Resurrection of Our Lord Chapel (Dachau, Bavaria)

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The Resurrection of Our Lord Chapel (German: Christi-Auferstehungs-Kapelle Dachau, Russian: Часовня-памятник Воскресения Христова Дахау) is a memorial chapel which stands on the grounds of the former Nazi concentration camp of Dachau. It was dedicated on April 29, 1995, on the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the camp by American forces. It falls under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, Diocese of Berlin and Germany, and shortly after its construction and dedication, a parish - also named Resurrection of Our Lord - was founded in nearby Munich. The chapel can be viewed by anyone who visits the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site; however, it is only opened up on certain occasions as needed for services by the parish in Munich.

Background of Dachau

The city of Dachau is a small Bavarian city located on the northern outskirts of the much larger city of Munich. Founded in 805, in many ways it is very similar to many other small Bavarian cities. However, just weeks after Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, on the site of a former gunpowder factory, he created a prison/forced labor camp that was primarily meant for political prisoners in Dachau. This was the first of the Nazi concentration camps to be opened in Germany. In the twelve years that it operated as a death camp, there were 206,206 registered arrivals and 31,951 certified deaths.

Unlike many of the other Nazi concentration camps, where the population of prisoners was primarily Jewish, the population of Dachau was made up of political prisoners, common criminals, and religious dissidents. For this reason, there was a whole prison block of Roman Catholic priests. At the end of the war, there was also a contingent of Soviet prisoners of war, and just before Dachau was liberated in May of 1945, a trainload of Soviet prisoners of war from Buchenwald had been moved to Dachau. They had spent nearly a month on the train with almost nothing to eat; many died of starvation and disease, others had been shot. By Gleb Rahr's estimation, 5000 had been forced on the train and only 1100 made it to Dachau alive.

Orthodox Christians at Dachau

Due to the mix of religious and foreign prisoners housed at Dachau, a good number of Orthodox Christians were imprisoned here. Not only were there Soviet prisoners of war, who made up about 40% of the prison population, but priests, deacons, and a group of monks from Mount Athos. The only group at Dachau larger than the Soviet POWS were Polish Roman Catholics. It is estimated that 6,000 Soviet prisoners of war were killed at Dachau or at the nearby execution range at Hebertshausen.

The most famous of the Orthodox Christian inmate was probably Bishop (now saint) Nikolai Velimirovic, who was imprisoned there from September 1944 until February 1945, when he was "unofficially" released in northern Italy along with other "VIP" prisoners.

Also, Patriarch Gabriel (Dožić) of Serbia, head of the Church of Serbia was imprisoned here from September of 1944 until February 1945, when both he and St. Nikolai (Velimirovic) were released "unofficially" into the north of Italy.

Pascha at Dachau, 1945

The concentration camp at Dachau was liberated by American forces on Palm Sunday, April 29, 1945. Logistically, it was impossible to move all these prisoners out of Dachau immediately, so most of them were still there one week later, on Pascha May 6, 1945. The decision was made to allow the Orthodox Christians at Dachau to celebrate Pascha right there in the camp. This was done in conjunction with the Yugoslav and Greek National Prisoner's Committees.

The city of Munich, which was liberated by American forces on May 30, was the home to many Orthodox churches and Christians. However, because of the chaos of the time, the attempt made to borrow Liturgical items from a Russian parish failed, as it was impossible to find people who belonged to the church. As a result, those there did what they could with the material that was at hand. For example, vestments were created out of new linen towels at the camp's hospital, and red crosses - meant to denote medical personnel - were used to adorn the towel vestments. No proper chapel was available, so the service was conducted in the room the in the "priest barrack" where Roman Catholic priests had been allowed to use to say mass. A single icon stood there, the Theotokos of Czestochowa. No Bibles or Liturgical books were available, but in the end little of this mattered, for as Metropolitan Dionysios (Haralambous) of Trikkis and Stagon would later write in his book "Martyrs" (published in 1949):

"In the open air, behind the shanty, the Orthodox gather together, Greeks and Serbs. In the center, both priests, the Serb and the Greek. They aren't wearing golden vestments. They don't even have cassocks. No tapers, no service books in their hands. But now they don't need external, material lights to hymn the joy. The souls of all are aflame, swimming in light.
Blessed is our God...My little paper-bound New Testament has come into its glory. We chant "Christ is Risen" many times, and its echo reverberates everywhere and sanctifies this place."

Another well-known account of Pascha at Dachau in 1945 comes from Gleb Rahr, a young Russian who had grown up outside the Soviet Union, but who was imprisoned for his "subversive activities". After surviving time at Buchenwald, and the death train to Dachau, he went on to dedicate his life to the service of the Church, in the places he lived (Japan, Taiwan, Germany) and throughout the world. Among the things that he notes is that at that time, there were eighteen Orthodox priests there, most of whom were Serbian. The entire service was done from memory, and went back and forth between Greek and Slavonic.

Unfortunately, many of the Soviet prisoners of war were not allowed to attend or participate in the service, due to the Soviet government's hardline stance against religion.

List of Orthodox at Dachau

The following are lists of Orthodox Christians known to have been imprisoned at Dachau. Gleb Rahr compiled a list of clergy; these are commemorated at every Divine service at the chapel.

Gleb Rahr's list of clergy

  • Fr. Vilko Babich, priest, born 1910 - survived.
  • Fr. Damaskinos Khadyopoulos, priest, b.1913 - survived
  • Fr. Bronislav Djorjevich, priest, b.1892, Secretary to Patriarch Gavrilo - survived
  • Archimandrite Meletios Galanopoulos, b.1892 - survived (priest at the Salvatorkirche)
  • Patriarch Gabriel (Dožić) of Serbia, born 1881 (note: arrested May 25th, 1941 in Belgrade, detained at Dachau since September 25th, 1944 to February 1945, when he was taken to Northern Italy with other VIP-prisoners and inofficially released at the approaching of Allied troops)
  • Fr. Milan Jovanovich, priest, b.1909 - survived
  • Fr. Milan Kizdobranski, priest, b.1914 - survived
  • Heguman Stefan Maletich, b.1917 - survived
  • Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich, Bishop of Okhrid, born 1874 (note: Brought to Dachau September 25th, 1944. In February, 1945, taken with Patriarch Gavrilo to Northern Italy and released.)
  • Fr. Milan Petkovich, priest, b.1889; died at Dachau February 2nd, 1945
  • Fr. Dcn. Stefan Stakich, deacon, b.1919 - survived
  • Fr. Dionisiy Ilyin, priest, b.1882 (note: Arrested November 3rd, 1942 at Marianske Lazni (German occupied Czechoslovakia). In April, 1945, forced to patricipate at the "Evacuation" death march to the Alps region, liberated by Americans April 24th, 1945)
  • Fr. Vasil Ivanas, priest, b.1901 arrested May 25th, 1941 in Kanopa, Carpatho-Russia, - survived
  • Fr. Tomas Rosokha, priest, b.1903 Czech from Mukachevo - survived
  • Archbishop Sawatij (Vrabec) of Prague, Archbishop of the Czech Orthodox Church under the jurisdiction of the Serbian Patriarchate, b.1880, arrested May 30th, 1942 in Prague - survived
  • Fr. Miodrag Stanoylovich, priest, b.1908 - survived
  • Fr. Milutin/Miodrag Stoyanovich , priest, b.1907 - survived
  • Fr. Stoyan Stoyanovich Stoyan, priest, b.1911 - survived
  • Fr. Stradinya Svitlich, priest, b.1912 - survived
  • Fr. Petar Zhiravac, priest, born 1907 - survived
  • Fr. Mikhal Peteralski, priest, b.1920 (note: arrested in Warsaw) - survived

Additional List compiled by the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center, Chicago

  • Metropolitan Dionysios
  • Fr. Alois Schiessel
  • Alexander
  • Yiannis Avramidis
  • Three Bazaka brothers
  • Apostolis Christidis
  • Thodoros Christogiorgos
  • Simos Demopoulos
  • Spyros Deraos
  • Three Farmaki brothers
  • Vasilis Fasoulas
  • Takis Hanton
  • Damaskinos Hatzopoulos
  • Lazos Kiriakos
  • Spiros Konstantinou
  • Foti Logioti
  • Christos Manousakis
  • Christos Mparmpoutis
  • Vasilis Mpakiaris
  • Giorgos Mprakretsas
  • Yiannis Pagratis
  • Yiannis Papadopoulos
  • Tasos Papanastasiou
  • Giorgos Papatriantafillou
  • Kostas Papooulias
  • Two Patsika brothers
  • Gleb Alexandrovitch Rahr
  • Three Rakopoulos brothers
  • Ntinos Sakellaridis
  • Aris Samothrakitis
  • Giorgos Saratsis
  • Takis Sotiriadis
  • Ilias Theos
  • Ylannis Tsokonas
  • Nicholas Tzoumbas
  • Nikitas Vasiliathis
  • Vasilios

After the War

After the war, Germany was divided between the Allied Forces, resulting in troops being stationed in Germany for many years thereafter. In 1965, the former concentration camp at Dachau was opened as a memorial site.

Resurrection of Our Lord Chapel

Before the withdrawal of Russian forces from Germany in 1995, a decision was made, on the initiative of Archbishop Longin (Talypin) of Klin and with the blessing of Patriarch Alexei that a memorial chapel should be constructed on the grounds of the former concentration camp at Dachau to remember the Orthodox victims of the Nazi regime, as well as any other regimes of terror.. The architect for the project was Valentin Utkin. The chapel was built in the tradition of wooden churches of Northern Russia, which stretches back hundreds of years. (A spectacular example of this is the Kizhi Pogost in Russia.) The building and details were constructed by masters in the area of Vladimir in Russia, which were then shipped in pieces to Germany and put back together by Russian troops.

Icon of Christ freeing the prisoners of Dachau (photo: Jim Forest)

The chapel was named for the Resurrection of Christ, and features a large icon of Christ leading the prisoners of Dachau out of the camp through the gates, held open by angels. This icon was written by Angela Hauser, an iconographer from Bonn. (One of the prisoners depicted wears the prisoner number R64923 - Gleb Rahr's number. Since his death, a small wooden cross, fashioned by Rahr whilst a prisoner, is also housed at this chapel.)

Once the chapel was constructed, Archbishop Feofan (Galinskij) of Berlin and Germany performed the rites of the lesser consecration. The great consecration took place on April 29, 1995, on the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp and was performed by Metropolitan Nicholas (Kutepov) of the Eparchy of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas in Russia. Patriarch Alexei visited the chapel in November 1995, on a trip through Germany. The first Divine Liturgy celebrated here was on September 8, 1996, and services have taken place here ever since. On May 3, 2015, in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, as well as the twentieth anniversary of the consecration of this chapel, Divine Liturgy was served. In attendance for the day's commemorations (which include more than just the Orthodox services) were a number of church leaders as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bavarian Minister-President, Horst Seehofer.


The establishment of this chapel also led to the founding of a Moscow Patriarchate parish of the same name in 1996.


For Further Reading