poppy image  The following is a synopsis of the eulogy originally poppy image
given in Croatian at the grave site by Father Mijo Nikic,
the Superior of the Jesuit Order in Zagreb.

Wooden cross

Dear Brothers and sisters, respectful friends of the priest Gruber. On his death the earth lost, but heaven gained a good man and a pious priest. During the last two years of his life I bore witness to his great belief and confidence in God whom he served magnanimously for over 68 years of his life.

Although he was very sick during the last two years of his life - and, according to his doctors could have passed away any minute - God , if we dare say so, decided to wait for a while. Then he called him to heaven. There is no doubt that his soul went straight to heaven to be among all the angels and saints.

Father Wendelin Gruber was born on February 13, 1914 in the Danube Swabian community of Filipowa, which was then still part of Austria-Hungary. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1934 and was ordained a priest in Rome in 1942. Yugoslavia was reestablished as a communists State by the victors of WW II. After six years of service as a young priest he was arrested in Sarajevo in 1948 by the Communist regime. On October 5, 1948 he was brought before a federal court. The indictment read by the federal prosecutor was full of lies and fabrications. Among other things the prosecutor charged that priests like Father Gruber should be banished or suffer the death penalty because of their resistance to the "liberation movement" of the Yugoslav people.

Unseen by the guards Father Gruber had entered the death camp of Gakowa during the heavy fog at 4 o'clock in the morning where his compatriots were systematically tortured and killed. There he found his sister and her children, seven year old Adam and ten year old Rosi. They were in Zagreb recently to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Father Gruber's ordination. And, they are here today to attend the funeral of their beloved uncle.

Father Gruber was a brave man who fought for truth, justice and the rights of the oppressed. He was ready to suffer, and if need be, even die for his beliefs. He followed the teachings of Jesus Christ. In court he bravely declared "The federal prosecutor is demanding the death penalty for me. That does not bother me. Christ told his followers if the world hates you be sure it hated me before it hates you." This was too much for the judge who admonished him to stop preaching. Father Gruber asked: "Do we not live in a democracy in which even a condemned man has a right to state his case?" They then let him continue his defense and to actually say what he wanted.

Father Gruber continued his defense with these words from the bible "Blessed are those who are banished because they will enter the Kingdom of Heaven." Then he rose to his feet and continued "Blessed are those who take away your good name, spread lies about you and accuse you of evil conduct. Do not be one of those who kill the body because you will not be able to kill the soul. Love even your enemies and do good to those who hate you."

When Father Gruber had finished with his speech he said "This is my defense" and sat down. The angry judge told him "Stand up, you can not sit down in my courtroom." The jury recessed and after a short break came in with the verdict. " Guilty ! " The sentence: 14 years in prison with hard labor. With his hands bound behind his back the courageous priest was led out of the courtroom.

While in prison Father Gruber was confronted by Moise Pijade. (Pijade was Tito's evil Jewish deputy who initiated the genocide of the Danube Swabians in Yugoslavia. Ed. Note) When he saw the prisoner Gruber he asked the guard "Why is this man in jail?" The guard answered "He is a Vatican spy." Moise Pijade then berated the priest for his beliefs. "Don't you know that the pope's hands are soaked in the blood of innocent people? To which Father Gruber replied "No, I don't know that. That's easy for you to say but where's the proof?" Moise Pijade was furious and shouted "Shut up, or you'll leave your bones here!" As it turned out Father Gruber lived long after that incident, but Pijade had to give his bones to the earth and his soul only God knows where.

Father Gruber died at the age of 88. From a human standpoint we can say he had a long life, but from the spiritual side he died too soon. "Whoever believes in me will live even after death." These words of Jesus Christ were often quoted by Father Gruber and now he can enjoy the truth and love he preached to others. I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me water, I was without clothes and you dressed me. I was not pre-ordained and you showed me the truth which reveals and gives eternal life. Enter the Lord's beatitude.

Rosary on Open Bible

The priest Gruber was a very thankful man. He always thanked us for any tiny little help we gave him. I am convinced that he wishes me to thank those who helped him during his illness and old age. First of all, I want to thank all his relatives, his nephew Adam and niece Rosi who prayed for him, visited him and helped him in various ways. A big thank you goes to Sisters Natalia, Dragica and Murki who cared and prayed for him, to our other Brothers and sisters and especially to Brother Eriz, whom Father Gruber fondly called "Bruder Franz", to his doctors, to lawyer Blazenko Kresic who obtained a pension for Father Gruber for the time he spent in jail as a political prisoner, to Zrinka who gave him a crucifix from which he never parted. We also thank his friends and former fellow inmates who were so good to him and always inquired about his health. One of these was Nikola Zupic who wrote that he never forgot Father Gruber's words "Never forget the Lord and your religion."

During his lifetime the priest Gruber acquired and promoted the fame of the German people to whom he belonged by blood and his Croatian people whom he loved very much. Let him lie in peace in this Croatian land to await the day of resurrection.

Bible, Cross, Lily

Frank Schmidt

Father Gruber's book: In the Claws of the Red Dragon

Republished with permission of the author.

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