Tuesday, July 2, 2013

ADSS 4.291 Orsenigo to Maglione - German actions against Jews and Catholics

While the bulk of ADSS 4 is not directly related to Jewish issues, there are a number of documents where mention is made of a significant event relevant to understanding the development of the Holocaust.  One of these events was the "February Strike" in Amsterdam in 1941.  Orsenigo had received reports from Amsterdam from a number of sources but the focus was, not surprisingly, on a series of anti-Catholic actions undertaken by the occupying German forces in Holland.  There is overlap between the anti-Jewish pogroms and the attacks on several Catholic institutions but the events are not connected directly.

The document needs to be seen within several contexts.

After the Dutch surrender to Germany in May 1940 anti-Jewish measures began.  Jews were systematically expelled from the social and economic life of Holland.  At the same time Germany began demanding Dutch men "volunteer" for work in the Reich.

The National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands (Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging in Nederland) was the only political movement permitted to exist under the Occupation.  NSB members took it upon themselves to enter Jewish neighbourhoods in Amsterdam and incite fights.  Local Jewish self-defence groups fought back, often with local non-Jewish supporters.  On 11.02.1941 during a street fight instigated by the NSB a Dutch Nazi was mortally injured.  On the following day German troops assisted by Dutch police cordoned off the Jewish district in Amsterdam  and forbade entry to non-Jews.

A week later on 19.02.1941 a botched raid by German police on an ice cream parlour owned by German Jews resulted in a riot and several Germans were injured.  

In retaliation the Germans sent in the SS on 22-23.02.1941 who conducted a full-scale pogrom in the Jewish district.  Over 400 men and boys were seized and transported to KL Buchenwald or KL Mauthausen.  Only two are known to have survived the war.

Outrage at the pogrom and fearing that actions against and deportation of Dutch Jews would also lead to action against and deportation of non-Jewish Dutch men galvanised various Catholic, Protestant, Social Democratic groups and the underground Dutch Communist Party into agitating for a General Strike on 25.02.1941.  

Although the strike was unsuccessful and the Germans quickly suppressed it, it was the biggest act of civil resistance to German forced labour and deportation policies.  More significantly, it was the biggest demonstration of public anger at German anti-Jewish policies and actions.  German occupation authorities adopted less confrontational strategies thereafter.  Deportation of Dutch Jews did not begin in earnest until January 1942.

From Orsenigo's letter to Cardinal Maglione it seems that the pogrom against Amsterdam's Jews was an unplanned event in contrast to the actions taken against several Catholic institutions.  Archbishop De Jong had condemned the BSB in 1936 and went even further with excommunication of all members of the organisation after the German invasion in May 1940.  The Catholic Church had placed itself publicly and unambiguously against the occupation and made several public protests, such as the one mentioned here, always with dire outcomes.  The occupiers were not slow in moving against it.  Catholic media was shut down, institutes of higher learning were watched carefully and dozens of outspoken priests and theologians were arrested.  Many of them were sent to KL Dachau where they died.

The story of Henricus Hoeben, a Catholic journalist and man of integrity, stands out.  His story should be more widely known.  There is a link in the notes for more information.

It could well be that the two events were in an unintended parallel chain of events.

ADSS 4.291 Cesare Orsenigo, Germany to Cardinal Maglione

Reference:  Report number 1142.  AES 2543/41

Location and date: Berlin, 19.03.1941

Summary statement:  Nuncio still questioning the reasons for the brutality of the Gestapo against the Dutch clergy and repression of Jews in Amsterdam.

Language: Italian

 I have the honour to communicate to your Eminence, that despite an express intervention by Reverend Father Drehmanns (1) for precise information about the tragic events in Holland, as yet I have little knowledge.  The informants are limited to expressing their disapproval for the brutality of the events, but no one says exactly what led to this wave of reprisals against the Jews in Amsterdam and against several religious houses in Limberg, including the major missionary institute of the Steyl Fathers (2).

It was originally believed that the public condemnation of the policies of the National Socialist League (3) by the Bishops was the cause of everything (4) but in reality the condemnation does not appear to have been the real cause; the bishops are all at liberty in their dioceses.  Only his Excellency, William Lemmens, bishop of Roermond (5), had the sorrow of seeing his seminary cleared out in two hours and then occupied by thirty members of the Secret State Police.

Not only are they punishing the priests, who published the condemnation of the National Socialist League, but it would appear however, from the searches and interrogations conducted by the secret police (Gestapo), that they are looking for accomplices of those involved with the newspaper “Der Deutsche Weg”. (6) This could explain the arrest of Monsignor Neuhäusler, canon of the cathedral chapter of Munich along with the closure of some religious houses (7).   Some people suspect that incriminating documents were found at the headquarters of The International Catholic Press Office (8), which I think operated in Breda.

His Excellency Monsignor Johannes De Jong, archbishop of Utrecht, who had been unhappy with some of the criticisms moved by the clergy for the condemnation of the National Socialist League, was very glad to receive the august letter sent to him by the Holy Father. (9)

His Excellency Monsignor William Lemmens, bishop of Roermond, who has not uttered a word after witnessing the forced eviction of his seminary and who has kept a sustained silent demeanour, which has made a great impression, noted that his Excellency the Archbishop of Utrecht has not made a formal protest.

At present, the Dutch fear new measures beyond those already imposed on Catholic schools and institutions may extend to associations, which will destroy much of Catholic activity in Holland.

(1) Joseph Drehmanns (1882-1959), a Redemptorist priest, had been in contact with Orsenigo in Berlin and the Internuncio to The Hague, Paolo Giobbe (1880-1972), now resident in Rome.  The incident referred to in this document was most likely the “February Strike” of 25.02.1941 organised by underground banned trade union groups in protest at Dutch Nazi attacks on Amsterdam Jews.  The German occupation forces suppressed the strike the following day. 

(2) Steyl fathers – refers to the mother house of the Divine Word Missionaries founded by Arnold Janssen in Steyl in 1875.

(3) The National Socialist League in Holland (NSB – Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging in Nederland) was founded by Anton Mussert (1894-1946) in 1931.  It remained the only non-German political party in the Netherlands throughout the war. It was banned after the war and the leaders arrested.  Mussert was executed by firing squad near The Hague on 07.05.1946.

(4) The Dutch bishops had condemned Nazism in a joint pastoral letter of 13.01.1941 that was read out in churches on 26.01.1941.  The Amsterdam newspaper De Tijd published the text the following day.  The text was sent to Rome soon after.  A note made by Montini on 27.02.1945 (AES 1707-1741) said: “After audience with His Holiness. It would be good to send the Dutch bishops text to Monsignor Cicognani, and see that it is published”.  The National Catholic Welfare Committee published the Dutch pastoral in its February newsletter.  The Catholic Herald (UK) published a report on the protest on 15.08.1941:
The Nazi authorities in Holland are extremely angry with the Dutch Catholic bishops who have just issued and read a pastoral letter in all their churches protesting against the Nazis interfering with Catholic Workers' organisations. A Dutch Nazi, Woudenberg, who has recently been appointed Commissar for the Catholic Workers' Union, replying to the Bishops' protests in a broadcast, said the Catholic Church by its action, is trying to appear a martyr, Catholics, he added, are not the only body who has had these rights over clubs and associations taken away.
Goring's paper Essener Nationale Zeitung reports that the Archbishop of Utrecht, Mgr. de Jong, has been fined 400 guilders for refusing to participate in what they describe as "propaganda against pagan Bolshevism" " While it is not understandable, it is unfortunately true." the article added, "that all Catholic organisations in Holland refuse to acknowledge that the German fight against pagan Bolshevism is a battle for Christianity."

So far the text of the pastoral letter has not been received in this country”.

(5) Jozef Hulbert Willem Lemmens (1884-1960) bishop of Roermond 1932-1957. Lemmens had been rector of the seminary before his episcopal ordination.

(6) Der Deutsche Weg was a weekly anti-Nazi paper begun in Oldenzaal, Holland, in August 1934 by the Jesuit Friedrich Muckermann (1883-1946) and editor Joseph Steinhage.  It was sent clandestinely into Germany. The Gestapo raided the headquarters on the morning of 10.05.1940.  During the war, Steinhage remained in hiding though various members of his family were deported to Germany. The director, Dutchman Dr Franz Stokmann died in a concentration camp.  In 1943 Riechskomissar, Arthur Seyss-Inquart (1892-1946) announced (wrongly) that Muckermann had remained in Holland. The German consul in Rome, Fritz Menshausen (1885-1958) wrote a report on 19.06.1937 about Muckermann who was then living in the city.  He described him as “one of the most dangerous and active opponents of National Socialism“. (National Archives T-120. Roll 71.56546).  The Gestapo searched across Europe in vain for Muckermann.  He died in Switzerland in 1946.

(7) See ADSS 2.209 n3. Johannes Neuhäusler (1888-1973) was a known anti-Nazi. He was sent to KL Sachsenhausen in February 1941 before being sent to KL Dachau in May 1941.  He was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Munich in 1947.

(8) Henricus Johannes Hoeben (1899-1942) established the Bureau International de la Presse Catholique (The International Bureau of the Catholic Press) in Breda in 1927.  It was designed to be a “clearing house” for media relevant to Catholic interests. Hoeben and his family fled the Netherlands in May 1940 but for family reasons returned from France at the end of July.  He was arrested on 01.08.1940 and sent to Berlin where he died in late February 1942.

(9) Jan de Jong (1885-1955), archbishop of Utrecht (1936-1955). The letter of the pope sent on 18.01.1941, arrived on 04.02.1941.

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