Sunday, May 26, 2013

Some closing thoughts on ADSS 3.

Over the last month or so I have been working my way through references to Jews in the 605 documents of  ADSS Volume 3.  This volume, covering Poland, the Baltic States and Ukraine, is divided into two parts - 1939-1941 and 1942-1945.  There are a couple of overarching themes that I believe helps us understand why there is so little direct reference to the persecution of the Jews of Eastern Europe - 16 documents in total. 

On a first reading this seems strange.  The vast majority of Jews were murdered "in the East" either through the ghettos and forced labour camps, or in the slaughter led by the Einsatzgruppen and then in the extermination camps.  However, this part of the world have already become a source of significant organised death under Stalin in the mid to late 1930s before the German invasion in 1941.  Nonetheless, in the period 1933-1945 Timothy Snyder convincingly argues for a death toll in the region of 14 million.  Snyder's name for this extraordinarily bleak episode in European history is the very apt - Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin.  It is a book well worth reading in order to get a more comprehensive perspective on the scope and scale of the killing programs of both Hitler and Stalin's regimes.  

One of the first victims of Stalin's ruthless programs conducted in the Ukraine were the Christian churches.  The Ukrainian Greek Catholic church was singled out for particular persecution.  So fierce was the attack by the Soviet Union on the Ukrainian Catholics that the German invaders were greeted as liberators and ensured, at least for a time, that Ukrainian Catholics would be inclined to support the New Order.

Under German rule Poland was decimated through a systematic attempt to destroy the infrastructure of Polish culture and religion.  In no other country was the Catholic church subjected to such intense persecution.  It is an historical fact that the majority of Poland's clergy - higher and lower - remained faithful to their ministry and attempted to continue the life of the church as best they could.

Life in the Baltic States was a little less severe.  Given that the Germans regarded many of the Baltic peoples as "racial allied" the church was tolerated as long as it did not step outside of very carefully defined parameters.  Prior to the German invasion in the summer of 1941, the Soviet occupation had been marked with a major anti-Christian campaign that saw hundreds of believers and many clergy deported to Siberia.  Consequently, the German invasion was welcomed by many in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the same manner as the Ukraine.  

So, were are the Jews?  ADSS 3 contains much material that gives us a valuable insight into the conditions that governed life for the church in Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic States.  Life was tough, of that there was no dispute.  The degree of "toughness" varied from place to place.  For the first part of the German occupation of Poland the main direction of persecution was directed at the annihilation of Polish national life and culture.  Jews were a secondary concern in that process.  Most Jews caught up in the first stage of German anti-Polish action were members of the intelligentsia or the professions.  Other Jews were among those expelled from the newly annexed areas of Wartheland and the expanded Gau East Prussia and Danzig. The establishment of the ghettos across Poland throughout 1940 heralded a new stage in Nazi persecution, but was not of itself an indicator of intent to destroy.  

As conditions worsened in Poland the primary concern of the Catholic church was survival.  There was simply far too little energy or resources to dedicate to an organised plan of assistance for Polish Jews.  And this was, I argue, the best case scenario.  The horrible reality for the Jews of Poland was the awakening realisation that there were isolated from the rest of the Poland, indeed there were isolated from the rest of the world.  The scale of German terror was such that resistance was minimal until at least 1943 when the prospect of a German defeat began to take shape.  However, there were some Catholics who did go to the aid of their Jewish neighbours.

References to Jews in ADSS 3 are limited to peripheral mentions.  If the documents of ADSS are an authentic selection of the complete archive, it is clear that for the authors of these documents, the position of the Jews was not a significant priority.  Most of the information of the persecution of Jews "in the East" comes from other volumes.  It is also important to remember that Rome had no official representation in Eastern Europe after 1939-1941.  The German nuncio, Cesare Orsenigo, was technically responsible for Poland and the Baltic States, but was consistently refused permission to travel through the occupied East to meet with bishops.  

The paucity of details about the Jews of Eastern Europe in ADSS 3 does not suggest that all the bishops, apostolic administrators, vicars general etc were antisemitic or did not care.  I suggest that the concerns of maintaining some form of Catholic life demanded all their energy and resources.

One other fact also needs to be kept in mind.  The volume of material found in ADSS 3 is proportionally less than the material found in the other volumes.  From 1943 onwards as the Red Army began its march westwards the amount of material from Eastern Europe begins to diminish.  By 1945 the Vatican had little to no accurate information from Poland, Ukraine or the Baltic States.

These are general comments that reflect some of the things I have been thinking about as I finished my study of this very important volume.

And I recommend reading Snyder's book.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

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

After the last post which was dated July and November 1943, this next document indicates that news from Poland was rare to non-existent.  The advance of the Red Army in the summer of 1944 crossed over the 1939 Polish borders and by 21 July a provisional Soviet-style government was proclaimed.  The concerns of the Catholic church were not a priority for either the Polish Committee of National Liberation of the Red Army.  The Vatican had grown increasingly concerned at the situation in Poland and was anxious to send an Apostolic Visitor to report on the state of the Church in Poland.

Warsaw was liberated on 17 January, Lodz on 18 January and KL Auschwitz on 26 January 1945.

ADSS 3.2.591 Secretariat of State, notes.

Reference: AES 1941/45

Location and date: Vatican, 12.02.1945

Summary statement: News from Poland is rare.  It would be necessary to send an Apostolic Visitor.  Asks the Apostolic Delegate in Washington to obtain permission for a bishop of Polish origin to enter Poland.

Language: Italian


1. The religious situation in Poland has to be the saddest ever.  For nearly two years that has been nearly no news; it was rare before, but now there is absolutely nothing.

How many diocese are vacant?  It is impossible to know.

In Warsaw, the vicar Capitular, Monsignor Szlagowski, an octogenarian:  has he survived the battle of last year? (1) What has happened to Bishop Dymek of Posnan; to Bishop Sapieha of Krakow; to Bishop Twardowski of Lvov? (2)

It seems all the more urgent to send a representative of the Holy See: an Apostolic Visitor.

2. Even before the Conference of the Three (3) comes out with the statement on Poland, it would seem opportune for the Apostolic Delegate in Washington (4) to approach the government there for permission to send a bishop to Poland.

If it were not possible to send an Italian, perhaps an American could go: for example, Bishop Stanislaw Bona, coadjutor of Green Bay (5); or perhaps his brother Thomas, of the Chicago archdiocese; or the auxiliary bishop of Detroit, Bishop Woznicki (6).  And the messenger should be able to communicate with the Holy See.

There are 6 vacant diocese in Poland out of 24.

Then there are the non-vacant dioceses but which have no bishop; there are probably three of them: Wloclawek, Lublin and Pinsk.

(1) See ADSS 3.2.589.  Antoni Szlagowski (1864-1956), auxiliary bishop of Warsaw, had written to Rome via Orsenigo in Berlin on 20.11.1944.  His letter arrived in Rome on 24.02.1945.
(2) Walenty Dymek (1888-1956), auxiliary bishop of Poznan 1929-1945, had been under German house arrest since 1943 in Poznan.  Adam Sapieha (1867-1951) archbishop of Krakow 1911-1951.  Boleslaw Twardowski (1864-1944), Latin archbishop of Lvov 1923-1944; news of his death had not yet reached Rome.
(3) Yalta Conference 01-11.02.1945.
(4) Amleto Cicognani (1883-1973), Apostolic Delegate to USA 1933-1959.
(5) Stanislaw Bona (1888-1967), coadjutor Green Bay (Wisconsin) 1944-1945, bishop 1945-1967. Thomas Bona was a priest of the archdiocese of Chicago. The brothers were of Polish descent although both were born in Chicago.
(6) Stephen Woznicki (1894-1968), auxiliary bishop of Detroit 1937-1950.  Woznicki was of Polish descent, born in Pennsylvania.

ADSS 3.2.530 News of Diongi Kajetanowicz

We saw in ADSS 3.2.507 (24.04.1943) news of the arrest, based on an anonymous denunciation, of the Armenian Vicar Capitular, Dionigi Kajetanowicz.  On 12 July 1943, the Latin rite bishop of Lvov, Boleslao Twardowski, wrote to Cardinal Maglione to inform him that Kaketanowicz had been freed and had since gone into hiding.  The basis of the denunciation lay in a Hebrew inscription found in one of the parish registers.  

This level of persecution was common in Eastern Europe but quite rare in the West.

ADSS 3.2.530 Boleslao Twardowski (Lvov) to Maglione

Reference: AES 6527/43

Location and date: Lvov, 12.07.1943; arrived Rome 05.11.1943

Summary statement: Dionigi Kajetanowicz, Armenian Vicar Capitular, has been released and gone into hiding.

Language: Latin


In response to the letter of Your Eminence of 19 May 1943, number 2970/43 concerning Monsignor Dionigi Kajetanowicz, the Armenian Vicar Capitular in Lvov, I wish to replay the following: the priest was imprisoned in April of this year because it was said the there was a Hebrew inscription in one of the parish registers. (In our region church registers for baptism, marriages and deaths have the same status and authority as civil registers.)  After a couple of weeks, Monsignor Kajetanowicz was released from prison.  He has since gone into hiding.

(1) See ADSS 3.2.507. 

ADSS 3.2.522 Orsenigo to Maglione: KL Ravensbruck

This report sent to Rome by Cesare Orsenigo, is one of the few direct references to concentration camps found in ADSS.  It is also the only reference to medical experiments.  It is another dimension of the range of topics covered in Volume 3 of ADSS that is interesting for its decided lack of documentation regarding the persecution of the Jews.  Also of interest is Orsenigo's comment relaying Cardinal Bertram's belief that too many questions about the goings on in the camp would invite unwanted police attention.

ADSS 3.2.522 Cesare Orsenigo, Germany to Maglione

Reference: Report 2561 (52.748), AES 4076/43.

Location and date: Berlin, 15.06.1943

Summary statement: Sends news received of KL Ravensbrück.  News of Polish women in the KL is true.  Cannot confirm rumours of medical experiments.

Language: Italian


With reference to the dispatch, number 2057/43, of Your Eminence of 2 April last, you instructed me to gather information concerning the treatment, for the purposes of experiments, performed on interned Polish women in Ravensbrück concentration camp in Mecklenburg.

News of the existence of the camp holding Polish women is true.

However it is not possible to confirm information concerning possible treatments contrary to Christian morality. The few trusted Germans with whom I have expressed my doubts very cautiously, given the delicacy of the subject, have concluded that experiments do take place, that they are conducted in an evil manner on the subjects (2).

I was not satisfied, so I cautiously aired a course of enquiry with the episcopate, on the assumption that with a few senior competent people appropriate queries could be made with the Director of the Concentration Camps.  I made my first proposal to his Eminence, Cardinal Adolf Bertram, archbishop of Breslau, but he advised me that such an investigation, even if well presented, would have little chance of success, and would lead the police to conduct a counter-investigation to find out who leaked the news and what documents had been created to make the claims credible.

I will do my best to continue investigating this matter in order to verify the news and then act accordingly.

(1) See ADSS 3.2.492
Ravensbrück was opened in November 1938 as the primary concentration camp for women and children.  About 130,000 women and children passed through the camp.  The number of survivors is estimated from15,000 to 32,000.  The largest group of women were Polish.  Medical experiments were conducted from the summer of 1942 onwards.  The Red Army liberated the camp on 30.04.1945.

ADSS 3.2.507 Tisserant to Maglione: arrest of Fr Kajetanowicz

 Among the documents detailing the persecution of the church in the German-occupied East,  there are occasional references that hint of some attempts to help Jews.  The savagery meted out by the Germans towards anyone who was caught attempting to give assistance to Jews in eastern Europe was well known.  The penalty was nearly always death.  In this instance the Armenian Catholic Vicar Capitular of Lvov, Fr Dionigi Kajetanowicz had been denounced anonymously to the Gestapo because a Warsaw Jew had written to him asking for help.  The author of the letter that was sent to Cardinal Tisserant, the prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental (Eastern Catholic) Churches made it quite clear that Fr Kajetanowicz had refused the request.  

The Gestapo had indicated that Kajetanowicz could be released if a ransom / bribe was paid.

After the war it became known that Kajetanowicz and his nephew, Fr Romaszkan, the author of the letter to Tisserant, were active in hiding Jews.  Both men were arrested by the Soviet secret police in 1945 and sentenced to the gulags.  Fr Kajetanowicz died in captivity; his nephew was released and spent the remained of his life in Poland.

ADSS 3.2.507 Eugene Tisserant, Prefect Cong Oriental Churches to Maglione

Reference: AES 3817/43

Location and date: Rome, 24.05.1943

Summary statement: Tisserant presents a letter from the secretary of the Armenian Catholic Vicar Capitular of Lvov regarding the arrest of the Vicar Capitular. (1)

Language: Italian


I have the honour of directing the following document to Your Eminence, which I received on the sixth of this month (06.05.1943) (2).  Army Chaplain Lieutenant Aldo Negri presented it to this Dicastery.  He had not been able to deliver it before for reasons related to his military service.   Fr Kazimierz Romaszkan, secretary of Monsignor Dionigi Kajetanowicz, Vicar Capitular of the Armenian Archdiocese of Lvov, drew up the secret document (3).

The document, directed “To the Holy Apostolic See” and written “Lvov, 28 April 1943” says the following:

“On 13 April at 16.00 the German police (Gestapo) arrested Monsignor.  He was arrested on the basis of an anonymous letter.  It turns out a Jew of Warsaw had written to Monsignor some time ago in order to obtain a baptismal certificate registered in the name of an Armenian of our parish.  Later I went in person to the Gestapo to find out the real reason for the arrest of the Monsignor.  I was told that he was innocent but that they had to make an arrest for reasons of responsibility in these situations.  Monsignor is now in Lacki prison, generally regarded as the worst of all the Lvov prisons for its humidity, absolute lack of hygiene and light.  We tried to secure his release from prison but the Gestapo demanded the sum of 100,000 zlotys (4).  Other than this we do not know any other details.  We trust in the Lord and the help of the Apostolic See.

In addition, Army Chaplain, Aldo Negri, stated that Monsignor Kajetanowicz refused the request of the above-mentioned Jew from Warsaw.

Following standard procedure, Aldo Negri will have to depart shortly for Lvov on Hospital Train Number 7: any communication to him will have to be sent directly to the command post at Porta Nuova train station in Verona.

Note of Cardinal Maglione: 26.05.1943: Monsignor Arata (5) said this letter has information that could be used to get a recommendation from the new German ambassador (6), in favour of the VG – which, as he would understand, is above all quite easy.

(1) Vicar Capitular was the title given to the administrator of a vacant diocese. The Armenian Archeparchy had been vacant since the death of Jozef Teodorowicz (1864-1938).  
(2) The Military Bishop of Italy announced to have received the document from Army Chaplain Aldo Negri, on measures taken by the Gestapo against the Armenian Vicar Capitular of Lvov (AES 2970/43).  The bishop had also delivered the news to the Secretariat of State.
(3) Dionigi Kajetanowicz (1878-1954); Kazimierz Romaszkan (1909-1973), nephew of Kajetanowicz.
(4) 100,000 zlotys = approx. US$ 30,000 (2013 – approx. $488,500).  The zloty was pegged at 2zl per Reichsmark.  In 1941 the exchange rate was 2.5 RM to US $1.
(5) Antonino Arata (1882-1948), nuncio to Estonia and Latvia (1935-1948), resident in Rome since 1941.
(6) Ernst von Weizsäcker (1882-1951) presented his credentials as the new German ambassador to the Holy See on 05.07.1943.