On July 26, 1940, the palace of Cardinal Suhard, Archbishop of Paris, was searched by the Gestapo "to seek evidence of collusion between the late Cardinal Verdier and the Jews." The Cardinal was not allowed to communicate with anyone until August 1.
On the same day the home of Cardinal Beaudrillart, rector of the Catholic Institute was searched, as were the offices of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, and the offices of several youth groups.
The following day, strongly indicating concerted action which amounted to a planned campaign, the Episcopal Palace at Lille was searched for five hours. When Cardinal Lienart protested that the search warrant was unsigned, the Nazi soldiers said: "We have the right and we have the arms.
On September 9, the Bishop of Quimper was placed under house arrest for denouncing German plans to remake Brittany.
From the Vatican radio there came a German language broadcast denouncing the treatment of the Church in Alsace-Lorraine under the Nazi regime. Pointing out that three-quarters of the territory's 2,000,000 inhabitants are Catholics, the announcer declared that the National Socialist Party is now attempting to penetrate the country ideologically. Schools have already been reoriented in the Nazi ideology. Catholic schools have been disbanded, and priests active in educational work have been dismissed from their posts. The Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls have been established throughout the territory, and Alsace-Lorraine children have been sent to Germany for ideological training.
Alsatian Catholics, the Vatican radio charged, are being cut off and cannot establish contact with Catholics in older Germany. Colleges and missionary schools have been shut down.
The Bishop of Strasbourg has not been allowed to return to his diocese from unoccupied France and the Bishop of Metz has been expelled.
The Strasbourg Cathedral has been closed to Catholic services.
On October 11, Mgr. Ballard, Archbishop of Besangon, was sentenced to jail "for attempting to turn the people against the Germans" because he had tried to collect food for 25,000 French war prisoners. At the same time, Vicar-General Galan was sentenced to nine days in jail for reading a message to raise the people's spirits.
On October 18, the Vatican radio said that a speech by Josef Buerckel, Nazi administrator in Lorraine, portends the closing of Catholic private and confessional schools in occupied France.
On December 12, the Catholic diocese of Metz was dissolved "for political reasons," by order of Buerckel, gauleiter for the newly-founded province of "Westmark."
In March 1941, the Vatican radio described Catholics in Alsace-Lorraine as being "tried in the fire of a cruel persecution." German oppressive measures have included the closing of Catholic schools, the exclusion of nuns from teaching, the setting up of Hitler Youth organizations, and the deportation of many Alsace-Lorraine youth to Germany. The Germans used the Paris radio to accuse the Vichy government of reactionary clericism.
The strongest criticism was levelled against the educational system of the Jesuits which was described as "extremely dangerous for the mentality of young Frenchmen."
On April 4, the Vatican radio again charged that: "Former Catholic teachers must now give instruction in accordance with National Socialist programs; that membership in Hitler Youth organizations is obligatory for boys and girls over 10; that religious seminaries are being closed, all Catholic organizations are being dissolved, and that Catholic newspapers are being suppressed in Alsace-Lorraine; and that to the end of December of the preceding year, 20,000 persons had been expelled from Alsace, including 60 priests."
On September 2, a United Press dispatch states that many Catholic priests in France had been arrested and jailed, or put in concentration camps. Eighteen had been jailed in Strasbourg because "they made anti-German statements," and sixty others had been sent to a concentration camp in the North Moselle region.
When Marshal Petain was attacked by the magazine Esprit for his anti-semitic laws, the paper was suppressed.
The Gestapo ousted nuns from their institutions and, in many cases, forced them to go to Germany.
A typical Nazi trick was to distribute ration cards on Sundays, at the precise time when Mass was being celebrated.
Near Drieuze, the Nazis locked a church when a funeral procession approached it, announcing that burials must take place without religious services. At Chateau Salins, the Gestapo tried to prevent services by locking the church door.
Sunday activities, including morning excursions for children, were devised by the Nazis to prevent Catholics from attending Mass. Children were also enticed away from their religious obligations by free Sunday motion picture shows.
On June 26, 1941, the Archbishops and Bishops of Germany, assembled at Fulda—Fulda, Fortress of St. Boniface—issued a Pastoral Letter, which was appointed to be read from all pulpits on July 6. A document of high courage, it merits the closest study. The most significant passages are quoted herewith:
Excerpts from the Fulda Pastoral Letter
Dear Members of the Dioceses: Not only the war but contemporary events which touch the religious field lead you to ask for a word of enlightenment and encouragement from your Bishops. In answering your call and your expectation, we are fulfilling our superior pastoral duty. We want you to know that your Bishops are at their posts in these upsetting times; that they stood up for and will continue to stand up for the interests of our holy religion in complete unanimity with all permissible and possible means. Again and again have the Bishops brought their justified claims and complaints before the proper authorities. Be re-assured that the Bishops speak as openly as their holy duty as teachers of the creed and as defenders of the rights of the church asks them to do. Through this pastoral declaration the Bishops want to help you to see the real situation of the church in the light of your creed and enable you to judge it. We want to spare you an ominous spiritual conflict which might make it difficult for you to do your duty gladly. We exhort you to strive for a quiet and decided attitude which results from a true belief and strong confidence in God. The events we speak of are all well-known to you and the object of yours and our deepest concern. They are the restrictions and limitations which have been put upon the free preaching of our creed and upon our church life. Our church is God's visible empire, willed by God on this earth into which man enters through baptism and which must and will lead him in complete independence to a supernatural destination.
The church has, therefore, the right and the duty derived from God of religious and moral instruction and education of the youth from childhood onwards and of the free preaching of The Gospel of Christ in the degree which the church itself thinks necessary. The church has the right to freedom of service and the right to establish a calendar of religious festivals which is regulated according to the religious needs of the faithful. The church is and will be the guardian of moral laws given by God and it will never abide that which God has forbidden. In this way the church saves for its people the firm foundation of moral strength and social order. The church has the right and the duty given to it by its divine foundationto practise charity. The credit for fulfilling this task and for having cared for the well-being of the people is particularly due to the religious orders and societies. They have always possessed the love and esteem of the Catholic people in a high degree. In all these fields, the church has found great obstacles during the past few years and particularly during the last months ...
Dear Members of the Diocese the fact cannot be denied that at present, either caused by the emergency or without reason, a very far-reaching restriction of the practice of our holy religion exists, but that must not discourage us or make us negligent. Every time of hardship is a test and confirmation of our religious faithfulness. Here we wish to point out some duties which are particularly brought upon us by these times.
There are no more religious Sunday papers and bulletins of your dioceses which, up to now, preached the creed and strengthened the moral powers of the family. As long as they are not published you parents must endeavour to replace what you and your children miss in printed religious instructions by regular attendance at church and by supporting the pastoral work in your community. More than ever it is the duty of you parents to concern yourselves about the books which get into the hands of your children and to provide at least a few good books in the home library for the family so that they could be read together.
With deep sorrow we heard the news that the Catholic kindergarten has now been abolished in large districts of the Reich in spite of the protests of the Bishops. They were treated and love by the Catholic people as a supplement of religious education. The Catholic schools have already been taken from us. Religious teaching in the schools has been cut down or completely dropped. For you parents have the strict commandment to become the religious teacher of your children.
Our priests will glady give you directions to fulfil this first and finest duty of a parent. It is up to you to follow their proposals conscientiously. The more difficult it becomes to attend a service in church regularly, the more the house of every Christian family becomes a small house of God. In the sanctity of the Christian family, it must become a sacred custom for everyone to gather as often as possible before the crucifix in order to offer a common prayer and to think of the anxieties of the church and of the people and of the ecclesiastical and worldly authorities. Pray also for your beloved dead, for the sick; pray for husbands, fathers and sons who are fighting in the midst of war. The creed and the virtue of your children must be the object of your fervent prayers—particularly so if the circumstances have brought about a local separation from your children and if they cannot have religious service and religious care. If they are far away, you must not only remind them in your letters of their duty towards God but your prayers for them must be like the holy angels of God and give them guidance.
Dear Members of the Dioceses: We Bishops meeting at the tomb of Saint Boniface whose life work it was to bring the German people to our Master and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and who died the glorious death of a martyr in fulfilling this task, feel an even greater sorrow about the existence of powers working to dissolve the blessed union between Christ and the German people than we do about the incidents mentioned above. The existence of Christianity in Germany is at stake. Quite lately a book has been distributed in Germany in hundreds of thousands of copies which contains the assertion that we Germans had to chose between Christ and the German people.
Dear Members of the Dioceses: With burning indignation we German Catholics refuse to make such a choice. We love our German people and we serve them, if necessary, with our lives, but at the same time we live and die for Jesus Christ and want to be united with Christ in time and eternity. We are convinced that we serve our beloved German people best when we preserve Christ and His Gospel for them. It would mean a terrible impoverishment of our people if we relinquished those Christian principles which for more than a thousand years have been the foundation of its spiritual and moral culture. Out of the Christian creed grew for our people that noble conception of human personality which asks the individual to fit himself into the order of the human community ready for sacrifices, but which on the other hand preserves for every individual his God-given rights and duties. God willed that they should be respected by all living creatures. If we care for the preservation of Christianity in our people, then we must fight and stand up for the personality and dignity of the German man.
Before all things we hold firm to Jesus Christ because he is "the son of God who came into this world that we might have life and that we might have it more abundantly" (John 10-10); "because there is no other name given to man under Heaven by which he can be blessed" (Acts 4, 7 and 12). At the request to leave Christ we answer like Saint Peter, "Master, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou are that Christ, the son of the living God." (John 6-69).
As we are faithful to Christ nothing can separate us from His holy church which He has founded on the rock foundation of the pontificate. With a representative of Christ on earth, our Holy Father, we are united in filial love.
Original from UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN