2. The Battle Against the Churches
The Nazi Party always was predominantly anti-Christian in its ideology. But we who believe in freedom of conscience and of religion base no charge of criminality on anybody’s ideology. It is not because the Nazi themselves were irreligious or pagan, but because they persecuted others of the Christian faith that they become guilty of crime, and it is because the persecution was a step in the preparation for aggressive warfare that the offense becomes one of international consequence. To remove every moderating influence among the German people and to put its population on a total war footing, the conspirators devised and carried out a systematic and relentless repression of all Christian sects and churches.
We will ask you to convict the Nazis on their own evidence. Martin Bormann in June, 1941, issued a secret decree on the relation of Christianity and National Socialism. The decree provided:
“For the first time in German history the Fuehrer consciously and completely has the leadership of the people in his own hand. With the party, its components and attached units the Fuehrer has created for himself and thereby the German Reich leadership an instrument which makes him independent of the church. All influences which might im-
pair or damage the leadership of the people exercised by the Fuehrer with help of the NSDAP, must be eliminated. More and more the people must be separated from the churches and their organs, the pastors. Of course, the churches must and will, seen from their viewpoint, defend themselves against this loss of power. But never again must an influence on leadership of the people be yielded to the churches. This (influence) must be broken completely and finally.
“Only the Reich government and by its direction the party, its components and attached units have a right to leadership of the people. Just as the deleterious influences of astrologers, seers and other fakers are eliminated and suppressed by the state, so must the possibility of church influence also be totally removed. Not until this has happened, does the state leadership have influence on the individual citizens. Not until then are people and Reich secure in their existence for all the future” (D-75).
And how the party had been securing the Reich from Christian influence, will be proved by such items as this teletype from the Gestapo, Berlin, to the Gestapo, Nurnberg, on July 24, 1938. Let us hear their own account of events in Rottenburg.
“The Party on July 23, 1939 from 2100 on carried out the third demonstration against Bishop Sproll. Participants about 2500-3000 were brought in from outside by bus, etc. The Rottenburg populace again did not participate in the demonstration. This town took rather a hostile attitude to the demonstrations. The action got completely out of hand of the Party Member responsible for it. The demonstrators stormed the palace, beat in the gates and doors. About 10 to 200 people forced their way into the palace, searched the rooms, threw files out of the windows and rummaged through the beds in the rooms of the palace. One bed was ignited. Before the fire got to the other objects of equipment in the rooms and the palace, the flaming bed could be thrown from the window and the fire extinguished.
The Bishop was with Archbishop Groeber of Freiburg and the ladies and gentlemen of his menage in the chapel at prayer. About 25 to 30 people pressed into this chapel and molested those present. Bishop Groeber was taken for Bishop Sproll. He was grabbed by the robe and dragged back and forth. Finally the intruders realized that Bishop Groeber is not the one they are seeking. They could then be persuaded to leave the building. After the
evacuation of the palace by the demonstrators I had an interview with Archbishop Groeber, who left Rottenburg in the night. Groeber wants to turn to the Fuehrer and Reich Minister of the Interior, Dr. Frick, anew. On the course of the action, the damage done as well as the homage of the Rottenburg populace beginning today for the Bishop I shall immediately hand in a full report, after I am in the act of suppressing counter mass meetings. *********
“In case the Fuehrer has instructions to give in this matter, I request that these be transmitted most quickly *********” (848-PS).
Later, defendant Rosenberg wrote to Bormann reviewing the proposal of Kerrl as Church Minister to place the Protestant Church under State tutelage and proclaim Hitler its Supreme head. Rosenberg was opposed, hinting that Naziism was to suppress the Christian Church completely after the war (see 098-PS).
The persecution of all pacifist and dissenting sects, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Pentecostal Association, was peculiarly relentless and cruel. The policy toward the Evangelical Churches, however, was to use their influence for the Nazis’ own purposes. In September, 1933, Mueller was appointed the Fuehrer’s representative with power to deal with the “affairs of the Evangelical Church” in its relations to the State. Eventually, steps were taken to create a Reich Bishop vested with power to control this Church. A long conflict followed, Paster Niemoeller as sent to concentration camp, and extended interference with the internal discipline and administration of the Churches occurred.
A most intense drive was directed against the Roman Catholic Church. After a strategic concordat with the Holy See, signed in July, 1933 in Rome, which never was observed by the Nazi Party, a long and persistent persecution of the Catholic Church, its priesthood and its members, was carried out. Church Schools and educational institutions were suppressed or subjected to requirements of Nazi teaching inconsistent with the Christian faith. The property of the Church was confiscated and inspired vandalism directed against Church property was left unpunished. Religious instruction was impeded and the exercise of religion made difficult. Priests and bishops ere laid upon, riots were stimulated to harass them, and many were sent to concentration camps.
After occupation of foreign soil, these persecutions went on
with greater vigor than ever. We will present to you from the files of the Vatican the earnest protests made by the Vatican to Ribbentrop summarizing the persecutions to which the priesthood and the Church had been subjected in this Twentieth Century under the Nazi regime. Ribbentrop never answered them. He could not deny. He dared not justify.