Kaj Munk

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Kaj Munk
bust in Vedersø

Kaj Munk (actually Kaj Harald Leininger Petersen ; born January 13, 1898 in Maribo , Lolland ; † January 4, 1944 in Hørbylunde near Silkeborg ) was a Danish pastor, writer, opponent of Hitler and Christian martyr .


Childhood and studies

Munk's parents Carl Emanuel Petersen, a master tanner with his own business, and Ane Mathilde Petersen, née Christensen, died when Kaj was still very young. As an orphan he was adopted by his childless relatives, Peter and Marie Munk, small farmers in Opager near Maribo, and given their name. His new parents joined the Inner Mission Awakening Movement . The piety of his new parents, especially his mother Marie, who was handicapped by a leg problem, had a decisive influence on him. His elementary school teacher, Martinus Wested, and a young pastor in the community, Oscar Geismar, people educators in the sense of Grundtvig , encouraged his literary talent. They imparted Christian values ​​to him and awakened in him the joy of history and literature . Since 1914 at the cathedral school in Nykøbing Falster , he got to know the dramas of Henrik Ibsen and wrote his first cycles of poetry and dramas. After graduating from high school in 1917, he began studying Protestant theology in Copenhagen , but also wrote other works, the first of which were published. He considered dropping out of college and becoming a writer , but refrained from doing so (also out of consideration for his parents). Study trips took him to Germany and Czechoslovakia .

Professional life and literary successes

After passing the exam, Munk was ordained on May 25, 1924 and introduced as pastor in Vedersø near Ulfborg on June 1 . In the village on the west coast of Jutland, he was a popular pastor until his murder in 1944. In 1929 he married the local Elise Jørgensen, with whom he had five children: Yrsa, Helge, Arne, Solveig and Mogens. He also continued his literary work here. In 1928 the Royal Theater in Copenhagen first played its play En Idealist ("An Idealist") about Herod the Great . This made him known as a playwright. The play Cant (also premiered at the Royal Theater in 1931) earned him wide recognition. From 1931 he also wrote for the daily Jyllands-Posten and other Danish newspapers.

Two plays in particular established his fame: Ordet (“Das Wort”, 1932) plays among the peasants of a Jutian village and deals with the incomprehensible, early death, belief in the miracle of the resurrection, reason and madness. The occasion for this spectacle was an event in Kaj Munk's community in 1925, which shook him deeply. A young peasant woman, Marie Sand, and her child died in childbed. Her grave is to the southwest of Vedersø Church. In 1955 the Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer created the film "Ordet" based on Munk's drama .

The other play Han sidder ved Smeltediglen ("He sits at the melting pot", 1938) deals with the persecution of the Jews in the Third Reich and accounts for the unsuccessful attempt by some German scholars to make the Jew Jesus an Aryan. By the beginning of the Second World War, more than 160,000 spectators saw this spectacle and heard what a German theologian reproached a National Socialist minister with:

“A Jew taught my German mouth to pray every morning and every evening: 'Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.' Give the Jews the right to live in our people. Because taking away human rights from other people means making yourself a criminal. "

Political activities

Munk also became a widely read columnist for the major Danish daily newspapers in the 1930s. In eleven years he published more than 600 articles on all sorts of topics from church, culture and politics. He saw parliamentarism in its form after the First World War as unsuitable for the development of a people; he clearly expressed this conviction in word and writing. On the other hand, he saw in the formative power of Mussolini's fascism in Italy a historical factor of order, which he considered desirable as a model for the development of Scandinavia . The economic improvement in Germany under Hitler after 1933 also seemed to point in the same direction. Munk was of the opinion that sincere leaders with idealism and persuasiveness can set positive developments in motion in their people. Because of this it was quite controversial in Denmark.

In the drama Sejren (“The Victory”, 1936), Munk once again takes the side of the dictatorship. Inspired by Mussolini and his Abyssinian War, a peace-loving dictator is driven into the war by his environment, which Munk disguises as sacrifice, bravery and heroism. The dictator wins the war, but because of his wickedness he is murdered by his wife. She believes she is doing the will of God and is encouraged by a monk. Kaj Munk's view of the world is as religious as it is inhumane. His belief in the political leader is greater than sympathy for his victims.

He commented increasingly critically on developments in National Socialist Germany. While he had initially argued that the anti-Jewish measures had a certain justification, the increasing brutalization of German Jewish policy outraged him more and more. On November 17, 1938 - a week after the November pogroms - his open letter to Mussolini appeared in Jyllands-Posten . In it Munk implored him to dissuade Hitler from persecuting the Jews. They are unworthy of a great civilized people. But the actual addressee of the letter was the Danish public. The vast majority of Danes reacted in horror to racial ideology and anti-Semitism . They never met with any appreciable response in the country; As a markedly conservative, Munk now fitted into this mood.

Voice of resistance

After the occupation of Denmark on April 9, 1940, Munk became involved in the resistance against the German occupation forces . His public protests were sharp. He refused the collaboration of many of his countrymen. On the contrary, Denmark should follow the Norwegian example and not shy away from violence. He promoted this in his play Niels Ebbesen . The historical Niels Ebbesen murdered Count Gerhard III in the 14th century . from Holstein ; as a result, the Holstein influence on Jutland could be pushed back. Kaj Munk read his manuscript publicly in many places. The Danish underground movement distributed the text of the play in thousands of copies.

Munk's sermons from these years also contain unmistakable calls for resistance. These sermons were published in two volumes in 1941 and 1942, and by the end of the war they had five editions with a total of 25,000 copies. Many of these books ended up in Norway and encouraged resistance there too. Munk was well aware that his frank word put his life in danger.

"The Church is the place where injustice must be put under a spell, lies exposed, poisonous wickedness denounced - the place where mercy is to be exercised as the source of life, as the heartbeat of humanity."

Reasons for the murder

Kaj Munk (1944)

“If one starts the persecution of a certain group of our compatriots here in this country, only for the sake of their origin, then it is the Christian duty of the church to shout: 'That is against the basic law in the kingdom of Christ, mercy, and that is detestable for any free Nordic thinking. ' If that happens again, then with God's help we will try to stir up the people. For a Christian people who stand idly by when their ideals are trampled upon, let the deadly germ of decay enter their minds, and God's wrath will strike them. "

These sentences come from the sermon Munk delivered on December 5, 1943 in Copenhagen Cathedral . At that time he was a member of the opposition party Dansk Samling ("Danish Collection"), for which he had advertised in the election for the Folketing . He was undesirable in the Danish capital and was actually not allowed to enter the pulpit. At the request of his official brother, he nevertheless delivered the sermon, and in it he threatened to revolt because of the persecution of the Jews by the Germans.

One month later, on January 4, 1944, Munk was arrested by an SS detachment in the rectory in Vedersø. His wife Lise stayed behind with the five children. In the Hørbylunde forest to the east of Silkeborg, he was shot on the orders of Heinrich Himmler . With this compensatory murder , the Danish resistance against the German occupation was to be weakened. It was the first terrorist action by the Peter Group under the leadership of Otto Schwerdt . On January 8th, Munk was buried in Vedersø with great public sympathy.

The investigation by the Danish police quickly led to the perpetrators, who could not be questioned or arrested. A copy of the preliminary final report of the homicide squad was distributed as a leaflet by the resistance movement in 1944. Munk became a martyr of the Danish resistance movement.


Granite cross at the site of the murder

He is still unforgotten in the collective memory of Denmark, although the assessment of his literary work and his political convictions has fluctuated widely over the decades.

The graves of Kaj Munk, his wife Lise, née Jørgensen, and their son Helge are located on the side of the choir of St. Sebastian's Church in Vedersø. On the main street in front of the cemetery there is a monument with the bust of Kaj Munk. In the aisle of the church there is a plaque with his favorite chorale:

I await you, Lord Jesus, for judgment;
every moment i'm looking for it.
You can come quickly and unexpectedly
at any hour of the day or night
Let my heart's lamp be ready and burn
in faith, in hope and in love.
When I sleep or wake up, I am yours
if I live or die, you are mine.
And when you come, come tender and gentle
and make me happy forever.
(Den Danske Salmebog, No. 269)

On highway 195 near Hørbylunde four kilometers from Silkeborg, a memorial cross marks the place of execution. Friends put another memorial stone on the Ravnsbjerg south of Linde near Holstebro . The inscription reads:

Kaj Munk died on January 4th, 1944 for his fatherland. Some have to sacrifice themselves so that others can live.

In the town of Kappeln in northern Schleswig-Holstein , the local Danish school is named after Kaj Munk. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America commemorates Kaj Munk with a memorial day on August 14th .


In Danish

  • Kaj Munk Mindeudgave, Copenhagen, (Nyt Nordisk Forlag Arnold Busck):
    • En Digters Vej og other Artikler 1948.
    • Prædikener 1948.
    • Cant and other Skuespil 1948.
    • Kærlighed and other Skuespil 1948.
    • Pilatus and other Skuespil 1949.
    • Egelykke and other Skuespil 1949.
    • Graduated in 1949.
    • Said he inde - and other articles in 1949.
    • Foraaret saa said kommer - Erindringer 1949
  • Vedersø - Jerusalem retur , Copenhagen (Nyt Nordisk Forlag Arnold Busck) 1934
  • 10 Oxford Snapshots , klippet af en playwright, Copenhagen (Nyt Nordisk Forlag Arnold Busck) 1936
  • Fugl Fønix , Copenhagen (Nyt Nordisk Forlag Arnold Busck) 1939
  • Aldrig spørge, om det nytter - Digterens Liv fortalt af ham selv i Breve og Artikler, samlet and tilrettelagt af Niels Nøjgaard, Copenhagen (Nyt Nordisk Forlag Arnold Busck) 1958
  • Paradis og Syndefald - En Digtcyclus , Aabyhøj (Forlaget BHS Jørgen Glenthøj) 1994
  • Af et overfladisk, completed menneskes papirer , Copenhagen (Nyt Nordisk Forlag Arnold Busck) 2001
  • Ordet II - En almanakshistorie - skuespil i syv akter , Copenhagen, (Forlag Bindslev) 2003

In German language

  • Fragment of a life - memories, translation . Maria Bachmann-Isler, Zurich (Artemis Verlag) 1944
  • Confession to the truth, sermons Translation: Laure Wyss , Zurich (Evangelischer Verlag AG Zollikon-Zurich) 1944
  • Danish sermons . Translation: Edzard Schaper , with a foreword by Pastor primarius Olle Nysted, Stockholm (Neuer Verlag - Esselte Aktiebolag) undated (1945)
  • Happy days - Fifteen short greetings with blind load to the happiest of my comrades, the favorite sons of nature and their most ardent disciples: Denmark's hunters . Translated from the Danish by Elsa Carlberg, Zurich (Artemis-Verlag) 1946
  • Jesus stories, retold for the little ones . Translated from the Danish by Gudrun Cavin, Geneva, (Rocailles Verlag) 1949
  • Before Cannae - Foer Cannae . (German - Danish - German translation: Kai Kromer), Dresden (sentence publisher) 2000
  • Drama (An idealist - The word - Cant - He sits at the melting pot - Niels Ebbesen - The judges - Before Cannae). From the Danish by Rolf Lehfeldt and Paul Gerhard Schoenborn, with an essay by Arne Munk, Edition ATE published by LIT Verlag, Münster 2003
  • Oxford snapshots of a playwright . Translated and edited by Paul Gerhard Schoenborn, Edition ITP-Kompass, Münster 2013.
  • “Das Wort” - translated and edited by Paul Gerhard Schoenborn, Nordpark Verlag, Wuppertal 2015.
  • "Historical Dramas" (Phoenix Bird - The Cardinal and the King - The Victory - Ewald's Death) - translated and edited by Paul Gerhard Schoenborn, Nordpark Verlag, Wuppertal 2016.
  • "He is sitting at the melting pot" - translated and edited by Paul Gerhard Schoenborn, Nordpark Verlag, Wuppertal 2017.
  • "Danish dramas" (In the surf - love - the sea and the people - a calendar story - the pastor of Vejlby) - translated and edited by Paul Gerhard Schoenborn, Nordpark Verlag, Wuppertal 2017.
  • "An idealist - some scenes from the life of a king" - translated and edited by Paul Gerhard Schoenborn, including: Arne Munk "The playwright Kaj Munk and the spiritual situation of his time", Nordpark Verlag, Wuppertal 2018.
  • "Five political sermons in an occupied country", translated and edited by Paul Gerhard Schoenborn, Nordpark Verlag, Wuppertal 2018.


In Danish

  • Henrik Nygaard Andersen, Torleiv Austad (ed.): Kaj Munk - opgørets dramatiker . Copenhagen (Forlaget ANIS) 2008
  • Marc Auchet u. a. (Ed.): Kaj Munk - Dansk rebel og international inspirator , Copenhagen (Akademisk Forlag) 1995 (with an international Kaj Munk bibliography)
  • Marc Auchet: De lollandske stjerner - Kaj Munks forfatterskab set paa baggrund af hans liv . Copenhagen (CA Reitzel) 1998
  • Carl P. Behrens, Henrik Schjødt Christensen, Søren Daugbjerg (eds.): "Paa Lolland jeg den hented" - En samling artikler udgivet i 100-aaret for Kaj Munks fødsel . Herning (Poul Kristensen Forlag) 1998
  • Hans Brix: Hurtig svandt den lyse Sommer - Kaj Munk 1924–1944 . Copenhagen (Westermann) 1946
  • Bjarne Nielsen Brovst: Livet i Vedersø Præstegaard - om Lise and Kaj Munk . Herning (Poul Kristensens Forlag) 1980
  • Bjarne Nielsen Brovst: Kaj Munk - liv og død . Aarhus (Centrum) 1984
  • Bjarne Nielsen Brovst: Kaj Munk og den stærke mand . Aarhus (Centrum) 1992
  • Bjarne Nielsen Brovst: Kaj Munk - krigen og mordet Aarhus (Centrum) 1993
  • Bjarne Nielsen Brovst: Kaj Munk - retsopgør og eftermæle Aarhus (Centrum) 1998
  • Søren Daugbjerg: Kaj Munk og Tyskland - theater and politics . Aalborg Universitetsforlag 2008
  • Bo Elbrønd-Bek: Opstandelsesmotivet i Kaj Munks drama ORDET . Copenhagen, (Forlaget Underskoven) 2009
  • Lennart Franck: Kaj Munk - praise, författeren, rebel . Partille (Warne Förlag) 1997
  • Oscar Geismar: Om Mennesket Kaj Munk . Copenhagen (Nyt Nordisk Forlaget Arnold Busk) 1945
  • Søren Holm: Kaj Munk - The religious problem in hans dramaer . Copenhagen (Nyt Nordisk Forlag Arnold Busck) 1961.
  • Jon Høgh, Carl P. Behrens, Lisbeth Lunde Lauridsen (eds.): Vedersø Lolland retur , Ringkøbing 2014.
  • JK Larsen: Kaj Munk som playwright . Copenhagen (H. Hagerup) 1941
  • Jens Kristian Lings: Skygger over Vedersø Præstegaard . Lemvig 2005
  • Per Lykke (Red.): Ordet paa bordet - Ni læsninger i Kaj Munks dramatik Copenhagen (Multivers) 2004
  • Per Stig Møller: Munk . Copenhagen ( Gyldendal ) 2000
  • Per Stig Møller: Mere Munk . Copenhagen (Gyldendal) 2003
  • Harald Mogensen: Kaj Munk paa Teatret - En Teaterbilledbog . Copenhagen (Nyt Nordisk Forlag Arnold Busck) 1953.
  • Arne Munk: Kaj Munk and fosterdrabet . Fredericia (Lohses Forlag) 1996
  • Munkiana - Communications from the Kaj Munk Society, from 1997: Kaj Munk Selskabet, co Jens Kristian Lings, Kjeldbergvej 34, Fjaltring, DK-7620 Lemvig
  • Svend Aage Nielsen: Livet gad jeg ønske jer - Erindringer om, taler af og breve fra Kaj Munk . Herning (Poul Kristensens Forlag) 1984
  • Niels Nøjgaard, Martinus Wested u. a .: Bogen om Kaj Munk - skrevet af hans Venner . Copenhagen (Westermann) 1946
  • Niels Nøjgaard: Kaj Munk - Digter og Praest - Et Mindealbum . Copenhagen (Berlingske Forlag) 1945
  • Niels Nøjgaard: Ordets Dyst og Daad - Kaj Munks Levnedsløb og Personlighed . Copenhagen (Nyt Nordisk Forlag Arnold Busck) 1946
  • Niels Nøjgaard, Niels: Kaj Munk og Dictatorene . Copenhagen, (Nyt Nordisk Forlag Arnold Busck) 1948
  • Niels Nøjgaard, Niels: Mest lever vi naar vi dør - Syv Skitser om Kaj Munk . Aarhus (Forlaget Aros) 1973
  • Jan Pedersen: Martyren Kaj Munk lever . Oslo (Lunde Forlag) 2004
  • Børge Schmidt: I forliset bor sejren - Tekstsamling til debat and voksenundervisning udgivet in forbindelse with to video program from Kaj Munk . Aarhus (Danmarks Kirkelige Mediecenter) 1999
  • HH Siegumfeldt: Kaj Munk - en Mand og hans Daad . Aalborg (Frede og LC Lauritzen) 1945 (with detailed bibliography)

In German and English

  • Søren Dosenrode (Ed.): Christianity and Resistance in the 20th Century - From Kaj Munk and Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Desmond Tutu . Leiden / Boston (Brill) 2009
  • Christian Eisenberg: The political sermon of Kaj Munk . European University Papers, Series XXIII Theology, Volume 147 Frankfurt a. M. (Peter D. Lang) 1980
  • Christian Hartung: Behind the fear - Roman, Brendow Verlag Moers, 2017.
  • Wolfdietrich von KloedenKaj Munk. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 6, Bautz, Herzberg 1993, ISBN 3-88309-044-1 , Sp. 353-364.
  • Rolf Lehfeldt, Paul Gerhard Schoenborn: On the 100th birthday of Kaj Munk . In: Grenzlandhefte, Flensburg, 1/1998, pp. 29–34
  • Ebbe Neergaard: Kaj Munk - A poet between two world wars. Translation: Maria Bachmann-Isler. Zurich (Artemis Verlag) 1945
  • Paul Gerhard Schoenborn: Alphabets of the Succession - Martyrs of the Political Christ . Wuppertal (Peter Hammer Verlag) 1996, pp. 48-78
  • Paul Gerhard Schoenborn: "With God's help to stir up the people ..." The rescue of the Danish Jews and the prophetic message of the martyr Kaj Munk . In: Transparent, Essen, 11th year (1998), H. 49 (Transparent - Extra), pp. 1–12 ( online publication ; PDF; 77 kB)
  • Paul Gerhard Schoenborn: "He is sitting at the melting pot - memories of the Danish pastor and poet Kaj Munk", in: Deutsches Pfarrerblatt, issue 1/2014, 114 year, Speyer, pp. 14-20.
  • Paul Gerhard Schoenborn: "Kaj Munk - Resistance with the Open Word", in: Kreuz und Rose CuS, Issue 1/2014, 67th year, pp. 38–44.
  • Paul Gerhard Schoenborn: Kaj Munk - the political pastor and poet who was shot by the SS , Nordpark Verlag, Wuppertal 2014.
  • Paul Gerhard Schoenborn: The Jew Jesus was his guiding star, his weapon was the word. About the prophetic testimony of the Danish martyr and poet pastor Kaj Munk '', in: '' Tu your mouth open for others '', special issue 2020 of the Societies for Christian-Jewish Cooperation German Coordination Council e. V., pp. 14 - 17, Bad Nauheim 2019.
  • Alfred Otto Schwede : Anchored in the invisible - The life of Kaj Munk . Berlin (Evangelische Verlagsanstalt) 1970
  • Matthias Wulsten: "The dramatic time poetry of Kaj Munk as a reaction to and intellectual confrontation with fascism" (Master's thesis) Kiel 1998

Media reception

  • "Ordet" ("The Word") in the film adaptation by Gustaf Molander, 1943
  • " Ordet " ("The Word") in the film adaptation by Carl Theodor, 1955. There is a German synchronization.
  • “Havet og menneskene” (“The Sea and the People”), 1970. Script based on Kaj Munk's drama, directed by Sigfred Aagaard.
  • "Kaj Munk - A TV series i fire dele om digterpræsten, danskerne og krigen" produced by the Danish television DR 1985. Script Jens Aakrog, directed by Henning Ørbak.
  • "Kaj Munk: I forliset bor sejren" with Kaj Munk's Ollerup speech 1940. Danmarks Kirkelige Mediecenter 2000.
  • "Kaj Munk: Og alt hans væsen". The actor Caspar Koch as Kaj Munk in the pulpit of Vedersø, Danmarks Kirkelige Mediecenter 2000.

Web links

Commons : Kaj Munk  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Jens Kistrup: Det modern drama . In: Dansk Litteraturhistorie , Volume 4, Politikens Forlag, Copenhagen 1966, p. 444 f.
  2. Whitney R. Harris: Tyranne in front of the court: The procedure against the main German war criminals after the Second World War in Nuremberg 1945-1946 , BWV 2008, ISBN 978-3-8305-1593-7 , p. 211
  3. ^ Matthias Bath: Danebrog against Hakenkreuz, The Resistance in Denmark 1940-1945 , Wachholtz 2011, ISBN 978-3-529-02817-5 , p. 158f.
  4. ^ Dansk Skoleforening for Sydslesvig eV: Kaj Munk-Skolen
  5. August 14 in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints