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Elisabeth Forck (b. 18 January 1900 in Seehausen; d. 26 July 1988 in Bremen)

Defiant Headmistress
Pastoral Care for Victims of Persecution

Elisabeth Forck was the headmistress of the “Gymnasium an der Kleinen Helle” and also taught there. As a member of the Confessing Church within the Bremen congregation of St Stephen’s, she was actively involved in the resistance against National Socialist church policies. For reasons of conscience she turned down the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (1965) for bravely speaking out in support of persecuted members of the congregation.

After the National Socialists came to power, Elisabeth Forck joined the Confessing congregation of St Stephen’s South, which refused to observe anti-Semitic laws and put up with reprisals as a result. She was charged with “treason during war” for writing a letter of protest against the deportation and arrest of members of the congregation. With the help of her superior, she was punished only with a fine and the limitation of her teaching powers.

After the war, as headmistress of the “Kleine Helle” grammar school, Elisabeth Forck was actively involved in introducing democratic structures there. Responsibility, commitment to social affairs, tolerance and a cosmopolitan attitude were encouraged at the “Kleine Helle”. In 1948 the school was declared a UNESCO model school.

The reconciliation between Jews and Christians was a matter of special concern for Elisabeth Forck. In 1950 she joined the German Society for Christian-Jewish Relations in Bremen, and went on to serve as its chairman from 1968 to 1976. In 1967 and 1968 Elisabeth Forck and her sisters hosted persons coming to Bremen from all over the world to serve as witnesses in two trials concerning National Socialist crimes of violence.

Beate Borkowski