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Secret Nazi Accounts of Events of July, 1942

by Inside the Vatican Staff

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    Document Information

  • Description:
    An account, taken from various Reich sources. The information in these documents was central to the Congregation for Saints' conclusion that Edith Stein was a martyr.
  • Larger Work:
    Inside the Vatican
  • Pages: XIX-XX
  • Publisher & Date:
    Urbi et Orbi Communications, October 1998

In 1980, Monsignor Jakob Schlafke of Cologne, the Vice Postulator for the Cause of Edith Stein's beatification, published documents from the Royal Institute for War Documentation in Amsterdam relating to the thinking and actions of Nazi commanders during the seizure and imprisonment of Edith Stein and others. Among these are top-secret reports and communications of the Reich Commissar for the Netherlands, Seyess-Inquart. These communications provide an inside view of Nazi cunning in carrying out their extermination program, and specifically their response to the strong protests at Catholic churches throughout the Netherlands on July 26, 1942. The information contained in these documents was central to the Congregation for Saints' conclusion that Nazi odium fidei (hatred of the faith) brought about the death of Sister Teresa Benedicta and made her a Catholic martyr.

From accounts of what was said at meetings of German generals and Security Police on July 30 and 31, 1942, we learn that the Nazis were monitoring Dutch churches and the Dutch Ministry of the Interior, and were gloating over the silence from the latter. Referring to the Secretary General of Interior Ministry, Seyess-Inquart reports: "Although he is neither a member of NSB (National Socialist Authority) nor a National Socialist, he stated that this [the deportation] was a European problem whose course could not be changed. Thus, by their failure to issue an official protest, the Dutch authorities are condoning the deportation of the Jews, even though they do not endorse it outright."

The one clear voice raised against the deportations appears to been a long telegram sent on July 11, 1942 in the name of almost every Christian church in the country. The Reich Commissar describes that telegram in a sentence: "The churches state that they feel an obligation in the name of right and justice, to protest the deportation of Jews and the transport of workers to Germany."' The text of telegram itself is entered into the minutes:

"The undersigned Dutch churches, already deeply shocked by the measures against the Jews in the Netherlands by which they are excluded from participation in normal national life [citizenship was being taken away from Dutch Jews] have become aware with horror of the new regulations by which men, women and children and entire families are to be deported to the territory of the German Reich and areas under Germany's Jurisdiction. Because of the suffering this will cause tens of thousands of people, knowing that these measures contradict the deepest moral conscience of the Dutch people, but above all because these measures violate everything we are commanded by God [to do] as right and just, the churches must urgently appeal to you not to carry out these measures. In addition, as far as the Christians among the Jews are concerned, it is necessary for us to make this urgent request because of the fact that by these measures their participation in the life of the church is being cut off."

The churches also notified the Nazis about three steps they were planning: to proclaim Sunday July 26 "as a day of atonement and prayer in all churches of the Netherlands," to read to their congregations their telegram of protest, and to recite the following prayer for God's help for Jews and for Dutch workers being deported as forced laborers:

"We commend to You, O God, most particularly, the people of Israel who in these days are being tried so severely. You will not cast them off forever, for You have foretold a viable future for them. Preserve them, lead them to conversion in order that they may attain the true redemption which You have bestowed in Christ Your Son. Especially we pray for the children of Israel who are bound up with us in the same faith; give then the strength to carry the Cross following Him, in whom they have found redemption. (ITV Staff)

"We also commend to You with inmost fervor those whose lot it is to work and live abroad, separated from their loved ones. Strengthen them in body and soul. Preserve them from bitterness and resentment, from discouragement and despair, estrangement and depravity. In their loneliness help then cling to You and Your word. Support their families, whom they have left behind and help them to remain bound up with each other in the community of faith.

"Find a way out, merciful God, for all who are being tried and oppressed, all prisoners and hostages, and those many over whom black clouds of threats and danger to life hover. Let Your might shine forth. Turn Your judgment into a blessing, that many people who live without You, may turn to You, so that the barrier between Israel and other nations may appear torn down, so that all may know Your holy name, and seek and find one another as brothers, and that there may be one flock and one shepherd."

Without immediately answering the telegram, Seyess-Inquart cunningly put into effect a divide and conquer tactic.

He informed the churches that they "could at most intercede only for those Jews who were members of the Christian churches." He offered this exception on one condition: the churches must not "take any steps in behalf of the rest of the Jews." If the churches agreed not to read the protest on Sunday the 26th, the Reich Commissar said he would rule that "all Jews converted prior to January 1, 1941 are to be exempt" from deportation.

Following this proposal, word spread throughout Holland that baptized Jews had been exempted from deportation. Some churches were therefore confused about what they should do on July 26. Early intelligence reports to the Nazis were that a special Protestant Synod had met on the 24th and ruled not to read the agreed-upon protest. Seyess-Inquart's spies informed him, however, that the Catholic bishops had ordered all Catholic churches to carry out the original agreement.

The Reich Commissar's records read: "The pulpit proclamation of the Catholic bishops in the Netherlands also included Jesus' sermon on the judgment of Jerusalem which is here evidently applied to the Reich, and must be understood by the listeners in this manner, especially the following pertinent words of Jesus in free translation." The report then provides a summary of Jesus' prophecy of doom for Jerusalem (Luke 19:43-44): "Truly, the days will come upon you, when your enemy will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on all sides. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children and will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you have not recognized the time of your visitation from God."

The declaration was read from every Catholic pulpit in Holland on July 26. Four days after the Catholic protest, with its reference to a forthcoming destruction of the Reich, Seyess-Inquart informed Nazi officials matter-of-factly: "Since the Catholic bishops interfered in this matter which was not their concern, the entire population of Catholic Jews are to be deported this week. No interventions are to be considered. Commissar General Schmidt will deliver the official reply to the bishops during a party function on Sunday, August 2, 1942." The Germans reported that approximately 700 Catholic Jews were seized on or near August 2, and that additional ways of punishing the Church were being pursued.

On July 31, the Reich Commissar assured his Nazi comrades that Church protests had not slowed the efficiency of his deadly operation: "The deportation of Dutch Jews has been going forward this week, too, without hindrance. Including those trains leaving today, 6,000 Dutch Jews have been deported so far. The transport has taken place undisturbed, and it is not likely that difficulties or disturbances will interfere with the transports scheduled for the coming weeks.

"Of course, this measure did not go unnoticed among the Dutch population, and at times a degree of excitement was noticeable, especially in Amsterdam. The Dutch churches of all denominations likewise felt it incumbent upon them to intervene with the Reich Commissar. The Reich Commissar, however, took the position that the churches could at most intercede for those Jews who were members of the Christian churches. The Protestant churches did not oppose this line of thought. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, last Sunday discussed the deportation of the Jews in their churches. "The matter itself has been dealt with. Further difficulties on the part of the churches are not to be expected."

In the same communique, he confidently alludes to the fact that he is able to sow confusion and uncertainty: "Among Jewish circles some believe the deportation of able-bodied Jews is taking place in order to prepare in the East the necessary quarters for Jews."

The horrible deportation Seyess-Inquart is presiding over so smoothly seems to be occurring even as he writes, for he refers to the sudden receipt of fresh reports: "I have just been informed that the intercession of the churches has resulted in the roundup of about 4,000 'Christian Jews' and their transport to a camp in Holland, where they are being detained for the time being."

Thus, the secret Nazi records support the argument that the Church's July 26 defiance of the Nazis determined the Nazi's decision to deport Edith Stein to the Auschwitz concentration camp a few days later.

© Urbi et Orbi Communications

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