The Ambassador in Germany (Dodd) to the Acting Secretary of State

No. 336

Sir: With reference to despatch No. 338 of December 12, 1933, relative to the conflict in the German Evangelical Church, which is being transmitted in this pouch, I have the honor to report that while the Nazis have used greater restraint in their dealings with the Catholic Church in Germany, the relations between this Church and the National Socialist authorities are by no means cordial.

Following the dissolution of the Center Party, large numbers of Catholic officials were replaced by Protestant Nazis who, according to some Catholics, are obstructing, either deliberately or because of inability to understand the Roman Catholic standpoint, the efforts of the Church to carry out certain provisions of the Concordat signed on July 20 of this year. Manifestations of friction between the Catholic Church and the National Socialist officials are frequent, especially in Bavaria and Baden where the Catholic clergy apparently cannot forget the brutal treatment to which the Nazis subjected leading members of the once influential Bavarian People’s Party during the critical days immediately preceding and following the general elections in March.

In these States, Catholic priests have been arrested on the suspicion of having spread atrocity stories about conditions prevailing in the concentration camp at Dachau. A recent case of the arrest of Bavarian priests is reported at some length by Consul General Hathaway in a despatch to the Embassy (No. 133 of December 8, 1933), a copy of which he has transmitted to Washington.92

Another aspect of the situation is furnished by the arrest of prominent and popular former leaders of the now defunct Center Party, who are charged with having misused the funds of the “Volksverein für das Katholische Deutschland,” an organization with approximately one-half [Page 312] million members. Among those arrested are Dr. Wilhelm Marx, Dr. Stegerwald, Dr. Brauns (see my despatch No. 274 of November 16, 1933) and Professor Dessauer. Professor Dessauer is a scholar of reputation and was for many years a Reichstag deputy of the Center Party. It is difficult to believe that men of such high standing and integrity are guilty of the offense of which they are accused. The impression is inescapable that their arrest may have been impelled by political motives, as the news of their arrest was widely exploited by the Nazis apparently in order to discredit these men in the opinion of the public. Similar tactics were employed by the Nazis against former prominent leaders of the Nationalist Party and the once-powerful agrarian Landbund.

However, despite such instances of discord and repression the fact remains that no open attempt has been made to absorb the Catholic Church in Germany. The Concordat guarantees the complete independence of that Church. Furthermore Catholic Bishops have expressed views in public distinctly counter to Nazis tenets without being molested, a marked contrast to the treatment frequently accorded to Protestant clergymen.

Open and courageous criticism of the Nazi extremists in the Evangelical Church was expressed by Cardinal Faulhaber, the Archbishop of Munich, in his Advent sermon on December 3, in which he condemned the application of their principles to religion. Cardinal Faulhaber, who was formerly Professor of Old Testament History in the Universities of Wurzburg and Strasbourg, said that there could be no doubt that Jesus Christ was a Jew, and that the attempts of extremists to reject Christ or to falsify history in order to declare Him an Aryan struck at the very foundation of the Christian religion, and he felt that he could not therefore remain silent. The Cardinal concluded the sermon with an offer to cooperate with the Protestant Church in combating the attacks on the Old Testament.

It is of interest, though not at all surprising, that only a brief extract of the Cardinal’s sermon was published in the German press and that his offer to cooperate with the Protestant Church against the Nazi heretics was entirely omitted from these newspapers.

Respectfully yours,

William E. Dodd
  1. Not found in Department files.