The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
7th January to 19th January, 1946

Twenty-Eighth Day: Monday, January 7th, 1946
(Part 10 of 10)


[Page 39]

Toward the Evangelical Churches, the Nazi conspirators proceeded at first with caution, and an appearance of legality. They set up a new constitution of the German Evangelical Church, which introduced the innovation of a single Lutheran Reich-Bishop, who assumed all the administrative functions of the old agencies of the Churches. I refer to Document 3422-PS, the decree concerning the Constitution of the German Evangelical Church, dated 14th July, 1933, appearing in the Reichsgesetzblatt, 1933, Part I, Page 471, and request that the Court take judicial notice of it.

It is too well known to require documentation that the new Reich-Bishop, Bishop Muller, heeded the voice of his Nazi masters. One of his first steps was to manoeuvre the Evangelical Youth Association into the Hitler Jugend under the defendant von Schirach, in December, 1933. I refer to Document 1458-APS, already in evidence as part of Document Book "D" Transcript for 23rd November. It is an excerpt from von Schirach's book, "The Hitler Youth, Idea and Formation."

[Page 40]

By 1935 it had become evident that more than persuasion by the Reich-Bishop was necessary. Consequently the Nazi conspirators promulgated a number of public laws which, under innocent sounding titles, gradually wove a tight net of State control over all the affairs of the Evangelical Churches. We ask that the Court take judicial notice of these laws published in the Reichsgesetzblatt. These may be briefly summarised as follows:

3434-PS, Law concerning Procedure for Decisions in Legal Affairs of the Evangelical Church, dated 26th June, 1935, signed by Hitler and Frick, appearing in 1935 in Reichsgesetzblatt, Part 1, Page 774. This gave the Reich Ministry of the Interior - the defendant Frick - when question was raised in a civil lawsuit, sole authority to determine the validity of measures taken in the Evangelical State Church, or in the German Evangelical Church since 1st May, 1933.

3435-PS, First Ordinance for Execution of the Law concerning Procedure for Decisions in Legal Affairs of the Evangelical Church, dated 3rd July, 1935, appearing in 1935 Reichsgesetzblatt, Part 1, Page 851. This implemented the earlier law, by setting up an Office for Decisions with three members appointed by the Reich Minister of the Interior.

3466-PS, Decree to Unite the Competences of Reich and Prussia in Church Affairs, dated 16th July, 1935, signed by Hitler, published in 1935 Reichsgesetzblatt, Part 1, Page 1029. This transferred to "Reich Minister without Portfolio Kerrl" the Church Affairs hitherto handled by the Reich and Prussian Ministries of the Interior and for Science, Education and Training of the Population.

3436-PS, Law for the Safeguarding of the German Evangelical Church, dated 24th September, 1935, published in the 1935 Reichsgesetzblatt, Part 1, Page 1178, signed by Hitler and the Minister for Church Affairs, Dr. Kerrl. This empowered the Reich Minister of Church Affairs to issue ordinances with binding legal force.

3437-PS, Fifth Decree for Execution of the Law for the Safeguarding of the German Evangelical Church, dated 2nd December, 1935, published in 1935 Reichsgesetzblatt, Part 1, Page 13 70. This prohibited "Organs of Church Leadership" in the Evangelical Churches from filling pastorates, engaging clerical assistants, examining and ordaining candidates of the State Churches, visitation, publishing of the banns, and collection and administration of church dues and assessments.

This series of laws culminated on 26th June, 1937, in 3439- PS, the Fifteenth Decree for the Execution of the Law for Security of the German Evangelical Church, dated 25th June, 1937, published in 1937 Reichsgesetzblatt, Part 1, Page 697. By Decree for the Execution of the Law for Security of the German Evangelical Church dated 25th June, 1937, published in 1937 Reichsgesetzblatt, Part 1, Page 697, the Reich Minister for Church Affairs (Kerrl) established a Finance Department for the churches to supervise the administration of church property, the budget, and the use of budget funds, and to regulate salaries and allowances of officials, clergy and employees. Thus, before the outbreak of the war, the Nazi conspirators had the Evangelical Churches tied hand and foot physically and administratively, if not spiritually.

Against the Catholic Church with its international organisation the Nazi conspirators launched a most vigorous and drastic attack again, at first cloaked under a mantle of co-operation and legality. A concordat signed by the defendant von Papen, one of the foremost Catholic laymen in Germany, was concluded between the Reich Government and the Vatican on 20th July, 1933. It is printed in the 1933 Reichsgesetzblatt, Part 11, Pages 679 and 680, and contained in Document 3280-A-PS, and I will ask the Court to take judicial notice of it. I quote Article I:

"The German Reich guarantees freedom of profession and public practice of the Catholic religion.

[Page 41]

it acknowledges the right of the Catholic Church, within the limit of those laws which are applicable to all, to manage and regulate her own affairs independently and, within the framework of her own competence, to publish laws and ordinances binding on her members."
Other articles which, being matters of common knowledge, I assume need not be read into the record, formulated basic principles such as freedom of the Catholic Press, of Catholic education, and of Catholic charitable, professional and other organisations.

The proposal for the Concordat came from the Reich, and not from the Vatican. I refer to Document 3268-PS, Exhibit USA 356, excerpts from the Allocution of Pope Pius XII to the Sacred College on 2nd June, 1945, already read into evidence. I quote from Page I of the English mimeographed excerpt, Page I of the German translation, third paragraph, which has not previously been read:

"In Spring, 1933, the German Government asked the Holy See to conclude a Concordat with the Reich."
Relying upon the Nazis' assurances, particularly upon Hitler's speech of 23rd March, 1933, above quoted-Document 3387-PS-the Catholic hierarchy revoked its previous opposition against Catholics becoming members of the National Socialist Party. I offer in evidence Document 3389- PS, Exhibit USA 566, a Pastoral Letter, dated 23rd March, 1933, from the Bishop of Cologne, and I quote from the "Volkischer Beobachter" of 29th March, 1933, Page 2, columns 2 and 3:
"The official announcement by the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Schulte, on behalf of the Bishops' Conference at Fulda, 28th March, 1933.

The Lord Bishops of the Dioceses of Germany, in their dutiful anxiety to keep the Catholic faith pure and to protect the untouchable aims and rights of the Catholic Church, have adopted, for weighty reasons during the last years, an oppositional attitude towards the National Socialist Movement, through prohibitions and warnings, which were to be in effect as long and as far as these reasons remained valid."

It must now be recognised that official and solemn declarations have been issued by the Highest Representative of the Reich Government who at the same time is the authoritative leader of that movement - which acknowledged the inviolability of the teachings of the Catholic Faithand the full value of the legal pacts concluded with the various German States (Laender) and the Church.

Without lifting the condemnation of certain religious and ethical errors implied in our previous measures, the Episcopate now believes it can entertain the confidence that those prescribed general prohibitions and warnings may not be regarded as necessary any more."

The Catholic Centre Party, yielding to those assurances and to pressure was dissolved on 5th July, 1933. I refer to Document 2403-PS already in evidence as part of U.S.A. Document Book "B," an excerpt from documents of German politics, an official Nazi publication, a document of which the Court can take judicial notice; and I quote from the last five lines of Page 1 of the English translation, appearing on Page 55 of the original German text, which states: I quote:
"Also the parties of German Catholicism, which were supposed to be most deeply rooted, had to bow to the law of the New Order. On 4th July, 1933, the Bavarian People's Party (Document 27) and on 5th July, 1933, the Centre Party (Document 29) published an announcement of their dissolution."

[Page 42]

In spite of these evidences of confidence and co-operation or submission on the part of the Catholics, the Nazi conspirators almost immediately commenced a series of violations of the Concordat. I offer in evidence Document 3476-PS, Exhibit USA 567, this being the Papal Encyclical, "Mit Brennender Sorge," in German, by Pope Pius XI, on 14th March, 1937, and ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of all of it. On Page 2, paragraph 2 of the German original, which is now in evidence. It was secretly reproduced at Fulda, from copies smuggled into Germany from Rome, and read defiantly from pulpits all over Germany. I quote:
"It discloses intrigues which from the beginning had no other aim than a war of extermination. In the furrows in which he had laboured to sow the seeds of true peace, others - like the enemy in the Holy Scripture (Matthew xiii. 25) - sowed the tares of suspicion, discord, hatred, calumny, of secret and open fundamental hostility to Christ and His Church, fed from a thousand different sources and making use of every available means. On them and on them alone and on their silent and vocal protectors rests the responsibility that now, on the horizon of Germany, there is to be seen not the rainbow of peace but the threatening storm clouds of destructive religious wars.

Anyone who had any sense of truth left in his mind and even a shadow of a feeling of justice left in his heart will have to admit that, in the difficult and eventful years which followed the Concordat, every word and every action of ours was governed by loyalty to the terms of the agreement; but also he will have to recognise with surprise and deep disgust that the unwritten law of the other party has been arbitrary misinterpretation of agreements, evasions of agreements, distortion of the meaning of agreements and, finally, more or less open violation of agreements."

DR. ALFRED SEIDL (Counsel for defendant Frank): The United States Prosecution has previously declared that a certain part of the, material now under consideration, which is to be presented in the matter of the opposition to the Church, has been made available by the Vatican. The defendant Hans Frank directed a written memorandum to me, containing a question I do not wish to withhold from the Tribunal, namely:
(1) Is the Vatican a signatory to the Charter of the International Military Tribunal?

(2) Did the Vatican deliver the material in an accusatory capacity?

(3) Has the Vatican, acting as a co-prosecutor, identified itself with the principles of these proceedings?

The defendant, Hans Frank, justified these questions by stating that his further allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church depends on the reply to these questions.

THE PRESIDENT: I think it desirable that the Tribunal should clearly understand your objections. The first question that you ask is: Is the Vatican a Signatory to the Charter? Is that correct?


THE PRESIDENT: What was your second question?

DR. SEIDL: The second question is: Whether the Vatican submitted the material here present as a co-prosecutor?

THE PRESIDENT: And your third question?

DR. SEIDL: The third question is - and it is addressed directly to the prosecution - whether the Vatican has recognised, as prosecutor, the principles upon which the Trial is being conducted?

THE PRESIDENT: Whether the Vatican recognises the principles upon which the Trial is being conducted? Will you repeat the question?

[Page 43]

DR. SEIDL: The last question?


DR. SEIDL: It reads: Has the Vatican acquainted itself with the material now being submitted at this Trial and does the Vatican, as co-prosecutor, share the principles upon which the Trial is being conducted? And, as a reason for his questions, the defendant Hans Frank states that his further allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church depends on the answers to these questions.

THE PRESIDENT: In the opinion of the Tribunal, the observations which have just been made by counsel on behalf of the defendant Frank are entirely irrelevant and any motion, which they are so intended to support, is denied. The prosecution will therefore continue.

COLONEL WHEELER: I now offer in evidence the first of a number of documents which the Vatican has supplied to the prosecution in this case from its own files, and which authoritatively state the acts of suppression of the Church by the Nazi conspirators. This first Vatican document, which deals in part with acts of suppression within Germany, is Document 3261-PS, Exhibit USA 568, a verbal note of the Secretariat of State of His Holiness the Pope to the German Embassy, dated 18th January, 1942, I read the certificate accompanying this document:

"The Vatican, 13th November, 1945.

I, Domenico Tardini, Secretary of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, hereby certify that the attached document, consisting of nine printed pages and entitled:

Verbal note of the Secretariat of State of His Holiness, to the German Embassy (18th January, 1942) (pp. 3-11) is a true and correct translation into the English language from the Italian language of a carbon copy of a document now in the possession of the Secretariat of State of His Holiness, the original of which was despatched to the German Embassy.

(Signed) Domenico Tardini."

The paper in the document books, your Honours, is a mimeographed copy of the same printed document which we received from the Vatican. We did not have enough printed documents to put them in the document books.

On Page 2 of the English mimeographed text is this verbal note, paragraphs 3 and 4, appearing on Page 2 of the German translation. The Papal Secretary of State describes: I quote:

"Measures and acts which gravely violate the rights of the Church, being contrary not only to the existing Concordats but to the principles of International Law ratified by the Second Hague Conference - "
THE PRESIDENT: Did you say you were reading the third paragraph?

COLONEL WHEELER: Yes, your Honour. It is the third paragraph on Page 2. It starts in the middle of that paragraph, with the last word on the 7th line.

THE PRESIDENT: It is very difficult for us to find it if you do not tell us, it being in the middle of the paragraph.

COLONEL WHEELER: I'm sorry, Sir. " - and often-and this is much more grave - to the very fundamental principles of Divine Law both natural and positive."

The next paragraph specifies these measures. I quote:

"Let it suffice to recall in this connection, among other things, the changing of the Catholic State elementary schools into un-denominational schools; the permanent or temporary closing of many minor seminaries, of not a few major seminaries and of some theological faculties; the suppression of almost all the private schools and of numerous Catholic boarding schools and colleges; the repudiation, decided unilaterally, of

[Page 44]

financial obligations which the State, municipalities, etc. had towards the Church; the increasing difficulties put in the way of the activity of the religious Orders and Congregations in the spiritual, cultural and social field, and above all, the suppression of abbeys, monasteries, convents and religious houses in such great numbers that one is led to infer a deliberate intention of rendering impossible the very existence of the Orders and Congregations in Germany."
The Nazis did not overlook other sects or denominations in their efforts to suppress Christian religion in Germany. They persecuted the "Bibelforscher" or Bible Research -

THE PRESIDENT: Perhaps, as you are going into another Church, it would be better to break off until to-morrow morning.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 10.00 hours, on 8th January, 1946.)

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