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

No. 996

Sir: With reference to my despatch No. 883 of June 1,66 I have the honor to report that on June 25th negotiations commenced in Berlin [Page 272]between representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and of the Federal Government, the purpose of which is to settle if possible the points of controversy which have existed for many months. As the Department has already been informed, these concern principally certain subjects covered by the Concordat of July 20, 1933, namely the existence of Catholic societies, especially youth organizations and the extent to which the clergy can carry on their teachings outside of purely dogmatic subjects without invading the realm of the state. The situation of the religious press gives also reason for concern owing to the unfriendliness of some Nazi officials.

The Church is represented by Archbishop Groeber of Freiburg-im-Breisgau, Bishop Berning of Osnabrück and Bishop Bares of Berlin. The delegates of the Government and the National Socialist Party are understood to be Dr. Buttmann of the Ministry of the Interior, who has conducted many long and fruitless negotiations in Rome, Herr von Detten, a Catholic and an official of one of the cultural offices of the Nazi Party, and Captain Pfeffer, the latter an assistant of Herr Hess, the representative of Hitler. In addition it is reported that Dr. Ley, of the Arbeitsfront, and Baldur von Schirach, the Reich Youth leader, are attending. Both of the latter are especially concerned with the question of Catholic organizations.

Although it has been reported that the negotiations might be a protracted affair, an announcement appearing on June 30 indicates that satisfactory progress is being made with respect to the controversy over Article 31 of the Concordat (Catholic Societies). The statement asserts that it is to be foreseen that regulations affecting the life of Catholic organizations will be issued on the basis of a settlement reached at the Conference, which may be expected to bring peace in so far as this question is concerned.

If any concrete results are achieved at this Conference they may be taken as an indication of Hitler’s desire to settle this thorny matter and make his peace with the Church. Two other developments have been pointed in the same direction, the institution of the State Youth Day (see despatch No. 932 of June 8 [18]67) which leaves Sunday for the family and the Church, and the assignment of Herr von Detten to the duty of seeing to it that children graduating from school who have been sent to work in the country for a year before taking up their permanent occupation (in order to relieve unemployment) are protected in their religious beliefs from the teachings of non-Christian radicals.

On the other hand, the usual indications of strained relations continue to appear. In a speech delivered at Cologne on June 28, General Göring repeated the National Socialist argument that the State alone must be permitted to educate the youth to the duties of citizenship. [Page 273]The Church must reform its views because the Nazis could not change theirs. “If the Church says that she comes first and then the people, I say that God did not create German men Catholics or Protestants, but He gave them His soul in a German body with German blood.” He denied vehemently however that the Nazis were hostile to the Church and were trying to deprive the German people of its faith. The trial of a Catholic who murdered a Nazi in a small village near the boundary of Poland (see despatch No. 974 of June 2868) is being given great publicity of a political tendency not conducive to soothe inflamed feelings. Arrests of priests and suppression of newspapers continue to take place.

It is presumed that the Department will receive a copy of the confidential despatch, dated July 3, from the Consul General in Munich to the Embassy69 enclosing a copy of the pastoral letter, drawn up by the Roman Catholic bishops during their recent conference at Fulda, which has not been allowed to appear in the press. This document, which is couched in emphatic language, merits perusal. The bishops severely condemn the “new heathenism” and radical religion; they deny that the Church is interfering in politics and they admonish parents and teachers to protect the faith of the young.

Respectfully yours,

William E. Dodd
  1. Not printed.
  2. Post, p. 285.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not found in Department files.