|Polish priests and civilians in Bydgoszcz's Old Market Square, 9 September 1939.|
In March, 1941, the Vatican radio broadcast: "The religious situation in Germany is pathetic. All young men who feel that their vocation is to take Holy Orders must forego this desire. The number of monasteries and convents which have been dissolved has become even larger. The development and maintenance of the Christian life has been rendered difficult. All that remains of the once great Catholic press in Germany are a few parish magazines.
"The threat of a national religion is looming increasingly over all religious life. This national religion is based solely on the Fuhrer's will."
In April the Vatican radio quoted a pastoral letter by Mgr. Gruber, Archbishop of Freiburg-im-Breisgau, as follows: "Isolation and exclusion of convinced Christians is going on. The new teachings are an abuse of God and religion." In a later broadcast, the Vatican radio said that Catholicism is being dismissed by the Nazis as "a myth only suitable for the Mediterranean."
On July 26, 1941, in a letter to Reichminister Lammers, Bishop von Galen, famous for his spirited resistance to Nazi persecution, wrote: "The Secret Police has continued to rob the property of highly respected German men and women merely because they belonged to Catholic orders."
On October 21, the Catholic Newscable quoted an editorial in the London Tablet as follows:
"Inside the Reich the leaders of the Church have had for several years no illusions about the anti-Christian nature of the Nazi movement. The German bishops have shown a fortitude for which we salute and honor them."
A Bavarian bishop's letter, quoted in Ostschweiz, says: "A wave of indignation is sweeping over Bavaria since prayers have been recently forbidden in all schools, and the cross is being removed from schools. The children of German soldiers are forbidden to pray for their fathers."
On April 9, 1940, the Nazis overran Denmark and began their invasion of Norway. The history of the persecution of the Christian religion in these countries does not technically have a large place in this booklet, which is concerned exclusively with the present German Government's conspiracy and assault against the Catholic Church. Suffice it to say that the anti-religious tyranny practised by Hitler's regime in Scandinavia parallels in numerous instances, and clearly in overall design, the anti-religious campaigns conducted in every country in which he has been about to exercise his will.
THE LOW COUNTRIES
When, on May 10, 1940, the German armies entered the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, a semi-official Vatican source stated that "The Holy See is deeply impressed and pained by the spreading of the war to the Netherlands and Belgium . . . Particular cause of sorrow is the violation of Belgium's neutrality which had the unhappy precedent of 1914."
The following day Pope Pius XII sent three messages:
To King Leopold of Belgium: "In a moment when, for the second time against its will and right, the Belgium people sees its territory exposed to the cruelties of war, We, being profoundly moved, send to Your Majesty and to the entire nation so beloved by Us assurance of Our paternal affection and, while praying to the All-Powerful God that this stern trial may end with the restoration of the full liberty and independence of Belgium, We send Your Majesty and your people Our apostolic blessing with all Our heart."
To Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands: "Having learned with deep emotion that Your Majesty's efforts in behalf of peace have not succeeded in preserving your noble people from becoming a theatre of war, contrary to its will and its right, We pray God, Supreme Judge of the destinies of nations, to hasten the restoration of justice and liberty with His all-powerful assistance."
And to the Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg: "In this sad moment, when the people of Luxembourg despite its love of peace is enveloped by wars and torment, Our heart goes out to it and while We implore its celestial patroness to give aid and protection that it may live in liberty and independence, We send Your Royal Highness and your faithful subjects Our apostolic blessing."
On September 2, 1940, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Nazi Commissioner for the Netherlands, ordered a purge of priests and monks of the Catholic Church who refused to advocate National Socialism.
On November 27, the Nazis invaded the headquarters of the Society of Jesus at the Hague, as well as the offices of the Bishop of Roermond. It was reported that Father Kayzer, S. J., director of the College of Philosophy at Nymegen, had been interned.
At the end of January, 1941, the Essener National Zeitung, Hermann Goering's newspaper, responded with threats to a Pastoral Letter of the Dutch Bishops, issued on the 26th of that month. "We guarantee," said the National Zeitung, "that Hitler's party is strong enough to manage the Catholic Church in the Netherlands."
The following are repressive measures commonly practised in the Netherlands: Gestapo agents attend Church services. Storm troopers march through the streets on Sundays to prevent Catholics from going to Mass. The independent existence of the Catholic Youth Movement was ended long ago. Priests are arrested and religious publications suppressed and suspended, including De Maasbode, largest Catholic daily in the Netherlands.
On March 28, 1941, Universe, a Catholic weekly published in London, reported that some four-thousand five-hundred clerics in the Netherlands were about to be ejected from their positions in the Catholic educational system. The Nazis then decreed that all priests who headed Catholic schools must resign by May 1, 1941, to be replaced by men "trained in political life."
According to the Essener National Zeitung, Archbishop de Jongh was fined for his refusal to proclaim the Nazi invasion of Russia to be a "religious crusade" against Bolshevism.
In August 1941, Seyss-Inquart installed a Dutch Nazi as commissioner of the Roman Catholic Workers' Union. A pastoral letter branded this act as the abolition of "a movement of 200,000 members with a record of much good accomplished." The Archbishop of Utrecht requested that Catholics no longer remain members of the Union.
On June 21, 1941, the American Press Review reported that the Catholic paper Ons Noorden had been banned by the Nazis, on the ground that "the church had ridiculous concepts of loving God."
The extent of persecution in Belgium is indicated by the repeated appeals of Joseph Ernest Cardinal van Roey to his people to stand firm in the face of adversity. Specific case histories have not come into the outer world in comparable quantity to the reports of Cardinal Hlond on Poland. Yet sufficient is known to demonstrate that the Catholics of Belgium are sharing with Christians of other conquered lands the Nazi oppression of their faith.
With the honesty and courage of his great tradition, Cardinal van Roey has written a refutation of Nazi racial doctrines, and a most significant discussion of the impossibility for good Catholics of collaboration with the Nazi tyranny. We reproduce a few lines of His Eminence's dialogue on the latter subject:
A.. After all, isn't it true that the Church can adapt herself to any regime?
R. No. Never can she adapt herself to governments that oppress the rights of conscience and persecute the Catholic Church. On the contrary, Catholics are obliged to collaborate with those who seek to impede the imposition of such a r6gime. Collaboration with those who favor its introduction amongst us is forbidden.
A. The Nazi regime isn't so bad. A little restriction will not harm the Church. Hasn't the Church, in fact, exceeded her rights?
R. No. The Church is not limited to services and sacrifices. Not only oral teaching but also the written word, and especially the press, ought to be at the service of Catholics as well as non-Catholics. She has the right to defend faith and Christian morality against hostile propaganda.
A. Aren't Catholics resigned to defeat and collaboration with the Nazis?
R. No. Reason and good sense will direct us in the way of confidence, of resistance, because we are certain that our country will be restored and will rise again.
No one familiar with the constant efforts of the Church to establish a modus vivendi with all forms of secular government will underestimate the grave compulsion which drew forth such a statement from the Primate of Belgium.
According to authoritative information which has reached the Luxembourg Government now established in Montreal, the Catholic Church in the Grand Duchy is persecuted by the occupying authorities for using its tremendous influence in a country where 98% of the population are devout Catholics to strengthen the people's resistance against the Nazi's attempts to Germanize them. The properties belonging to religious orders have been confiscated.
The Benedictine Fathers of St. Maurice-de-Clervaux were deported on an hour's notice to Bastogne in Belgium. The same treatment was inflicted on several other religious communities in Luxembourg-Ville. The members of a patriotic league, led by Catholic clerics, were imprisoned for having distributed pamphlets expressing faith in divine help.
Other members of the Catholic hierarchy were arrested, among them Mgr. Origer, Papal Chamberlain, who was deported at the end of September, 1940. His present fate is unknown.
Pierre Krier, Minister of Labor of the Grand Duchy, has issued a White Paper entitled "Luxembourg Under German Occupation" which includes the following facts: Many priests, mostly old men, are arrested, deported to Germany, or chased out into France. Some of the chief people of the Catholic daily Wart are in jail. Catholics are exposed to specially violent persecutions in the religious as well as the cultural sphere. Monasteries, convents, and other possessions of the Church have been confiscated.
The monastery of Clerf was raided one night and the monks given one hour to leave. They were taken to Bastogne where they were told, "Now run."
Original from UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN