Sunday, March 24, 2013
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.