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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

November 4, 2009

Farewell to Heinz Pistorius

Filed under UCG-Germany

The funeral for pioneer East German Church of God member Heinz Pistorius was held today in Zwickau, Germany.

Heinz and Käthe Pistorius
 Heinz and Käthe Pistorius in the mid-1980s.
Heinz and Käthe Pistorius
 My last visit with Heinz and Käthe Pistorius at
 their home in Zwickau in June 2006.
Paul Kieffer and Gunter Pistorius
 Following the funeral service for Heinz, I had
 lunch with his son Gunter.

Heinz was born in 1921 in Planitz near Zwickau, in what later became East Germany after World War II. Just days before the start of the war he met his wife-to-be Käthe, whom he married while on leave in 1942. Heinz was assigned to a mountain division during the war. His older son Gunter was born in 1944, and after the war Heinz, his wife Käthe and their son Gunter lived with his parents. Heinz's dad was sick with tuberculosis, and Heinz contracted the disease himself and was treated several months in Switzerland. His illness left him with only one fully functional lung.

In 1949 Heinz and his wife moved to their small two-room apartment in Zwickau that later became well known to many visitors from the west, my wife Monica and myself included. Their second son was born in 1949 and their daughter followed in 1951.

Thoroughly disillusioned after the war, Heinz thought that Communism was the solution to man's problems. He worked as an accountant for a state-owned general goods store for years and also became the Communist party secretary for Planitz. A chain smoker, Heinz was known for being a hard worker who did not tolerate resistance to the Communist system or nonsense at work.

In the early 1960s Heinz came into contact with the Church of God via the "World Tomorrow" broadcast over Radio Luxembourg. His son Gunter had started listening to the broadcast and had ordered literature from the church office in Düsseldorf. At first Heinz thought his son was being influenced by propaganda, but as he read the material from the church, he became convinced that what he was reading was the Truth.

In 1965 he and his son were baptized by Frank Schnee in Leipzig, becoming the first members of the Worldwide Church of God in East Germany. His new way of life meant big changes for Heinz. He resigned from the Communist party and gave up his post as party secretary, stopped working on the Sabbath and was penalized with a pay cut as a result and also quit smoking.

Since the church was not recognized in East Germany, Heinz and the others who later became members met privately whenever a minister from West Germany was able to visit, including meetings during the Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles.

The Feast of Tabernacles was disrupted in 1971 when East German police ["Stasi"] ordered the meetings being held at a campground near East Berlin stopped. Heinz was ordered to turn in all of his church literature at the "Stasi" office in Zwickau after the feast. He dutifully turned in two suitcases filled with booklets, magazines, etc. He told me once that as Communist Party secretary he knew of people who were imprisoned for having possessed one piece of "dissident" literature. But nothing happened to him. Two years he had a chance meeting with one of the "Stasi" officers on the street in Zwickau. Heinz told him he had another piece of literature for him. It was a 1973 issue of the "Plain Truth" magazine with the lead article being "Uncle Sam is sick". Heinz wanted to make the point that his church was not anti-communist, but rather viewed all human governments as inadequate.

From that time on the group met privately without any overt interference, although "Stasi" observers in the neighborhood kept track of visitors (including me and other elders who visited from West Germany). Heinz was ordained a deacon and served the small church in East Germany faithfully for nearly 30 years until the two Germanys were united in 1990.

The last years of his life were marked by failing health. He was no longer able to attend Sabbath service or the Biblical festivals. His wife Käthe attended to his needs faithfully until Heinz's death one week ago on October 28, 2009. A big "thank you!" to Gunter for all his help with the funeral arrangements.

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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