Richard Wurmbrand, also known as Nicolai Ionescu (March 24, 1909 – February 17, 2001) was a Romania
n Evangelical Lutheran priest
and professor of Jewish
descent. In 1948, having become a Christian ten years before, he publicly said Communism
and Christianity were incompatible. Wurmbrand preached at bomb shelters and rescued Jews during World War II
As a result, he experienced imprisonment and torture by the then Communist régime of Romania, which maintained a policy of state atheism
. After serving a total of fourteen years, he was ransomed for $10,000. His colleagues in Romania urged him to leave the country and work for religious freedom from a location less personally dangerous. After spending time in Norway and England, he and his wife Sabina, who had also been imprisoned, emigrated to America and dedicated the rest of their lives to publicizing and helping Christians who are persecuted for their beliefs. He wrote more than 18 books, the most widely known being ''Tortured for Christ''. Variations of his works have been translated into more than 65 languages. He founded the international organization Voice of the Martyrs
, which continues to aid Christians around the world who are persecuted for their faith
Richard Wurmbrand, the youngest of four boys, was born in 1909 in Bucharest
in a Jewish family. He lived with his family in Istanbul
for a short while, his father died when he was 9, and the Wurmbrands returned to Romania when he was 15.
As an adolescent, he was sent to study Marxism
, but returned clandestinely the following year. Pursued by Siguranţa Statului
(the secret police
), he was arrested and held in Doftana prison
. When returning to his mother country, Wurmbrand was already an important Comintern
agent, leader, and coordinator directly paid from Moscow. Like other Romanian communists, he was arrested several times, then sentenced and released again.
He married Sabina Oster on October 26, 1936. Wurmbrand and his wife (known as Bintzea to her friends) converted to Christianity in 1938 due to the witness of Christian Wolfkes, a Romanian Christian carpenter; they joined the Anglican Church's Ministry among Jewish people
(CMJ UK). Wurmbrand was ordained
twice—first as an Anglican, then, after World War II
, as a Lutheran priest
. In 1944, when the Soviet Union occupied Romania
as the first step to establishing a communist regime
, Wurmbrand began a ministry to his Romanian countrymen and to Red Army
soldiers; the Socialist Republic of Romania
had a doctrine of state atheism
. When the government attempted to control churches, he immediately began an "underground" ministry to his people. Wurmbrand was a professor in the only Lutheran seminary in his country. Though a devout Lutheran priest, Wurmbrand was highly ecumenical
in that he worked with Christians of many denominations. Wurmbrand is remembered for his courage in standing up in a gathering of church leaders and denouncing government control of the churches. He was arrested on February 29, 1948, while on his way to a Divine Service
[Wurmbrand, Richard. ''Tortured for Christ.'' Living Sacrifice book co. 1967. p. 35]
Wurmbrand, who passed through the penal facilities of Craiova
, the Danube–Black Sea Canal
, Văcăreşti prison
, Malmaison, Cluj
and ultimately Jilava
, spent three years in solitary confinement. This confinement was in a cell twelve feet underground, with no lights or windows. There was no sound because even the guards wore felt on the soles of their shoes. He later recounted that he maintained his sanity by sleeping during the day, staying awake at night, and exercising his mind and soul by composing and then delivering a sermon each night. Due to his extraordinary memory, he was able to recall more than 350 of those, a selection of which he included in his book ''With God in Solitary Confinement'', which was first published in 1969. During part of this time, he communicated with other inmates by tapping out Morse code on the wall. In this way he continued to "be sunlight" to fellow inmates rather than dwell on the lack of physical light.
Wurmbrand was released from his first imprisonment in 1956, after eight and a half years. Although he was warned not to preach, he resumed his work in the underground church. He was arrested again in 1959 and sentenced to 25 years. During his imprisonment, he was beaten and tortured. Physical torture included mutilation, burning and being locked in a large frozen icebox. His body bore the scars of physical torture for the rest of his life. For example, he later recounted having the soles of his feet beaten until the flesh was torn off, then the next day beaten again to the bone, claiming there were not words to describe that pain.
During his first imprisonment, Wurmbrand's supporters were unable to gain information about him; later they found out that a false name had been used in the prison records so that no one could trace his whereabouts. Members of the Secret police visited Sabina posing as released fellow prisoners. They claimed to have attended her husband's funeral. During his second imprisonment, his wife Sabina was given official news of his death, which she did not believe.
[Moise, Anutza, ''A Ransom for Wurmbrand'', Zondervan Publishing, 1972, p. 89]
Sabina herself had been arrested in 1950 and spent three years in penal labour
on the canal. Sabina's autobiographical account of this time is titled ''The Pastor's Wife''. Their only son, Mihai, by then a young adult, was expelled from college-level studies at three institutions because his father was a political prisoner; an attempt to obtain permission to emigrate to Norway to avoid compulsory service in the Romanian army was unsuccessful.
Eventually, Wurmbrand was a recipient of an amnesty
in 1964. Concerned with the possibility that Wurmbrand would be forced to undergo further imprisonment, the Norwegian Mission to the Jews and the Hebrew Christian Alliance negotiated with Communist authorities for his release from Romania for $10,000 (though the going rate for political prisoners was $1,900). He was convinced by underground church leaders to leave and become a voice for the persecuted church. He devoted the rest of his life to this effort, despite warnings and death threats.
He was a friend of Costache Ioanid
, the Romanian Christian poet.
Achievements, influence and death
Wurmbrand travelled to Norway
, and then the United States
. In May, 1966, he testified in Washington, D.C.
, before the U.S. Senate
's Internal Security Subcommittee
. That testimony, in which he took off his shirt in front of TV cameras to show the scars of his torture, brought him to public attention. He became known as "The Voice of the Underground Church," doing much to publicise the persecution of Christians in Communist countries. He compiled circumstantial evidence that Marx
was a satanist.
In April 1967, the Wurmbrands formed Jesus to the Communist World (later renamed The Voice of the Martyrs
), an interdenominational
organisation working initially with and for persecuted Christians in Communist countries, but later expanding its activities to help persecuted believers in other places, especially in the Muslim world
In 1990, Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand returned to Romania for the first time in 25 years. The Voice of the Martyrs opened a printing facility and bookstore in Bucharest. The new mayor of Bucharest had offered a storage space for the books under former dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu
's palace – where Richard had spent years in confinement, praying for a ministry to his homeland. Wurmbrand engaged in preaching with local ministers of nearly all denominations.
Wurmbrand wrote 18 books in English and others in Romanian
. His best-known book, titled ''Tortured for Christ'', was published in 1967. In several of them he wrote very boldly and emphatically against Communism; yet he maintained a hope and compassion even for those who tortured him by "looking at men… not as they are, but as they will be… I could also see in our persecutors. a future Apostle Paul… (and) the jailer in Philippi who became a convert." Wurmbrand last lived in Palos Verdes
He died at the age of 91 on February 17, 2001
" ''Christianity Today'' 2 Apr. 2001: 31. General OneFile. 15 Jan. 2010.
in a hospital in Torrance, California
. His wife, Sabina, had died six months earlier on August 11, 2000. In 2006, he was voted fifth among the greatest Romanians according to the ''Mari Români
*''100 Prison Meditations''
*''Alone With God: New Sermons from Solitary Confinement''
*''Answer to Half a Million Letters''
*''Christ in the Communist Prisons''
*''Christ On The Jewish Roads''
*''From Suffering To Triumph!''
*''From The Lips Of Children''
*''If Prison Walls Could Speak''
*''If That Were Christ, Would You Give Him Your Blanket?''
*''In God's Underground''
*''Jesus (Friend to Terrorists)''
*Marx & Satan
' (Crossways Books
, 1986)''My Answer To The Moscow Atheists''
*''My Correspondence With Jesus''
*''Reaching Toward The Heights''
*''The Answer to Moscow's Bible''
*''The Oracles of God''
*''The Sweetest Song''
*''The Total Blessing''''Tortured for Christ''
*''With God In Solitary Confinement''
*''Tortured for Christ'' - Docudrama.
*''Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand'' - documentary DVD.
*''Torchlighters: The Richard Wurmbrand Story'' - animated DVD for children 8-12.
* Wurmbrand, Sabrina (1970). ''The Pastor’s Wife''
Richard & Sabina Wurmbrand FacebookRichard & Sabina Wurmbrand Official Web Page Approved by the WurmbrandsEnglish & Romanian Richard & Sabina Wurmbrand facebookTortured for Christ: A Celebration of Richard Wurmbrand's Life One Hundred Years After His BirthRichard Wurmbrand
at ''Mari Români
''Richard Wurmbrand audio sermons
including some in German
Mother's Day sermon (French). May 8th 1988, Québec City Canada MP3
Category:Clergy from Bucharest
Category:20th-century Anglican priests
Category:Converts to Anglicanism from Judaism
Category:Inmates of Doftana prison
Category:Inmates of Gherla prison
Category:Inmates of the Danube–Black Sea Canal
Category:Romanian anti-communist clergy
Category:Romanian Lutheran clergy
Category:American people of Romanian-Jewish descent
Category:People from Palos Verdes, California
Category:Burials at Rose Hills Memorial Park
Category:Romanian torture victims