Home Page


The ChurchinHistory Information Centre




Dennis Barton

Part 2


  I Bavarian Beginnings
  II The Conquest of Germany
  III Who voted for Hitler?
  IV Franz von Papen
  V The Concordat and Mit Brennender Sorge
  VI The Saar Plebiscite
  VII The Communist Party
  VIII The Jewish Vote
  IX The Protestants
  X Sources of Prejudice
  XI Assessments of Hitler in the 1930s
  XII Summary of Key Points


Soon after Hitler established himself in power, he requested that a Concordat be concluded with the Holy See. This would regulate the legal position of the Catholic Church in Germany, and provide Her with clear legal rights. The Church already had Concordats with several of the state governments, and a draft existed following negotiations with previous Reich administrations. The terms offered by Hitler were extremely good, assuring the Church of complete freedom of expression, education and action. The Pope didn't trust Hitler, but a refusal to sign would have enabled the Nazis to persecute the Church and put the blame for bad relations on the Pope. Many Catholics would reproach the Church for not accepting such a good 'peace treaty'. This would have split and weakened Church resistance to Nazi pressures.

To sign might also delay the expected persecution, and when it did come the Church would be clearly seen as the innocent victim. It would provide everyone with a measure against which to judge Hitler's adherence to his promises. Hitler would gain some temporary political prestige, but the Pope decided that the advantages outweighed the disadvantages. He confided to Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick, an official at the British Embassy in Rome in 1933, that he was rushed and had to decide quickly. He had chosen between a very good treaty and the virtual elimination of the Church in Germany. He further remarked "They will scarcely break all the articles at the same time" ((MOC 39)). The Pope said later that he didn't regret signing, as it provided a legal, basis to resist Nazism ((MOC 39)). In the 1937 encyclical 'Mit Brennender Sorge', the Pope  made known his motive for signing.


Many writers give the impression that the Holy See was the only body negotiating with Hitler at the time and, by signing, the Pope was the first respectable authority to recognise Hitler's government. But the contemporary events show this to be untrue.

1. Recognition does not imply approval. Many governments have been granted international recognition when they had far less support from their people than that held by Hitler.

2. Hitler's representatives were recognised by the League of Nations. Germany did not withdraw from it until October 1933 ((WS 210)).

3. On May 5th the Soviet Union renewed her trade ((KCA 783)) and friendship agreement ((KG 27)) with Germany.

4. On the same day the U.K. Parliament voted by 304 to 56 to accept the Anglo-German trade agreement ((KCA 776)). This helped the U.K. coal industry at the expense of her manufacturing interests, and voting was on a non-party basis. Those voting to support the agreement included most of the Conservatives, most Liberals, including Sir H Samuel and Isaac Foot, and Labour leaders such as Clement Attlee, Sir Stafford Cripps and George Landsbury ((HHOC 1158-62)).

5. On July 15th, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Germany, meeting in Rome, signed the 'Four Power Pact' ((KCA 877)). 'The Little Entente' of Yugoslavia, Rumania and Czechoslovakia gave its approval. ((KCA 821 and 832)). It was an: 'Agreement of understanding and co­operation'. Its object was to provide a basis for maintaining peace; to examine problems; to work together for success at the Disarmament Conference and to aim at economic co-operation in Europe ((KCA 829)). Three days later, the Nazi paper. 'Volkischer Beobachter' wrote: “The pact is perhaps historically the most important agreement of the last fourteen years” ((KCA 832)). The French Socialist and Radical coalition government gained a 406 to 185 vote in the French Assembly for this agreement, against right-wing opposition ((TT 9th June 1933 page 11)).

6. On July 20th the Concordat was signed ((KCA 883)).

7. On August 1st the Soviet Union accepted Herr Nadolny as a new ambassador to represent Nazi Germany ((KCA 897)).

8. On August 25th, the Haavara agreement was signed between Germany and Palestinian Zionists. In return for the Zionists promoting German exports to Palestine, Hitler allowed many Jews to leave Germany with enough money to meet British financial requirements for emigration to Palestine. In 1935 this agreement was endorsed by the World Zionist Conference. By September 1939 over 50,000 German Jews had settled in Palestine ((EZ and EJ)).

9. The Concordat was ratified on September 10th ((RD 125)).

10. Over 40 Concordats were signed between 1919 and 1939 ((NP 45)).

COMMENT: So the signing and ratification of the Concordat was not an isolated international event.           


It is sometimes asserted that the Concordat was part of an agreement to dissolve the Catholic parties. To put their dissolution into perspective requires listing the main events of the transition to one-party government to 1933.

30th January  Coalition government formed with Hitler as Chancellor.
27th February   Reichstag fire.
28th February  Emergency decree; Hitler obtains dictatorial powers.  
5th   March Elections.
5-22nd March  Socialist and Catholic controlled local Parliaments and Councils dismissed ((KCA 709, 744)).
23rd March The Enabling Act forced through Parliament ((KCA 726-727)).
24th March Bavarian Party-Iron Watch paramilitary dissolved ((KCA728)).
5th April Nazis control of Catholic Peasants' Organisation ((KCA 44)).
2nd May Socialist Trade Union Federation suppressed ((KCA 778)).
2nd May  The Catholic and the Hirsch-Dunker Trade Unions ordered to submit ((KCA 778)).
18th May  Co-operative Societies taken over by Nazis ((DC 55)).
19th June  Nazis announce  they will set up a one party state ((KCA 847)).
19th June  Socialists elect new executive as their leaders had fled the country ((KCA 848)). 
22nd June  Socialist party suppressed ((KCA 852))
22nd June  Communist panty suppressed ((JRPM 252)). 
24th June  Catholic Trade Unions suppressed ((RD 94)). 
27th June  Nationalist party dissolved ((KCA 856)). 
27th June  Liberal party dissolved ((KCA 856)). 
4th July  Nazi control of Nationalist Stahlhelm paramilitary ((KCA866)) 
4th July  Catholic Bavarian party dissolved ((KCA 856)). 
4th July  Conservative party dissolved ((KCA 856)). 
5th July   Catholic Centre party dissolved ((KCA 867)). 
7th July  Bavarian Monarchist League dissolved ((KCA 868)). 
11th July Government says all political parties have gone ((KCA 872)). 
14th. July  One Party State proclaimed ((WC 328)). 


There is no evidence of any pressure on the Catholic parties and organizations to dissolve by the Pope or bishops. Their demise was part of the pattern of uncontrollable events occurring within Germany, which affected all parties and non-National Socialist organisations. What do democrats do when a clear majority vote to abolish Democracy? This all occurred prior to the Concordat being signed.


A Concordat between the Church and a state is not a sign that the Church approves its particular system of government, the policies of the state or that the state supports the doctrines of the Catholic Church. A Concordat is normally agreed after or during a period of friction or antagonism, when the legal rights of each side are set down. They are often in the nature of a 'peace treaty' or an attempt at 'peaceful co-existence'. Forty concordats were signed between 1919 and September 1939 ((NP 45)). The Holy See was negotiating a Concordat with the Soviet Union in the 1920s, so as to obtain some basic legal rights to enable Catholics to practise their religion. If the Soviet Union had not broken off negotiations in 1927 ((DH 18)) and a Concordat had been signed, this would not have implied Church approval of the Communist system of Government, its terrorism, or the basic principles of marxist atheism. Similarly, it would not have implied that in future the Soviet Union would promote the Catholic religion.

The Concordat with Germany was signed on July 20th 1933 and on the 26th and 27th of July the Vatican paper, ' L' Osservatore Romano', insisted that it was based on Canon Law and did not amount to recognition of the political regime of the new Germany, still less to the directing principles of Hitlerism ((RD 124)). It was not an agreement with Hitler, but with the German state. Von Papen signed on behalf of President Hindenburg, and Cardinal Pacelli on behalf of the Pope. In March 1957 the West German Supreme Court ruled that the Concordat was still valid. ((TAB 6 April 1957 page 340)). It thereby confirmed that it was an agreement with the German State not with Hitler.

The Concordat consists of 34 articles and a protocol ((CBC 516-22)). This review has condensed and systematised the Concordat, so the numbering does not refer to the numbering in the original document.



Freedom of communication between Rome, the bishops, clergy and laity.

Freedom to publish Pastoral Letters, instructions, diocesan gazettes and to levy church taxes.

Freedom to preach and interpret the dogmatic and moral teachings and principles of the Church.


To be protected from outrages and interferences with their duties.

To be permitted to visit hospitals, prisons etc., and to hold Divine Services there.

Not to be called to act as Magistrates or Jurymen, nor to serve on taxation committees.

Not to be requested by Law Courts to disclose information obtained during pastoral work.

Not to be appointed to any state position without approval from a bishop.

The wearing of clerical dress or habit by those not entitled to do so to be made illegal.


Catholic schools to be maintained and extended when necessary, with the teachers approved by the bishop.

Pupils attending schools established by religious orders, to be able to acquire the same qualifications as those at state schools.

The Church to be free to establish colleges for the training of the clergy. Catholic theology foundations in state universities to be continued.

Parishes, Religious Orders and Societies to be recognised as legal entities in law. Their property to be protected.

Charitable, cultural, religious, social, professional and other associations, under the control of the bishops, to be protected.

State run sports, youth and labour organizations to allow their members time for regular practice of their religion on Sundays and Feast Days.

Church marriage ceremonies to precede the Registry Office Ceremony. Racial minorities to be allowed to use their own language in Church services and organizations, providing Germans living in the corresponding country are granted the same right.


1. Concordats with other countries to bear in mind the rights of German minorities to worship in the German language.

2. On Sundays prayers to be offered for Germany and its people.

3. Chaplains to be appointed to the army in consultation with the army command.

COMMENT: These three points are in accord with normal Catholic policy.

4. The government to be given twenty days notice of the appointment of a bishop, so could express its views. This did not give the government a veto, as Rome could ignore the views of the government without breaking the Concordat. The bishop had to take an oath of loyalty to Germany and its government.

COMMENT: Where Catholics are numerous, a bishop can have an influence on civic affairs. so some governments like to be included in the consultations prior to the choosing of a bishop. This is often carried out in an informal manner, but in this agreement it took a more formal form. As part of his duty to God, a bishop is loyal to his country. In Germany it was normal for all persons in civic positions to take an oath of loyalty, and this was now extended to bishops. It did not affect a bishop's duty to put God's laws before those of the state if they clashed.

These provisions were commonly included in Concordats. For example: The 1928 Concordat with Czechoslovakia permitted the government to object, on political grounds, to proposed bishops. Bishops were also required to swear allegiance to the State ((N C E 596)). So these items in the German Concordat were not a special concession to Hitler's government.

5. Clergy holding positions in Germany must be German citizens, have matriculated from German secondary schools and have studied philosophy and theology for at least three years at a German college or at Rome. Superiors of Religious Orders in Germany to be German citizens.

COMMENT: It is normal for the clergy of a country to be citizens of that country and to have received their education there, but a small minority may be foreign citizens. The effect of this clause on the life of the Church within Germany would be minimal.

6. Religious organizations must conduct their activities outside of political parties.

C O M M E N T: Since Bismarck's anti-Catholic campaign between 1870 and 1887, Catholic religious and political groups had worked closely together to defend Catholic freedoms, and later to provide answers, based on Christian principles, to Germany's social problems. In so doing, religious, social and political affairs had become blurred together in the minds of many people. As the Concordat granted religious freedom, and the Church was to be free in advising Catholics on moral issues within the one-party state, it was not unreasonable for religious organizations to be seen as clearly separate from political ones.

7. Priests will not be allowed to join or assist political parties.

COMMENT: Priests had helped to form Christian trade unions and co-operatives so as to free people from monopolistic laissez-faire liberalism and state socialism. Some had become deeply involved in the Centre party working for social legislation based on Christian principles.

 While the Weimar parliamentary multi-party system existed, the bishops urged support for the Catholic parties. When the Concordat was signed, the National Socialist party alone existed, and priests were forbidden by the Church from joining it. If the Pope had insisted on the right of priests to join or assist illegal political parties, he would have been condemned by most Germans.
In March only 36% had voted for the continuance of the multiparty system, and many of these were now willing to accept their fellow voters' verdict and co-operate in the new single-party state. The Concordat did not affect lay Catholics joining illegal parties, only priests.

 To have refused to sign, because of this one point, would have been seen by most people as justifying the Nazi claim that the Church was more interested in political power than religious peace. Church leaders foresaw a bitter future war between paganism and the Church, and were not going to start it over this one issue. When the attack did come it was clearly seen as an attack on Christianity, not as a state defending itself against a power­seeking political Church.


This Encyclical was given at Rome on Passion Sunday, March 14th 1937. Much of it concerned the restatements of those Catholic beliefs that were particularly under attack in Germany. The extracts below concern those portions relating to the Concordat and general Papal policy towards Germany.

After mentioning the increasing persecution of the Church we read:

"When in the summer of 1933, Venerable Brethren, at the request of the German Government We resumed negotiations for a Concordat on the basis of the proposals worked out several years before, and to the satisfaction of you all concluded a solemn agreement, We were moved by the solicitude that is incumbent on Us to safeguard the liberty of the Church in her mission of salvation in Germany and the salvation of the souls entrusted to her, and at the same time by the sincere desire to render an essential service to the peaceful development and welfare of the German people.

In spite of the many serious misgivings, We then brought Ourselves to decide not to withhold Our consent. We wished to spare Our loyal sons and daughters in Germany, as far as was humanly possible, the strain and the suffering which otherwise at that time and in those circumstances must certainly have been expected. By our act We wished to show to all that seeking only Christ and the things that are Christ's, We refuse to none who does not himself reject it the hand of peace of Mother Church.

If the tree of peace planted by Us with pure intention in German soil has not borne the fruit we desired in the interests of your people, no one in the whole world who has eyes to see or ears to hear can say today that the fault lies with the Church and with her Supreme Head. The experience of the past few years fixes the responsibility".

The Encyclical then claims that the Church has done its best to uphold Her side of the agreement, and continues:

"When the time comes to place before the eyes of the world these endeavours of Ours, all right-minded persons will know where to look for the peace-makers and where to look for the peace-breakers."

"Anyone who has any sense of truth-left in his mind . . . will have to recognise with surprise and deep disgust that the unwritten law of the other party has been arbitrary misinterpretation of agreements, evasion of agreements, evacuation of the meaning of agreements, and finally more or less open violation of agreements."

"Our moderation in spite of all this was not suggested by considerations of human expediency, still less by weakness, but simply by the wish not to root out with the tares any good plant, by the intention not to pronounce a public verdict before minds were ready to recognise its inevitability, by the determination not to deny definitely the loyalty of others to their pledged, word, before the iron language of facts had torn away the veil which by deliberate camouflage covered and still covers the attack on the Church."

At the time of the negotiations for the Concordat a picture was taken of the Papal Nuncio to Germany, Mgr. Orsenigo, shaking hands with Hitler. This picture and these alleged words of the nuncio were used as Nazi propaganda "Chancellor, I have long attempted to understand you. Today, I am glad to say I do." He actually said "I have wanted to make your acquaintance for a long time, and today at last I do." ((AR 179)).


On January 13th 1935 a plebiscite was held in the Saarland to decide whether it should rejoin Germany. The successful vote for Germany increased the territory under Hitler's rule. It is sometimes said that, as the Saar was devoutly Catholic, the call of the bishops for reunion was crucial to the result, and they therefore were assisting Hitler's plans. Before an informed judgement may be made on the action of the bishops, a clear view of the situation is required.


The 1914-18 war had been mainly fought in the industrialised north of France. So although she was a war victor her industry had been destroyed while Germany's had been left untouched. France therefore demanded reparations. The German Saarland on the frontier had rich deposits of coal and a thriving steel industry. So in 1920 the Allies placed it under the 'League of Nations' and granted the produce from the coalmines to France for 15 years as reparations. At the end of this period the inhabitants would be asked whether they wished to rejoin Germany, join France or remain under the League.

The population was German by language, customs and culture and, except for a brief period 200 years previously, had been part of Germany for 500 years ((LGC 55)). Only one person in 200 claimed French as their native language ((NGM 244)). Alsace-Lorraine to the west, which had been given to France in 1918, also produced coal and this grade of coal was needed in the Saar's steel mills, thereby making the areas economically inter-dependent ((NGM 248)). This economic aspect, together with the poverty in Germany, provided France with the hope that the Saarlanders would choose union with France or to continue under the League.

The League tried to undermine loyalty to Germany by creating a separate flag, coat of arms, railway system and separate membership of the postal union. The French represented Saarlanders abroad and their troops were stationed there. French currency was introduced and it was made part of the French customs union ((LGC 132)).


The mine owners had provided schools for the children of miners. These were now changed from being German and Catholic to French and anti-religious. This was in line with the anti-church policy of the French government. Privileges were offered to parents who were unconnected with mining if they transferred their children to the anti-religious schools. Less than 4% of children were involved but Church ­French relations reached a low point. Following representations, the League stopped the children of non-miners being enticed into the anti-religious schools, but did not help the miners' children ((FMR 53)).

The Saar was three-quarters Catholic, yet the five members of the Commission established by the League were all non-Catholics. After persistent protests, one Catholic was appointed in 1924 ((FMR 30)). The dioceses had their centres in Germany, and the League pressurised the Pope to break up these dioceses and form a completely new one for the Saar. The Pope said that he would wait until the Saarlanders had decided their own future and a peace treaty had been signed. This brought great joy to the people ((FMR 53)), who saw themselves as living in an occupied country.

It is unlikely that these incidents affected the plebiscite result, but they destroyed any image of France being a freedom loving country compared to Germany. Hitler at this time was still respecting the educational rights of parents.


From March 1933 till the summer of 1934 the media promoted paganism, while the churches were unable to reply. Hitler did not personally take part in these campaigns and continued to assert that he wanted church assistance in rebuilding the country. During a meeting with the bishops in June 1934, he promised to curb the attacks being made by his pagan supporters. And in the second half of 1934 there was comparative peace and more freedom for the Christian press. Attacks on Jews also diminished and some Jews were returning to Germany ((NS 96)). Although the atmosphere was still tense, there was hope that the worst was now over.

A major contention of the Nazis was that Catholics, by owing allegiance to a foreign Pope, could not be as loyal as those who held a religion based on German blood. So, in Her battle for the soul of German youth, the bishops were careful to avoid providing any ground for being accused of lacking in patriotism.


The Saar's population of 823,000 was 72% Catholic, 26% Protestant and 0.5% Jewish ((ML 305)). Two elections, by proportional representation, to the Saar parliament were held, with the following results in percentages:­




Communist (atheist)



Socialist (atheist)



Centre (Catholic)



Conservative (Protestant)



Nazi (Pagan)



((LGC 157-8 and ML 227-9)).

All these parties supported union with Germany, so a plebiscite at these times would have given a near 100% vote for Germany.

Hitler was not showing any moderation towards Socialists and Communists, so their leaders called for a pro-League vote. Hitler addressed a rally near the border to which Saarlanders were invited. Both Protestant and Catholic services were arranged at the start of the meeting to show the respect the Government had towards religion. Hitler stated that once the Saar had been returned, peace was assured as nothing more divided France and Germany ((FMR 98)).


These were based on two serious errors:

1. That the Saar was devoutly Catholic.

2. That the vote could be so close that action by the bishops would be decisive.

In reality:

1. The Saar was 26% Protestant, and only 47% voted for the Catholic Party. Also many of these voters did so because of its economic policies, not for religious reasons.

2. By early May 1934, 86 % of the electorate had pledged themselves to vote for reunion with Germany ((LGC 163)). It was very clear that, 'there was no possibility of a majority vote against reunion with the Reich'. ((LGC 157)).


The hierarchy was aware that there would be a large majority for reunion. The dioceses involved were those of Trier and Speyer, which were mainly in Germany. The bishops lived by their Cathedrals in Germany so were  involved in the delicate situation between church and state. They had. three choices:

1. Advocate re-union.

2. Advocate union with France or a pro-League vote.

3. Be non-committal.

They chose the first option. If they had acted otherwise it would have undone the months of restraint exercised by all the German bishops to prove that Catholics were loyal Germans. For 15 years the Saarlanders had eagerly awaited reunion and the end of foreign occupation. The only reason the bishops could have given for a call for not supporting re-union, would have been that the improving situation in Germany was no more than a hypocritical ploy by Hitler. They may have privately feared this themselves, but to argue this publicly would have provided Hitler with an excuse to launch an all-out persecution of the Church. The German people saw the plebiscite as a political and national issue, not one of religion. If there was going to be a 'showdown' between Christianity and Nazism the bishops were determined to avoid fighting it on the issue of patriotism. To take an anti-reunion stand merely to reduce the majority for re-union would have been considered foolish by practically everyone who knew the facts of the situation. It would have done great harm to the Church while not preventing the extension of Hitler's authority to the Saar.


Analysis of the result confirms that the bishops could not have prevented reunion even if they had tried. The 97.9% who participated in the plebiscite held under international supervision gave a clear result:

   For Germany



For the League



   For France






               ((RCA 1508)).

Every district supported reunion by at least 82%.

Many in Britain condemned the action of the bishops. But an indication of how far the British press was out of touch with reality, may be seen from the Times of London. The day prior to the poll, it predicted that the anti-German vote would be 40-50% ((TT January 12th 1935)).


1. The combined Communist and Socialist vote in 1932 was 37%, yet the anti-German vote was 9%. This indicated that over three quarters of the Socialists and Communists voted for union with Hitler's Germany. This is based on the assumption that none of the usual Centre and Conservative voters were against reunion. But at least a few of these voters, such as members of the Deutscher Volkbund formed by Catholic priests to reject union while Hitler was in power ((FM R 103)), would have voted against re-union. So the 'left-wing' vote for Hitler's Germany must have been near 80%.

2. The non-Catholic parties gained 53% in 1932. If, for the sake of analysis, we presume that all the 9 % anti-German vote came from supporters of these parties, we are able to see that the pro-German vote had gained 44% (i.e. 53 - 9) before a single Centre Party supporter's vote had been counted. This means that the bishops would have had to persuade 41 out of every 47 traditional Centre supporters to vote against Germany in order to prevent re-union. This would have been an impossible task.

3. Knowing that any statement of theirs would not make any difference to the result, the only purpose in urging an anti-German vote would have been to make a symbolic gesture. It would have been against a Government showing signs, whether hypocritically or not, of moderating its revolutionary, fervour. To make this gesture would have present Hitler with a great propaganda prize for its future war against the Church, and done nothing to prevent an extension of the area under Nazi control


The Nazis made great efforts to convince those outside Germany that Hitler had the support of the churches. They were aided by the Communists,  wishing to discredit the churches by spreading the same myth. So it is relevant to consider the role of the Communist party at that time.

Marxists had seized power following a naval mutiny at Kiel on 30th October 1918. The Kaiser abdicated on November 9th, and the Congress of Workers' Councils met in Berlin on December 16th. The majority wished to promote Democratic Socialism rather than establish a dictatorship, so the extremists formed themselves into the Communist Party. In January 1919 they attempted to overthrow the new government but were unsuccessful. For ten years the Socialists as the largest party formed coalition governments with the Centre and Liberals. Very difficult economic problems were brought under control, until the worldwide financial collapse in 1929 led to massive unemployment.

To understand Communist policy it is necessary to understand their long-term strategy. Their first priority was to destroy the Socialist party in order to gain the undivided leadership of the industrial workers. At the same time they aimed to prevent parliamentary democracy solving the problems of the poor. If unemployment and poverty were cured, class hatred would diminish and the opportunity lost to engineer a revolution. If they caused a loss of confidence in the democratic process they expected there would be a drift towards a right-wing authoritarian nationalist government. In time such a government would become oppressive and unpopular and, in the absence of a strong Socialist party, the Communists would lead the working class (allied with a wide section of anti-authoritarian middle-class society) in a revolution. As the leaders of such a revolution they would be able to establish a Communist dictatorship.

So, while the Nazis were becoming a powerful force, the Communists considered the destruction of the Socialist Party their first priority. In 1928 at the 6th Congress of the Comintern (the international body co-ordinating world Communism), it was stated that social democracy and fascism were two weapons of the bourgeoisie: the first was used to demoralise the working class from within, the second to strike it from without. The party invented the expression 'Social Fascism' to describe the Socialists. In April 1931, the Communist Party urged its supporters to vote in favour of a Nazi and Nationalist initiated referendum in Prussia. This referendum aimed to dismiss the Socialist-Centre coalition in the local parliament and so end democracy. The referendum failed and the coalition ruled successfully from 1920-1932 ((WC 267)).

In the July 1932 national elections the Communists gained 12, and the Nazis 125, additional seats. The Communists considered this to be a triumph because the Socialists and other democrats lost heavily, thereby bringing civil war and revolution closer. In October of the same year, they supported a Nazi led transport strike in Berlin aimed to weaken the government. They co-operated with the Nazis in the streets.

But their greatest impact was to make the Socialists fear losing support to the Communists. This fear led them to refusing to join coalition governments in the Reichstag after 1929. Muller the Socialist leader and his two chief colleagues, were willing to compromise with the Centre party so as to preserve democracy ((GAC 532)). But Communist influences within the Trade Unions prevented this ((JRPM 210)). So the largest party supporting democracy was prevented from sharing governmental power from 1929-1933. With the small Centre party attempting to rule on its own with the aid of Presidential decrees, democracy came to be viewed as ineffective and farcical. This paved the way for the widespread desire for a strong leader - 'A Fuehrer'.

On the 1st April 1933, immediately after Hitler's victory, the Comintern's official organ 'Rundschau' declared:

'The momentary calm after the victory of Fascism is only a passing phenomenon. The resistance of the masses against fascism will inevitably increase. The open dictatorship of fascism destroys all democratic illusions, frees the masses from the influence of the social democrats, and thus accelerates the speed of Germany's march towards proletarian revolution'.

During 1933, public speeches and newspaper articles in the Soviet Union stressed the desire for friendly relations with Germany. The Soviet Union could see advantages in encouraging Hitler to be hostile towards France and Britain. At the time these articles were appearing in the Russian press, Communists and their anti-Catholic supporters in Britain were helping the Nazis to establish the myth that the Catholic Church was a supporter of Hitler.

This chapter has been based on Chapters 3, 5 and 9 of 'The Pattern of Communist Revolution' by Hugh Seton-Watson, published by Methuen.


The impression is often given that Catholics and Jews in Germany were antagonistic towards one another. The Jews, it is said, were nearly all Communists, and the majority of Catholics were anti-Semitic. These myths are not supported by an examination of the evidence.

During the half century prior to the 1914-18 war, there was a wide-spread loss of faith in Jewish belief and practice. In this vacuum, large numbers of idealists among Jewish young intellectuals embraced atheist Marxism. Immediately after the war, the Jewish German intellectual world became publicly identified with Marxism, in both its democratic socialist, and its revolutionary forms. 237 out of the 240 members of the socialist students group at Frankfurt-am-Main University were Jews. 25% of the socialist students at Heidelberg University were Jews, as were 50% at Berlin ((DLN 30))

In November 1918, Berlin born Kurt Eisner, an extreme independent Socialist, established a revolutionary Socialist Republic in Munich ((GAC 400-1)). In January the following year, the democratic Socialists regained control but by April anarchists were ruling the city, with the official government operating from Bamberg.

Later that month Communists led by Russian born Eugen Levin ((GAC 41)), seized power, establishing a Soviet Republic and forming a Red Army. None of the leaders of these three revolutionary groups were Bavarian born ((EH 29)). The leaders of these three extremist groups were Eisner, Landauer, Muhsom, Jaffe, Levin, Toler and Axelrod. All were Jews ((EH 29)).

However, away from the intellectual world things were different. Most 'working ­class' Jews gave their support to the Socialists, but probably in no higher proportion than the Protestants.  As the Nationalist and Conservative parties tolerated a high degree of anti-Semitism, the great majority of `middle-class` Jews supported the Liberals ((DLN 72)). During the mid-1920s,  10  % of Liberal voters were Jews ((EH 13)).

A few practising Catholics were drawn to the German Workers' Party (DAP), when it was first founded. This party later became the Nazi party. But by the mid-1920s, as the precise policies of the Nazis became clearer, even this little support ebbed away. 'It is doubtful if many devout Catholics were in the Nazi Party when it was re-founded in 1925'. ((GP 147)).

The Catholic Centre Party embraced a very wide range of economic and political interests. Protestants and Jews were eligible to join from its very beginning ((EBW 27)), and it received some Jewish votes ((EH 29)). The degree and quality of Catholic support for the Centre Party varied greatly. In northern Germany the Catholic minority saw it as the protector of its rights, and as a means of evangelisation. There the party was radical and in 1924 received the support of three-quarters of baptised Catholics ((GP 158)).

In Bavaria, Catholics didn't feel the same threat to their schools and principles. Economic, social and local issues assumed a greater importance in motivating voting patterns. For many Catholics, especially those not religious, these induced them to support other parties. The Centre in Bavaria only obtained just over half the Catholic vote ((GP 158)). But at the same time the party was the unassailable 'establishment' in many villages and small towns. This attracted activists who pragmatically chose it as the best vehicle for a political career. Their motivation could be that of conservatism, Bavarian autonomy or a sectional or personal interest. Such people could rise in the Bavarian wing of the party yet express views, which did not represent the purest of Catholic religious opinion.

Revolutionary turmoil caused the Bavarians to feel very insecure. Many saw the armed Freecorps attached to the nationalist Volkischer groups, as being more effective in restoring order than the pacific Centre Party leaders.

In northern Germany the Centre was co-operating with the Socialists so as to preserve democracy, but for Bavarians socialism appeared to be the immediate danger. The Centre in Bavaria found it difficult to present itself as a bulwark against 'socialism' when it was part of a coalition with the Socialist party in the Reichstag.

So the Bavarian section of the party broke away to create the Bavarian Peoples' Party (BVP). While retaining its Catholic outlook, it formed local coalitions with conservative rather than liberal or socialist parties.

A strand of racist anti-Semitism existed in Bavarian society mainly manifesting itself in the volkischer movement. So volkischer anti-­Semitism and militancy provided a challenge to the Centre Party in Bavaria. But some anti-Semitism rubbed off onto individual BVP members. Others opposed any anti-Semitism based on race or religion, but admitted that many of the intellectual authors, poets and philosophers, undermining Christian moral values, were Jews. They  distinguish their antagonism towards the aggressively anti-Christian Jewish intellectuals, from enmity towards Jews because of  race or religion. It has been suggested that two early BVP statements were anti-Semitic. But they need to be read within the context of the events taking place at the time.

A pronouncement in December 1918, following Eisner's seizure of power, read:­

'The Bavarian Peoples' Party knows no difference between Bavarians of the Jewish faith and Germans and Bavarians of the Christian faith . . . for the Bavarian Peoples' Party membership of a race plays no role either . . .What must be fought are the numerous atheistic elements of a certain international Jewry with predominantly Russian colouring.' ((EH 27)).

A statement in the following April, while Munich was controlled by Anarchists and Communists, said-:

'The Bavarian Peoples' Party decisively rejects all violations of the entity of the people by a terroristic minority, led by elements alien in origin and race, and demands that there should at last be an end to the agitation among wide circles of the population on the part of foreign, politicising Jews.' ((EH 27)).

If the revolutionary leaders had been French immigrants, the  attitude towards these `terroristic and politicising` foreigners would have been just as hostile.

While this antagonism was being shown towards revolutionary foreign Jewish politicians, local Rabbis were continuing to support the BVP ((EH 30)). They knew that the BVP was their main defence against the anti-Semites ((EH 30)). Also they knew that the atheist Jewish intellectuals and revolutionaries aimed to destroy all religious beliefs including those of Judaism and represented the views of very few within the Jewish community.

Hitler, writing of this period, sneeringly accused the BVP of begging for Jewish votes at elections ((AH 278)). When the threat of revolution receded the BVP reunited with the Centre Party at national (Reichstag) level.

The huge majority of Jews were irreligious and unconcerned at Liberal and Socialist opposition to religious schools and Jewish traditional morality. Orthodox (i.e. religious) Jews were struggling to preserve their schools and Jewish family life. Non-religious Jews had tried to close the Jewish schools in Berlin ((DLN 113)).  Religious Jews were sympathetic to the Centre Partyand the widely read orthodox: 'Israelitisches Familienblatt' frequently supported the Centre in its editorials. This was especially true in the elections of May and November 1932 and in February 1933 ((DLN 28)). 'Der Israelit' traditionally supported the DVP, but after 1932 recommended the Socialists and the Centre equally ((DLN 29)). 'Judische Rundschau', the Zionist paper, also had kind words for the Centre ((DLN 28-9))

Until 1928 about 60% of Jews voted for the Liberals (DDP) and 30% for the Socialists ((EH 48 and 66). But when in July 1930 the DDP merged with an anti-Semitic group to form the 'States Party' ((EH 58 and DLN 73)), the DDP's Jewish supporters looked for a new home. In September 1930 the Centre nominated a leading Zionist as a candidate for the Reichstag ((DLN 28-9)). His position on the list gave him little chance of election, but at a time when all other parties, apart from the Socialist, were trying to distance themselves from the Jewish Community, it was a symbolic gesture of solidarity and emphasised the party's rejection of anti-Semitism. Another Zionist led the, 'Organization of Jewish Centre Party voters' ((DLN 29)). The Nazi Party claimed that: 'it was more Christian than the Centre Party because the Centre had Jewish candidates ((GP 164)). Researchers agree that in the last years before Hitler gained power, 90% of the Jewish vote went to the Socialists and the Centre ((EH 55)).

It is not clear in what proportion the Jewish vote split between the two parties. A Socialist writer considers that the Centre received less than 20% of the Jewish vote ((AP 59)), while another suggests that 60% voted Socialist and 30% Centre, thereby electing one Centre and two Socialist MPs, the remaining votes being distributed across the whole range from Communist to the DNVP ((EH 62 and 66)). Two other commentators assert that nearly all 'middle class' Jews switched to the Centre ((EH 55)), while another suggests that the Centre became a haven 'possibly for the majority of Jewish voters' ((DLN 72)).

There is no way of estimating how many votes the Centre and the Socialists lost due to their refusal to embrace anti-Semitism.

When the German Communist Party was established in 1919, seven out of 99 founding members were Jewish, as were 4 of the 11 man central committee and 10% of its Representatives in the 1920s ((EH 43-44)). But at lower party levels, numbers were insignificant, and few Jews voted Communist ((EH 44-47)). By 1932 not one Jew was amongst their 89 Representatives in the Reichstag, or the 57 in the Prussian parliament, or in other state parliaments. Not one Jew was included in the 500 candidates for public office ((EH 46)). The Centralverein, which fought anti-Semitism and advised Jews how to vote, gave its main aid to the Centre and the Democratic Socialist party. It not only excluded the DNVP and Nazis from their approved list, but the Communists also. ((DLN 88)).

Nazi propaganda aimed to assure those outside Germany that Hitler had the support of German religious opinion for his anti-Semitism. The Communists, frequently called 'Bolsheviks' by their enemies, preached the same message so as to discredit the churches. This combination produced a 'German anti-Semitic Catholic versus Bolshevik German Jew myth`. But in 1932 and 1933, any 'Catholic' M.P. or candidate who accepted the Nazi philosophy was refused the sacraments, and not one Jew was a Communist candidate or Representative in the Reichstag or a state parliament. This is an example of the difference between a politically motivated myth and historic reality.


In showing the Catholic opposition to the growth of Nazism, this publication has referred to areas in Germany by using the traditional terms of 'Protestant' and 'Catholic'. It is therefore relevant to survey the relationship between the Protestant Church and Nazism. All but 150,000 of Germany's Protestants belonged to the Lutheran church, and Luther's teachings still exerted a great influence on politics at the end of the 1914-18 war ((WLS 236)). As well as hating the Catholic Church, Martin Luther was 'a passionate anti-Semite, and a ferocious believer in absolute obedience to political authority'. ((WLS 236-7)).

Luther was also a strident German nationalist. Most religious Protestants supported the. Nationalist party (DNVP), which was antagonistic to Catholics, Jews, marxists and democracy. Others voted for the conservative parties, which maintained similar though less aggressive attitudes.

Many of the areas considered as Protestant could with more accuracy have been described as non-religious. It was amongst this large non-religious segment of the population that Socialism, Communism and Nazism grew.

In Hitler's early days, it was the non-religious in Bavaria and beyond, who provided him with their support. For many, being Protestant meant little more than not being Catholic or Jewish. At the same time, Communists and Socialists openly proclaimed their intention of establishing an atheist state, one by revolution, the other by democratic means. In Berlin, the policies of these marxist parties were already being felt. During the 1920s religious services, even at Christmas, were prohibited in hospitals if just one patient in a large ward objected. A patient wishing to receive Communion in privacy had to go to the bathroom. ((OD 125)).

Many pastors felt that democracy could not last, and that civil war would lead to a marxist anti-religious dictatorship. As the nationalist and conservative parties did not attract much 'working-class' support, they were seen as being too weak to stop this. The Nazis were authoritarian, anti-democratic, nationalistic and hostile to Catholics, Jews and marxists. At first, because of these aspects and Nazi rowdyism, many religious Protestants refused to support them. But as they were able to attract millions of votes from all classes, they came to be seen as the most effective protectors of church and liberty. Nazi election literature said nothing about dictatorship, pagan morality, war, concentration camps, or selective breeding. The party called for a spiritual revival and proclaimed the importance of the Christian churches in promoting family life, peace and public decency.

Hitler strictly forbade direct attacks on Catholic or Protestant doctrines, and claimed that disputes with Catholic bishops were due to their interference in political affairs. Nazi propaganda could be very subtle. For example, the story was spread that Hitler always carried copy of the New Testament in his pocket and that he read Bible verses and stanzas from a hymnal every morning. This kind of thing was generally believed at the time ((OD 136)). During the two years prior to Hitler gaining power the great majority of young Protestant seminarians openly supported him ((EB 157)). Half the ordinands were followers of Hitler ((EB 157)).

'During the Reichstag elections . . . the Protestant clergy quite openly supported the Nationalist, and even the Nazi enemies of the Republic'. And later, ' . . . most of the pastors welcomed the advent of Adolf Hitler to the Chancellorship in 1933'.  ((WLS 237)).

Like the Catholic bishops, some Protestant leaders warned that Hitler's electoral promises were a smoke-screen to hide his pagan aims, but few listened to them.

After 1924, a few Protestant candidates, supporting democracy and social reform, had stood in some towns. And in 1929 the 'Christian Social Party' was formed. ((AM 106)), but it gained few votes.

Anti-Nazi Protestants faced another serious difficulty. Hitler's movement was not merely a political party, but a new way of life based on pagan principles. While most Nazis were capturing the state, a small group calling themselves 'German-Christians'  were working to capture the heart and structure of the Church. They used Christian words and ideals to cloak their real pagan aim, which was to make the church 'The spiritual sword of the Fuehrer.' ((OD 138)).

There were 28 separate Lutheran churches within a loose federal structure  ((EB 204)), with Synods elected by church members in the parishes. Although any baptised Protestant could vote, normally only the committed took an interest. The need was widely felt for a more centralised organisation with a Reich Bishop, authorised to speak on behalf of all Lutherans. The German-Christians, utilising, this desire, fought a campaign to win control of the synods. The Nazi SA machinery was mobilised to support their candidates ((OD 139)). Ordinary parishioners were completely unprepared for this onslaught and the German-Christians, in November 1932, gained one third of the Synod vote in Prussia ((OD 139)).

So during the vital period when Hitler was reaching for power the much of the clergy supported him as a political leader and failed to grasp his real aims. At the same time the pagan infiltration prevented the more farsighted clergy from leading the church into providing firm Christian leadership.

The German-Christians, with others, now establishing one church to replace the federation ((OD 140)), and this church was formed in July 1933, after Hitler had achieved power. The German-Christians nominated Ludwig Muller as first Reich bishop. He was Hitler's advisor on church affairs ((OD 141)), an army chaplain, of no theological formation, with little inclination for work and accustomed to move in 'influential circles' ((OD 140-1)). The Nazi party paid for his election campaign expenses ((0D 141)). When Friedrich von Bodelschwingh, a true Christian, was elected, Muller went on the radio to announce that, "a ruthless struggle of the German Christians against the Reich bishop had begun". ((OD 143)).

 Hitler's commissioner replaced many church leaders with German-Christians ((OD 144)). But President Hindenburg protested and the church appealed to the Courts. Hitler did not wish to offend the President and had not consolidated his grip on the Courts, so the appointments were rescinded.

Although the state had no right to interfere, fresh elections were then ordered ((OD 145)). 'SA men streamed from the party offices to register as voters and then to vote'. ((OD 145)). Hitler made a radio campaign speech  ((WDZ 44)) and the ballot was rigged to produce a German-Christian victory ((OD 145-6)). German-Christians were placed in key positions ((OD 146)) and it was these 'Church leaders' who proclaimed uncritical 'Protestant' loyalty and devotion to Hitler. It was these who identified the Protestant church so closely with the regime. Muller was made Reich bishop in September 1933 ((BH 814)) ait was he who merged the 700,000-strong Evangelical Youth Organisation with the Nazi Youth ((WDZ 57)). 3,000 out of 17,000 pastors had joined the 'German-Christians', and about the same number had opposed them ((WLS 235-6)).

On November 13th 1933, the German-Christians organised a big rally at which they showed themselves in their true pagan colours. The principal speaker thundered against the "cattle drover and pimp stories of the Old Testament." He repeated the epithets spawned by Alfred Rosenberg in his 'Myth of the Twentieth Century'. All. "offspring of the Jews" were to be excluded from pulpits ((OD 147)). The Nazi threat was now plain to see and, 'A wave of indignation swept through the church'. ((0D 147)). Hitler was now securely in power so was not interested in giving them further aid. The German-Christian movement withered as quickly as it had grown ((OD 147)). However, many of its members retained their positions and kept the church under strict state control ((OD 147)). In May 1934 Martin Niemoller, who had 'welcomed the coming to power of the Nazis,' ((WLS 235)), was disillusioned and became the leader of the anti-pagan 'Confessing Church', and from 1938 spent seven years in a concentration camp ((WLS 238)).


Reference books contain many items which at first reading imply Catholic support for Nazism. Frequently the information itself is correct but, being incomplete, provides a distorted picture. It is not possible to examine all of these but a few examples will illustrate the need for care when reading.

1. JULIUS STREICHER is listed in many reference books as having come from a `devout' Catholic family. Following some years as a teacher he founded 'Der Sturmer', the leading anti-Semitic journal in Germany. At his trial in 1945, he claimed that he had merely repeated the anti-Jewish statements made by churchmen in the Middle Ages.

From such an outline of his life, the impression could be gained that Streicher was at heart a loyal Catholic and that his anti­Semitism had its roots in his Catholic upbringing. But when his life is seen in greater detail a very different picture emerges.

At the age of nineteen, Streicher became a substitute schoolmaster and taught in six Bavarian villages during 1904. He clashed with the clergy, and eventually a priest made a formal complaint about him to Streicher's municipal superiors ((RLB 3)). In 1908, following service as a volunteer in the army, he was given a teaching post in a large town where supervision by the clergy would be less direct ((RLB 3)). This indicates that his enmity was against the Church rather than towards an individual priest. It also indicates that his attitude was so well known that it had to be considered when finding him a teaching position. Within a year he was in trouble again for throwing a priest out of a classroom ((RLB 3)). Streicher later became known as a practising homosexual and pornographer, so his lifestyle would have been the source of his conflicts with the clergy regarding his suitability to teach children.

The administrator of the schools in the Protestant town of Nuremberg was   anti-religious and, when he heard of Streicher's difficulties, offered him a job there ((RLB 3)). He was now freer to publicise and spread his ideas. He joined the Democratic Party  which aimed to eliminate religion from the schools ((RLB 4)). While being viciously anti-Catholic during these years, he was only mildly anti-Semitic. But in 1919 he also turned radically against the Jews ((RLB 8)). He established the 'Deutsche Sozialist' in January 1920 and its first issue attacked the Jesuits and Jews ((RLB 10)).

The paper became the Nazi organ for Nuremberg ((RLB 17)), so in 1923 he founded 'Der Sturmer' ((RLB 19)). Streicher had many mistresses and was known to be sadistic. His paper gave prominence to pornography and homosexuality ((RLB 49 and 53)). He compared Christian sacraments to alleged Jewish ritual murders ((RLB 62)). He printed that Christ's mother was a whore and Christ was born on a dung heap ((RLB 113)). In 'Der Sturmer', he repeatedly attacked priests and the Catholic Church ((GP 24 and 147)). The crudest attacks on the Catholic Church were reserved for the pages of 'Der Sturmer' ((GP 149)). He printed such obscene anti-Catholic stories and cartoons that Catholics held a public protest meeting in November 1925 ((GP 149)). When, after the war, he was in Court and fighting to avoid the death penalty, he claimed that he was merely following the ideas of medieval clergymen. The judges didn't believe this desperate attempt to 'justify' his views.

Julius Streicher 'saw Catholicism and Christianity itself, as products of Jewish legalism alien to German racial experience and himself professed a kind of vague German mysticism. . . . He disliked urban civilisation, was devoted to the German landscape and wrote articles in favour of herbalism and Nordic fairy-tails'. ((AN 133)).

The fact that Streicher was baptised a Catholic and that he and 'Der Sturmer' were violently anti-Semitic are invariably mentioned in reference books. Yet the further information that he was also fanatically anti-Catholic, and over a longer period of time is omitted. It may be asked: Why?

2. REINHARD HEYDRICH is sometimes listed as a Catholic. He was, under Himmler, responsible for developing the Gestapo and a key person in planning the transportation of European Jewry to concentration camps ((CM 41)). People are puzzled as to how he could reconcile his religious beliefs with such actions. Some speculate that he considered his actions necessary to protect Christianity from Communism. The facts of his life are, however, more instructive than such speculation.

Heydrich was born in 1904 ((CM 5)) of a mother was a practising Catholic ((CM 3)). His father, Bruno, never took his religion seriously and preferred a secular philosophy based on racism and struggle ((CM 7)). He was a strong proponent of Volkischer ideology and a fervent admirer of Wagner. He had studied music under Wagner's wife for a brief period during 1890 ((CM 7)). Bruno drew his ideological inspiration from the works of Houston Stewart Chamberlain and it was this anti-Christian philosophy that he inculcated into his children ((CM 7-8)).

Reinhard accepted his father's Volkischer ideology completely, and didn't make any pretence of following his mother's Catholicism ((CM 9)). At the age of fifteen he joined an extremist Freikorps group and other violently nationalist and anti-Semitic organisations. These groups were also bitterly anti Catholic. Reinhard displayed the Swastika symbol on his bedroom wall, with the slogan 'We are Lords of the Earth'. (For more details of Volkischer beliefs and those of Chamberlain, see CIHIC Publication 'The Anti-Christian Roots of Nazism').

In 1931 he became a member of Himmler's SS and soon afterwards was married in a Protestant church by a Nazi pastor. The church was decorated with a swastika and the organ played an anti-Semitic marching song ((CM 18)). He rose quickly to be a leader in the SS. 'One target of the SS was organised religion and in particular the Roman Catholic Church.' ((CM 30)). Himmler saw Catholic allegiance to Rome as an ideological challenge to the SS Aryan Order, and regarded its influence on youth as pernicious. 'Heydrich pursued the SS vendetta against the Church with relentless venom.' ((CM 30)). Although Heydrich wasn't absorbed like Himmler, in archaic Teutonic mysticism, 'He . . . despised Christianity as the religion of the weak . . .' ((CM 30)).

Heydrich attempted to discredit the Catholic clergy by engineering a series of 'Show trials' based on accusations of currency smuggling and sexual misconduct by priests and nuns ((CM 31)). These attacks on the clergy led to a break with his mother, who remained a Catholic. She was never reconciled with her son ((C M 31)). He planned to send his own men into seminaries to train as priests in order to obtain positions from which to destroy the church. Hitler gave orders that the final reckoning with Christianity was to be postponed until after the war, so Heydrich's plan was not implemented ((CM 31)).

Once these facts are known, any apparent scandal in the actions of a `Catholic`, disappears.

3. PAUL GOEBBELS from Northern Germany had been brought up as a Catholic, but in 1932 by marrying in a Protestant church excommunicated himself  ((EB 173)).

4. VON RIBBENTROP, Ambassador in London in 1937, became German Foreign Minister in 1938. As a Catholic, it is said, he was in a good position to influence the Pope to come to an accommodation with Hitler. In actual fact he officially publicly apostatised from the Church in March 1937 ((C B C 230)).

5. OVER 43% of the population of Germany, following the absorption of Austria and the Sudetenland, was traditionally Catholic. It is therefore not surprising that many Nazis had been baptised as Catholics when babies. To label them 'Catholic Nazis' as if they accepted both beliefs, is a deliberate attempt to confuse and deceive.

6. A FEW PRO-NAZI PRIESTS are quoted in some history books as if they typified the German priesthood and as if their bishops condoned their actions. 'Catholic priests were an extreme rarity in the party.' ((GP 169 and 178)). The Nazis gave great publicity to the few who did exist In 1932 the bishops found it necessary to isolate about ten priests because of their views ((KG 14-15)). This was out of the 23,000 priests in Germany at that time ((HPR 31)).

The most widely advertised pro-Nazi priests were Phillipp Haeuser, prohibited by his bishop in early 1931 from speaking at NSDAP meetings ((GP 170)), the eccentric Abbot Schachleiter O.S.B., who had to be restricted, and Hermann Muchermann S.J. (not to be confused with Friedrich Muchermann S.J.). This Jesuit was isolated in 1931 ((KG 15)), but continued to support Nazi ideology secretly. How far he had rebelled against Catholic beliefs may be gauged from a private talk he gave on October 30th 1934 to the English Eugenic Society. The Society described him as 'a devout Catholic' and praised him for his advocacy of sterilisation. His talk was entitled 'The Eugenic Movement in Germany'. The Eugenic Review quoted him as saying "I should be happy if the acceleration given to the eugenic movement in Germany, by legislative measures, might greatly assist the growth of the eugenic movement and of eugenic ideas in England." ((ST 120)).

A 'retired priest', Ludwig Munchmeyer, attracted large crowds for Nazi public meetings, at first causing great embarrassment to the Catholic authorities. Later it was, discovered that he was not a Catholic but a former Lutheran minister expelled from that Church in 1926 for slander, (((GP 88-89)). The Nazis spread rumours that many priests were secret members of their party ((GP 178-179)).

7. A CATHOLIC PRIEST, it has been claimed, helped Hitler to write 'Mein Kampf', thereby showing a Catholic involvement with early Nazism. Hitler was not a good writer, and three people are known to have corrected his grammar, pruned his verbosity and eliminated some politically objectionable passages ((WLS 85)). One of these was Bernhard Stempfle, an anti-Semitic journalist ((GP 250)) who is said to have been a former priest ((WS 85)). The earliest mention of him is in a biography of Hitler by Konrad Heiden, published in 1936. Here his Christian name was given as 'Rudolf' ((KH 206)). The author claimed that Stempfle had been a member of the Hieronymite Order.

But this Order was suppressed, apart from the branches in Spain and Italy, in 1835 ((MEPL 13)). As it seems very unlikely that Stempfle lived to Italy or Spain, his membership is brought into question. Many of those involved in Volkscher mysticism claimed to be associates with suppressed 'Orders'  which allegedly were continuing to exist secretly and preserving secret occult knowledge. It is possible that Stempfle's 'priesthood' existed only in his own mind. As the Italian and Spanish monasteries died out in 1953 ((MFPL 3 and GB Vol. 5, 437)) the search for relevant archival material would be too time consuming for CIHIC. So at this stage it is not possible to say whether Stempfle left some Order or was expelled or whether he was ever a member. For him to have assisted with 'Mein Kampf' would show that his beliefs had little in common with Catholicism.

8. An attempt to try to minimize the Catholic resistance to Hitler, is noticed when it is stated that only five and a half million, out of 12 million Catholics, voted against him in 1933. This is a deceptive argument. The Catholic parties obtained five and a half million votes, which was in general terms their normal vote. The other six million had been traditionally given to non-Catholic parties such as Socialist, Communist, Liberal and Conservative. Many of these would have continued to do so in 1933. So, whilst it is true that six million baptised Catholics did not vote for the Catholic parties in 1933, it does not follow that they voted for Hitler.

9.  It needs to be borne in mind that not only did the Nazi propaganda agencies depict Nazism as the protector of Christianity from Communism, but that the Communists encouraged the spread of such Nazi falsehoods in order to assist its own war on religion. English reference books have not yet freed themselves from this combined distortion of history.


1. EXCERPTS FROM 'GREAT CONTEMPORARIES' by WINSTON CHURCHILL" Written in 1935, published in 1937


“It is not possible to form a just judgement of a public figure who has attained the enormous dimensions of Adolf Hitler until his life work as a whole is before us. Although no subsequent political - action can condone wrong deeds, history replete with examples of men; who have risen to power by employing stern, grim, and even frightful methods but who, nevertheless, when their life is revealed as whole, have been regarded as great figures whose lives have enriched the story of mankind. So may it be with Hitler.

Such a final view is not vouchsafed to us today. We cannot tell whether Hitler will be the man who will once again let loose upon the world another war in which civilisation will irretrievably succumb, or whether he will go down in history as the man who restored honoured-peace of mind to the great Germanic nation and brought it back serene, helpful and strong, to the forefront of the European family circle. It is on this mystery of the future that history will pronounce. It is enough to say that both possibilities are open at the present moment. If, because the story is unfinished, because, indeed, its most fateful chapters have yet to be written, we are forced to dwell upon the darker side of his work and creed, we must never forget nor cease to hope for the bright alternative.

Adolf Hitler was the child of the rage and grief of a mighty empire and race which had suffered overwhelming defeat in war. He it was who exorcized the spirit of despair from the German mind by substituting the not less baleful but far less morbid spirit of revenge. When the terrible German armies, which had held half Europe in their grip, recoiled on every front, and sought armistice from those upon whose lands even then they still stood as invaders, when the pride and will power of the Prussian race broke into surrender and revolution behind the fighting lines; when that Imperial government, which had been for more than fifty fearful months the terror of almost all nations, collapsed ignominiously, leaving its loyal faithful subjects defenceless and disarmed before the wrath of the sorely-wounded, victorious Allies; then it was that one corporal, a former Austrian house-painter, set out to regain all."

A PARAGRAPH LISTING HITLER'S ACHIEVEMENTS ENDS, "These exploits are certainly among the most remarkable in the whole history of the world".

LATER WE READ, "While all these formidable transformations were occurring in Europe, Corporal Hitler was fighting his long, wearing battle for the German heart. The story of that struggle cannot be read without admiration for the courage, the perseverance and the vital force which enabled him to challenge, defy, conciliate, or overcome, all the authorities or resistances which barred his path".

AND AGAIN, "Does he . . . at the head of the great nation he has raised from the dust, still feel racked by the hatreds . . . of his desperate struggle, or will they be discarded . . . under the mellowing influences of success?  . . . Those who have met Herr Hitler face to face in public business or on social terms have found a highly competent, cool, well-informed functionary with an agreeable manner, a disarming smile, and few have been unaffected by a subtle personal magnetism."

 2. EXCERPTS FROM 'THE REAL LLOYD GEORGE' by A.J.SYLVESTER (His private secretary) and published by                 Cassell and Co., London, 1947

[Lloyd George is accepted as the greatest leader of the British Liberal Party].

Before he met Hitler, LLoyd George said, "In my view, it is most fortune thing for Germany that she has found such a leader as Hitler. I am looking forward to meeting him ... There is no doubt that Hitler, as far as Germany is concerned, is the resurrection and the life". After his meeting he said: "He is indeed a great man. ... Fuehrer is the proper name for him, for he is a born leader ... yes, a statesman". Next morning he said: "One of the things about him which I like, is his directness in his conversation.". At his second meeting, Hitler handed L.G. a signed photograph of himself in a handsome frame. Lloyd George jumped from his chair, grasped Hitler by the hand and thanked him profusely for the gift.  L.G. asked if Hitler would mind if he placed Hitler's picture on his desk with those of the great  war leaders; Foch, Clemenceau, President Wilson and others. Hitler replied, "I should raise no objection to that, but I would object very much if you put it by the, side of such men as Erzberger and Bauer". Later L. G. said, "A strong Leader is a guarantee of peace." Hitler nodded enthusiastically and replied, "Ja, Ja, Ja."

Speaking to Ribbentrop, L.G. said, "ah, 'Mein Kampf' is a 'Magna Charta' " At dinner amongst his friends L.G. explained that when the earth passed through the tail of the comet it came into contact with a gas which, when it came into the atmosphere of the earth, made everybody doubly happy, feel more kindly and more well disposed. "Upon my oath, I am not at all sure that Hitler has not been the comet in Germany".  L.G. told two German Baptist leaders, "In my view Hitler was a Divine gift to you".  Although he added that he did not like Hitler's attack on the Jews.

On returning home he wrote to Von Ribbentrop and said that he thought Hitler was the greatest man Germany had produced since Frederick the Great.

In an article in the 'Daily Express' of September 17th 1936,  L.G. wrote "He [Hitler] is the George Washington of Germany”. ... "He is a born leader of men. A magnetic, dynamic personality with a single-minded purpose . ... He has made them safe against political enemies ... The old trust him. The young idolise him”.

3. Richard Lloyd George, writing about his father in 'Lloyd George', published by Frederick Miller, London, 1960, wrote: "He tried to convince me that we had misjudged the Fuehrer, who wanted nothing except to make Germany prosperous and the world safe from Bolshevism".

4. Herr Popp let Hitler a room in Munich during 1913 and 1914. He and Frau Popp called him, "the Austrian charmer," and later added, "You couldn't tell what he was thinking." ((HAH 58).

COMMENT:  Considering these views, it is not surprising that although the German bishops had excommunicated Hitler, they hoped he would not try to implement all his evil plans. No one found it easy to decide how to handle Hitler, and words had to be chosen carefully so as not to provoke him to adopt even more extreme positions.


1. As soon as the Nazi party became a significant force, the Bishops firmly condemned its philosophy and repeatedly urged Catholics to vote against it.

2. The Catholic Centre party, with the aid of the Catholic Bavarian party did more than any other to try to save the democratic form of government.

3. The Nazi vote in Catholic areas was much lower than in the rest of Germany.

4. Hitler possessed dictatorial powers before the Enabling Act was passed. The Centre party, in common with the Conservative and. Liberal parties, voted for this Act due to fear of personal physical violence and the hopelessness of resistance, not due to sympathy with the Nazis, who were their bitter enemies.

5. The legal and very popular Government of Germany offered a Concordat promising religious freedom and peace. Although the Pope did not trust Hitler there was nothing objectionable in its wording. To refuse to sign would have meant the ensuing war with pagan Nazism being fought over the right of priests to be active in illegal political parties, when over two-thirds of German voters didn't want a multiparty system of government.

6. The Concordat did not agree to the dissolving of the Catholic parties and trade unions. They, together with all other parties, had been suppressed or dissolved by government action before the Concordat was signed.

7. Hitler did obtain some international prestige from Germany signing the Concordat with the Church. But it was not the first or only international recognition that Hitler was the legal ruler of Germany.

8. Franz Von Papen was not at all typical of Catholic opinion nor a Centre party leader. Although opposed to the pagan aims and actions of Nazism, his misjudgements enabled the Nazis to make use of him.

9. Immediately after Hitler was voted into power, some Catholics genuinely accepted Hitler's pledges. Others expressed their loyalty to the new one party state and praised those aims which were good, so as to encourage a moderating trend, and allow time for Hitler to honour his promises. This period lasted a few months, and was much shorter than the years of hope and trust allowed by leading British politicians of all parties.

10. The Nazi government was persecuting the Church between 1933 and 1937, and this increased after the publication of the Encyclical, 'Mit Brennender Sorge'. This strong condemnation of the whole Nazi creed, warned the world that Hitler's promises were valueless. The world closed its ears to the sufferings of Christians in Germany, so Hitler's version of what was happening came, with Communist assistance, to dominate much of the media. From this grew the myth of Catholic sympathy for Nazism.

(Page numbers in main text)

AH    Mein Kampf, by Adolf Hitler; translated by Ralph Manheim, 1974

AJS   The Real Lloyd George, by A. J. Sylvester, 1947

AM    Wahler and Wahien in der Weimarer Republik, by A. Milatz, 1968

AN    Germany and the Triumph of Hitler by Anthony Nicholls, 1971

AP     The Jews in Nazi Germany, by Arnold Paucker, 1986

AR    The Vatican in the Age of the Dictators, by Anthony Rhodes, 1973      

BH    Bertelsmann Handlexicon, Berlin, 1975

BS      Akten Deutscher Bischofe Uber Die Lage Der Kirche 1933-1945 by                  Bernhard Stasiewski, 1968

CBC   Persecution of the Church in the Third Reich, Catholic Book Club, 1942

CM    Killing of Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich, C. MacDonald, 1989

DC    Germany since 1918, by David Childs, 1971

DH    The Papacy in the Modern World, by Derek, Holmes, 1981

DJD   Article by D. J. Dietrich in Hispania Sacra 42 (1991).

DLN  The Jews in Weimar Germany, by Donald L. Niewyk, 1980

DT     England in the 20th Century, by David Thomson, 1981

EB     Dietrich Bonhoeffer, by Eberhard Bethge, 1970

EBW  Prelude to Calamity, by Eliot Barculo Wheaton, 1969

EGR  Development of the SA in Nuremberg 1922-34, by Eric G. Reiche, 1986

EH     Article by Ernest Hamburger in the Leo Baeck Year Book, 1985

EJ      Encyclopaedia Judaica, 1973

EZ     Encyclopedia of Zionism, 1971

FMR  The Saar, Battleground and Pawn, by Frank M. Russell, 1951

FVP   Memoirs. by Franz von Papen, 1952

FW    A Sign for Cain, by Fredric Wertham, 1968

GAC  Germany 1866-1945, by Gordon A. Craig, 1978

GP     Hitler's Rise to Power, by Geoffrey Pridham, 1973

HAH Germany's Hitler, by Heinz A. Heinz, 1934

HHOC Hansard (House of Commons), M ay 5th 1933

HPR  Homiletic and Pastoral Review, April 1991

HSW The Pattern of Communist Revolution, by Hugh Seton-Watson, 1960

IK     Popular Opinion & Political Dissent in Third Reich, Ian Kershaw, 1983

ILN   Illustrated London News

JOS   Pope Pius XII, by Jan Olav Smit, 1951

JRPM Weimar Germany, John R. P. McKenzie, 1971

KCA  Keesings Contemporary Archives

KG    Die Katholiken und das Dritte Reich, by Klaus Gotto, 1990

KH    Hitler: a biography, by Konrad Heiden, 1936

LGC  France and the Saar, by Laing Gray Cowan, 1950

MEPL Meyers Enzyklo-Padisches Lexikon, 1971

ML    Saar, by Margaret Lambert, 1934

MOC Greatness Dishonoured, by Michael O' Carroll, 1980

NCE  New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967

NGM National Geographical Magazine, Vol. 67: 4907, Jan-June 1935

NP     Portrait of Pius XII, by Nazareno Padellaro, 1956

NS     Wilfred Israel, by Naomi Shepherd, c. 1984

OD    In the Service of the Lord, by Otto Dibelius, c 1965

PDS   Gregor Strasser, by Peter D. Stachura, 1983

PDSA The Nazi Machtergreifung, by Peter D. Stachura, 1983

RD    The German Catholics, by Robert D'Harcourt, 1939

RFH  Who Voted for Hitler, by Richard F. Hamilton, 1982

RLB  Julius Streicher, by Randall L. Bytwerk, 1983

RLG  Lloyd George, by Richard Lloyd George, 1960

ST     The Right to Reproduce, by Stephen Trombley, 1988

TAB  The Tablet, London

TT     The London Times

WC    A History of Germany, by William Carr, 1979

WDZ I Knew Dietrich Bonhoeffer, by Wolf Dieter Zimmermann, 1966

WF    Dictionary of German History 1806-1945, by Wilfred  Fest, 1978

WLB Weiner Library Bulletin

WLS  The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William L. Shirer, 1959, 1972

WSC  Great Contemporaries, by Winston S. Churchill, 1937

Copyright ©; Church In History 2003

This version: 1st November 2004

Copyright ©; ChurchinHistory 2003

This version: 29th May 2006

Home Page