Rudolf K. Poecker
Rudolf Kurt Poecker (December 31, 1919–January 8, 2003) was a German–American baker, missionary, and religious leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). He served in the German Army during World War II, and afterwards immigrated to the United States where he became a citizen.
Poecker was born on December 31, 1919, in Fraureuth, Thuringia, Germany, to Willy Emil Poecker and Ella Thekla Trumpold. He grew up in Fraureuth, and at age 17, while a pastry chef apprentice, he met Elfriede Ehrler. It was "love at first sight." Elfriede introduced Rudolf to the LDS Church, into which he was baptized in 1940. They were married December 14, 1942.
During World War II, he was drafted into the German army and served as a medic in the 1st Mountain division (Edelweiss) for six years, fighting primarily against Soviet forces on the Eastern Front. Near the end of the war he was taken prisoner by the Soviets, but did not suffer transportation to the far-flung camp system, and was freed not long after the cessation of hostilities. He said that while serving as a medic on the Eastern Front he had made the effort to learn Russian. He said that after he was taken prisoner by the Soviets he was in fact being transported to a prison camp but he was able to convince the Russian soldiers that he was a medic and they let him go.
Postwar church service
Shortly after the war, he was called to serve a two year LDS Church mission in his native country, ministering in the East (Soviet) Zone. During his mission, he was instrumental in procuring vast genealogical records that had been stored in underground salt mines.
During these 8 years of service for his country and church, Elfriede waited faithfully for his safe return home. In 1948, he was called as the local branch president for the church. Religious persecution resulted in his imprisonment in 1950 by the communist government in East Germany. At great risk to herself, Elfriede followed Soviet operatives back to a building where she believed Rudolf was being held. She would go there, pushing her children in a stroller, and as she walked around the building she would sing. Her beautiful voice (After moving to America she was a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir) could be heard in his basement prison cell. He was finally released after 12 weeks. Soon thereafter, Rudolf, Elfriede and their two young sons escaped to West Berlin and later relocated to Hanover, West Germany.
Immigration to the U.S.
In 1959, the family moved to Orem, Utah where their third daughter was born. Rudolf worked as the bakery manager for Allen's Super Saver store. He later worked as Manager of the Provo Deseret Industries.
Later church service
During the perilous time he spent on the Eastern Front facing the Soviet Army, he made a promise to the Lord that if his life was spared, his life would be dedicated to serving the Lord. Accordingly, upon his survival, he served in every calling that came his way. Besides serving as a missionary and a branch president, his church service included stints as a bishop, stake high councilor, stake patriarch, president of the Germany Düsseldorf Mission (1972-1975), and first counselor in the Frankfurt Germany Temple presidency (1988-1990). Among those whom he influenced in his church service was the future member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, Bruce D. Porter, whom he supervised as mission president while Porter served his full-time mission in Germany.
He died on January 8, 2003, in Lindon, Utah. He was preceded in death by his wife Elfriede.