Vitus Heller (1882 – 1956)

Vitus Heller — once (derogatorily) described by Joseph Joos as “a mixture of Lenin and Francis of Assisi”.

[Translated from an article by Jacques Droz in the Dictionnaire biographique, mouvement ouvrier, mouvement social (Maitron)]

[Born May 3rd, 1882 in Tauberrettersheim, died October 18th, 1956 in Wurzbourg; Catholic militant of the extreme-left.]

In 1918, Vitus Heller, militant of the Catholic Volksverein of Wurzbourg, took on leadership of the Christlich-soziale Partei, seperating from the Bavarian Volkspartei and grouping together progressively-minded Catholic workers. In the Ruhr, Catholic Arbeitervereine [Catholic workers’ associations] were created, which had abandoned the Zentrum [the Catholic Centre Party] and brought together in a Christliche Volksgemeimchaft, which made an honorable score in the elections of 1924. These two organizations are joined together in a Christlich-soziale Reichspartei (CSRP) of which the programme, developed in Das neue Volk (The new people), expressed an obvious sympathy for the Bolshevik revolution. Disciple of the Westphalian priest Wilhelm Hohoff, who had made known the thought of Marx to Chrstian workers, the leader of this party, Vitus Heller, believed he could reconcile Marxism with the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas. His party obtained 100,000 in the elections of 1928, but was not elected; it was transformed into the Arbeiter- und Bauernpartei (Workers ‘and Peasants’ Party) in 1931. Although it had, in the beginning of the 30s, an incontestable resonance with the Marxist ideas among the Catholic … Das Rothe Blatt der katholischen Sozialisten (The Red Sheet of Catholic Socialists) of Heinrich Mertens, it could not obtain, due to the opposition of religious authorities, an assured audience with the masses.

[Sources: SOURCES : D. Fricke (éd.), 1830-1845. Die bürgerlichen Parteien in Deutschland, t. II, Leip­zig, 1970. — A. Retzbach, Die Christlich-soziale Reichspartei, Munich, 1929. — Helga Grebing, Geschichte der sozialen Ideen in Deutschland, Munich, 1969. — D. Riesenberger, Die katholische Friedensbewegung in der Weimarer Republik, Düsseldorf, 1976. — W. Lôhr, « Vitus Heller », in J. Aretz, R. Morsey, A. Rauscher (éd.), Zeitgeschichte in Lebensbiildern, vol. 4, Mayence, 1980. — H. Donat, K. Holl (éd.), Hermes Hand lexikon. Die Friedensbewegung, Düs­seldorf, 1983.]

[, notice HELLER Vitus par Jacques Droz, version mise en ligne le 23 juin 2020, dernière modification le 16 mars 2020.]