Gross, Nikolaus, Bl.

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Lay martyr, journalist; b. Sept. 30, 1898, Niederwenigern (now a suburb of Hattingen near Essen), Ruhr, Germany; d. Jan. 23, 1945, Plotzenzee Prison, Berlin, Germany. After completing his elementary education (190512), Nikolaus Gross, the son of a smith, worked in a sheet mill (191215) and intensively sought to further his education in his free time. As a coal miner (191520), he joined the Christian Miners' Union (1917), the Central Christian Party (Zentrum, 1918), then the Antonius Knappenverein (St. Anthony's Miners Association, 1919). From 1920, he held various union positions in the Ruhr, Schlesien, and Saxony, while acting as assistant editor for the Bergknappe (The Miner ) and as its editor from 1922. On May 24, 1923, he married Elisabeth Koch with whom he had seven children (b. 192439).

Thereafter he was assistant editor (192729), then editor-in-chief (from 1929), of the Catholic Workers tabloid, the Westdeutsche Arbeiterzeitung (later called Kettelerwacht ). He used his position with the Kettelerwacht to awaken the consciences of Christian workers to the evil of National Socialism. For this reason the newspaper was shut down in 1938. Nevertheless, Gross continued to publish pamphlets underground to rally opposition to Nazism. He was arrested by the Gestapo (Aug. 12, 1944) and interred at Ravensbrück concentration camp, then in Berlin's Tegel (from September 1944), where he was tortured. Gross was condemned to death by Roland Freisler on Jan. 15, 1945. Following his execution by hanging, his body was incinerated and its ashes scattered.

Nikolaus's cause for beatification was opened in 1997 in the Diocese of Essen. After the issuance of the decree of martyrdom (July 7, 2001), he was beatified by Pope John Paul II on Oct. 7, 2001.

Bibliography: j. aretz, ed., Nikolaus Gross. Christ ArbeiterführerWiderstandskämpfer. Briefe aus dem Gefängnis (Mainz 1993). v. bÜcker, b. nadorf, m. potthoff, Wie sollen wir vor Gott und unserem Volk bestehen? Der politische und soziale Katholizismus im Ruhrgebiet 19271949, (Münster 1999) Christen an der Ruhr, ed. a. pothmann and r. haas (Essen 1998), 200220; Martyrologium Germanicum des 20.Jahrhunderts, ed. h. moll, (Cologne 2000), 165169. b. hermans, ed., Nikolaus Gross und die katholische Arbeiterbewegung in der NS-Zeit Begleitbuch zur Ausstellung des Bistums Essen in der Alten Synagoge (Essen 1995) 1625.

[k. i. rabenstein]