- Katholische Kirche und Nationalsozialismus, 1930-1945: Ein Bericht in Quellen
This extensive volume adeptly puts together more than 250 documents on the Catholic church and the challenge posed by National Socialism. Many of these documents previously appeared in the comprehensive six-volume series, Akten Deutscher Bischöfe, from the Kommission für Zeitgeschichte, the Catholic historical association in Bonn. Other sources appear here for the first time. Unlike other editions put together with the assistance of the Kommission für Zeitgeschichte, this volume was intended for use in the German classroom. Its editor, Hubert Gruber, served as the director of an academic high school (Gymnasium). On the whole, the collection serves this purpose admirably, but will probably bring few surprises to longstanding scholars. [End Page 167]
For those coming to the field for the first time, this volume competently tells the traditional story of the Catholic Church's relationship to National Socialism. Prior to the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, the Church steered a course of opposition to Nazism, having rejected its racial ideology as heretical and irreconcilable with Christian doctrine. The signing of the Concordat, which provided a new legal basis for the relationship between the Church and the Nazi regime, however, evoked widespread sentiments of euphoria amongst Catholic leaders. These hopes of cooperating with and even christianizing the Nazi state were, of course, evanescent. The Nazi state almost immediately began to violate the terms of the Concordat, dissolving Catholic ancillary organizations, arresting priests, and removing religious influences from the schools. Catholic institutions were pushed out of their place in the public sphere and relegated to a narrow space inside church walls. Pius XI's famous protest in 1937, Mit brennender Sorge, merely accelerated the crackdown. Even the onset of war in 1939 did not curb the Nazi hardliners, who continued their crackdown on the church. The bishops, moreover, were not of one opinion as to how to proceed against such a determined opponent, even though it had become clear that the church's mostly private protests had accomplished little. By 1943, the bishops overrode the objections of the head of the Fulda Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Bertram, and issued a more forceful statement, "The Ten Commandments as the Law of Life of all Peoples," which condemned the Nazi killings of Jews, mentally handicapped, and prisoners of war.
Those seeking documents more critical of the Church will likely be disappointed. The volume contains little on right-wing Catholics (except in the year 1933), or of events such as Bertram's directives to hold a requiem Mass in memory of the deceased Führer in 1945, directives that were, however, not carried out. The volume also contains few materials from the wartime years. For students new to the field, however, this volume brings together useful materials—the text of the Concordat, excerpts from the papal encyclical Mit brennender Sorge and from von Galen's sermons. It is also quite user-friendly. The index is complete, and the font more readable than in other such publications: each document, moreover, contains a succinct introduction. Clearly, a volume published in English with similar aspirations would greatly be of great benefit to courses in American college classrooms.