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
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: https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/tag/the-ninth-day/
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.
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.