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Pastor Pokorny

Pastor Pokorny (an evangelist) spoke at a Youth Meeting and at a Church Service held at St John's Hensingham (near Whitehaven UK) at which the crossBeaTs played - on the weekend of 30/31 October 1965 (see bookings page). Unfortunately, I can remember nothing about Pastor Pokorny or that meeting. On top of that, my early searches on the internet (around the year 2000) revealed nothing about this fascinating man - an ex Nazi Youth Leader who became a Christian evangelist.

Since I posted information about this meeting, however, I received some very informative details. In June 2008 and January 2013 I received a number of e-mails from Peter Worsley (these have been combined and edited below, and one or two links added). Also, in January 2013, I received a very informative e-mail from someone who worked closely with Pastor Pokorny, and knew him well. This e-mail is also shown below. Note: the e-mails appear in reverse order.


January 2013

Dear Eddie

Re Pastor Pokorny who I knew well long ago and for whom I indirectly worked for more than 40 years ago. Pastor Pokorny died in 2008. The web site:

is inaccurate in places. Lots of pieces of the jigsaw in it seem at odds to what Pokorny told me in Austria and UK.

Certainly by 1969 the Catholic Church was NOT anti-Bible in Austria, and positively encouraged his work. My battered German New Testament and ABM silk bookmark is one he gave me, identical to those given out by him all over Austria at that time. I have been known to quietly sit and read this, and be noticed by Austrians. The Austrians were, and are, surprisingly tolerant and ecumenical. I was welcomed, including receiving communion, at the local parish church.

The Bible Mission has changed its name slightly. I have emailed to them in Salzburg. I do not know if their work continues. I have lived and worked in Germany and, for considerable periods, in Austria

I suspect that your letter writer also got a few things muddled (ed: this refers to the earlier letter, shown below, from Peter Worsley). Pastor Pokorny was born Austrian, not German. He may have been a Hitler Youth leader, but I know nothing about this. This was not uncommon. The Pope was too so I am told, though I think he was just a member!

He (Pastor Pokorny) told me that he had been a Luftwaffe officer, with photo to prove it, though how/when I don't know. I understood that he was a "golden "boy" who seriously irritated the Nazi Austrian HQ, now a well known baker's shop on the corner by the opera in Vienna, by becoming a vocal Christian and then "departing hurriedly". His activities were strongly with the "professing Church". He never claimed having had specific request for spying when talking with me. He sometimes referred to the Gestapo in talks rather than the Abwehr or SD knowing that British audiences in general wouldn't know the differences, and that they certainly wouldn't know the SD. OK, they all ended up under the Reich Security Office (RSA), but being hunted by any of the RSA wasn't to be underestimated, though the Kripo tended to be a bit of a law unto itself. The Gestapo records in Vienna and Prinz Albrechtstrasse in Berlin were duplicates of local records, many of which have survived, but, again, the Germans are distinctly touchy about anyone wanting to rummage around.

Pokorny was seriously persona non grata for the Nazi state. He seemingly did a bit more to upset them than cross the Swiss border. The main archives are now at Ludwigsburg, captured intact initially by the French, who were replaced by the British who promptly recatalogued everything in sight, but (a) the Germans are (I did, circa 1988) distinctly touchy about access (b) you need to be able to read 1930-40s German, including abbreviations (c) you need to be able to read the "old script" (Gothic) German. The priest, the MD/CEO of Dunlop Austria, and another top Austrian "underground" leader were members of my church in the 18th and were executed by German guillotine (very different from the French), bundled into sacks and dumped (see parish church stained window), so a lot of elderly people knew a lot, particularly 20 years ago when I first was there.

Hotel Metropole was the RSA base in Vienna. Pokorny certainly "visited" it, he told me, and everything he told me cross referenced - it was bombed and then torn down postwar. I have an old Baedecker guide with that hotel being the only one marked by a - in 1940s ink, no idea why!

The link above (see evangelical times above) is incorrect about the leaflets distribution. In Austria you will see rows of wooden rods in everything from top class restaurants to village barber's shops. These hold magazines, newspapers, etc. If you pay top subscription, you get it week one, down to lowest subscription when you get it week 12. Pastor Pokorny had his material inserted into these. He had powerful friends, such as Kurt Waldheim to whom he introduced me, who got me my first job in Land Salzburg.

Pastor Pokorny may not have spied against the Russians, but his activities at the time of the Prague Spring in 1968 certainly did not endear him to those in power in Iron Curtain countries........... His "Scarlet Pimpernel" activities were different from the better known Brother Andrew. I personally saw and can vouch for his work and the large numbers of endangered people that arrived in a village in Austria in the summer of 1969. It was forbidden to speak anything other than the local form of German, including me, a zero ability linguist!

Pastor Pokorny quietly got it into my head in Austria that being an idealistic Christian in the CU with a quiet middle class professional life in a then Christian country wasn't valid, and that Christians are called to step outside of their comfort zones, to risk sneers or ridicule in the UK or their necks in many other places that I have worked.

Yours sincerely

The writer wished to remain anonymous


Below is the earlier 2008 letter (with additions) from Peter Worsley, which prompted the clarification above:


June 2008


While looking for Pastor Pokorny on the internet I came across you (the crossBeaTs web site) and boy, did it bring back memories of the Catacombs in Manchester. I was sorry to read about Dave "the Rave" Eastwood and Val Grieve dying though.

I can still remember most of your great song "The Answer Man" and even when you switched names from The Seekers - that must date me! You had a great ministry and I am delighted to see it in archive form, especially as there is nothing on the internet about what happened to either Pastor Pokorny (whom I met several times) and Fred Lemon.

Pastor August Erwin Pokorny was an ex-Nazi youth leader and founder of the Austrian Bible Mission. Their webpage is or was:

which ministers to refugees. They had an English address in Eastbourne which turns out to be a lock-up garage and they have not answered my queries which suggests the UK branch is now defunct.

I had Pastor Pokorny at my school about 20 years ago, possibly less, when he was in fine form. The one incredible story I heard him tell three times was when he had been converted in Germany he worked as a spy against the Nazis.

He knew he was a wanted man, although unidentified, and when everyone was ordered off a train and into a station waiting room he thought his number was up. As the Gestapo officer came down the line checking all the documents of everyone on the train he began to tremble as his papers would expose him. He then heard a voice saying "Be still and know that I am God". He stopped shaking as the officer picked up his envelope, pulled out the papers, looked at him, smiled, and then replaced the papers without looking at them before moving on to the next man.


Sorry but I have no pictures of the past. The Catacombs was a powerful ministry and The Seekers were a big attraction there, even before they changed their name to The Crossbeats. I heard them two or three times and was most impressed. I don't know if any of my contemporaries can help with any more information but I am copying this to Peter Davies and Colin Reilly who were both around at the time.

Best Christian wishes

Peter Worsley

(ed: and in 2103 Peter added the following)

The problem with obituaries is they are often written by people with limited secondhand knowledge. I heard Pastor Pokorny twice explain how in the station waiting room, just before the Gestapo officer got to him in the queue that he heard a voice say "Be still and know that I am God" which stopped him trembling and giving the game away. He then explained how the officer pulled the papers from the envelope, looked up, smiled at him, then put them back in the envelope without even looking at them.

He also said he had been a zealous Hitler youth leader, had killed at least one person (he did not mention Jews), before being told there were two local American missionaries who were giving out Bibles which, according to him, had been banned by Hitler. Wanting to see what he was not supposed to read, he secretly obtained a copy and read it, being converted in the process. He then said he went on to become a spy, I think, for the British although my memory on this is not entirely clear as it was 50 years ago when I first heard him.

Whatever the truth, he was a wonderful man and ought to have been credited in the mainstream press for his work. This only happens where someone tells them, however, and had it not been for me then the story of Charles Fraser-Smith, the real Q on whom Ian Fleming based his fictitious James Bond character, would not have been reported either.

Do keep me up to date with anything new.

Best wishes,

Peter Worsley
Assistant Editor, This England & Evergreen magazines


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