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Bruno Kroker, ecumenical journalist
who opposed Hitler, is dead at 94

Secaucus, N.J., June 12, 2009 Bruno Kroker, 94, who fled his native Germany during the Third Reich and worked as a journalist in China before becoming a communicator for the National Council of Churches USA, the World Council of Churches and the United Presbyterian Church, died early Thursday here at Meadowlands Hospital Center.

"His life was one of the great novels that never got written," said his friend, Fred Myers, who also worked on the National Council of Churches news staff in the 1970s.

Born in Berlin in 1915, Kroker often recalled standing with other youth journalists in the vast office of Adolf Hitler. But Kroker was no friend of the Nazis.

It was Kroker's involvement in anti-Hitler groups that got him chased out of Germany by the Gestapo in 1933 at the age of 17. "Bruno had acquired the habit of telephoning his house before going home," Myers said. "When one day an unknown male voice answered the phone, he asked for himself and was told he wasn't there but was expected soon.  'Why don't you come over?' the voice said. 'I know he'd be glad to see you.' "

According to Kroker's son, Kevin, Bruno got on his bike and pedaled to Denmark, not to return until 25 or 30 years later.  He never saw his mother again.

Kroker's escape from Germany took him half way around the world to China.

In the 1970s he was a familiar figure to journalists who covered the ecumenical movement in the U.S. He moved to the U.S. from Shanghai in 1950 and became an American citizen in 1955.

For a decade after coming to America, he worked with CROP, the food appeal related to Church World Service. The decade following saw him as an information officer with the National Council of Churches.

"Bruno played a key role in press coverage for the NCC Commission on Religion and Race and its part in training rights students who went south to places like Philadelphia, Miss." Myers recalled. "He was also deeply involved in planning and covering the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom."

From 1970 to 1974, Kroker did information work for the Presbyterian Church. He was senior press officer for the World Council of Churches in Geneva, and in 1977 became press officer for the U.S. Office of the World Council of Churches in New York, retiring in 1980.

During what he called his "exile years" from Germany, Kroker studied at the universities of Copenhagen, Keijo, Japan, and St. John's in Shanghai. He was fluent in English, German, Danish, Russian and Chinese.

During his 14 years in China, he covered the war between China and Japan and later the Communist take-over of the Chinese mainland. He was war correspondent for the London Daily Express and International News Service at Nanking in 1937, was editor of the China Journal and managing editor of the Far East Engineer in Shanghai from 1938 to 1941, and from 1946 to 1949.

During his young manhood in China, Kroker was also a scholar, serving as editor of the Royal Asiatic Society-affiliated China Journal. He studied Chinese history extensively, and was one of the discoverers of the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng, dating from pre-Nestorian times.

Kroker is survived by his wife, Linda, of Tenafly, N.J.; a son, Kevin, of Los Angeles; daughter-in law Shawn; and two grandchildren, Christina, 5, and Jaden, 2.

A memorial service will be held in the Presbyterian Church of Tenafly, N.J, at 2 p.m. on July 11.


NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) , pjenks@ncccusa.org

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