Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

The signature of Fr. George Rupprecht, taken from the second archived letter. COURTESY OF MSJ ARCHIVES

Did German prisoners of war work on the farm at Mount Saint Joseph? Part II


Editor’s note: This article is the second in a two-part series on German POWs at Mount Saint Joseph.

In my article last month, I relayed the story of an archived letter from Germany to Mother Laurine Sheeran, OSU. The letter was dated 1947 and its writer thanked the mother superior for sending him several religious items to the post-war country. The letter mentioned prisoners of war working on the farm at Mount Saint Joseph. This raised several questions as this is information that has been lost to the current place memory at the Mount. This article will reveal the identity of the author as well as the second letter’s contents.

The letters were signed “Georg Rupprecht.” As I would later find out, his full title was Fr. Georg Rupprecht. In 1934, after high school, Georg entered the seminary. In 1939 after completing five years of theological studies, he was drafted into military service. During a vacation granted by the Wehrmacht, Georg returned to the seminary and completed his studies and exams. On March 7, 1943, in Limburg Cathedral, at the height of the Second World War, Fr. Georg Rupprecht was ordained a priest. After being called back into military service, he was captured and taken as a prisoner of war by the American Army.

Fr. Rupprecht was shipped to America and eventually transferred to a prisoner of war camp in the Fort Campbell area. Stating that as a Catholic priest he was naturally opposed to the Nazi party, he offered his assistance to the allies. He was placed in a leadership position of two anti-Nazi POW camps in the area.

Historian Antonio S. Thompson, in his book “German Jackboots on Kentucky Bluegrass,” remarks that “Acting on information given by POW Sergeant Georg Rupprecht… the military located many ‘werewolves’ within the anti-Nazi compounds and removed them.” No dates or information about his time at Mount Saint Joseph could be obtained from any of the former POW camps contacted by the archives. However, according to Fr. Rupprecht’s letter, he did work on the farm. Referencing the kindness shown by the MSJ Sisters his letter humbly states, “I was only an insignificant prisoner of war on your farm.”

The final letter from Fr. Rupprecht tells a story of German hardship and Catholic friendship. Upon his return to Germany, Fr. Rupprecht became the chaplain for St. Hubertus in Rennerod.  With several of the religious items mailed by the MSJ Ursulines, during the German winter the good priest had been going by sleigh into villages saying Mass and distributing clothing to the homeless and needy. In a previous package, though he had not asked for them, the sisters sent the priest wool gloves, a sweater, shirts, socks, and soap. Thanking them, he remarked all of those were so necessary and could not be bought in Germany. This was true a little more than a year and a half after the end of the disastrous war.

On March 7, 2003, Fr. Rupprecht celebrated his diamond jubilee to the priesthood. After a lifetime dedicated to the Church, at the age of 93, he passed away and was laid to rest on Dec. 16, 2008 in a burial that, by his request, took place in silence. Fr. Georg Rupprecht, pray for us!

The diocesan archives would like to extend a special thanks to Gustav Kesper and Britta Fischer of the Diocese of Limburg for their assistance with this article.

Edward Wilson is the director of the Diocese of Owensboro’s Archives and the Archives of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph. Comments and questions may be sent to [email protected].

For more information about this period of Kentucky history, check out “German Jackboots on Kentucky Bluegrass” by Antonio S. Thompson.

Originally printed in the May 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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