Plaque at Christ Church

Plaque at Christ Church

There is a plaque in the narthex (porch) of Christ Church that was installed last May, commemorating the actions of two of the church’s Chaplains, Hugh Grimes and Frederick Collard, who organized a plan to help Jews escape the Nazis after the Anschluss in 1938. They baptized hundreds of Jews who came to them for help, after a quick catechism, and help from the British Embassy across the street (the church was originally founded as a mission of the Embassy) and these papers – for a time at least – enabled people to get their exit Visas before the country was closed completely. Both men were recalled from Vienna to the UK by the Anglican Church, but not before saving 1,700 lives – at risk of their own (especially Collard, who had no diplomatic immunity after succeeding Grimes). When I first heard of this from church folks, I thought of Freud’s scorn for Jews who chose Baptism – but then I also thought how Baptism as a means to assimilation is something quite different than Baptism to save a life (the supreme Jewish good). It’s certainly a complex decision, but there is no question that these two vicars were motivated by a zeal for justice and compassion, and as Mr. Gruber said, “they used the means at their disposal to save lives.” Their story can be found at


About pcooperwhite

Christiane Brooks Johnson Professor of Psychology and Religion, Union Theological Seminary, New York NY
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