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Paul Lutz

A German-American Chaplain in the U.S. Army

Paul C. Lutz was a Lutheran pastor in Lime Springs, Iowa, when the United Statesentered World War Two. Talk in that town just south of the Minnesota border, following Congress’ declaration of war on Germany, included gossip about “the German church.” It was St. Paul’s Lutheran, where Pastor Lutz had served since 1937. The talk was not neutral. The harshest words were about the pastor. Some in that mainly Welsh community called him “pro-German,” even “a Nazi.” The judgments had no basis in Lutz’s political views. They resulted from the fact that, as “German church” leader, Lutz led occasional German-language services. Such services ended quickly, but rumors remained about Lutz’s lack of patriotism.

Then, in early 1943, Lutz overheard farmers at the local drugstore gloating over the good prices the war was producing for their commodities. He told the farmers it was offensive to hear them gleeful because of a war. They then accused him of being pro-German.

Fifty years after Paul’s enlistment, the Lutz family (Paul’s widow and six children) published a book of reminiscences from the World War II period.

Later that year, Lutz decided to volunteer for the U.S. Army chaplaincy. Church leaders were calling for clergy to enlist, and the 38-year-old Lutz felt he could go. Lutz also said he wanted to show he was a loyal American, and to silence those who called him pro-German. He later said maybe he had to prove something to himself, too.

He entered the Army in late 1943, leaving behind a mother with five young boys. Lutz served Stateside during much of 1944, at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina. In the fall of ‘44 he was shipped toEurope, where he accompanied troops from Italyto southern Franceand eventually into German’s Bavaria, from whence his grandfather Lutz had emigrated to the U.S.in 1855. Paul Lutz was in southern Germany from May 1945 until he returned home at Christmas time. Highlights, he later said, were arranging for U.S.troops to return the altar and its triptych art work to the Lutheran church in Geislingen from a cave where they’d been stored for safekeeping. Another highlight was being regularly recruited, because of his superb German language skill, to accompany his commanding officer on visits with local officials.

Lutz also visited the Dachau death camp near Munichand was repulsed by the evidence of Hitler’s Jewish extermination policies. Once he served Holy Communion to some 500 Hungarians who’d been conscripted into the Nazi military and were being held as POWs by the Allies. In German, they said they’d had no pastoral ministry during all their years in Hitler’s forces. On 29 July 1945 in Geislingen, his 36th Division observed the Chaplain Corps’ 170th anniversary, and Lutz was featured speaker.

He returned from military service at the end of 1945, a few months later accepting a call to another congregation of (mostly) German-Americans, in Renwick, Iowa. He soon heard stories from his farmer members about the German POWs who’d worked on their farms. The prisoners came from the POW camp at nearby Algona, which had closed in February 1946, just prior to Lutz’s arrival in Northcentral Iowa. Lutz learned that mutual affection had developed between many of his German-American members and the POWs who worked on their farms. Lutz said it warmed his heart to hear it. 

Chaplain Lutz (in uniform) on home leave at
Maquoketa, Iowa, 1944, prior to departure
for service in Europe. Wife Olga stands next
to him: sons are (from left) Charles, Lyle,
Fred, Eugene and Curt.
Chaplain Lutz with wife Olga at Fort Jackson,
Columbia, South Carolina, in summer of 1944.
Paul Lutz at field organ in worship with U.S. Army troops, somewhere in Germany, spring 1945.
Paul Lutz posing with a captured Germany
plane, spring 1945.
Paul Lutz with jeep in Europe, probably early 1945, while still a 1st lieutenant.
In Lime Springs, Iowa, St. Paul's Lutheran was angrily labeled the "German church" by community persons in the early 1940s. During his two years away from them, Chaplain Lutz's wife and five boys lived in this home in Maquoketa, Iowa.

Text and photos courtesy of Charles Lutz.

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