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.

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