As Cardinal Hlond's reports poured into the Vatican, Pope Pius XII protested against the enormities they recounted, with unrelenting vigor.
On September 30, 1939, addressing the Polish colony of Rome and the Polish clergy, he said:
"Before Our eyes now passes a vision of mad horror and gloomy despair, a multitude of fugitives and wanderers, all those who no longer have a country or a home . . . We hope that God in His mercy will not permit that the exercise of religion be hindered in your country. We hope despite the many reasons for fear inspired by the only too-well-known plans of the enemies of God that Catholic life should continue profound and truthful among you."
On October 28, the Holy Father issued his first Encyclical. In it he wrote: "Venerable brethren, the hour when this Our first encyclical reaches you is in many respects a real 'hour of darkness' (cf. St. Luke xxii, 53) in which the spirit of violence and of discord brings indescribable suffering to mankind ... The blood of countless human beings, even non-combatants, raises a piteous dirge over a nation such as Our dear Poland, which, for its fidelity to the church, for its services in the defence of Christian civilization, written in indelible characters in the annals of history, has a right to the generous and brotherly sympathy of the whole world, while it awaits, relying on powerful intercession of Mary, help of Christians, the hour of a resurrection in harmony with the principles of justice and true peace."
And in a Christmas Eve allocution to the Sacred College of Cardinals, the Pope, in speaking of the Nazi-Polish war condemned the "atrocities and the illegal use of means of destruction, even against non-combatants, refugees, old persons, women and children, and the disregard of human dignity, liberty and human life" as "acts that cry for the vengeance of God."
On November 16 and 17, 1940, the Vatican radio categorically denied reports by certain Spanish journalists, inspired from German sources, that the situation in Poland had undergone a change for the better. It stated that the religious life of many millions of Catholics continued to be brutally restricted. Among other things, it made clear that in the course of the previous four months at least four hundred clergy had been deported from Poland into Germany.
"The Catholic associations in the General Government," the Vatican radio went on, "also have been dissolved, the Catholic educational institutions have been closed down, and Catholic professors and teachers have been reduced to a state of extreme need, or have been sent to concentration camps. The Catholic press has been rendered impotent.
"In the part incorporated with the Reich, and especially in Posnania, the representatives of the Catholic priests and orders have been shut up in concentration camps. The number of priests sent to camps from the Posnan area alone exceeds 200. Certain of them have died in these camps. In other dioceses the priests have been put in prison. Entire areas of the country have been deprived of all spiritual ministrations, and the church seminaries have been dispersed."
On October 27, 1940, it was revealed that admission to churches in incorporated territory is permitted only during services authorized to be held twice a week.
On January 7, 1941, it was reported that the Nazis were blocking an effort of the Vatican to send a delegate to Poland, to investigate conditions.
On February 16, it was revealed that, in sub-Carpathia, entire villages were being deported. The Nazis then closed the churches, saying there were no parishioners to attend them.
On March 9, the clergy of the famed and venerated Jasnagora Abbey at Czestochowa were shot, the abbey transformed into a Gestapo headquarters, according to a Vatican source.
On the same day, Dziennik Polski, published in London, stated that since September 1939, 200 priests had been interned or shot in the Nazi occupied areas. Other sources put the figure far higher, saying that, of the 7,000 priests in Poland, no less than half had been shot or thrown into concentration camps where their ultimate fates remained unknown.
On March 28, the Polish Government-in-exile reported that 14 priests and monks had been killed by the Nazis during the preceding weeks, some of them having been tortured to death.
Father Adam Rosalski of the Kielce Catholic Seminary was fired on in the streets by the Gestapo, chased into a house, and then bayonetted to death.
Stormtroopers, executing Father Klimacki, first tore off his cross and slashed his face with it. Eighty-seven priests of Cracow were sent to work in the quarries near Linz, Austria. In midsummer a new wave of anti-Catholic persecution began, and all Catholic Center priests in Cracow were arrested and deported to Germany, while their leaders were sent to concentration camps. The sufferings of Christians in Poland are so numerous that their recital becomes after a time so overwhelming as nearly to numb the senses of him who hears. Yet we have reproduced but the barest fraction of that which is attested in the outer world. What deeds have been forever hidden behind the most savage censorship in Europe can only be surmised.
The Reverend John La Farge, S.J., in a series of articles in America, a pre-eminent Catholic weekly in the United States, gives the following account of the persecution of the Church in Slovenia:
"An official report sent to the Holy See and to Mussolini by the Consulta established by the Italian Government in Italian-occupied Slovenia, has recently been brought to this country, by an unimpeachable eye-witness to some of the very scenes therein detailed.
"The report covers the period from the invasion of Slovenia—as part of Yugoslavia—by Hitler on April 6 of this year and up to May 18. What is therein related is but the prelude to what we can infer to have happened since.
"It may be briefly described as hell for Catholics and Catholicism in Slovenia, a 98% Catholic country, a hell deliberately planned by Adolf Hitler, out of his diabolical hatred for Christ and His Church.
"In the very first days after their arrival on the Slovene territory, that is to say, from April 11, 1941 on, the Germans began to claim and seize the Slovenian Church property, real-estate and chattel property and to dissolve the Slovene religious houses. This fate was experienced by the institutions of the Franciscan Fathers in Kamnik and Brezje (where the Franciscans had charge of the Slovenian National Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin), the monasteries of the Capuchin Fathers in Celje (seat of the Province) in Maribor, Ptuj and Skofjaloka; the convent of the Minor Conventuals in Ptuj; the residence of the Jesuits in Maribor; the establishments of the Vincentian Fathers in Celje and Groblje, near Domzale (with a well-equipped mission printing press). Religious houses of women experienced the same treatment ...
"The German officials for the greater part left the execution of the persecution of the Slovenes to young, often not even twenty-year-old, members of the SS and SA divisions and Gestapo formations. In house-searching, arrests and seizures, the attitude and conduct of these German agencies wherever they had anything to do with sacred objects and sacred places were brutally sacrilegious.
"So for instance, in the parish church in Kranj early on the ninth of May of this year occurred the following: The priest catechist Zuzek, who alone among the clergy of the city of Kranj had not been arrested up to this time, was celebrating Mass. At the Consecration, an officer of the Gestapo strode into the church with his cap on his head and a lighted cigarette in his mouth. He walked through the church and up before the altar with his revolver raised and threatened the priest. The faithful assembled in the church hastily dispersed. The officer sat down then in the first pew and yelled away at the priest. The priest consumed the Blessed Sacrament and left the altar . . .
"The first victim of death among the Slovene prisoners was a Jesuit Father, Aloysius Zuzek, an old man of seventy-six years, victim of pneumonia from lying on the prison floor, who declared on his death bed as actual witnesses relate, 'They have beaten me.'
"In Begunje, near Lesce, over 500 Slovene prisoners were lodged in the penal institute for women at that place, of whom 105 were priests. The rest were respectable persons from other walks of life. Even these had to clean the latrines, carry the fecal matter out on the fields and perform such other works. By such labors and by the manner of their execution, the priests were to be humiliated and degraded to the utmost before the populace and their priestly vocation made to seem ridiculous and physically repulsive . . .
"The retired professor of religion, Rev. Anton Cestnik, in Celje, seventy-three years old, had to clean the steps before the barracks in Celje . . .
"Before the clergy of the Ptuj district were shipped over the border to Croatia the leader of the Gestapo spoke to the exiles:
'You are Slovenes, we are Germans. We have no use for you, you have no use for us. We have come here with the firm intention to remain here. For this reason you have got to get out. If anyone undertakes to come back here he will be put in a concentration camp from which there is no escape, or he will be shot. Do not speak any evil of us. We are everywhere and will find you everywhere.'
"They were then loaded upon trucks and taken away to Croatia.
"All priests were brought into the Kratky Inn where they were physically examined from three to half-past eight o'clock in the evening. Each one of them was brought into the little room where he had to undress even to his underclothes. Rev. Ocepek from Ovisise had to strip himself completely . . . they were shamelessly ridiculed and mocked.
"Religious news, from Slovenia's two dioceses of Ljubljana and Maribor, follows the same pattern after May 1941, as during the weeks preceding.
"The German occupation, according to the Italian memorandum of November 1, 1941, has extended over 145 of the 277 parishes of the Ljubljana diocese, that is to say, over 205,000 souls. Before the occupation, 245 diocesan and Order Priests were carrying out their apostolic mission in this territory. Now there is not one left who can do this freely. Of the parish priests three have been left at their posts. They can bury the dead, baptize and confess only within their own parish; they are not now, however, allowed to preach or to teach catechism in the schools. The fourth priest who is still at his post cannot even enter his church. Special permit is needed to bury the dead. A few pensioned priests remain in this region, who are forbidden, however, even to say Mass. The rest of the clergy were some exiled, some arrested and sent to the various concentration camps, to be maltreated and eventually removed to Croatia, where they were left wholly destitute.
"Of the 260 parishes in the Diocese of Maribor about 430 priests of the diocesan clergy and 109 of the regular clergy exercised their ministry among a population of about 653,000 souls. Of these, perhaps 36 are still pensioners, some are still active and some are new—all the others have been exiled. Eight German priests have already been installed. Naturally these preach in German, after approval of their sermons by the Gestapo. The Slovene language has been banned even in the confessional. The priests can celebrate Mass only in the parish assigned to them. They are nothing more than prisoners, watched by the Gestapo.
"The Bishop for Maribor, Dr. Ivan Tomazic and the Slovene clergy have reacted with courage and superhuman energy. Pressure has been put upon the Bishop to leave Maribor, but he has stated that he will submit only to physical force."
Original from UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN