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

No. 2622

Sir: With reference to the Embassy’s telegram No. 15 of January 15, 3 p.m.,39 I have the honor to report that German Church affairs appear to have lapsed back into their customary confusion.

As seems to be inevitably the case, and as Church Minister Kerrl seems to be sufficiently aware of the utility of the method to employ it in his tactics, the recent conciliatory attitude on the part of the State has produced a split in the ranks of the Evangelical opposition. It is understood that Bishop Meiser of Bavaria, a leader of the moderate Lutheran element in the Confessional movement, has informed his pastors in a circular that he intends to support the Church Minister and his official committees. This action, it is expected, will widen the breach in the Confessional Front that became apparent in a meeting of the Reich Council of Brethren early in the month when the militant wing of the opposition brought forward a question of lack of confidence in the leadership of Bishop Marahrens of Hanover, head of the Confessional Provisional Administration and likewise a [Page 161] Lutheran moderate. Upon being defeated by the narrow vote of 17 to 13, this group requested that a Reich Synod be held to pass upon the question. It is understood that tentative plans have been made to hold the Synod early in February at Bad Oeynhausen in Westfalia.

The radical section among the Confessionals, consisting principally of certain leaders of the Church of the Old Prussian Union and of the West German Reformist Church, appear to be entrenched behind the belief that cooperation with the Church Minister is utterly impossible and that defiance of State intervention to the bitter end is their only course. This body translated their belief into action last Sunday by distributing copies of a pamphlet exposing the methods of governmental interference under the title “The State Church is There.” Bearing the name of Pastor Niemöller of Dahlem but in reality written by another militant leader, Otto Debelius, the pamphlet reproaches those Confessionals who have cooperated with the Kerrl ecclesiastical regime which, it is claimed, has “politized” the Church and is kept in authority only by the Secret Police. The charge against the State of flagrant interference is supported by references to the teaching of the Hitler Youth and to the fact that members of the S.S. are encouraged to abandon the Christian faith.

Later in the day the pamphlet was confiscated by the Secret Police who also carried on a search for additional copies in the houses of suspect pastors. This action appears to have stiffened the resistance of the militant wing who are reported to have anticipated the deliberations of the projected Synod by informing Kerrl that they stood alone as a group and that the administration of Bishop Marahrens, with which Kerrl has been negotiating, no longer speaks for them. It is also learned that they intend to proceed with the distribution of some 100,000 copies of the forbidden pamphlet which have so far escaped confiscation.

Developments in the Catholic sphere are obscured by the close secrecy surrounding the recent meeting in Fulda of the Cardinal-Archbishops (who were later joined by all the German bishops with the notable exception of the Bishop of Meissen who, it will be recalled, was convicted and fined in one of the currency smuggling trials). There are unconfirmed rumors of a difference of viewpoint having arisen on the one hand between Cardinal Bertram of Breslau and Cardinal Faulhaber of Munich, who are supposed to advocate unbending resistance to Nazi interference, and Cardinal Schulte of Cologne and Bishop Preysing of Berlin on the other hand, who are understood to have considerable personal confidence in Hitler. It appears at any rate that two pastoral letters were drawn up. One of these, which was read last Sunday, seems to have been an attempt to meet Nazi race doctrine halfway by advocating “healthy marriages.” [Page 162] It is said that the second letter, which may be published this coming Sunday, probably deals with larger questions affecting the relations between Church and State. The communication is awaited with considerable interest for the indication it may give as to which of two conjectured policies will be followed, that is, either stiffened defiance, or an attempt at conciliation through a renewal of the suspended negotiations concerning the application of the Concordat,40 which many Catholics appear to feel is the best method by which the Church, in its present compromised position, can avert further State aggression.

While a disposition toward conciliation seems to exist in certain sections of both the Church and the Government, the Party radicals leave no doubt concerning their intention to pursue the anti-Catholic campaign. The front page of the latest issue of the Schwarze Korps, the organ of the S. S., is devoted to proving that the then Pope, Benedict XV, had “blessed” the Treaty of Versailles, thus “consecrating” Germany’s “shame,” because he “rejoiced” at the termination of hostilities. It is noted, moreover (from the January 20 issue of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung), that the Osservatore Romano has sufficient grounds for believing that a plan is under consideration in the Ministry of the Interior for the imposition of a tax upon paid Masses for the dead. The Vatican paper remarks, “The Jews did not tax the Supreme Sacrifice of Golgotha but bore the cost themselves; now the Supreme Sacrifice seems about to be taxed by those who prosecute the Jews.”

Respectfully yours,

William E. Dodd
  1. Not printed.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1933, vol. ii, pp. 292 ff; for text of Concordat signed at Vatican City, July 20, 1933, see British and Foreign State Papers, vol. cxxxvi, p. 697.