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February 18, 2016

The ignominious way that Catholic priests were treated by the Nazis

My photo of the gate into the Dachau camp

My photo of the gate into the Dachau camp where Catholic priests were held

The photo above shows the gate into the Dachau concentration camp, which was the main camp where Catholic priests were imprisoned.

One of the regular readers of my blog wrote a comment which I am quoting:

I was also thinking about Catholics v Jews — Poland is a very Catholic country, and they would like a lot more (international) attention paid to eg the Nazi persecution of the Catholic Church and priests in Poland during WWII, including at Auschwitz: At least 1811 Polish clergy died in Nazi Concentration Camps. An estimated 3000 clergy were killed in all.

I read the article about the Polish clergy and found that no reliable source was given.  The source of the information about the priests was this:

The information for the Wikipedia article came from Ian Kershaw and Ann A Pawelcz 1980 Values and Violence In Auschwitz: A Sociological Analysis

An altar used by Catholic priests at Dachau

An altar used by Catholic priests who were held in the bunker at Dachau

I have previously written about the Catholic priests on at least two blog posts:

I also blogged about the famous story of “the 9th day” which involved a priest at Dachau:

Dachau was the main camp where 2,720 clergymen were sent, including 2,579 Catholic Priests. The priests at Dachau were separated from the other prisoners and housed together in several barrack buildings in the rear of the camp.

There were 1,780 Polish priests and 447 German priests at Dachau. Of the 1,034 priests who died in the camp, 868 were Polish and 94 were German. Source: “What was it like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau?” by Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler.

Other clergymen at Dachau included 109 Protestant ministers, 22 Greek Orthodox, 2 Muslims and 8 men who were classified as “Old Catholic and Mariaists.”

Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler, an auxiliary Bishop from Munich, was one of the 8 clergymen at Dachau who had a private cell in the bunker, the camp prison building. He was free to leave his cell and walk around the camp. He could also receive visitors from outside the camp.

The worst thing that happened to Dr. Neuhäusler at Dachau was that he was once punished by being confined indoors in the bunker for a week. He was punished for secretly hearing the confession of a former Italian minister who had just arrived at the bunker the day before.

Dr. Neuhäusler wrote in his book entitled “What was it like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau?” that he had been betrayed by a Bible inquirer (Jehovah’s Witness) who worked as the Hausl (housekeeper) in the bunker.

Dr. Neuhäusler did not mention any ill treatment at Dachau but he did write about how he was beaten when he was initially sent to the Sachsenhausen camp.

Catholic priests had private cells in the Dachau bunker

Catholic priests had private prison cells in the Dachau bunker

The main camp, to which the Catholic priests were sent, was the Dachau concentration camp. The first clergymen to arrive at Dachau were Polish priests who were sent there in 1939. The Polish priests had been arrested for helping the Polish Resistance after Poland had been conquered in only 28 days.

The Catholic priests were not sent to Dachau just because they were priests. Catholics and Protestants alike were arrested as “enemies of the state” but only if they preached against the Nazi government.

An important policy of the Nazi party in Germany was called Gleichschaltung, a term that was coined in 1933 to mean that all German culture, religious practice, politics, and daily life should conform with Nazi ideology. This policy meant total control of thought, belief, and practice and it was used to systematically eradicate all anti-Nazi elements after Hitler came to power.

There were around 20 million Catholics and 20,000 priests in Nazi Germany. The vast majority of the German clergymen and the German people, including the 40 million Protestants, went along with Hitler’s ideology and were not persecuted by the Nazis.

Bishop Franciszek Korczynski from Wloclawek, Poland published a book in 1957, entitled “Jasne promienie w Dachau” (Bright Beams in Dachau) in which he claimed that the extermination of the Polish clergy was planned by the Nazis as part of the liquidation of the Polish intelligentsia. He wrote that the priests at Dachau were starved and tortured and that the Nazis used the priests for medical experiments.

Among the priests at Dachau, one of the first Polish prisoners was Archbishop Kozlowiecki who had been arrested on November 10, 1939 in Krakow. According to a speech which he gave when the Catholic Memorial at Dachau was dedicated in 1960, the Archbishop was held in prison for the next five and a half years: three months in Montelupi prison in Krakow, five months in Wisnicz concentration camp in Poland, six months in Auschwitz and four years and four months at Dachau.

In his speech, Archbishop Kozlowiecki said that the Gestapo never gave him a reason for his arrest. As quoted in the book “What was it like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau?” Archbishop Kozlowiecki said that a watchman once gave him a reason: “Because you have an ideology which we do not like.”

Although Archbishop Kozlowiecki did not mention, in his speech, any atrocities that he had endured at Dachau, he did say “For years every dark morning we got up with this horrible feeling of agony and absolute helplessness; it was with a heavy and trembling heart that we went to the morning inspection and to our work.”

Theodore Koch, a Polish priest who was a Dachau prisoner from October 1941 to April 1945, testified at the American Military Tribunal proceedings against the Dachau staff that the prisoners had to do exercises as punishment. According to Koch, the prisoners had to jump, do knee-bends, and other gymnastics, including running on their knees. Koch testified that from Palm Sunday until Easter Sunday, the priests had to go through exercises on the roll call place from 6:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. except for a break for dinner. Koch claimed that many priests died during and after these exercises.

The first German priest to enter Dachau in 1940 was Father Franz Seitz, according to Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler, who wrote a small book about Dachau. The first priests were put into Block 26, but it soon became over crowded because “practically all the priests interned in the camp at Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg were transferred to Dachau, especially many hundreds of Polish clergymen,” according to Dr. Neuhäusler.

Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler wrote, in his book, that an emergency chapel was set up in Block 26 and on January 20, 1941 the first Mass was celebrated. “Some 200 priests stood enraptured before the altar while one of their comrades, wearing white vestments offered up the Holy Sacrifice.”

In 1940, the German bishops and the Pope had persuaded Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler to concentrate all the priests imprisoned in the various concentration camps into one camp, and to house them all together in separate blocks with a chapel where they could say Mass.

In early December 1940, the priests already in Dachau were put into Barracks Block 26 near the end of the camp street. Within two weeks, they were joined by around 800 to 900 priests from Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Sachsenhausen, Auschwitz and other camps, who were put into Blocks 28 and 30. Block 30 was later converted into an infirmary barrack.

At first, the priests at Dachau were given special privileges such as a ration of wine, a loaf of bread for four men, and individual bunk beds. The priests were not required to work and they were allowed to celebrate Mass.

In October 1941, these privileges were taken away. Only the German priests were now allowed to say Mass. All non-German clergymen, including Poles, Dutchmen, Luxembourgers and Belgians, were removed from Block 26 and sent to Block 28. A wire fence was placed around Block 28 and a sentry stood guard. The non-German priests were now forced to work, just like the rest of the prisoners. Allegedly, this change happened because the Pope had made a speech on the radio in which he condemned the Nazis, and the German bishops had made a public protest about the treatment of the priests.

Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler wrote the following in his book entitled “What was it like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau?”:

To prevent the non-German priests from even looking into the chapel from their nearby block, a thick white paint was spread over the chapel windows. The commanding officer of Block 28 forbade the prisoners all practice of religion and threatened severe penalties for any breach of rule. The prisoners were forced to give up all breviaries, rosaries, etc.

During the time that the Polish priests were not allowed to say Mass, they asked the priest from Block 26, who was in charge of the chapel, to give them hosts and wine so they could celebrate Mass in secret, according to Dr. Neuhäusler. The Polish priests who worked on the plantation (farm) at Dachau would kneel on the ground and pretend to be weeding. They had a small portable altar which one of the priests would press into the ground. The priests would knell down and receive Communion from their own hands.

On Christmas Eve in 1941, after 322 days without Mass, Dr. Neuhäusler was allowed to say Mass in a temporary Chapel in one of the cells of the bunker where he was a prisoner. He had received everything necessary for the mass from Cardinal Dr. Michael Faulhaber in Munich, who sent regular packages to Dachau right up to the day the camp was liberated.



  1. Furtherglory wrote:
    “The first clergymen to arrive at Dachau were Polish priests who were sent there in 1939.”

    Clergy were incarcerated in jails and concentration camps from the beginning of the NSDAP rule.
    “In the first year of the Nazi regime priests had spoken out. One priest who resisted armed soldiers at his church devotions in 1933, was arrested for speaking against the Nazis. Fr. Klinkhammer was sentenced to six months imprisonment for “characterizing a speech of Goering’s as rubbish.””

    Per Paul Berben’s “Dachau the officail history” page 143-144
    “The first ecclesiastic to be imprisoned in Dachau was a Catholic theologian from Munich, Wilhelm Braun, who arrived on 11th December 1935, was released, and returned on 16th August 1940.

    Now this Paul Berben book is filled to the brim with ugly propaganda; but I have no particular reason to think that this particular sentence is untrue.

    To give you a feel for the sort of propaganda I am referring to, here is what is written 2 paragraphs above my above quote:
    “The first Catholic service was held on 9th July 1933. Immediately afterwards those who attended it were taken to a copse, drawn up in two ranks facing each other and forced to spit in one another’s faces and then to lick each other.”

    But this is in fact the “official history” book for Dachau which I bought in the bookstore IN Dachau when I visited there in early 1983!

    Comment by blake121666 — February 19, 2016 @ 8:14 pm

  2. Catholic and Lutheran Churches tought – at wrong – to have the Nazi party as ally against comunism, socialism, etc. They simply never studied the Nazi ideology and so did not realize that Nazism had been based on Old German myths and wanted a German Christianity and a National Church ruled by a High Priest appointed by the Fuehrer. Not caring about Nazi racism they betrayed their believers with Jewish ancestry. At tale conversations Hitler should have stated that aftyer Final Victoru he would wind up the Churches too.

    Comment by Wolf Murmelstein — February 18, 2016 @ 11:51 pm

    From July 1933 until the very end on Sunday afternoons there was a church service, first on the parade ground, where a temporary altar was erected, and later in a small room next to the post office. On the average, about 20 people participated during these services. The Priest of the congregation appeared regularly at the Camp, although the SS tried to hold him back from these visits by provocations and insults. He was the Priest Pfanzelt and I have met him.
    Pfanzelt’s activities in the concentration camp has been recognized in numerous speeches and books, for example, Father Lenz (a former inmate,sic) notes in his book “Christ in Dachau”:
    ‘When during the last half of the KZ’s existance the Fernpost (postal delivery) failed in many cases, the inhabitants of Dachau brought about a praiseworthy sacrifice for us, especially for us priests. In many packages, these donations were sent to us from the Rectory of Dachau. This perilous undertaking was led by the pastor Pfanzelt, and it meant more to us, than we can possibly express. There were a total of over 2,000 kilogram of bread, about 200 kilograms of meat and sausage, plus lots of butter, eggs, cheese, and medicine. .God reward them all!’
    Pfanzeelt had known the first camp commandant as former comrade in arms of the First World War, this enabled him the entrance to the camp and to the jailed clerics. He could thus even celebrate Holy Mass. This however was later prohibited, but in the meantime, Pope Pius XII had reached an agreement that all KZ-clergy were allowed to hold their usual religious observations and worship.
    Source: Prelate Pfanzelt by Paul Brandt, page26 / 27, translated from German

    Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — February 18, 2016 @ 8:39 pm

    • PS:
      The first Commandant at Dachau was SS Standartenführer Hilmar Wäckerle. His rules were extremely harsh and a number of prisoners died after being punished. He was dismissed from his job as Commandant and later sent to fight on the Eastern front, where he was killed in action.

      Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — February 19, 2016 @ 12:05 am

  4. What part of the words “separation of church and state” did those idiotic gurus fail to grasp?

    They should have been happy to be treated like Jews and imprisoned in concentration camps. That was consistent with what their chief professed after all…

    “Spiritually we [Jews and Christians] are all Semites.” – Pope Pius XI, September 6, 1938.

    Comment by hermie — February 18, 2016 @ 8:14 am

    • FG wrote somewhere,the priests were treated damn fair. So this ones gonna tell us he had to steal food. The ol man upstairs is the only one who knows the whole truth. I don’t think he reveals it to us,because he wants us to find out how much of its lies and how much is truth.

      Comment by Tim — February 18, 2016 @ 8:41 am

  5. The redirect to the website about the priests states that it was designed “only for priests”. Every place else says it was designed for “political prisoners”. To be on the safe side I looked up political prisoner. “Someone who will criticize the government (that’s it in the proverbial nutshell)”. So if it’s only designed for priests,does that mean priests are the only people who can be political prisoners? Too much BS here. Make up my mind. Which is it gonna be? The Dachau visitors center lists the prison as a place for “political prisoners”.2 people saying political prisoners. One group saying it was for priests. This is gettin ridiculous. Nobody can seem to agree what it’s purpose is,so their both liars in my opinion. I ain’t never trusted Catholics,so this is no surprise. If Uncle Adolphs aim was to gas the Jews from day one (that’s what I heard somewhere),why waste time with political prisoners? The Jew virtual library says Dachau was the first model prison,all the others were based on. Another article said from ’33 to ’45 some 200,000 plus folks went through Dachau. Out of that number,41,000 plus were killed. When they said Dachau was a model for other prisons,I hope they meant the design and not the actual system. I thought the Krauts were all about “body count”. That don’t sound like much to toot your horn about. I see numbers like that,it makes me question the 4 million (oops. My bad. I forgot I’m supposed to say 6 million) number. Political prisoners,genocide,gypsies,etc. Somebody,please figure who’s gonna get the spotlight here

    Comment by Tim — February 18, 2016 @ 7:44 am

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