Joseph Mayr-Nusser, killed for refusing to swear an oath to Hitler, has been beatified.

Joseph Mayr-Nusser, an Italian who refused to take the oath of allegiance towards Hitler was beatified on March 18. The ceremony took place in Bolsano, his hometown. Mayr-Nusser, a Catholic family man, refused to bow to the Nazi regime after he was drafted into the then German army. He died when he was being marched towards Dachau concentration camp. Pope Francis has now recognized him as another martyr for Christian conscience and faith.

By all accounts, Josef Mayr-Nusser was a family man. Born in 1910, the fourth of a total of seven children born to his wine-growing parents, he grew up in Tirol, Austria. In 1915, when he was five years old, his father died of cholera after being conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian army during the First World War. The family spoke German even though the region became a part of Italy post the World War I.

Members of Mayr-Nusser's family went on their different ways. His older brother took priesthood and he became employed as a cashier in a company located in Bolzano. When he was in his twenties, he took membership of the Catholic Action movement's local group. Mayr-Nusser progressed in the group, soon becoming the president of a section in Archdiocese of Trento. In 1937, he was nominated as the president of the local branch. He spent a majority of his time caring for the poor.

The advent of the Second World War in 1939 saw Mayr-Nusser taking part in “Andreas Hofer Bund,” an anti-Nazi movement. After Benito Mussolini was thrown out of power in Italy, civil war spread in the country. German forces occupied the country's northern parts. The Nazis forcefully conscripted men from both the non-occupied and occupied territories to shore up its “Schutzstaffel” or the “protective squadron.”

Mayr-Nusser found himself conscripted into the German army and to his surprise, became part of the SS unit in 1944. He was forced to leave his newborn son and wife for military training in Prussia. However, when it was time for all SS members to swear fealty to Hitler, he refused. He informed his superior that it was not possible for him to declare allegiance to Hitler in the name of God. His faith forbade him to do so.

Mayr-Nusser was subsequently jailed, had a trial and ultimately sentenced to death on charges of treason. He died while marching to Dachau concentration camp. If he had survived the journey, he would have been shot. Dysentery was the cause of death. Pope Francis proclaimed him as a martyr in 2016, thus paving the way for his beatification.

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