Page 6, 23rd February 1945

23rd February 1945
Page 6
Page 6, 23rd February 1945 — Neutral Journalist, Lately in Germany, Tells " C. H." of Church Prestige in a Sinking Reich

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Organisations: army, German police, Gestapo
People: Galen, Heil Hitler
Locations: Coventry, Berlin


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Neutral Journalist, Lately in Germany, Tells " C. H." of Church Prestige in a Sinking Reich


"The only core of opposition to Hitlerism left in Germany is provided by the Church. The courageOus opposition of the Bishop of Munster, Count Von Galen, and the fiery attacks on the National Socialists made by Cardinal Faulhaber are remembered. Their prophecies of disaster for ,a regime which indulged in the excesses of the past few years have. proved, in German eyes, too tragically, true. As the Fuhrer's prestige has declined; the Church's has increased."

This is a summing-up of opinions given me by a young neutral Catholic journalist, with whom I discussed the European situation, this week. He had lived in Italy, Germany, Scandinavia, Finland and the Balkans during the war and has only recently left the Reich.

The Bishop of Munster; wholn he had interviewed, was an extraordinary man. His German prestige was terrific, He comes from one of the oldest families in Westphalia, a family which has always lived very close to the people and one which has always been interested in practical social reform..

If the Allies are wise, he said, they will attempt to enlist him as an adviser when Germany is defeated.

But one thing is certain. If the Bishop detects any injustice in our dealings with the ordinary people of Germany he will speak out in terms as bold as those he addressed to the Nazis. He is not interested in politics; he is uncompromisingly devoted to justice.

Here is Count Von Galen in his own words: " We Von Galens are not clever men ; the men of my family are not subtle; sometimes we have been called stupid : we are. in fact, incorrigibly Catholic."


The peculiar strength of the Church. in Germany is exemplified by Von Galen's telegraph campaign against the Fiihrer's unChristian exhortations over the radio. Evety time the Nazi leader makes a speech, the Bishop sends him a telegram commenting on it and pointing out just what the Clatuch finds un acceptable in his statements. These telegrams are publicised.

But if Von Galen were arrested civil disorder would break out immediately. He knows that ; Hitler knows it. Sometimes even a Nazi realises it is better to appease.

Then there are many Catholics in the army:' Here is another significant incident. A couple of years ago a very famous German pilot was received in audience by the German leader. He was going to receive the highest award for bravery given to Germans. Hitler asked him for details of his civilian occupation and the young man replied that he had been a Catholic Youth Leader in Bishop Von Galen's diocese. "For that reply." commented Hitler. " you should receive this award twice."

Shortly afterwards the pilot was killed, and since his death letters bearing his signature, letters pointing out the errors of the National Socialist regime have been circulated in Germany.


Political opposition to Hitler is, if not dead, certainly sleeping. Reprisals for the bomb attempt on his life liquidated it effectively. All political and military men who bad voiced the slightest criticism of the party were executed. Remember the German police system has been built carefully and it has always been the main prop of the Nazis: even before. they came to political power they were concentrating qn a force which was in effect a terrorist spy organisation to be used against their own people. The full power of this organisation was unleashed after the attempt on Hitler: reinforced by the fear of the leaders the Gestapo embarked on a policy of wholesale extermination of suspects which exceeded anything attempted in the past. I am afraid it was very successful. Opposition, outside the Church, is closely.

locked in the hearts of unshepberded simple people. They almost constitute a danger to Europe, for unscrupulous and astute persons might use their just resentment in an hour of crisis for their own advantage.

" COLLABORATORS " I asked him what he thought of the German attitude to the post-war world.

"The German believes his country is doomed for ever." he said. " He is fighting with fatalistic despair. Despite the devastation of air raids and fire bombardment be still has his society— any man's society—his family arid his friends, and even if this is not intact, in the old pre-war fashion, it is everything to him. He fears that an Allied victory will mean slavery worse than that of the ancients; forced deportation ; the split-up of his family ; the despatch of his sons and daughters to foreign lands. Goebbels has used the mole sensational aspects.of Allied propaganda to stimulate this feeling.

" Vansittartism, the Allied demand for unconditional surrender and the hate policy of certain Allied groups are all responsible for the German's pathetic desperation.

" It seems to me that many of your propagandists in one—and a very important—sense have been the most effective collaborationists.

" To say that Germans are inhuman, devoid of kindness, sense of humour, Of anything but the military ' virtues,' is absurd. You know after the bomb attempt the country rang with secret laughter because of its effect on the

' beloved Fithrer. The story was that he was suffering from ' shame and shock.' It is a fact that his only physical injury was the loss of his trousers. They were blown completely off his legs.. The story got out and was cares fully and furtively passed around the country. And Germany laughed.

" Again, there are people Who preserve their detachment from the whole war atmosphere.

" In Berlin last year I was travelling by bus through an area almost entirely

devastated by the Allied raids. Suddenly a Nazi office], observing I was a foreigner, drew my attention to the destruction. These, he asserted, were the homes of the poor and an example of the works of the barbarian Americans and English. He raved his accusations at me and then yelled 'Heil Hitler,' swung his arm forward in salute, clicked his heels and left the bus.

" I turned to my companion and said, ' mere goes one of the local gramophones playing one of the local records.' A poorly dressed man sitting in front of me picked out the word gramophone (I had spoken in my own language and this word is the same in most European tongues). ' Yes,' said the German traveller, ' he is a gramophone. Are the men of Coventry less poor than our working men and was not the destruction of their homes bar

barous 7 We and our enemies must do exactly the same mad things. for we are at war, and war is,barbarous. ' " Ile got up from his seat and immediately departed.

(Next week some impressions of the rest of Europe by the same observer will be given.)

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