Holy Martyr Alexander Schmorell of Munich
The Holy Martyr Alexander Schmorell (now also St Alexander of Munich) was a medical student during World War II and one of the founding members of the anti-Nazi group, the White Rose. Along with the other members of the White Rose, he tried to rally popular support amongst Germans to try to resist Hitler and the Nazi regime. He was arrested in February 1943, and was executed on July 13, 1943, at Stadelheim Prison in Munich. On 5 February 2012, he was glorified at the Cathedral of the Holy New-Martyrs and Confessors of Russia in Munich, Germany. He is commemorated by the Church on July 13.
Alexander Schmorell was buried behind Stadelheim Prison, in the cemetery at Perlacher Forst. In his last letter to his family, he writes the following:
"Now it shall be none other than this, and by the will of God, today I shall have my earthly life come to a close in order to go into another, which will never end and in which all of us will again meet. Let this future meeting be your comfort and your hope. Unfortunately, this blow will be harder for you than for me, because I go in the certainty, that in my deep conviction, I have served the truth..."
For years, St. Nicholas parish remembered their young parishioner executed by the forces of evil by visiting and performing services by the grave. Also honored was Alexander's nanny, who was instrumental in keeping him in the faith.
After World War II, the American forces came in and built McGraw Kaserne in the Giesing area of Munich, stretching from the area near Stadelheim prison, where Alexander and the others were executed, and wrapping around Perlacher Forst cemetery. A military church for non-denominational use was constructed just south of the cemetery, on the southeast corner of Lincolnstrasse and Leifstrasse. When US forces left the base in 1992, they had to sell off the buildings and property, including the church.
For decades, Alexander's parish had desperately been searching for a permanent home. The city of Munich, which was leasing the space that they were in wanted them out, and time after time plans for building a new church or moving into an existing one fell through. For years, Archbishop Mark had been holding regular intercessory Liturgies asking the Blessed Mother and the New Martyrs of Russia for their intercession in this matter.
In the 1980s, a Roman Catholic "contract priest" by the name of Fr. John Marsh was serving the Roman Catholic community at McGraw Kaserne. Fr. Marsh had a particular love for icons, and at times had arranged for well-known icons to come to the church on post. He then would invite parishes that he thought would be interested to come, and in so doing, had forged very good relations with some of the local Orthodox Churches. The St. Nicholas parish had even been allowed to hold multiple intercessory Liturgies at the church on post. When it became clear that the American forces would be leaving, the parish was certainly interested in buying it, but because the sale was being handled by the Germans rather than the Americans, they didn't feel that they had a chance.
Detail photo of 20th century saints of Russia, iconostasis of Cathedral of the Holy New-Martyrs and Confessors of Russia (Munich, Bavaria), Alexander Schmorell in white, before glorification. (photo: Jim Forest)
In 1993, a German researcher found Alexander Schmorell's police files while doing research in Moscow. On account of Schmorell's birth in Russia, his file had been sent there, rather than being left in Germany like the files of the other members of the White Rose, and the archive was closed to research until the fall of the Soviet Union. The researcher sent a copy of Schmorell's file to the church, knowing it had been his parish. Since it was almost the 50th anniversary of St. Alexander's execution, an article including some of this new information was written for the Orthodox magazine "Der Bote", which helped garner wider interest.
Because of this added interest surrounding Alexander Schmorell, new life was breathed into discussions of the purchase of the American church on Lincolnstrasse with the German authorities. At least two offers for the church had previously been made by other religious groups who could offer significantly more money, but all had fallen through. Finally, in December 1993 the sale of this church and piece of land was finalized. The church itself lies within sight of the grave of Alexander Schmorell, in the Perlacher Forst cemetery, which is also the location of a mass grave of some 500 Soviet people of that era, both prisoners of war, and forced laborers imported in during the war.
In recognition of what the parish believed to be St. Alexander's involvement in finally finding a church, coupled with its "coincidental" location just across the street from where his earthly remains lie, and in anticipation of eventual glorification as a saint, Alexander Schmorell was included on the iconostasis - sans nimbus - among the New Martyrs of Russia when the icons on the iconostasis were written in the mid 1990s.
Completing the act of canonization, St. Alexander was glorified as a New Martyr by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. in Munich, Germany on February 5, 2012.
Troparion (Tone 4)
Today a light adorns our glorious city,
having within it your holy relics, O Holy Martyr Alexander;
for which sake pray to Christ God,
that He deliver us from all tribulations,
for gathered together in love we celebrate your radiant memory,
imitating your bravery,
standing against the godless powers and enemies.
Kontakion (Tone 4)
From your mother you did inherit the love of Christ,
and through the love of your care-giver you were nourished in the fear of God, O all-glorious one,
to Whom you did give thyself, O all-honorable Alexander,
and you diligently pray with the angels.
Entreat on behalf of all who honor your memory a forgiveness of their sins.