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Hide Me Within Thy Wounds: The Persecution of the Catholic Church in the USSR

Original Russian Text by I.I. Osipova, Moscow, Russia

Russian to English Translation by Malcom Gilbert

Germans from Russia Cultural Preservation Foundation, Fargo, North Dakota and the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, North Dakota State University Libraries, Fargo, North Dakota, 2003, 219 pages, softcover.


The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection is pleased to announce publication of this important work, Hide Me Within Thy Wounds: The Persecution of the Catholic Church in the USSR. The author writes in the Introduction: "On coming to power in 1917, the Bolsheviks condemned religion as the 'opium of the people', and persecution of the Church became for many years an integral part of domestic policy in the Soviet Union."

"As early as January 1918 they issued a decree on the separation of Church and state, and the laws deriving from it deprived all religious groups of judicial rights and declared their possessions of property of the nation. Such degrees provided the justification for the mass seizure and destruction of churches, punitive measures against the clergy and hounding of believers for their religious convictions. The records of the 'organs' show that while 2,429 priests were arrested in 1923-1924, the figure grew to 19,812 in 1931-1932. The warriors for ideological purity made no distinctions. All groups suffered: Orthodox and Catholic, Lutherans, Baptists and other Protestants, Mennonites, Moslems, and Buddhists."

This book describing Soviet persecution of priests and believers of various persuasions, is devoted to the Catholics. The history of persecution of the Catholic Church in Russia from 1918 to its almost complete annihilation in 1939, when only two function Catholic churches remained, has been described in other books. The distinctive feature of this book is that it makes available for academic study and public judgment previously inaccessible material from the central and regional archives of the Russian Federal Security Service and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, The Ukrainian Central State Archives of Public Administration, and the archives of security service in the republics of the former USSR.

This account of the fate of Catholic clergy and laity caught up and crushed in the machine of repression draws on material from investigation records and personal files of prisoners, aggregate returns of general Soviet camp administration (GULAG), and instructions and coded telegrams of the secret police.

Father William C. Sherman who indexed the book writes: "This book, Hide Me Within Thy Wounds, is a good sampling of "what went on behind the scenes" as the various Communist agencies labored to stamp out religion. Necessarily it can deal with only a part of the picture: Thousands of religious leaders, men and women of every denomination, were put in prisons. Interrogated at length, sent to labor camps or executed. The full story will involve a dozen future volumes. But Hide Me Within Thy Wounds is a beginning. It's a chilling study. One stands in admiration as we see from actual archival documents the cruel treatment of the Russian, German and Polish victims whose only crime was to be faithful to their beliefs. I was honored to compile the index to the English version of this Hide Me Within Thy Wounds volume." Father William C. Sherman is Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology/Sociology, North Dakota State University, Fargo. He is author and editor of various books.

Father (later Bishop) Alexander Frison
Father Ludwig Erck
Father Leonard Eberle
These Russian priests, many of whom were arrested upon ordination as part of the Soviets' contempt for religion, were killed or died in prison. A group photograph - sentenced priests in the Solovki prison camp.
This photo was taken in 1927 in front of the Church in Josefstal/Volga, and it features the only known photo of Father Falkenstein. He was deported to Siberia and never heard from again. Photo courtesy of Barbara Schaab
Fr. Alois Kappes in prison, 1937

Related Articles:

Alexander Frison - 20th Century Martyr

Review of the book by Edna Boardman

Review of the book by Father Christopher Lawrence Zugger

Review of the book by Pavel Chichikov


Hide Me Within Thy Wounds

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