Background of War

Sister Victoria Weithaler's 1938 passport is a graphic reminder of Nazi control of German citizens.
Sister Victoria Weithaler's 1938 passport is a graphic reminder of Nazi control of German citizens. Obtaining a passport, especially at this time, required extensive negotiations with government officials.
Passport Cover: Deutsches Reich Reisepass

Sister Victoria Wiethaler was a young School Sister of Notre Dame whose vivid memories of Hitler and Nazi Germany form the basis for her book, “Enlarge the Space of Your Tent.” The stories, speeches and music offer insights into context of World War II.

German Sisters' Stories

A number of German School Sisters of Notre Dame left Nazi Germany as Hitler closed denominational schools. In her book, "Enlarge The Space of Your Tent," Sister Victoria Wiethaler chronicles the journeys of many sisters who left Germany prior to WW II.

Relive the memories of these sisters as collected by Sister Victoria. Listen to the audio version of Sister Victoria's memories as shared in her book or read the text version of these memories.

Sister Leonis Fick

Sister Leonis FickJust eleven days after Sister Leonis pronounced her first vows in Munich motherhouse, April 20, 1937, she was on her way to the United States, her new homeland. Shortly before entering the novitiate, the postulants had been asked, "Do you wish to go to a foreign mission?" Maria Josepha Fick answered with a firm, "NO!"

In one short year of novitiate, this was changed to a generous "YES" which became a lifetime of lived sacrifice and service in the St. Louis province. Her good sense of humor and her candid disposition won the heart of all in Germany as well as in the United States. Two of her older sisters had entered our congregation before her. Read More >>


Sister Bernarde Lang

Sister Bernarde LangIn her autobiography Sister Bernarde gives a detailed account of her life, "I, Caroline Lang, was born on January 27, 1917, the third of fifteen children in beautiful, then royal Bavaria. Four of the children died in early childhood.

"Beginning with grade three, I was hired out to farms for the greater part of my childhood to watch the cows. In our section of Germany, the cows had to be driven out to various meadows. Times were hard after World War I and at home there was one less mouth to feed. Besides watching cows and attending school I received valuable training in performing domestic chores and helping with work in barns and out in the fields. I also learned early in life how to get along with various folks. At the same time, we have remained a close-knit family up to the present moment. Read More >>


Sister Mary Imma Mack

Sister Mary Imma MackMost School Sisters of Notre Dame stayed in Germany during World War II working to alleviate suffering, caring for orphans, providing for the elderly. One example of this fidelity to live community under difficult circumstances was Sister Imma (Josefa) Mack. As a candidate, she was missioned to a children's home in Freising.

One day a well-digger who worked at Dachau and was well known to the sisters, asked if someone could take bread to the camp. Her superior asked Josepha (later Sister Imma) if she would be willing to do this. She was to pick up vegetables and flowers for the home and was told she would actually have little chance of seeing the camp.

She agreed and her life was changed forever. Read More >>


Sister Mary Benedicta ViebeckSister Mary Benedicta Viebeck

Sister Mary Benedicta states, "I consider my whole religious life a challenging, enriching experience in SSND internationality. When I was a candidate in Bavaria, the government started closing schools to our sisters and the future of our congregation seemed unsure. I was stunned when Reverend Mother Almeda (Stricker) suggested I go to America, but I accepted the ideas as perhaps the only sure way to live as a School Sister of Notre Dame.

Shortly after my profession in Munich in 1938, I was among the last German sisters allowed to leave the country. I have never regretted the move, not even during World War II when communication with loved ones was near zero. Read More >>


Sister Victoria Wiethaler

Sister Victoria WiethalerSister Victoria of the Milwaukee province grew up on a small Bavarian farm. Seven brothers and sisters followed her. She relates, "Our two-room school was taught by capable SSNDs. We profited much by their teaching of catechism and Bible History.

"A mission magazine gave me an insight into the needs for helping in Africa. My desire to go there began during the seventh grade. I asked our pastor if he thought I would make a good sister. Since I wanted to be a missionary but did not know such an order, we decided that I should join the SSNDs. The more difficult task was to get my parents' permission. On our small farm, we had few machines. Every hand that could help was important. I thank my generous parents for letting me go.

The German sisters who came to Baltimore were remembered with a special event 60 years after their arrival.

Speeches and Music

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