Saturday, July 31, 2010

Nazism's Goal: Eliminate Christianity

From the Philadelphia Inquirer


Papers reveal Nazi aim: End Christianity Wednesday, January 9, 2002 By Edward Colimore INQUIRER STAFF WRITER


The fragile, typewritten documents from the 1940s lay out the Nazi plan in grim detail: Take over the churches from within, using party sympathizers. Discredit, jail or kill Christian leaders. And re-indoctrinate the congregants. Give them a new faith – in Germany's Third Reich.


More than a half-century ago, confidential U.S. government reports on the Nazi plans were prepared for the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg and will be available online for free starting tomorrow – some of them for the first time. These rare documents – in their original form, some with handwritten scrawls across them – are part of an online legal journal published by students of the Rutgers University School of Law at Camden.


"When people think about the Holocaust, they think about the crimes against Jews, but here's a different perspective," said Julie Seltzer Mandel, a third-year law student who is editor of the Nuremberg Project for the Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion.


"A lot of people will say, 'I didn't realize that they were trying to convert Christians to a Nazi philosophy.' . . . They wanted to eliminate the Jews altogether, but they were also looking to eliminate Christianity."


Mandel said the journal would post new Nuremberg documents about every six months, along with commentary from scholars across the world, on its Web site at www.lawandreligion.com.


The material is part of the archives of Gen. William J. Donovan, who served as special assistant to the U.S. chief of counsel during the International Military Tribunal after World War II. The trials were convened to hold accountable those responsible for war crimes.


The first installment – a 120-page report titled "The Nazi Master Plan: The Persecution of the Christian Churches" – was prepared by the Office of Strategic Services, a forerunner of the CIA.


"Important leaders of the National Socialist party would have liked to meet this situation [church influence] by complete extirpation of Christianity and the substitution of a purely racial religion," said an OSS report in July 1945. "The best evidence now available as to the existence of an anti-Church plan is to be found in the systematic nature of the persecution itself.


"Different steps in that persecution, such as the campaign for the suppression of denominational and youth organizations, the campaign against denominational schools, the defamation campaign against the clergy, started on the same day in the whole area of the Reich . . . and were supported by the entire regimented press, by Nazi Party meetings, by traveling party speakers."


A second online journal posting – to be added in about six months – will spotlight a secret OSS document, "Miscellaneous Memoranda on War Criminals," about the efforts of various countries to bring Nazis to justice.


A third installment – to be included in the journal in a year – focuses on translated, confidential Nazi documents. A message sent during the Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass") pogrom of November 1938 is titled "Measures To Be Taken Against Jews Tonight." Authorities were given specific instructions: "Jewish shops and homes may be destroyed, but not looted. . . . Foreigners, even if Jewish, will not be molested."


Mandel, whose 80-year-old grandmother is a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, said that allowing the public access to such documentation is "phenomenal."


"Some of the papers will answer questions that scholars have been asking for years," said Mandel, 29, of Berlin Borough, Camden County. "What did we know? When did we know it?"


The documents are part of the collection of the Cornell University School of Law library, which has about 150 bound volumes of Nuremberg trial transcripts and materials. They are housed at the school and are being cataloged.


"Gen. Donovan kept extensive, detailed records of Nazi atrocities," said Mandel, who taught at Triton High School in Runnemede and at Shawnee High School in Medford, where she led a course on "Literature of the Holocaust."


She and other journal editors – Daniel Bahk, Christopher Elliott, Ross Enders and Jessica Platt – examined hundreds of documents at Cornell before choosing those to be posted on the journal site. "The project could not be published in a conventional journal without losing the international accessibility that it demands," said Rayman Solomon, dean of the School of Law. "This student initiative will make a significant contribution to legal history scholarship while being of great interest and importance to the general public, especially at this time in our history."


Greg Baxter, marketing editor of the journal and a third-year Rutgers law student, said the online project was "definitely pertinent in light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack" and Bush administration plans to hold a military tribunal to try the accused.


"The Nuremberg trials provide a framework for today's trials," said Baxter, 24, of Winslow, Camden County.


***


January 13, 2002 Word for Word/The Case Against the Nazis; How Hitler's Forces Planned To Destroy German Christianity By JOE SHARKEY


THE chilling testimony of crimes against humanity by the Nazi regime in Hitler's Germany have been on the historical record since the Nuremberg war-crimes trials of 1945 and 1946. But any criminal prosecution, and especially one as mammoth as the case against Nazi Germany, consists of far more than public testimony in court. The Nuremberg trials were also built on many millions of pages of supporting evidence: documents, summaries, notes and memos collected by investigators.


One of the leading United States investigators at Nuremberg, Gen. William J. Donovan – Wild Bill Donovan of the O.S.S., the C.I.A.'s precursor – collected and cataloged trial evidence in 148 bound volumes of personal papers that were stored after his death in 1959 at Cornell University. In 1999, Julie Seltzer Mandel, a law student from Rutgers University whose grandmother survived the Auschwitz death camp, read them. Under the Nuremberg Project, a collaboration between Rutgers and Cornell, she has edited the collection for publication on the Internet.


The first installment, published last week on the Web site of the Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion (www.camlaw.rutgers.edu/publications/law-religion), includes a 108-page outline prepared by O.S.S. investigators to aid Nuremberg prosecutors. The outline, ''The Persecution of the Christian Churches,'' summarizes the Nazi plan to subvert and destroy German Christianity, which it calls ''an integral part of the National Socialist scheme of world conquest.''


Verbatim excerpts from the outline would require extensive explanations. Instead, the outline is summarized below. JOE SHARKEY


In the 1920's, as they battled for power, the Nazis realized that the churches in overwhelmingly Christian Germany needed to be neutralized before they would get anywhere. Two-thirds of German Christians were Protestants, belonging to one of 28 regional factions of the German Evangelical Church. Most of the rest were Roman Catholics. On one level, the Nazis saw an advantage. In tumultuous post-World War I Germany, the Christian churches ''had long been associated with conservative ways of thought, which meant that they tended to agree with the National Socialists in their authoritarianism, their attacks on Socialism and Communism, and in their campaign against the Versailles treaty'' that had ended World War I with a bitterly resentful Germany.


But there was a dilemma for Hitler. While conservatives, the Christian churches ''could not be reconciled with the principle of racism, with a foreign policy of unlimited aggressive warfare, or with a domestic policy involving the complete subservience of Church to State.'' Given that these were the fundamental underpinnings of the Nazi regime, ''conflict was inevitable,'' the summary states. It came, as Nazi power surged in the late 1920's toward national domination in the early 30's.


According to Baldur von Schirach, the Nazi leader of the German youth corps that would later be known as the Hitler Youth, ''the destruction of Christianity was explicitly recognized as a purpose of the National Socialist movement'' from the beginning, though ''considerations of expedience made it impossible'' for the movement to adopt this radical stance officially until it had consolidated power, the outline says.


Attracted by the strategic value inherent in the churches' ''historic mission of conservative social discipline,'' the Nazis simply lied and made deals with the churches while planning a ''slow and cautious policy of gradual encroachment'' to eliminate Christianity.


The prosecution investigators describe this as a criminal conspiracy. ''This general plan had been established even before the rise of the Nazis to power,'' the outline says. ''It apparently came out of discussions among an inner circle'' comprised of Hitler himself, other top Nazi leaders including the propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, and a collection of party enforcers and veteran beer-hall agitators.


The regional branches of the German Evangelical Church, the main Protestant body, were often administered and financed through governmental agencies. The Nazis saw a distinct advantage in having Protestant churches ''whose supreme administrative organs were located within the borders of Germany,'' the outline says. This facilitated plans ''to capture and use the church organization for their own purposes'' and ''to secure the elimination of Christian influences in the Evangelical Church by legal or quasi legal means.''


The Roman Catholic Church, centrally administered from Rome, posed a different problem for the Nazis, whose relationship with that church in the 1920's had been bitter. In 1933, when Germany was under Hitler's total control, the Nazis made ''unmistakable overtures'' to the Christian churches in general, and to Catholics in particular.


Having already witnessed fairly smooth relations after the 1929 Lantern treaty between Mussolini's fascist regime and the church in Italy, many German Catholics ''accepted the Nazi proposition'' of peaceful coexistence. In July 1933, a Concordat was signed between the Reich and the Holy See.


''For the first time since the Middle Ages, the Reich itself had entered into an agreement with the Roman Catholic Church,'' the outline says. ''Moreover, the new treaty was apparently entirely to the advantage of the church. In return for the retreat of German Catholicism from the political scene, the church was guaranteed, by international treaty, freedom for Catholic organizations [and] maintenance of denominational schools and youth education.''


All Hitler seemed to demand in return was ''a pledge of loyalty by the clergy to the Reich government and a promise that Catholic religious instruction would emphasize the patriotic duties of the Christian citizen.'' This posed no big problem for the church, the outline asserts. ''Since it had always been the practice of the Catholic Church to abide by established governments and to promote patriotic convictions among the faithful, these stipulations of the Concordat were no more than legalizations of an existing custom. The Concordat was hailed by church and state authorities as marking the beginning of a close and fruitful collaboration.''


Of course, the churches stayed in Hitler's good graces for only as long as the Nazis considered their cooperation expedient. Soon after Hitler assumed dictatorial powers, ''relations between the Nazi state and the church became progressively worse,'' the outline says. The Nazis ''took advantage of their subsequently increasing strength to violate every one of the Concordat's provisions.''


In 1937, Pope Pius XI denounced Nazi treachery in an encyclical that accused Hitler of ''a war of extermination'' against the church. The battle had been joined on some fronts. Nazi street mobs, often in the company of the Gestapo, routinely stormed offices in Protestant and Catholic churches where clergymen were seen as lax in their support of the regime.


The dissident pastor Martin Niemoller spoke openly now against state control of the Protestant churches. He was arrested and imprisoned in 1937 for using his pulpit for ''underhand attacks on state and party.'' When a judge acquitted him, ''on leaving court he was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to a concentration camp where he remained until the end of the war,'' says the outline.


Still, in a society where the entire Jewish population was being automatically condemned without public protest, care was taken to manipulate public perceptions about clergymen who fell into Nazi disfavor. ''The Catholic Church need not imagine that we are going to create martyrs,'' Robert Wagner, the Nazi Gauleiter of Baden, said in a speech, according to the O.S.S. study. ''We shall not give the church that satisfaction. She shall have not martyrs, but criminals.''


But once they had total power and set off to launch a world war, the Nazis made no secret of what lay in store for Christian clergymen who expressed dissent.


In Munich, Nazi street gangs and a Gestapo squad attacked the residence of the Roman Catholic cardinal. ''A hail of stones was directed against the windows, while the men shouted, 'Take the rotten traitor to Dachau!' '' the outline says, adding: ''After 1937, German Catholic bishops gave up all attempts to print'' their pastoral letters publicly and instead ''had them merely read from the pulpits.''


Then the letters themselves were confiscated.


''In many churches, the confiscation took place during Mass by the police snatching the letter out of the hands of the priests as they were in the act of reading it.''


Later the same year, dissident Protestant churches joined in a manifesto protesting Nazi tactics. In response, the Nazis arrested 700 Protestant pastors.


Objectionable statements made by the clergy would no longer be prosecuted in the courts, the Nazis said. Statements ''injurious to the State would be ruthlessly punished by 'protective custody,' that is, the concentration camp,'' the outline says.


http://org.law.rutgers.edu/publications/law-religion/nurinst1.shtml

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