Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Faith Like a River: A Program on Unitarian Universalist History for Adults

Leader Resource 4: Norbert Capek

Norbert Capek (1870-1942) (pronounced CHAH-pek) was a Unitarian minister who, with extraordinary energy, talent, and commitment, brought the Unitarian faith from the United States to thousands in Czechoslovakia. Capek believed that a truly religious person should have "the ability to have faith and confidence, the ability to hope, the feeling of worship, charity or selfless love, and conscientiousness." In 1941 he was arrested by the Gestapo for listening to foreign broadcasts and for high treason. He was put to death in a Nazi prison camp the following year.

Highlights of Norbert Capek's life:

  • Born in South Bohemia in 1870
  • Raised in the Catholic Church, he became disillusioned at a young age; resigned at age 18 and was baptized a Baptist
  • As a Baptist evangelist, founded churches from Ukraine to Budapest
  • "Rediscovered" the free faith of sixteenth century central Europe, which led him to a more liberal understanding of faith
  • From 1914 to 1919, served Baptist churches in New York and New Jersey
  • In 1919, left the ministry and the Baptist church. In 1921, joined, with his wife and children, the Unitarian Church in Orange, New Jersey
  • In 1921, returned to newly independent Czechoslovakia and founded the Unitarian Church in Prague; by 1941, the church had 3,200 members
  • Arrested by the Gestapo in March 1941 and accused of listening to foreign broadcasts and "high treason"
  • Put to death at Hartheim Castle, Austria in October 1942.