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

No. 545

Sir: With reference to my despatch No. 461 of January 25,61 describing the friction that exists between the Roman Catholic Church and the German Government, I have the honor to report that the situation does not seem to have improved.

As the Department was informed in my despatch No. 508 of February 7,61 the Hitler Youth is trying to absorb the Catholic Youth organizations, the one outstanding group which has resisted destruction. [Page 269] Reports continue to appear that the members of these organizations have been forbidden by the authorities of various towns to participate in any public demonstrations with uniforms or banners. On the other hand, the Nazi authorities desire members of the Hitler Jugend to attend Catholic religious services wearing their uniforms.

Buildings belonging to former Catholic associations now dissolved have been seized and occupied by the Nazi officials.

Arrests of priests continue. On several occasions they have been charged with making statements critical of high officials of the Government. In one instance, a parish priest was taken into custody for having placed a small swastika flag over the entrance of his church on the anniversary of the Nazi revolution instead of hoisting a large one on the steeple.

On the night of January 28 shots were fired at the palace of Cardinal Faulhaber in Munich. The perpetrator of this deed has apparently not been arrested, although the police has offered a reward for his apprehension. The Cardinal has aroused the enmity of the Nazis by his courageous and critical attitude towards the latters’ views on religious and racial questions.

The sterilization law seems to be causing trouble. A short time ago the official paper, the Völkischer Beobachter, published an article stating that owing to announcements from Catholic pulpits doubts had arisen whether the law to prevent the transmission of hereditary diseases would be enforced by the Federal Government. These announcements, said the newspaper, were made merely to show the doctrinal position of the Catholic Church. Any manifestations which might be tantamount to an incitement to disobedience would be suppressed. The foregoing tends to indicate that the measure is viewed with open disapproval by the Roman Catholic authorities. This subject was mentioned by Chancellor Hitler in his speech of January 30 before the Reichstag. In a statement indicating his disagreement with the church’s views, he said that it would have been more practical, upright and Christian in past years not to have supported those who were consciously destroying healthy life instead of opposing those who desire nothing more than to prevent illness. He declared that the state would gladly stop sterilization of the diseased if the churches would assume care of these persons.

These problems, as well as the spreading of anti-Christian teachings by prominent Nazis, have aroused great concern and displeasure at the Vatican, and the German Government has sent Dr. Buttmann62 (see my despatch No. 224 [274] of November 16, 193363) to Rome in order to negotiate with the authorities of the Church. It appears that the Vatican desires a more definite understanding concerning the [Page 270] scope and meaning of Articles 31 and 32 of the Concordat,64 which refer to Catholic associations and to the abstention of priests from political activity but not from giving instruction on doctrine and morals. The Holy See considers that the Concordat has been repeatedly violated.

An interesting statement, issued by the central office of the Catholic League of Young Men, appeared in the press on February 15. A portion of it reads as follows, in translation:

“The position of the Catholic Youth is marked by the negotiations now under way in Rome in regard to the execution of the Concordat and by the prohibitions issued in Western Germany against the appearance of religious organizations in public.

“The freedom of activity of the Catholic Youth is assured by the conclusion of the Concordat in July, 1933. The present limitations of that liberty are only temporary.”

It seems likely that the National Socialists will not have the same success with the Catholics that they are achieving with the Protestants, and that the Church of Rome will succeed in maintaining its influence over its own youth and thus prevent the Nazis from obtaining complete control over the young people of Germany.

Respectfully yours,

William E. Dodd
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Rudolf Buttmann, of the German Ministry of the Interior.
  4. Foreign Relations, 1933, vol. ii, p. 303.
  5. British and Foreign State Papers, vol. cxxxvi, p. 697.