Archive/File: imt/nca/nca-02/nca-02-16-responsibility-18-04 Last-Modified: 1997/06/08 Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume Two, Chapter XIV D. AS GERMANY'S MOST FAMOUS CATHOLIC LAYMAN AND AS NEGOTIATOR OF THE VATICAN CONCORDAT, VON PAPEN USED HIS POSITION AND PERSONAL INFLUENCE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE CONSOLIDATION OF NAZI CONTROL OVER GERMANY AND IN NAZI PREPARATION FOR AGGRESSION. (1) Immediately upon Nazi seizure of power within Germany, von Papen endeavored to weld German Catholicism into a powerful body of support for the Nazi state. When Naziism seized control of Germany in January 1933, its relations with the church were at a low ebb. The period of the Reichstag elections of July and November 1932 was marred by certain widely circulated anti-Nazi pronouncements of the German bishops, especially in such Catholic papers as Germania, Koelnische Volkszeitung, and the Rhein-Mainische Volkszeitung. These bishops discerned the fundamental incompatibility between the Church and the Nazis' own declarations of State policy. They accordingly publicly stigmatized the Nazi movement as anti-Christian, forbade the Catholic clergy to participate in any ceremonies (such as funerals) in which the Nazi Party was officially represented, refused the sacraments to [Page 932] Party officials, and in several pastorals expressly warned - the faithful against the danger to German Catholicism created by the Party Immediately upon seizure of power, the main concern of the new regime was to liquidate political opposition. Achievement of this objective was predicated upon the strategy of "divide and rule". A first step in this strategy was to convince conservatives that the efforts of the government were being directed primarily against the Communists and other forces of the extreme Left, and that their own interests would remain safe in Nazi hands as long as they would consent to refrain from political activity. The result was a brief but active period of rapprochement between Church and Party. Von Papen was a leader in this strategy. The minutes of the Reich cabinet meeting of 15 March 1933 contain the following notation in connection with discussions on the Enabling Act: "The Vice Chancellor and Reich Commissar for the State of Prussia said it-is of decisive importance to integrate into the new State the masses standing behind the Parties. He said that the question of coordination of political Catholicism into the new State is of special importance." (2962-PS) Eight days later, speaking at the second meeting of the Reichstag of 1933, on 23 March 1933, Hitler asked for adoption of the Enabling Act. In this speech he declared: "While the government is determined to carry through the political and moral purging of our public life, it is creating and insuring prerequisites for a truly religious life. The government sees in both Christian confessions the factors most important for the maintenance of our Folkdom. It will respect agreements concluded between them and the states. However, it expects that its work will meet with a similar appreciation. The government will treat all other denominations with equal objective justice. However, it can never condone that belonging to a certain denomination or to' a certain race might be regarded as a license to commit or tolerate crimes. The Government will devote its care to the sincere living together of Church and State." (3387-PS). The immediate effect of this assurance was action by the conference of German bishop, meeting in Fulda on 28 March 1933. This conference lifted restrictions imposed on members of the church adhering to the Nazi movement. In a cautious statement which placed full faith and credit in the Papen- inspired Hitler assurances, the bishops declared: "The high shepherds of the dioceses of Germany in their du- [Page 933] tiful anxiety to keep the Catholic faith pure and protect the untouchable aims and rights of the Catholic Church have adopted, for profound reasons, during the last years, an oppositional attitude toward the National Socialist movement, through prohibitions and warnings, which was to be in effect as long and as far as those reasons remained valid. "It must now be recognized that there are official and solemn declarations issued by the highest representative of the Reich Government -- who at the same time is the authoritarian leader of that movement -- which acknowledge the inviolability of the teachings of Catholic faith and the unchangeable tasks and rights of the church, and which expressly assure the full value of the legal pacts concluded between the various German States 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." (3389-PS) This action opened the door for mass Party adherence by practicing Catholics. All those German Catholics who were inclined to adopt Nazi political views and had hesitated only because of the anti-Nazi attitude of the hierarchy hastened now to join the victorious party of the "National Revolution". This tendency was marked by a tremendous and sudden burst of activity by the so-called "bridge-builders," who rushed to close the gap between the Church and the Nazi State. Von Papen, who only a short time before had been willing to use armed force to suppress the Nazis, was foremost among these "bridge-builders", who not only claimed an ideological affinity between the Nazi system and the alleged anti-liberal character of Catholic politics, but affirmatively apologized for excesses of the State which even then had begun to shock the world. Existing agencies were used for this purpose. Thus, the Union of Catholic Germans (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Katholischer Deutscher), of which von Papen was president, insisted in its program that the church, like the Nazi movement itself, was guided by the leadership principle (Cuno Horkenbach, Das Deutsche Reich von 1918 bis Heute (The German Reich from 1918 Until Today) (Berlin 1935), pp. 436, 504). The same organization, in the course of the election campaign which preceded adoption of the Enabling Act, had bitterly criticized the Catholic political opposition to Marxism and urged that Catholics "by all means vote unani- [Page 934] mously the National Socialist ticket", because "We Catholics do not wish to be denied to march in the lead in this election campaign" (Election Appeal, Voelkischer Beobachter, 23 February 1933, p. 2). Later, on the eve of the Nazis' first anti-Jewish boycott, this same organization played its part in the extensive campaign replying to foreign newspaper reports concerning atrocities committed against German Jews. On 1 April 1933 it published through the Prussian News Service, an "Appeal to all Christians", viewing "with great indignation" this "irresponsible campaign against Germany" which "continues in spite of official German declarations and corrections". This "Appeal" characterized the foreign reports as "intentional lies and falsifications" and "a reckless, crafty campaign of destruction conducted by the Jewish world alliance and moneyed powers against the right of self-determination of all peoples and against the entire Christian civilization". It called upon "the Christians of all countries, irrespective of denominations, to form a world-wide front of defense against that Jewish conspiracy disturbing the true peace" ("Appeal to All Christians", Voelkischer Beobachter (People's Observer), 30 March 1933, p. 2). Notwithstanding the force of these activities, this Nazification by existing agencies was not deemed adequate to the task of organizing Catholic lay support. The result was the creation, in early April 1933, under the sponsorship of von Papen, of a new "Bund" of Catholic Germans called "Cross and Eagle" ("Kreuz und Adler") which made it its task "to contribute enthusiastic devotion to the upbuilding of the future Reich" (Gerd Ruehle, Das Dritte Reich (The Third Reich), p. 250). This whole program of rapprochement between Church and Party manifests the Papen "touch" -- the same quality of handiwork which had manifested itself in Hitler's accession to power and which later was to reappear in Austria: First, gentle hints by Papen a to strategy, followed within eight days by reassurances in Hitler's Reichstag speech. Next, again following merely by days, the formal lifting of the restrictions on Nazi membership by the leaders of the Church of which von Papen was the most famous lay member. Finally, again within a few days, the open campaign by which Papen- sponsored organizations endeavored to align Church and Party. The close timing of these events was not a coincidence. (2) Having achieved initial successes in consolidating Catholic support within Germany, von Papen undertook international consolidation of Nazi-Church relationships by negotiation of a Con- [Page 935] cordat with the Vatican. The program of rapprochement and the public declarations bridging the gap between the Church and the Nazi movement were merely advertising media by which Nazi-minded Catholics were herded into the movement, and slogans by which the conspirators might placate the Catholic hierarchy. Throughout this period there continued an undercurrent of anti-Catholic activity. A thorough job was done in purging Reich, state, and municipal administrations of officials appointed for their adherence to the Centre or Bavarian People's parties. Former leaders of those parties, including priests, joined Communists and Social Democrats in the concentration camps, and the campaign of hatred against the "black" was resumed. By April 1933 the bishops were making appeals for clemency toward former civil servants, who, they pointed out, were not able to join the celebration of national awakening because they had been dismissed from positions in which they had given their best to the community of the German people. And on 31 May 1933, a meeting of the Bavarian bishops adopted a solemn statement directed against the tendency of attributing to the State alone the right of educating, organizing, and leading ideologically the German youth (Dismissal of Catholics, Excerpts from Voelkischer Beobachter, February-March 1933; Excerpt, Voelkischer Beobachter, 19 April 1933 (Munich ed.), p. 2). By this maintenance of a certain amount of pressure against Catholic interests, the hierarchy was reminded of the dangers of not coming to a definite agreement with the Nazi State. The stage was thus set for von Papen's negotiation of a Concordat with the Vatican. At the time of these activities, the government of which von Papen was Vice Chancellor had already launched its program to mold the state machinery into the Nazi image. The Enabling Act had become law, and the general outlines of the Nazi State were already manifest. Notwithstanding the doubts created in his mind by Hitler's insistence upon the Enabling Act, von Papen undertook negotiations with the Vatican. In fact, he since has claimed that these fears gave rise to the negotiation of the Concordat (Interrogation at Nurnberg, "I became alarmed, you remember, somewhere in June when I went to Rome to negotiate a concordat because I certainly feared that the particular powers of the Hitler Party would create difficulties on the religious side. So that with the consent of Hitler I went to Rome to make that concordat." It is clear, however, that these alleged fears of the Enabling Act were not fears at all. They were merely an understanding [Page 936] of the threat they carried to all persons and instrumentalities antagonistic to the Nazi system. Von Papen understood the significance of these developments. What he actually feared was that the rest of the world would also understand Nazi methods and would erect barriers to the consummation of the plans of the conspirators. The situation plainly called for a neutralizing of these potential barriers to Nazi plans. One method of achieving this result at that time was the negotiation of solemn agreements whereby other powers would commit themselves to a policy of non-intervention by either armed or moral force. When von Papen concluded the Concordat with the Vatican, the political objectives of furthering the purposes of the Nazi conspiracy were thus foremost in his mind. Even at that time, in the first half of 1933, von Papen had in mind, in concluding this Concordat, not only the consolidation of Catholicism behind the Nazi regime within Germany, but also the psychological build-up of the Austrians in preparation for Anschluss. Von Papen's own words eloquently characterize these manoeuvres (monograph entitled "Austria" written at Nurnberg, "Although the 'Heimwehr' movement [in Austria] had brought these patriotic elements together before this, and had fought with them to free the country from strong Socialistic pressure, yet they were armed only from the standpoint of domestic politics and remained aloof from all ambitions for a greater Germany. The cause lay mostly in the Catholic nature of the country, and in the strong influence of the clergy in political leadership. The Reich was considered a bulwark of Protestantism, despite its twenty million Catholics. The anti-clerical wave, which was dominant in the Reich under the leadership of Prussia, itself led by Socialists, appeared to have verified the fears of the Austrian clergy. For in spite of Catholics at the head of the Reich -- Wirth, Marx, Bruening -- the Centre Party had always put through its cultural demands by logrolling with the Socialists. There were at least two Socialist officials, university professors or teachers for every Catholic appointee. In contrast to the obviously badly functioning Weimar Constitution, there was an effort in Austria, under clerical leadership and with the strong support of the Vatican, to develop into a corporate state. "Those were serious obstacles on both sides. When, after the seizure of power of the NSDAP in 1933, as the first remedy against a new 'Kulturkampf', I safely concluded the [Page 937] Concordat of the New Reich with the Holy See, my thoughts at the time were not focused only of the Reich. For a peaceful evolution of the German-Austrian question it was of the greatest importance that the doubts of the clergy on the Austrian side be completely eliminated." ******* "It was my first purpose in the diplomatic field to deprive the Austrian problem of its European character, and to develop it gradually into an exclusively internal problem between the Reich and Austria. "It therefore had to be my primary aim to convince the Vatican that a union could not endanger the Vatican's interests. A Concordat of the Reich with the Vatican had been my first attempt to prevent religious difficulties arising from Nazism's revolutionary doctrine; the attempt had obviously failed. Under the growing influence of his Party, Hitler sabotaged the Concordat. Rome was deeply disappointed and in the greatest excitement." On 20 July 1933 the Reich Concordat with the Vatican was signed by von Papen as representative of the Nazi Government of Germany. This instrument was an international treaty which purported to give the church an official guarantee of all the church rights it had sought. In addition it purported to confer freedom for Catholic organizations, maintenance of parochial schools, and preservation of the general influence of the church on the education of the German Catholic youth. Among the 33 articles of the Concordat, 21 treated exclusively the rights and prerogatives accorded to the church. Reciprocation consisted only in a pledge of loyalty by the clergy to the Reich Government and a promise that Catholic religious instruction would emphasize the patriotic duties of the Christian citizen and insist on a loyal attitude toward the Fatherland. Since it had always been the practice of the Catholic church to abide by established governments and to promote patriotic convictions among the faithful, these stipulations of the Concordat were no more than legalizations of an existing custom. They were no more than a guarantee of goodwill betokening harmonious Church-State relations (2655-PS). (3) The signing of the Concordat was only an interlude in the church policy of the Nazi Conspirators, which was a policy of reassurances and repression. The signing of the Concordat merely marked the beginning of evasions and violations of both its spirit and letter. The ink was hardly dry before it became [Page 938] necessary for the Vatican to complain about a false interpretation of the text, made by the Nazi government in it own favour. (See Section 6 of Chapter VII on Suppression of the Christian Churches.) By action taken only ten days after the signing of the Concordat, and despite its provision for the continuance of the Catholic Youth Association, simultaneous membership in the Hitler Jugend and the Catholic Youth Association was forbidden, and the campaign to smash the latter organization thereby commenced (2456-PS). These first steps were merely a foretaste of a long series of violations which were to commence almost immediately and eventually to result in papal denunciation and serious excesses committed against the clergy (3280-PS). The continuing character of the conspirators' church policy -- and of von Papen's participation in it -- is further revealed by von Papen's action of 19 September 1934, when, as president of the Union of Catholic Germans (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Katholischer Deutscher), he ordered dissolution of this organization. By this time the Nazis were dropping all pretext that rival organizations might be permitted to exist, and were well along in their plans for the integration of all German institutions into the Nazi system. The official published announcement of dissolution is a revealing document: "Since the Reich Party Leadership through its department for spiritual peace increasingly and immediately administers all cultural problems and those concerning the relationship of State and Churches, the tasks at first delegated to the Union of Catholic Germans are now included in those of the Reich Party Leadership in the interest of a stronger coordination. "Vice-Chancellor von Papen, up to now the Leader of the Union of Catholic Germans, declared about the Dissolution of this organization that it was done upon his suggestion, since the attitude of the national socialist State toward the Christian and Catholic Church had been explained often and inequivocally through the leader and chancellor himself." (3376-PS).
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