German POW refused Humanist funeral by Highland church

A church has refused a family permission to hold a humanist funeral in its hall.

Heinz Kurt Voigt Soldier, POW and financial director Born: 11 August, 1925 in Saxony, Germany Died: 4 November, Bonar Bridge, aged 91

Relatives of the late Heinz Voigt, 91, say they are saddened at the decision by St Andrew’s Church of Scotland in Golspie, Sutherland.

His son Heinz, 63 and daughter Liz 67, wanted to hold the funeral service under the direction of Brora-based humanist celebrant Wendy Armstrong at the local hall.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Mr Voigt, a retired accountant and a former German prisoner of war, died at the age of 91 on 4 November at Migdale Hospital in Bonar Bridge.

READ MORE: {| Obituary: Heinz Kurt Voigt, Soldier, POW and financial director.

But on the same day as his father’s death, his son Heinz received a call from the undertakers advising him that the church refused to allow the ceremony to take place in the hall.

He said: “When he died, my sister and I felt that a humanist service was the best way of remembering our father and to have it in the Fountain Road Hall, which is the main hall in the village.

“But when we got the message that we couldn’t have the ceremony in the hall because it was humanist we were shocked and saddened.

“My sister and I were hugely disappointed – my father had done a lot for the village. We didn’t ask for the service to be in the church which is understandable and we felt that would be wrong.

“But the hall seemed appropriate as we understood there were previous humanist services there.

“We were in a panic, and after a sleepless night hastily phoned round to find where we could hold the ceremony. The Masonic Hall thankfully came to our rescue.”

Mr Voigt snr was born in 1925 at Reichstadt, near Dresden, and had studied accountancy before being called up to the German army in 1943 aged 17. He was involved in the fighting around the D-Day landings and was captured by the Americans after having been wounded.

After the war ended in Europe, the POWs were moved to Scotland and a camp at Kirkton, Golspie, where Mr Voigt worked on local farms.

He was eventually allowed to return to Germany but as his home area was under Russian occupation, he decided to remain in East Sutherland, living in Dornoch and then Golspie.

Mr Voigt was buried at Golspie cemetery.

A Church of Scotland spokesman said: “The hall is not the only community facility in Golspie and the board has the right not to make it available to any group whose core purpose is not compatible with the beliefs and values of the Church of Scotland.”