she was hidden by Elisabeth Müller’s sister Gertrud von Marschalck for almost five months, with interruptions, near Hamburg. In late 1944, Knewitz was able to return to Stuttgart, thanks to a forged passport that Müller procured. He was able to register her with the National Socialist People’s Welfare organization there in February 1945, so she could receive food ration coupons.

As the war was nearing an end, Kurt and Elisabeth Müller took in publisher Franz Mittelbach and his Jewish wife Margarete of Stuttgart and were able to “successfully hide them,” as Müller wrote with relief to his teacher Karl Barth in August 1945. Müller’s address was also known after the war among non-Aryan Christians who returned to Stuttgart from Theresienstadt and sought help.

In 1946 Müller worked with the Church Theological Society to compose a declaration. The signatories, who had participated in the Württemberg “parsonage chain” during the war to rescue Jews, professed their “guilt as preachers and members of the Community of Christ.” The US military administration appointed Müller the licensee of the Kohlhammer publishing company in Stuttgart. Some of the projects started under his leadership were the edition of rabbinical texts and the writings on “knowledge of Judaism among Christians.” In late 1950 Müller was appointed to the Lower Saxony Ministry of Culture in the government of Hinrich Wilhelm Kopf (SPD). As an assistant department head, Müller worked on the Treaty of Loccum (1955), the first treaty between church and state in the Federal Republic of Germany.

In the final years of his life, Müller sometimes preached in the reformed congregation of Hanover and was known in the state church as one of the most adamant opponents of nuclear weapons.
Kurt Müller
Photo: privately owned

Rescue Attempts


  • Confessing Church

    Confessing Church

    This church opposition to the Protestant Church’s forced conformity with the Nazi regime was founded in 1934. It rejected having Christians of Jewish descent excluded from the church. In all state churches except in Württemberg, Bavaria, and Hanover, there was a schism between “German Christians” who were loyal to the regime and supporters of the Confessing Church. Many Confessing Church pastors were imprisoned.



  • People who were “bombed out”

    People who were “bombed out”

    Starting in 1943 more and more people lost their place of residence through air raids. Many Jews in hiding took advantage of this situation. By claiming to have been “bombed out,” they received “Aryan” papers and food ration coupons from the authorities, who could no longer check people’s claims since so many documents had been destroyed. This improved their chances of survival.