The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1996/12/28

In addition to promoting beliefs and practices fundamentally
incompatible with Christianity, the Leadership Corps
participated in the persecution of priests, clergy, and
members of religious orders. A Gestapo telegram, dated 24
July 1938, dispatched from Berlin to Nurnberg, deals with
demonstrations and acts of violence against Bishop Sproll in
Rottenburg (848-PS). The Gestapo office in Berlin wired its
Nurnberg office the following teletype account received from
its Stuttgart office of disorderly conduct and vandalism
carried out by Nazi Party members against Bishop Sproll:

     "The Party on 23 July 1939 from 2100 on carried out the
     third demonstration against Bishop Sproll.
     Participants, about 2500-3000, were brought in from
     outside by bus, etc. The Rottenburg populace again did
     not participate in the demonstration. This town took
     rather hostile attitude toward the demonstrations. The
     action got completely out of hand of the Party member
     responsible for it. The demonstrators stormed the
     palace, beat in the gates and doors. About 150 to 200
     people forced their way into the palace, searched
     through the rooms, threw files out of the windows and
     rummaged through the beds in the rooms of the palace.
     One bed was ignited *** The Bishop was with Archbishop
     Groeber of Freiburg and the ladies and gentlemen of his
     menage in the chapel at prayer. About 25 to 30 people
     pressed into this chapel and molested those present.
     Bishop Groeber was taken for Bishop Sproll. He was
     grabbed by the robe and dragged back and forth ***."
The Gestapo official in Stuttgart added that Bishop Groeber
desired "to turn to the Fuehrer and Reich Minister-of the
Interior, Dr. Frick, anew"; and that he had found a full
report of the demonstration after "suppressing counter mass
meetings." (848-PS)

23 July 1938 the Reich Minister for Church Affairs, Kerrl,

                                                   [Page 64]
sent a letter to the Minister of State and Chief of the
Presidium Chancellery, Berlin, stating that Bishop Sproll
had angered the population by abstaining from the plebiscite
of 10 April (849-PS). In this letter Kerrl stated that the
Gauleiter and Governor of Wuerttemberg had decided that, in
the interest of preserving the State's authority and in the
interest of quiet and order, Bishop Sproll could no longer
remain in office. The letter reads in part as follows:

     "*** The Reich Governor had explained to the
     Ecclesiastical Board that he would no longer regard
     Bishop Sproll as Head of the Diocese of Rottenburg on
     account of his refraining from the election in the
     office and that he desired Bishop Sproll to leave the
     Gau area *** because he could assume no guarantee for
     his personal safety; that in the case of the return of
     the Bishop of Rottenburg he would see to it that all
     personal and official intercourse with him on the part
     of State offices as well as Party offices and the Armed
     Forces would be denied."

Kerrl further stated in the foregoing letter that his Deputy
had moved the Foreign Office, through the German Embassy at
the Vatican, to urge the Holy See to persuade Bishop Sproll
to resign his Bishopric. Kerrl concluded by stating that
should the effort to procure the Bishop's resignation prove

     "*** the Bishop would have to be exiled from the land
     or there would have to be a complete boycott of the
     Bishop by the authorities ***." (849-PS)

On 14 July 1939 Bormann, in his capacity as Deputy of the
Fuehrer, issued a party regulation which required party
members entering the clergy or undertaking the study of
theology to leave the party (840-PS). The last paragraph of
the regulation reads as follows:

     "I decree that in the future party members who enter
     the clergy or who turn to the study of theology have to
     leave the party.' (840-PS)

In this directive Bormann also referred to an earlier
decree, dated 9 February 1937, in which he had ruled that
the admission of members to the clergy into the party was to
be avoided. In that decree also Bormann referred with
approval to a regulation of the Reich Treasurer of the
NSDAP, dated 10 May 1939, providing that

     "clergymen, as well as other fellow Germans, who are
     also closely connected with the church, cannot be
     admitted into the party."

In the Allocation of His Holiness, Pope Pius XII, to the

                                                   [Page 65]
College on 2 June 1945, His Holiness, after declaring that
he had acquired an appreciation of the great qualities of
the German people in the course of 12 years of residence in
their midst, expressed the hope that Germany could rise to
new dignity and new life once it had laid the satanic
specter raised by National Socialism, and after the guilty
had expiated the crimes they have committed (268-PS). After
referring to repeated violations by the German government of
the Concordat concluded in 1933, His Holiness declared:

     "The struggle against the Church did, in fact, become
     ever more bitter: there was the dissolution of Catholic
     organization; the gradual suppression of the
     flourishing Catholic schools, both public and private;
     the enforced weaning of youth from family and Church;
     the pressure brought to bear on the conscience of
     citizens, and especially of civil servants; the
     systematic defamation, by means of a clever, closely-
     organized propaganda, of the Church, the clergy, the
     faithful, the Church's institutions, teachings and
     history; the closing, dissolution, confiscation of
     religious houses and other ecclesiastical institutions;
     the complete suppression of the Catholic press and
     publishing houses ***.
     "In the meantime the Holy See itself multiplied its
     representations and protests to governing authorities
     in Germany, reminding them, in clear and energetic
     language, of their duty to respect and fulfill the
     obligations of the natural law itself that were
     confirmed by the Concordat. In those critical years,
     joining the alert vigilance of a Pastor to the long-
     suffering patience of a father, Our great Predecessor
     Pius XI fulfilled his mission as Supreme Pontiff with
     intrepid courage.
     "But when, after he had tried all means of persuasion
     in vain, he saw himself clearly faced with deliberate
     violations of a solemn pact, with a religious
     persecution masked or open, but always rigorously
     organized, he proclaimed to the world, on Passion
     Sunday 1937, in his Encyclical Mit brennender Sorge,
     what National-Socialism really was; the arrogant
     apostasy from Jesus Christ, the denial of His doctrine
     and of His work of redemption, the cult of violence,
     the idolatry of race and blood, the overthrow of human
     liberty and dignity ***
     "From the prisons, concentration camps and fortresses
     are now pouring out, together with the political
     prisoners, also the crowds of those, whether clergy or
     laymen, whose only crime was their fidelity to Christ
     and to the faith of their
                                                   [Page 66]
     fathers or the dauntless fulfillment of their duties as
     priests ***.
     "In the forefront, the number and harshness of the
     treatment meted out to them, were the Polish priests.
     From 1940 to 1945, 2,800 Polish ecclesiastical and
     religious were imprisoned in that camp; among them was
     the Auxiliary bishop of Wloclawek, who died there of
     typhus. In April last there were left only 816, all the
     others being dead except for two or three transferred
     to another camp. In the summer of 1942, 480 German-
     speaking ministers of religion were known to be
     gathered there; of these, 45 were Protestants, all the
     others Catholic priests. In spite of the continuous
     inflow of new internees, especially from some dioceses
     of Bavaria, Rhenania and Westphalia, their number, as a
     result of the high rate of mortality, at the beginning
     of this year, did not surpass 350. Nor should we pass
     over in silence those belonging to occupied
     territories, Holland, Belgium, France (among whom the
     Bishop of Clermont), Luxembourg, Slovenia, Italy. Many
     of those priests and laymen endured indescribable
     sufferings for their faith and for their vocation. In
     one case the hatred of the impious against Christ
     reached the point of parodying on the person of an
     interned priest, with barbed wire, the scourging and
     crowning with thorns of our Redeemer." (326-PS)

The Leadership Corps participated in the confiscation of
church and religious property. A letter dated 19 April 1941
from Reichsleiter Bormann to Reichsleiter Rosenberg exposes
the participation of the Gauleiter in measures relating to
the confiscation of religious property (072-PS). The letter
reads in part as follows: "The libraries and art objects of
the monasteries confiscated in the Reich were to remain for
the time being in these monasteries, insofar as the
Gauleiter had not determined otherwise." (072-PS)

On 21 February 1940, the Chief of the Security Police and
SD, Heydrich, wrote a letter to the Reichsfuehrer SS,
Himmler, proposing that certain listed churches and
monasteries be confiscated for the accommodation of so-
called racial Germans. (Himmler was a Reichsleiter in the
Leadership Corps by virtue of his position as Reichsfuehrer
of the SS.) After pointing out that, on political grounds,
outright expropriation of religious property would not be
feasible at the time, Heydrich suggested certain specious
interim actions with respect to the church properties in
question, to be followed progressively - by outright
confiscation (R-101-A). Heydrich's letter makes the
following statements:

                                                   [Page 67]

     "Enclosed is a list of church possessions which might
     be available for the accommodation of Racial Germans.
     The list, which please return, is supplemented by
     correspondence and illustrated material pertinent to
     the subject.
     "For political reasons, expropriation without indemnity
     of the entire property of the churches and religious
     orders will hardly be possible at this time.
     "Expropriation with indemnity or in return for
     assignment of other lands and grounds will be even less
     "It is therefore suggested that the respective
     authorities of the Orders be instructed that they make
     available the monasteries concerned for the
     accommodation of Racial Germans and remove their own
     members to other less populous monasteries. [Marginal
     note in pencil opposite this paragraph: "Very good!"]
     "The final expropriation of these properties placed at
     our disposal can then be carried out step by step in
     course of time." (R-101-A)
On 5 April 1940, the Chief of the Security Police and of the
Security Service SS sent a letter to the Reich Commissioner
for the consolidation of Germandom, enclosing a copy of the
foregoing letter from Heydrich to Himmler proposing the
confiscation of church properties (R-101-A). The letter of 5
April 1940 stated:
     "The Reich Leader SS has agreed to the proposals made
     in the enclosed letter and has ordered the matter to be
     dealt with by collaboration between the Chief of the
     Security Police and Security Service and your office."

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