Saturday, March 30, 2013

ADSS 3.2.443: Maglione to Orsenigo on conditions in Wartheland

The situation for the Catholic Church in the "annexed territories" of Poland was grim, but for Polish Catholics in the Wartheland it was dire.  The Reichsstatthalter, Arthur Greiser (1897-1946) was a fanatical Nazi who was determined to implement the racial policies of the new Order with zeal.  He was also determined to destroy the Catholic Church.  He was to prove to be quite successful.  Between 1939 and early 1945 over 80% of the clergy were either expelled, murdered or sent to concentration camps from which only a few returned.  Over 1,500 churches and chapels were closed, another 500 were converted into warehouses, two were blown up, and the cathedrals in Posnan and Wloclawek were looted and pillaged.  Of the diocesan bishops in the area, only one, Walenty Dymek, auxiliary bishop of Gniezno and Poznan, remained in his diocese - the others had been arrested or exiled.

Regular practise of Catholic faith was increasingly restricted.  The Polish language was forbidden, even in the confessional.  Marriage between Poles was limited to men over 28 and women over 25.  Religious education was all but abolished for the young.  Even German Catholics were affected by the restriction.  Greiser was determined to destroy the church without regard for Germans or Poles.

In this document sent by Cardinal Maglione to the German nuncio, Cesare Orsenigo, we read an ongoing account of reports sent to Rome largely via Edward van Blericq, the vicar general of the Gniezno archdiocese.  van Blericq sent regular reports to the Vatican setting out the religious persecution operative in the Wartheland.  

Of particular interest here is the reference to restrictions placed on the administration of baptism to adult converts.  Evidently the Germans suspected Jews of attempting to be baptised in order to obtain the highly valued baptismal certificated that many believed would give a measure of protection against Nazi persecution.  The reality was that by the time this letter reached Orsenigo in late November 1942 any protection that the certificates may have afforded was long past.  In deed the vast majority of Jews in the Wartheland had been expelled into the General Government and were dead by the time Maglione wrote to the nuncio in Berlin.

The document can be found on the pages section.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

ADSS 3.2.413: Notes of Bishop Adamski on Poland

These notes were written by the Bishop of Katowice and represented a summary of the situation that confronted the Polish Church under German occupation.  The terse language belied the suffering of Polish Catholics.  

Stanislaw Adamski

ADSS 3.2.413 Notes of Stanislaw Adamski (Katowice)

Reference: AES 7239/42

Location and date: Warsaw, September 1942.  Arrived in Rome 18.09.1942.

Summary statement: Information on the situation in the Polish dioceses.

Language: Latin


The Archbishop of Vilnius (1) is imprisoned in Marimopol (2), in the convent of the Marian Brothers (3) in the diocese of Kaunas, (4) (Lithuania).  He is in good health and in contact with his Vicar General, Bishop Reinys, a Lithuanian national.(5)   

The bishop of Pinsk, Bukraba (6) and his auxiliary Niemira (7) are both in Warsaw.  Permission to return to their diocese is refused.

Auxiliary bishop of Wloclavek, Mons. Kozal, has recently died in a concentration camp.(8)

Bishop of Lodz, Jasinski,(9) and his auxiliary Tomczak,(10) are being held in a reformed [Franciscan] convent in Biecz near Krosno in the diocese of Tarnow.

Bishop of Lublin (11) is currently in Nowy Sacz and is refused permission to return to his diocese.  His auxiliary is in a concentration camp.(12)

Bishop of Katowice (13) is in Warsaw; his auxiliary (14) is in Krakow, a long way from the diocese.  The bishop recently named a new vicar general.

The auxiliary of the diocese of Lomza, bishop Takuwski (?) (15), now resides in Ostrow Mazoviecka as Apostolic Administrator of a small part of the diocese.  He has been refused permission to return to Lomza.  Bishop Lukomski is living in his own house. (16)

Clerics of the Latin Rite … [obscured] between three to four thousand priests have been killed or imprisoned.  Many died in the camps through exhaustion and various diseases.  Perhaps about 100-1500 remain alive.  Lately in the camps, the priests only receive a third of a ration of bread.

Priests who ministered as army chaplains have been taken from prisoner of war camps and sent to concentration camps.

Some bishops and auxiliaries are resident in their dioceses and continue to minister there.

A Polish sect who call themselves “Polski konioc narodnj” has united with the German sect of the “Old Catholics” in Utrecht – and given recognition by the General government on 22.04.1941. (See the attachment). (17)

The Vicar General of Katowice (20) has received from the Eminent Cardinal Secretary of State, the letter which has confirmed his nomination.  Thank you.

Cross references: 
(1) Romuald Jalbrzykowski (1876-1955), Archbishop of Vilnius 1926-1955.
(2) Should read Marijampole
(3) The Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary was founded in Poland by Stanislaus Papczyński in 1673.
(4) Should read Vilkaviskis
(5) Mečislovas Reinys (1884-1953), auxiliary bishop of Vilnius, 1940-1953.
(6) Kasimiriz Bukraba (1885-1946), Bishop of Pinsk, 1932-1946.
(7) Karol Niemira (1883-1965), auxiliary bishop of Pinsk, 1933-1946.
(8) Michael Lozal (1893-1943), auxiliary bishop of Wloclawek, 1939-1943.  The report of his death was premature.  Kozal died in KL Dachau on 25.01.1943.  He was beatified as a martyr in 1987.

(9) Włodzimierz Bronisław Jasiński (1873-1965), bishop of Lodz, 1934-1946.

(10) Kazimierz Tomczak (1883-1967), auxiliary bishop of Lodz, 1927-1967.

(11) Marian Fulman (1866-1945), bishop of Lublin, 1918-1945. Fulman was held in Nowy Sacz from 1940 until liberation in January 1945.
(12) Vladislaw Goral (1898-1944), auxiliary bishop of Lublin, 1938-1944. Died in KL Sachsenhausen.
(13) Stanislaw Adamski (1875-1967), bishop of Katowice, 1930-1967.
(14) Juliusz Bieniek (1895-1978), auxiliary bishop of Katowice, 1937-1978.
(15) Tadeusz Zakrzewski (1883-1961), auxiliary bishop of Lomza, 1938-1946.
(16) Stanislaw Lukomski (1874-1948), bishop of Lomza, 1926-1948.
(17) Not published in ADSS.  The organisation referred to were a small break-away group that rejected papal authority because of the alleged silence of the pope.  They sought recognition and union with the Old Catholics, a group of Catholics who rejected the definition of Papal Infallibility of Vatican I (1869-1871).
(18) Franciszek Woznica, (1902-1979), Vicar General of Katowice diocese 1941-1946.

ADSS 3.2 and the Jews

One of the principal aims of the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 was to destroy the fabric of Polish social, economic, political and religious life.  From the beginning of the war until the moment German forces were forced out by the Red Army, Poles lived under a system of terror that surpassed any other form of Nazi occupation anywhere else in Europe.  Other ethnic / racial / national groups were discriminated against, but only the Poles were singled out for a murderous racial reorganisation that, by war's end, left over six million Polish citizens dead.  Of this figure, half were Polish Jews, who, in the Nazi worldview, were to be murdered without exception.

The Catholic Church in Poland represented the only coherent organisation that remained intact after the German and Soviet invasions.  It comes as no surprise that the Church was an immediate target for both Nazi and Communist persecution.  Throughout ADSS 3.1 and 3.2 the details of the persecution of the Church is set out in stark details.  Because my focus is on what we can learn from ADSS about the Church's growing understanding of the German plans for the Jews of Eastern Europe, I add the following documents to give an appreciation of what the leadership of the Church was dealing with.  Jews were not the most important concern for the Polish bishops; they were battling to keep themselves and their people alive.

Catholic Poland was made up of twenty one Latin or Roman rite dioceses, one Armenian Catholic diocese and one Greek Catholic eparchy.  Under the German occupation many of the dioceses were left without bishops many of whom were forbidden to return to their dioceses.  For Catholics in the Soviet-occupied east of Poland the situation was also fraught with danger, though for the most part, the Soviet occupation was nowhere near as brutal as the Germans.  While some priests were arrested and deported by the NKVD, the Soviet occupation was not in place long enough to destroy Church structures before the June 1941 German invasion.

ADSS 3.2 covers the period 1942-1945 and contains over 250 documents covering most aspects of Church life.  References to Jews are few and far between.  Most comments are indirect and indicate an awareness of the mass murder operations, the presence of ghettos and the camps, the desperation of many Jews to obtain baptismal certificates and the risks taken by those who tried to help.  The language of many of the documents is stark and fearful.  The writers, most of them bishops, do not mince their words at the struggle to stay alive, the barbaric treatment meted out to Poles by the Germans and the engulfing fear that permeated everyday life.  Unintentionally, these texts confirm the awful isolation of the Jews of Poland, Ukraine and the rest of "the East".  Occasionally there are slips that reveal hostility and resentment towards the Jews.  These are relatively rare.

The turning of the war in the east after early 1943 and especially the beginning of the German retreat in the late summer of 1943 sees a marked decrease in the amount of information reaching Rome.  As the Red Army moved westwards contact between bishops and the Holy See was effectively cut off.  In ADSS 3.2.591, a note written in the Secretariat of State observes that information from Poland is very rare and nearly nothing was known of the situation in the dioceses now under Soviet control.
The documents that I will refer to are ADSS 3.2: 406, 413, 443, 444, 448, 477, 497, 507 and 591.

ADSS 3.2.406: 29-31.08.1942: Andrea Szeptyckyj to Pope Pius XII: Description of life in Lwow under the Germans – diabolical.  This document can be found here.

ADSS 3.2.413: 09.09.1942: Notes of Stanislaw Adamski, bishop of Katowice: Summary of the situation in the Polish dioceses. (Translation to follow in the next post.)

ADSS 3.2.443: 18.11.1942: Cardinal Maglione to Cesare Orsenigo: Restrictive measures taken against the church in the Warthegau especially related to adult baptism especially with regard to the Jews. (Translation to follow.)

ADSS 3.2.444: 23.11.1942: Fr Hilary Breitinger, Apostolic Administrator for German Catholics in the Warthegau to Pope Pius XII: Pessimistic report on Catholic life in the Warthegau. Catholics are astonished at the silence of the Pope. (Translation to follow.)

ADSS 3.2.448: 12.12.1942: Antonijs Springovics, bishop of Riga to Pope Pius XII: Report on the religious situation in Latvia with references to the ghetto in Riga – “terrible cruelty”. (Translation to follow.)

ADSS 3.2.477: 15.02.1943: Karol Radonski, bishop of Wloclawek, exiled in London to Cardinal Maglione: Anti-papal criticism encouraged by the Germans in Poland; the pope’s “silence” is hard to understand; papal protest for the Jews of France has not been matched for a protest for the Catholics of Poland.  Are the Poles worth less than the Jews? I have altered the last sentence.  The word "vile" was a misreading of the Latin text  (Translation to follow.)

ADSS 3.2.497: Casimir Papee, Polish ambassador to the Holy See to Cardinal Maglione: Extract from the Zurich Apologetische Blätter which describes the martyrdom of many priests interned in KL Dachau.

ADSS 3.2.507: Cardinal Eugene Tisserant, prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern [Catholic] Churches to Cardinal Maglione: report of the arrest of an Armenian Catholic priest, Diongi Kajetanowicz who had been denounced for supplying a baptismal certificate to a Jew in Warsaw.  The priest denied having acceded to the request.  He was eventually released.

ADSS 3.2.591: 12.02.1945: Notes of the Secretariat of State: news from Poland is rare.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

ADSS 3.1.131 Janikowski to Maglione: Anti-Jewish agitation in Poland

Stanislaw Janikowski (1891-1965) was a counsellor and charge d'affaires at the Polish Embassy to the Holy See from 1937 to 1939 after which he remained in Rome for the rest of the war.  His note addressed to Cardinal Maglione, the Secretary of State again points to the considerable amount of information making its way to Rome.  Regardless of whether or not the information was entirely accurate, what is clear is that the Germans were engaged in vigorous anti-Jewish propaganda using traditional Catholic stereotyping of Jews to fuel potential violence. 

Persecution of Jews in Warsaw had begun immediately after the arrival of the German troops and while establishment of the ghetto was still some months away, Jews, their homes and businesses, were already targets of random and planned German violence. 

Vilna had been the scene of a major anti-Jewish riot in October 1939 where local police sided with the Antisemites.  At the same time an estimated 14,000 Polish Jews had fled to Vilna to escape the Germans.

Holy Week had been a traditional time on the Christian calendar for expressions of anti-Jewish sentiment in reaction to the focus in Catholic liturgy and piety on the suffering of Jesus.  However, religiously induced pogroms, such as the one mentioned here, were rare in the 20th century.  I suspect much of the information could well have been more myth than fact.

Stanislaw Janikowski

ADSS 3.1.131 Stanislaw Janikowski, Polish charge d’affaires to Maglione

Reference: AES 3128/40

Location and date: Rome, 05.04.1940

Summary: German propaganda in Poland setting Christians against Jews.  Attacks on Jews during Holy Week.  Vandalism in a synagogue at 90 Wilkomierska Street. ‘Pogrom’ in Vilnius. 

Language: French


German propaganda, together with that part of the press in neutral countries dependent on Germany, are trying to poison relations between Christians and Jews in Poland.  To this effect they are spreading rumours about “pogroms” that would take place in Poland. 

It should be noted that in the first place, no “pogrom” could take place without the support, at least passively, of the people.

We are also aware from various sources, all completely reliable, that there are organised groups, paid and protected by the “Gestapo”, who tried to plunder Jewish shops in Warsaw, on Friday 22 March [1940].  This looting was organised for Good Friday, to confirm the German rumour, that during Holy Week Catholics have cause to hate the Jews.

The German press and its affiliates propagated the notice that a “pogrom” took place in Vilna in 24 March, Easter Sunday. Here is what actually happened as reported by the authentically informed press in Vilna.

“On Sunday last, at about three o’clock in the afternoon, a group of thieves entered the synagogue at 90 Wilkomierska Street.  They were seen by the guard there, who forced them to flee before they forced the locks to the room which held the utensils used for worship”.

Note from the Secretariat of State.

06.04.1940.  This note was brought by Monsignor Meystowicz, ecclesiastical advisor to the Polish Embassy to the Holy See.(1)  It confirms the very sad news coming from their country. He wants the Holy See to lift its voice in comfort, and deplore the many evils inflicted on Poland.  The ambassador of Poland made the same request.(2)

Cross references: 
(1) Valerian Meystowicz, (1883-1982) was ordained in 1924.  He worked as secretary to Archbishop Romuald Jalbrzykowski until 1932.  He was appointed as a counsellor to the Polish Embassy to the Holy See from Vilna where he taught canon law.  He moved to Rome at the outbreak of the war and remained there for the rest of his life. 
(2) Casimir Papee, (1889-1979), Ambassador 1939-1958.

ADSS 3.1.89 August Hlond to Maglione: report on 3 Polish bishops

Having escaped Poland and found temporary exile in Rome, Cardinal-Primate of Poland, August Hlond (1881-1948) became a major focus for information from Poland arriving in Italy.  Throughout the war years Hlond maintained an extensive series of contacts within his homeland and made regular representation to the Holy See on behalf of the Poles.  

Uppermost in the mind of many bishops, including the pope, was the ever-worsening situation in Poland.  Polish dioceses were often without bishops, clergy were arrested and imprisoned and several thousand Polish priests had been hauled off to concentration camps.    Many had died.  In this document Hlond provides information about three Polish bishops - one most likely dead, one possibly insane and a third still in his diocese and under the protection of the Jews.

Hlond was no friend of Polish Jews having warned the country in a Pastoral Letter in 1936 that the Jews posed a social, moral and economic danger to Poland.  However, he did draw the line at physical attacks on Jews and Jewish property.  Once the German genocide against the Jews began in earnest, Hlond condemned the persecution vigorously and consistently.

This document echoes the popular myth that Jews were almost naturally sympathetic to communism - Judeo-Bolshevism.

By early 1940 Pope Pius XII had as clear and accurate picture of life in German-occupied Poland as he did of Soviet-occupied Poland.  The grim depictions that cross his desk were to get worse.

Cardinal August Hlond

ADSS 3.1.89

Reference: AES 93/40

Location and date: Rome, 07.01.1940

Summary: Almost certain that bishop Stanislaw Lukomski of Lomita has died. Bishop Casmir Bukraba of Pinsk is in a lunatic asylum.  Auxiliary bishop Charles Niemira (1883-1965) is ‘generous to all and protective against the Jews who are powerful under the Soviet regime.’

Language: Italian


In response to the venerable letter of your Eminence of 03.01.1940 (12/40) (1), permit me to present the following information about Stanislaw Lukomski, bishop of Lomža.

The war surprised the very active bishop of this diocese.  By order of the military command Lomža was evacuated and he was ordered to leave on 10 September. Bishop Lukomski went by car to Pinsk, which was in throes of great turmoil, where he stayed for three days with his Excellency, Bishop Casimir Bukraba.  On 14 September he went with the bishop to Nowogrodek (the northernmost part of the diocese of Pinsk) from where Bishop Bukraba returned to Pinsk on 15 September, while bishop Lukomski continued to Vilna where he arrived on 16 September.  There he stayed with his Excellency, Bishop Jalbrzykowski, the metropolitan, and where he witnessed the occupation of the city by Bolshevik troops. On 26 September he returned to his diocese in Lomža, which is not far from Bialystok.

For some time there were rumours that those “Without God” had martyred him.  Finally, around mid-December I was told in person with news from Warsaw, from his Excellency, Bishop [Stanislaw] Gall that his Excellency, Bishop [Tadeusz] Zakrzewski, Vicar General and auxiliary bishop of Lomža (2) had received a letter saying that Bishop Lukomski “is not alive” and that Bishop Zakrzewski asked for instruction on what to do.  All those who have come from Warsaw have repeated this news, but a written confirmation from Bishop Gall is significant since this most excellent prelate usually does not write anything. 

According to sources, Bishop Zakrzewski is currently in Nur or near to it (3), that is, in the part of Lomža diocese that lies within the limits of today’s “General Government Poland” and which is the smaller part of the diocese, because the remaining two thirds are partly under Soviet occupation, in the context of the Greater German Reich. 

Concerning Bishop Bukraba, I wrote to his Excellency, Bishop Jalbrzykowski who wrote to me in a letter dated in December, that bishop Bukraba had fallen seriously ill and had obtained permission from the Russians to go to Lvov for treatment.  Instead there came from Lvov the news that the bishop. Overwhelmed by the events, had become mentally ill and was admitted to the Kulparkow asylum in Lvov.

Bishop [Karol] Niemira (4), Vicar General and auxiliary bishop, remained in Pinsk.  He is loved by everyone and even protected by the Jews who are powerful under the Soviet regime.

Cross references: 
(1) ADSS 3.1.84
(2) Tadeusz Zakrzewski (1883-1961) Aux bp Lomža (1938-1946).  Hlond wrote to Maglione on 15.01.1940 to report that Bishop Lukomski was alive and in his diocese. Cf ADSS 3.1.98.
(3) Nur was about 70kms south of Lomža and was the northern most part of the Generalgouvernment.
(4) Karol Niemira (1883-1965).