Inside the Church during WWII

So far in these articles on Germany we have encountered outright support and collaboration, quiet resistance, and attempts to preserve the essence of Faith and Church life without breaking with the regime altogether. The next step from this was outright opposition, based on Faith. One such Catholic example is furnished by the redoubtable Bishop of Berlin, Konrad von Preysing. Von Preysing came from a staunchly Catholic Bavarian background, and had been appointed Bishop of Berlin in 1935....

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For Germany’s Catholic Church, the accession to absolute power of the Nazis ushered in a period of acute suffering and persecution. Here was a regime that was totally and utterly opposed to the Church, and was prevented from acting against her without restraint only by the fear that it would cause an uprising amongst Germany’s Catholic population. The story is a familiar one, and it is a story of choices: choices to defend the Church and her interests first. This choice has led to the...

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September 19, 2011
Catholic Germany and the Background to the Nazi Era
By Harry Schnitker, Ph.D.

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September 12, 2011
The Church in Italy under Allied and Nazi Occupation, 1943-1945
By Harry Schnitker, Ph.D.

In this, our last installment on the Church during the Second World War in Italy, we will examine the experiences of the Church during the German and Allied occupations. The beginning of the end for Mussolini came on the night of 9 July 1943. That night, a daring amphibious landing took place on the island of Sicily, in an Allied attempt to take the war to the enemy. It was an audacious undertaking, dreamed-up by Churchill, whose previous experience of an amphibious invasion had been...

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The relationship between the Catholic Church in Italy and the country’s Fascist regime began seriously to unravel in the year 1938. Until then, two important considerations had mitigated the short-comings of Mussolini in the eyes of the Church: the signing of the Lateran Treaty and the Concordat. The first had ended years of strife between the Church and the country that had been the host of the Throne of St. Peter since the first century; the second had created Italy in the Church’s...

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August 29, 2011
The Church and Mussolini: Italy, Abyssinia, Spain and Austria
By Harry Schnitker, Ph.D.

By the early 1930s, the Church and Mussolini both realized that the Concordat and the Lateran Treaty had not really delivered what they had expected. For the Church, the happiness at having a modicum of independence restored, and at regaining its traditional place in Italian society, was tempered by a growing awareness that the regime that controlled the state was not as well disposed towards her as originally believed. Mussolini, too, was disappointed. His hopes that the Concordat had tied...

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August 22, 2011
The Church, Mussolini and Fascism
By Harry Schnitker, Ph.D.

So far in this series, we have been examining specific issues concerning the Catholic Church and its history during the Second World War. Through an examination of where the Vatican believed the Church stood, and by looking at the impact made on Catholic thought by the various ideologies that dominated the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, I hope to have painted a backdrop against which the history of the Church in individual countries can be explored.

Although Germany was...

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August 15, 2011
Pope Pius XII and the Impact of Social Darwinism
By Harry Schnitker, Ph.D.

So far, we have examined several elements pertinent to the role played by Pope Pius XII during the Second World War. Of these, his relationship with the Jews and the Germans, the two peoples central to almost every narrative of the war, are the most essential. The Holy Father’s experience of Marxism and his radical denunciation of the philosophy have already been highlighted before. What is rarely mentioned, however, is that Fascism and Nazism and Communism – and, indeed, radical free...

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August 08, 2011
Pope Pius XII and Germany
By Harry Schnitker, Ph.D.

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August 01, 2011
Pope Pius XII and the Jews
By Harry Schnitker, Ph.D.

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