The Concordat effectively legitimized Hitler and the Nazi government to the eyes of Catholicism, Christianity, and the world.
The Concordat between the Vatican
and the Nazis Cardinal Secretary of State, Eugenio Pacelli
(later to become Pope Pius XII)
signs the Concordat
between Nazi Germany and the Vatican
at a formal ceremony
in Rome on 20 July 1933.
Nazi Vice-Chancellor Franz von Papen sits at the left,
Pacelli in the middle,
and the Rudolf Buttmann sits at the right.
(Elegance4Life) Did he do the right thing by not speaking out? The controversy over Pius XII’s silence on Nazi atrocities during World War II has raged intermittently for three decades. Critics say that a papal protest to the Naz...is might have saved millions of lives. But pope, Paul VI, insisted that “an attitude of protest and condemnation would have been not only futile but harmful.”
But why bring the matter up again? Is it not just whipping a dead issue? No. The Vatican itself is keeping it alive. Officials have even set aside their fifty-year-delay policy on publishing archive documents. They realize that, unless people do understand, critics have a most powerful argument to illustrate moral failure in the Church.
Many sincere Church members want to know the answer. They know that even Pope Paul VI was very much involved in matters back there as a close aide to Pius. Thus a Jesuit committee has been publishing selected documents from the Vatican archives since 1965. The latest, titled “The Holy See and the War Victims,” came out in April 1974. Does it provide any fresh insights?
News reports give the limelight to documentary evidence that the Vatican had received much information about Nazi atrocities from a very early date. But much more significant is another little-noticed item. It shows that one of Pius XII’s trusted aides raised an issue that probes much deeper than the question of why the pope did not speak out against the Nazis. “Monsignor” Domenico Tardini (later a cardinal) is reported to have asked in exasperation:
“That the Holy See cannot make Hitler behave, everybody understands. But that it cannot keep a priest on the leash—who can understand this?”
Shallow debate over how much good the voice of Pius XII would have done has all but obscured this far more fundamental issue. Honest Christians are forced to face the question: How could Nazi atrocities even have been committed in the first place if it were not for the cooperation of the people and their spiritual leaders? Ninety-five percent of Germans back there were either Catholic or Protestant. Nearly 32 million, over 40 percent, were Catholic, as was almost the entire population of Germany’s European allies, Austria and Italy. Even among the dreaded S.S., almost a fourth were still Catholic in 1939, despite S.S. leadership pressures to resign.
Pius XII himself lays bare this very issue in a recently published private letter to the priest who caused “Msgr.” Tardini’s exasperation. As president, the priest, Jozef Tiso, ruled the Nazi protectorate of Slovakia throughout the war (1939-45). Pius wrote “Monsignor” Tiso that he had hoped that the Slovak government and people, “Catholic almost entirely, would never proceed with the forcible removal of persons belonging to the Jewish race,” and the fact that “such measures are carried out among a people of great Catholic traditions, by a government which declares it is their follower and custodian,” distressed him greatly.—April 7, 1943.
But how could any form of cooperation with the Nazi racial extermination program even be considered among a people who the pope himself said were ‘Catholic almost entirely and of great Catholic traditions’? Surely the moral teachings of the Church would make it unthinkable for “Msgr.” Tiso and his flock to have any part in genocide! History shows whether they did. Honest-hearted church members certainly desire an explanation for such conduct as well as that of the other so-called “Christian” nations involved with the Nazis.
The Vatican’s own Cardinal Eugène Tisserant supplies one reason with the candor and openness of a private letter to a friend. After the fall of France in 1940, he wrote complaining to Cardinal Suhard of Paris that “Fascist ideology and Hitlerism have transformed the consciences of the young, and those under thirty-five are willing to commit any crime for any purpose ordered by their leader.” But how could these Church-trained consciences be so easily “transformed”? After all, Hitler had been working on them only about seven years, while the Church had been training its flock for well over a thousand!
“Vital Point of Christianity”
Surely Pope Pius could do something about this Nazi encroachment into traditional Church territory—the human conscience! But Cardinal Tisserant mourns:
“Since the beginning of November , I have persistently requested the Holy See to issue an encyclical on the duty of the individual to obey the dictates of conscience, because this is the vital point of Christianity.”
However, history reveals no papal statements during the war on this “vital point of Christianity.” In fact, Tisserant went on to make the melancholy forecast: “I fear that history may have reason to reproach the Holy See with having pursued... a policy of convenience to itself and very little else. This is sad in the extreme.”3
No doubt the pope’s “policy” of diplomatic care in dealing with the Nazis did ensure the “convenience” of survival for the Vatican and the Church. Pius himself advised the German bishops that “the danger of reprisals and pressures,” or worse, called for “restraint” in their pronouncements “in order to avoid greater evils. This is one of the motives,” he wrote, “for the limitations” he put on his own declarations.—April 30, 1943.4
This explanation helps us to understand why Pius conducted himself as carefully as he did. But it leaves unexplained this: Why ministers, priests and their flocks stood by to witness, cooperated with, or actually committed the Nazi atrocities—almost to the last person. What happened to their consciences?
The answer must lie with the training those consciences received. How was a loyal Catholic, for example, to understand Pius XII’s own December 8, 1939, pastoral letter, Asperis Commoti Anxietatibus, addressed to chaplains in the various armies of the warring nations, of whom over 500 served in Hitler’s army? He urged the chaplains on both sides to have confidence in their respective military bishops, viewing the war as a manifestation of the will of a heavenly Father who always turns evil into good, and “as fighters under the flags of their country to fight also for the Church.”5 (Italics added)
This perplexing contradiction is demonstrated again by the pope’s letters to the bishops on both sides. In an August 6, 1940, letter to the German bishops, Pius expressed his admiration for Catholics who “loyal unto death give proof of their willingness to share the sacrifices and sufferings of the other Volksgenossen [fellow Germans].”6 Yet just nine months before, the pope had addressed a similar message to the French bishops, counseling them that they had a right to support all measures to defend their country against these very same “loyal” German Catholics!7 Italian Church metropolitans received like counsel just before Italy joined the war against the Allies.8
Thus when the head of the Church did speak on matters affecting conscience, as did almost all of his clergymen, he applauded the consciences of those who ‘loyally’ served in military forces of any stripe. In fact, when the Vatican’s Berlin correspondent for the official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, once asked Pius XII whether he would protest the extermination of the Jews, the pope told him that he could “not forget that millions of Catholics serve in the German armies. Shall I bring them into conflicts of conscience?”
Were Protestant churchmen any less responsible? Well, note what the Ecclesiastical Council of the German Evangelical (Lutheran) Church, the largest Protestant body, telegrammed personally to Hitler on June 30, 1941:
“May Almighty God assist you and our nation against the double enemy [Britain and Russia]. The victory shall be ours, to gain which must be the main point of our aspirations and actions in all her prayers [the Church] is with you and with our peerless soldiers who now are about to eliminate the root of this pestilence with heavy blows.”
With this kind of direction from their “shepherds,” what else could the flocks do? What they actually did do speaks for itself, does it not?
Was Hitler’s low estimate of the churches away back in 1933 correct? He boasted scornfully that “the parsons will betray their G-d to us. They will betray anything for the sake of their miserable little jobs and incomes. Why should we quarrel? They will swallow anything in order to keep their material advantages.”(Hitler’s government did continue large state subsidies to the major churches throughout the war.)
To bring home the reality of what Hitler was saying about the churches, a person only needs to ask himself: “If I had been a sincere church member in Germany, Austria, or Italy during that period, what would my spiritual leaders have advised me—and what would I have done?” Suppose you were to say: “I would not have served Hitler.” What would you have faced, not from the Nazis, but from your own spiritual leaders?
Search as he would, Catholic scholar and educator Gordon Zahn could find documented evidence of just one among 32 million German Catholics who conscientiously refused to serve in Hitler’s armies. Aside from churchmen prosecuted for political opposition to the Nazis, he found a total of seven persons between Germany and Catholic Austria who conscientiously refused to take the military oath. You probably wonder why there were so few.
Zahn answers that his extensive interviews with people, who knew these men produced the “flat assurance voiced by almost every informant that any Catholic who decided to refuse military service would have received no support whatsoever from his spiritual leaders.” Ironically, those few who did refuse and stuck to it were actually an embarrassment to their “spiritual leaders.”
For example, in requesting clemency from the Nazi court for a priest who refused, Archbishop Konrad Gröber of Freiburg wrote that the priest was “an idealist who has grown ever more estranged from reality who wanted to help his Volk and Vat...erland but who proceeded from the wrong premises." Others were denied Communion by prison chaplains for violating their “Christian duty” to take the Nazi military oath.
The documented case of an Austrian peasant, Franz Jägerstätter, illustrates what a church member actually faced from his spiritual leaders. Jägerstätter was finally imprisoned for his stand at Linz, Austria, and later beheaded. The Catholic prison chaplain writes that he had “tried to make it clear to him that he must keep his own and his family’s welfare in mind even in following his personal ideals and principles”—just as Jägerstätter’s village priest had argued long before Jägerstätter was imprisoned. “He seemed to have come around to seeing my point,” says the chaplain, “and promised to follow my recommendation and take the [Nazi military] oath.”
Did this advice come from a Nazi? No—it came from a priest in good standing long after the war! But that was not the only pressure from spiritual leaders. Bishop Fliesser of the same Linz diocese reveals that he, too, had “known Jägerstätter personally,” and argued “to no avail” that Jägerstätter was not responsible “for the actions of the [Nazi] civil authority.” The bishop said that his was “a completely exceptional case, one more to be marveled at than copied.” Bishop Fliesser was writing to a priest after the war in explanation of his refusal to allow publication of Jägerstätter’s story in the Linz diocesan paper. The story might “create confusion and disturb consciences,” he said.
Thus Bishop Fliesser viewed a man who followed his conscience as an “exceptional case”—not to be copied. “I consider the greater heroes to be those exemplary young Catholic men, seminarians, priests, and heads of families who fought and died in heroic fulfillment of duty,” he continued. Even the Nazi’s court-appointed attorney Feldmann used this argument in an attempt to get Jägerstätter to compromise, noting the millions of Catholics, including clergy, engaged in combat with a “clear” conscience. Finally, Feldmann recalls, he challenged him to cite a single instance in which a bishop in any way discouraged Nazi military service. He knew of none. Do you?
From as early as 1987, there was talk of plans by the Catholic Church to produce a document acknowledging its responsibility in the Holocaust. So there was great expectation when in March 1998 the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews released the document entitled We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah. While the document was appreciated by some, many were dissatisfied with its contents. Why? What did they find objectionable?
Anti-Judaism and Anti-Semitism
The Vatican document makes a distinction between anti-Judaism, for which the church acknowledges guilt, and anti-Semitism, which it disclaims. Many find the distinction and the conclusion to which it leads unsatisfying. German rabbi Ignatz Bubis said: “To me it seems like a way of saying that it’s not our fault; it’s someone else’s fault.”
Although Italian Catholic historian Giorgio Vecchio accepts the distinction between anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism, he points out that “the problem is also that of understanding how Catholic anti-Judaism may have contributed to the development of anti-Semitism.” It is of interest that the Vatican paper L’Osservatore Romano, of November 22-23, 1895, published a letter stating: “Any sincere Catholic is, in essence, anti-Semitic: so is the priesthood, by obligation of doctrine and ministry.”
The part of the Vatican document that provoked the most criticism, however, was the defense of the actions of Pius XII, appointed pope on the eve of World War II. Pius XII had served as nuncio (papal legate) to Germany from 1917 to 1929.
The Silence of Pius XII
Italian jurist Francesco Margiotta Broglio did not think that the document “offers new or explanatory elements on the widely debated issue of the so-called ‘silence’ of Pope Pius XII, on his alleged German sympathies, and on his diplomatic actions toward the Nazi regime both before and during his papacy.”
The majority of commentators agree that no matter how one views the import of the document We Remember, the question of why leaders of the Catholic Church remained silent about the genocide in Nazi concentration camps “remains wide open.” According to American historian George Mosse, by choosing silence Pius XII “saved the church but sacrificed her moral message. He behaved like a head of State, not like a pope.” Well-informed Vatican observers believe that what delayed the release of the document was the difficulty in handling the role of Pius XII in the Holocaust.
The document’s defense of Pope Pius XII has irritated many. “Silence on the ‘pope’s silences’ makes this document disappointing,” writes Arrigo Levi. Elie Wiesel, winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize for Peace, said: “It seems to me that claiming we Jews should be grateful to Pius XII is a heresy, to put it mildly.”
The document adopts the traditional distinction made by Catholic theologians, according to which it is claimed that the church as an institution is holy and preserved from error by G-d, while its members, who are sinners, are the guilty parties for any evils perpetrated. The Vatican commission writes: “The spiritual resistance and concrete action of other Christians was not that which might have been expected from Christ’s followers. . . . [Such ones] were not strong enough to raise their voices in protest. . . . We deeply regret the errors and failures of those sons and daughters of the Church.”
However, attributing guilt to single members of the church rather than accepting it as an institution seemed to the majority to be a big step backward, compared with recent explicit requests for forgiveness. For example, the Roman Catholic Church in France issued a formal “Declaration of Repentance,” asking G-d and the Jewish people for forgiveness for the “indifference” the Catholic Church showed toward the persecution of Jews under France’s wartime Vichy government. In a statement read by Archbishop Olivier de Berranger, the church admitted that it had allowed its own interests “to obscure the biblical imperative of respect for every human being created in the image of G-d.”
The French declaration stated in part: “The church must recognize that in regard to the persecution of the Jews, and especially in regard to manifold anti-Semitic measures decreed by the Vichy authorities, indifference by far prevailed over indignation. Silence was the rule, and words in favor of the victims the exception. Today, we confess that this silence was a mistake. We also recognize that the church in France failed in its mission as the educator of people’s consciences.”
More than 60 years after the terrible tragedy of the Shoah, or Holocaust, the Catholic Church has not yet managed to come to terms with its own history—one of ambiguity and silences, to say the least. But there are some who have never had to take any such step. By Jenny Steinberg
If there are any doubts at all that the church was involved in or complicit to the nazis after reading the article above please view pics below
Hitler wth Archbishop Cesare Orsenigo, the papal nuncio in Berlin, 1935
Nazi Chaplin's Visor Hat
Hitler signing his autograph for a Christian fan (Source: Hitler in Seinen Bergen, Heinrich Hoffmann, Berlin, den 24.9.35)
The Fuhrer in Franken Adolf Hitler (center) at the monument for the war dead in Franken Germany. According to Ray Cowdery, Hitler rarely missed an opportunity to visit war memorials, even when a photographer was not present. (Source: Hitler: The Hoffmann Photographs, Vol. 1, Ray Cowdery, Ed., 1990)
greets Muller the "Bishop of the Reich" and Abbot Schachleitner Nazi Graves One must not forget that Germany represented the most Christianized country in the world in the 1930s and 40s. Nazi Christian soldiers died as Protestants and Catholics and their grave markers testified to their religion.
Catholic Bishops giving the Nazi salute in honor of Hitler.
Note Joseph Goebbels (far right) and Wilhelm Frick (second from right)
(Source: USHMM, Photo source: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek [Bavarian State Library]) An Archbishop with the Nazis Archbishop Cesare Orsenigo, head of the Diplomatic Corps, attending the Nuremburg Party Rally in September 1933.
According to Dr. Paul O'Shea, Orsenigo, as Dean of the Corps, it was the Nuncio's role to lead the Corps at all major government functions. After 1935 Orsenigo did not attend major government propaganda displays.
(Photo source: A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen) [Note, Goldhagen incorrectly attributes this photo to Cardinal Faulhaber.] So spoke Jesus Christ
A front page of the Nazi publication, Der Stuermer.
The headline reads, "Declaration of the Higher Clergy/So spoke Jesus Christ: You hypocrites who do not see the beam in your own eyes. (See Matthew 7:3-5)
The cartoon depicts a group of Hitler Youth marching forth to drive the forces of evil from the land. The caption under the cartoon reads, "We youth step happily forward facing the sun... With our faith we drive the devil from the land."
Hitler leaving Church
Hitler leaves the Marine Church in Wilhelmshaven.
(Source: The German Propaganda Archive )
Hitler greets a Catholic Cardinal (Source: USHMM)
Labels: Pope Pius XII» Promoting Pius XII