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-Ninth Day: Tuesday, January 8th, 1946
(Part 2 of 10)


[Page 49]

I pass now to Page 2, fourth paragraph of the English text, the fifth paragraph of the German text:
"If the lot of their Excellencies the Bishops has been a source of anxiety for the Holy See, the condition of an immense number of priests and members of religious orders has caused it, and still causes it, no less grief.

In the territory now called 'Warthegau' more than two thousand priests exercised their ministry before the war; they are now reduced to a very small number.

According to accounts received from various quarters by the Holy See, in the first months of the military occupation not a few members of the secular clergy were shot or otherwise put to death, while others-some hundreds-were imprisoned or treated in an unseemly manner, being forced into employments unbecoming their state, and exposed to scorn and derision.

Then, while numbers of ecclesiastics were exiled or constrained in some other way to take refuge in the Government General, many others were transferred to concentration camps. At the beginning of October, 1941, the priests from the dioceses of the 'Warthegau' detained in Dachau already numbered several hundreds; but their number increased considerably in that month, following a sharp intensification of police measures, which culminated in the imprisonment and deportation of further hundreds

[Page 50]

of ecclesiastics. Entire 'Kreise' (districts) remained thus completely deprived of clergy. In the city of Poznan itself the spiritual care of some 200,000 Catholics remained in the hands of not more than four priests.

No less painful was the fate reserved for the regular clergy. Many members of religious orders were shot or otherwise killed; the great majority of the others were imprisoned, deported or expelled.

In the same way far-reaching measures were taken against the institutions preparing candidates for the ecclesiastical state. The diocesan seminaries of Gniezno and Poznan, of Wladislavia and of Lodz were closed. The seminary in Poznan for the training of priests destined to work among Polish Catholics was also closed.

The noviciates and houses of instruction of the religious orders and congregations were closed.

Not even the nuns were able to continue their charitable activities without molestation. For them was set up a special concentration camp at Bojanowo, where towards the middle of 1941 about four hundred sisters were interned and employed in manual labour. To a representation of the Holy See made through the Apostolic Nunciature in Berlin your Reich Ministry for Foreign Affairs replied, in the Memorandum Pol. III, 1886 of 23rd September of the same year, that it was only a question of a temporary measure, taken with the consent of the Reichstatthalter for Wartheland, in order to supply the lack of housing for Polish Catholic sisters. In the same memorandum it was admitted that as a result of reorganisation of charitable institutions many Catholic sisters were without employment.

But, in spite of the fact that this measure was declared to be temporary, it is certain that towards the end of 1942 some hundreds of nuns were still interned at Bojanowo. It is established that for some time the nuns were deprived even of spiritual help.

Likewise in the matter of education and religious instruction of youth no attention was paid in the 'Warthegau' to the rights of the Catholic Church.

All the Catholic schools were suppressed."

I turn now to Page 4 ...

THE PRESIDENT: Who was the Foreign Minister of the Reich at the time that document was sent?

COLONEL WHEELER: It was the defendant von Ribbentrop.

I turn to Page 4, the tenth paragraph of the English text, Page 5, fourth paragraph of the German text:

"The use of the Polish language in sacred functions, and even in the Sacrament of Penance, was forbidden. Moreover - and this is a matter worthy of special mention and is at variance with the natural law and with the dispositions accepted by the legal systems of all nations - for the celebration of marriage between Poles the minimum age limit was fixed at 28 years for men and 25 years for women.

Catholic action was so badly hit as to be completely destroyed. The National Institute, which was at the head of the whole Catholic Action Movement in Poland, was suppressed; as a result all the associations belonging to it, which were flourishing, as well as all Catholic cultural, charity and social service institutions, were abolished.

In the whole of the 'Warthegau' there is no longer any Catholic Press, and not even a Catholic bookshop.

Grave measures were repeatedly taken with regard to ecclesiastical property.

Many of the churches closed to public worship were turned over to profane uses. From such an insult not even the cathedrals of Gniezno,

[Page 51]

Poznan, Wladislavia and Lodz were spared. Episcopal residences were confiscated, the real estate belonging to the seminaries, convents, diocesan museums, libraries and church funds were confiscated or sequestered."
I pass now to the third full paragraph on Page 5, a two-line paragraph:-
"Even before ecclesiastical property was affected, the allowances to the clergy had been abolished."
Now, reading from Page 6, the fourth full paragraph of the English text:
"The administrative regulations published by the Statthalter's office for the application of the Ordinance of 13th September, 1941, made the situation of the Catholics in that region still more difficult.

For example, on 19th November, 1931, came a decree of the Reichs-statthalter by which, among other things, it was set forth that, as from the previous 13th September, the property of the former juridical persons of the Roman Catholic Church should pass over to the 'Romisch- Katholische Kirche deutscher Nationalitat im Reichsgau Wartheland' in so far as, on the request of the above- mentioned 'Religionsgesellschaft' such property shall be recognised by the Reichsstatthalter as 'non-Polish property.' In virtue of this decree practically all the goods of the Catholic Church in the 'Warthegau' were lost."

Now I pass to Page 7, the second full paragraph:-
"If we pass from the 'Warthegau' to the other territories in the East, we unfortunately find there, too, acts and measures against the rights of the Church and of the Catholic faithful, though they vary in gravity and extension from one place to another.

In the provinces which were declared annexed to the German Reich and joined up with the Gaue of East Prussia, of Danzig-West Prussia, and of Upper Silesia, the situation is very like that described above in regard to seminaries, the use of the Polish mother- tongue in sacred functions, charitable works, associations of Catholic Action, the separation of the faithful according to nationality. There, too, one must deplore the closing of churches to public worship, the exile, deportation, the violent death of not a few of the clergy (reduced by two-thirds in the diocese of Culma and by at least a third in the diocese of Katowice), the suppression of religious instruction in the schools, and above all the complete suppression in fact of the Episcopate. Actually, after the Bishop of Culma, who had left during the military operations, had been refused permission to return to his diocese, there followed - in February, 1941 - the expulsion of the Bishop of Plock and his Auxiliary, who both died later in captivity; the Bishop, the venerable octogenarian Mgr. Julian Anthony Nowowiejski, died at Dzialdowo on 28th May, 1941, and the Auxiliary, Mgr. Leo Wetmanski, 'in a transit camp' on 10th October of the same year.

In the territory called the Government General, as in the Polish provinces which had been occupied by Soviet troops in the period between September, 1939, and June, 1941, the religious situation is such as to cause the Holy See lively apprehension and serious preoccupation. Without pausing to describe the treatment meted out in many cases to the clergy (priests imprisoned, deported and even put to death), the confiscation of ecclesiastical property, the closing of churches, the suppression even of associations and publications of simply and exclusively religious character, the closing of the Catholic secondary and higher schools and of the Catholic University of Lublin, let it suffice to recall two series of specially grave measures: those which affect the seminaries and those which weigh on the Episcopate.

When the buildings of the various seminaries had been completely or in part occupied, the intention for some time (November, 1940-February,

[Page 52]

1941) was to reduce these institutions for the training of priests to two - those of Cracow and Sandomir; then the others were permitted to reopen, but only on condition that no new students were admitted, which in practice inevitably means that all these institutions will soon be closed."
I omit one paragraph here.
"Mention has several times been made of ecclesiastics deported or confined in concentration camps. The majority of them were transferred to the Altreich, where their number already exceeds a thousand."
THE PRESIDENT: What was the "Altreich"?

COLONEL WHEELER: The Altreich is the Old Reich of Germany.



"When the Holy See asked that they should be liberated and permitted to emigrate to neutral countries of Europe or America (1940), the petition was refused; it was only promised that they should all be collected in the concentration camp at Dachau, that they should be excused too hard labour, and that some should be permitted to say mass, which the others could hear.

The treatment of the ecclesiastics interned at Dachau, which, for a certain time, in 1941, was, in fact, somewhat mitigated, grew worse again at the end of that year. Particularly sorrowful were the announcements which for many months, in 1942, came from that camp of the frequent deaths of priests, even of some young priests among them."

I pass by two paragraphs:
"Polish Catholics are not allowed to contract marriage in the territory of the Altreich; just as requests for religious instruction or instruction in preparation for Confession and Holy Communion for the children of these workers are, in principle, not accepted."
What happened to complaints - even from the Vatican - as to religious affairs in the overrun territories is disclosed in Document 3266-PS, Exhibit USA 573, which I now offer in evidence. This is a letter from the Cardinal Archbishop of Breslau to the Papal Secretary of State, dated 7th December, 1942. It bears a Vatican authentication similar to those already read.

This letter lays at the door of the Party Chancellery the responsibility for determining the policy and exercising final authority on religious questions in the occupied territories. I quote from Page 1, the first paragraph of this letter, and remind the Court that the defendant Bormann was at that time Chief of the Nazi Party Chancellery and that the defendant Kaltenbrunner was the Chief of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, the R.S.H.A. I quote from Document 3266-PS, beginning with the sixth line:

"About some of the gravest injuries inflicted on the Church I not only protested on each occasion as the individual incident occurred, but I also made a most formal protest about them in globo in a document which, as spokesman of the Hierarchy, I sent to the supreme Ruler of the State and to the Ministries of the Reich on 10th December, 1941. Not a word by way of answer has been sent to us.

Your Eminence knows very well that the greatest difficulty in the way of opening negotiations comes from the overruling authority which the National Socialist Party Chancellery exercises in relation to the chancellery of the Reich and to the single Reich Ministries. This 'Parteikanzlei' directs the course to be followed by the State, whereas the Ministries and the Chancellery of the Reich are obliged and compelled to adjust their decrees to these directions. Besides, there is the fact that the Supreme Office for the Security of the Reich, called the 'Reichssicherheitshauptamt' enjoys an authority which precludes all legal action and all appeals.

[Page 53]

Under it are the Secret Offices for Public Security, called 'Geheime Staatspolizei' (a title shortened usually to 'Gestapo'), of which there is one for each province. Against the decrees of this Central Office and of the Secret Offices there is no appeal through the Courts, and no complaint made to the Ministries has any effect. Not infrequently the councillors of the ministries suggest that they have not been able to do as they would wish to because of the opposition of these Party offices. As far as the executive power is concerned, the organisation called the S.S., that is, 'Die Schutzstaffeln der Partei,' is in practice supreme.

On a number of very grave and fundamental issues we have also presented our complaints to the Supreme Leader of the Reich, the Fuehrer. Either no answer is given, or it is apparently edited by the above-mentioned Party Chancellery, which does not consider itself bound by the Concordat made with the Holy See."

I now offer in evidence Document number 3279-PS, Exhibit USA 574. This is an excerpt from Charge number 17 against the defendant Hans Frank, Governor General of Poland, entitled "Maltreatment and Persecution of the Catholic Clergy in the Western Provinces," submitted by the Polish Government under the terms of Article 21 of the Four-Power Agreement of 2nd August, 1945. This gives further figures indicating the extent of the persecution of priests. I quote:
"The extract attached hereto and dealing with the 'General Conditions and Results of the Persecution' is taken from the text of Charge 17, Page 5, paragraph IV, of the Polish Government against the defendants named in the Indictment before the International Military Tribunal, subject: , Maltreatment and Persecution of the Catholic Clergy in the Incorporated Western Provinces of Poland.' It is a true translation into English of the original Polish.

It is submitted herewith to the International Military Tribunal in accordance with Article 21 of the Charter of the Court.

Signed: Dr. Tadeuez Cyprian, Polish Deputy Representative on the United Nations War Crimes Commission in London, signing on behalf of the Polish Government and of the Main Commission for Investigation of German War Crimes in Poland, whose seal I hereby attach."

THE PRESIDENT: I do not think you need read such certificates as that.

COLONEL WHEELER: This is the only one, Sir, that I have. I now read from this extract:

"General Conditions and Results of the Persecution:

11. The general situation of the clergy in the Archdiocese of Poznan in the beginning of April, 1940, is summarised in the following words of Cardinal Hlond's second report:

5 priests shot; 27 priests confined in harsh concentration camps at Stutthof and in other camps; 190 priests in prison or in concentration camps at Bruczkov, Chlodowo, Gerusski, Kazimierz, Buskupi, Lad, Lublin and Puszczykovo; 35 priests seriously ill in consequence of ill treatment; 122 parishes left entirely without priests.

12. In the diocese of Chelmno, where about 650 priests were installed before the War, only 3 per cent. were allowed to stay, the other 97 per cent. were imprisoned, executed or put into concentration camps.

13. By January, 1941, about 700 priests were killed, 3,000 were in prison or concentration camps."

I refer also to Document 3268-A-PS, Exhibit USA 356, excerpts from the Allocution of Pope Pius XII to the Sacred College, 2nd June, 1945, which has already been introduced into evidence and read from extensively. I shall not

[Page 54]

read from it again. This document gives some very revealing figures concerning the priests and lay brothers confined in the concentration camp at Dachau.

The Tribunal will recall, from the previous reading of this document, the imprisonment of 2,800 priests and lay brothers in Dachau alone from 1940 to 1945, of whom all but about 800 were dead by April, 1945, including an Auxiliary Bishop.

This document presents a forceful summary of the principal steps in the struggle of the Nazi conspirators against the Catholic Church.

To sum up, the Prosecution submits that the evidence presented to the Court proves that the attempted suppression of the Christian Churches in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland was an integral part of the defendants' conspiracy to eliminate internal opposition, and otherwise to prepare for and wage aggressive war and shows the same conspiratorial pattern as their other War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity.

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