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.

Next to Italy, no other country shaped the experience of the Catholic Church during the Second World War as much as Germany. That this is so is hardly surprising: for most of the half of the twentieth century German politics determined the politics of Europe, and, by extension, of the Church. It was German intervention in the Austro-Serb conflict that sparked the Continent-wide war of 1914-1918, and it was Germany that re-armed and gradually pushed the Continent into its second...

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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 image,...

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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.

It is frequently said that Eugenio Pacelli had a profound love for Germany. This is rarely an innocent statement: it usually means to imply that he was biased towards the Germans. That Pope Pius XII liked the country is beyond doubt; he had spent many years there, spoke the language very well, and had many close German friends. Whether that also caused him to favor Germany during the war is another matter, though. Let us consider the stance of one of the most influential of his...

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August 01, 2011

Pope Pius XII and the Jews

By Harry Schnitker, Ph.D.

The single most controversial element of recent Catholic history has to be the relationship between Pope Pius XII and the Jews. This controversy is an on-going one and a small article such as this cannot hope to offer any new insights. However, it can present a survey of the debate to date, and make some tentative suggestions. The controversy revolves around the proposition that, during his Pontificate, Pope Pius XII remained silent when it came to the deportation, incarceration...

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