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September 27, 2014

New book mentions Blessed Titus Brandsma, a Catholic priest who was killed at Dachau

A new book, entitled Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942 – 1943, mentions a Dutch Carmelite priest named Father Titus Brandsma who has the title of “Blessed” because he has been canonized as a saint in the Catholic Church.

Father Titus Brandsma was a prisoner at Dachau

Father Titus Brandsma was a prisoner at Dachau

This quote is from the news article about the book and it’s author Father George William Rutler:

Fr Rutler, a parish priest in Manhattan, New York and a well-known essayist, has taken his title from the famous quotation in St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. This is in part because of he wishes to show the larger forces at work during WWII and also because an old friend and fellow priest had bequeathed to him a pile of newspapers, journals and radio transcripts for this particular year. Growing up after the war, Rutler sees his book as “a feeble act of thanks from my generation” for the previous one that had endured so many sacrifices on behalf of future ones. –
According to an article which you can read in full here, the author of the book, George William Rutler, “is fascinated by the way large historical events interweave with humbler but no less significant spiritual occurrences, relating that on the day of the British defeat in the first battle of El Alamein, Fr Titus Brandsma, a Dutch Carmelite, died in Dachau after giving his Rosary to the SS functionary who gave him a lethal injection.

This quote is from the article about the new book:

WWII “can rightly be understood and probably only fully appreciated as a holy war fought for multiple and mixed motives, but in its deepest meaning as a campaign against evil by defenders, consciously or obliviously, of the good.” Doubtless, secular historians such as Andrew Roberts or Sir Max Hastings, who has researched the “multiple and mixed motives” of the war in detail in his own books, would not demur from this conclusion. Certainly Churchill, not a conventional Christian believer but with a deep sense of what a Christian civilization signified, would have agreed with it.

It seems that Father Titus Brandsma was a martyr in the “holy war” now known as World War II. But why was he singled out to be killed?

Dachau was the concentration 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. Most of them died as a result of the typhus epidemic in the camp.

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

One of the most famous Catholic priests, who was imprisoned at Dachau, was Blessed Father Titus Brandsma, a 61 year old Dutch priest, who was at Dachau for only five months before he was killed by an injection in the camp hospital on July 26, 1942; he was killed by injection because he was suffering from terminal kidney failure.

According to the accounts of his fellow priests, Father Brandsma was beaten and kicked daily even though he was already sick when he arrived in the camp on June 19, 1942. At first, Father Brandsma refused to enter the camp infirmary, and when he did finally consent, Father Brandsma was allegedly forced to participate in medical experiments.

Father Titus Brandsma had been arrested by the Nazis on January 19, 1942 in the Netherlands, which had been under German occupation since May 1940.

On January 15, 1942 the Nazis had sent articles to all the Catholic newspapers with orders that they be published the following day. All of the editors refused because on December 31, 1941, Father Brandsma had drawn up a letter to the 30 Catholic newspapers, urging all the Catholic editors in the Netherlands to violate the laws of the German occupation by not publishing any Nazi propaganda.

Father Brandsma had previously written a Pastoral Letter, read in all Catholic parishes in July 1941, in which the Dutch Roman Catholic bishops officially condemned the anti-Semitic laws of the Nazis and their treatment of the Jews. Dutch Catholics were informed by this letter that they would be denied the Sacraments of the Catholic church if they supported the Nazi party.

Father Brandsma had been very vocal in his opposition to the Nazi ideology ever since Hitler came to power in 1933. He was a prolific writer who had articles published in 80 different publications.

On January 21, 1942, Father Brandsma was put on trial and quickly convicted of treason because he refused to cooperate with the German occupation. Blessed Titus Brandsma died a martyr for the right of freedom of the press in an occupied country.

Pope John Paul II beatified Titus Brandsma in 1985, giving him the title of Blessed Titus Brandsma.

Father Titus Brandsma was a professor of Philosophy and Mysticism at the University of Nijmegan in the Netherlands. He belonged to The Order of the Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a religious order that is believed to have been founded in the 12th century on Mount Carmel. The Carmelite priests were dedicated to the worship of Mary, the mother of God.

Entrance into the Carmelite Chapel at Dachau

Entrance into the Carmelite Chapel at Dachau

At the Dachau Memorial Site, there is a Carmelite convent which was built in 1963 just outside the former camp.  The entrance to the convent is through one of the former guard towers, which is shown in the photo above. The convent was built on the site of the gravel pit where prisoners had been assigned to work as punishment for breaking the rules in the camp.

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.

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 largest number of Catholic priests at Dachau were the 1780 priests from Poland. The largest number of deaths of priests at Dachau was 868 from Poland. There were 830 Polish priests at Dachau when the camp was liberated, but 78 priests had already been released.

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.

I got much of the information for my blog post today from a book entitled  “What was it like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau?” written by Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler. I purchased this book at the Dachau Memorial Site on my first visit in 1997.

In his book, Dr. Neuhäusler wrote that, out of the 2720 clergymen imprisoned at Dachau, 314 were released, 1034 died in the camp, 132 were transferred to another camp, and 1240 were still in the camp when it was liberated on April 29, 1945.

The highest number of priests that were released from Dachau was the 208 German priests. Out of the 447 German priests at Dachau, 100 were transferred to other camps and 94 died in the camp; there were only 45 German priests at Dachau when the camp was liberated.

The first German priest to enter Dachau in 1940 was Father Franz Seitz, according to Dr. Neuhäusler’s book. 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. Neuhäusler wrote 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.

One of the priests at Dachau, Father William J. O’Malley, wrote the following regarding the priests who were arrested and sent to Dachau because they were actively helping the underground Resistance against the German occupation of Europe:

“The 156 French, 63 Dutch, and 46 Belgians were primarily interned for their work in the Underground. If that were a crime, such men as Michel Riquet, S.J., surely had little defense; he was in contact with most of the leaders of the French Resistance and was their chaplain, writing forthright editorials for the underground press, sequestering Jews, POW’s, downed Allied airmen, feeding and clothing them, providing them with counterfeit papers and spiriting them into Spain and North Africa.”

Was Father Brandsma forced to be a subject of medical experiments at Dachau?  He was already 61 years old and he was already sick when he was admitted into the Dachau camp. It is highly unlikely that he was used as a subject of medical experiments.

Dr. Schilling was put on trial at Dachau because he conducted medical experiments on the prisoners

Dr. Schilling was put on trial at Dachau because he had conducted medical experiments

Dr. Klaus Schilling, shown in the photo above as he testified on the witness stand in the post-war trial of the Dachau staff, was put on trial and convicted by the American Military Tribunal because he had conducted medical experiments on inmates at Dachau.

Dr. Schilling was one of the world’s foremost experts on tropical diseases when he was ordered by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, the head of all the Nazi concentration camps, to come out of retirement to work on a cure for malaria after German soldiers began dying of the disease in North Africa. Before his retirement, Dr. Schilling had worked at the prestigious Robert Koch Institute in Berlin. He began specializing in tropical diseases after he himself contracted malaria.

After the war, Dr. Schilling was arrested by the American Army and charged with participating in a “common plan” to violate the Laws and Usages of War under the Geneva Convention of 1929 because he had conducted experiments on Dachau prisoners, using various drugs in an effort to find a cure for malaria. Most of his subjects were young Polish priests whom Dr. Schilling infected by means of mosquitoes from the marshes of Italy and the Crimea, according to author Peter Padfield in his book entitled “Himmler.” The priests were chosen for the experiments because they were not required to work, as were the ordinary prisoners at Dachau.

One of the prosecution witnesses at the trial of the German Major War Criminals at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal was Dr. Franz Blaha, a Czech medical doctor who was a Communist political prisoner at Dachau. An affidavit signed by Dr. Blaha was entered into the main Nuremberg trial. It was marked Document Number 3249-PS, Exhibit USA-663.

His comments in this affidavit about Dr. Schilling are quoted below from the transcript of the Nuremberg trial for January 11, 1946

“3. During my time at Dachau I was familiar with many kinds of medical experiments carried on there on human victims. These persons were never volunteers but were forced to submit to such acts. Malaria experiments on about 1,200 people were conducted by Dr. Klaus Schilling between 1941 and 1945. Schilling was personally ordered by Himmler to conduct these experiments. The victims were either bitten by mosquitoes or given injections of malaria sporozoites taken from mosquitoes. Different kinds of treatment were applied including quinine, pyrifer, neosalvarsan, antipyrin, pyramidon, and a drug called 2516 Behring. I performed autopsies on the bodies of people who died from these malaria experiments. Thirty to 40 died from the malaria itself. Three hundred to four hundred died later from diseases which were fatal because of the physical condition resulting from the malaria attacks. In addition there were deaths resulting from poisoning due to overdoses of neosalvarsan and pyramidon. Dr. Schilling was present at my autopsies on the bodies of his patients.”

The 74-year-old Dr. Schilling was convicted by an American Military Tribunal at Dachau and was hanged. In his final statement to the court, Dr. Schilling pleaded to have the results of his experiments returned to him so they could be published, but his work was confiscated and used by the US military. During his trial, Dr. Schilling tried to justify his crime by saying that his experiments were for the good of mankind.

 

February 18, 2013

Holocaust survivor tells Kansas students that priests were killed in the gas chambers

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 2:04 pm

The text quoted below was printed in the online Clay Center Dispatch on February 15, 2013:

Students at Clay Center Community High School had an opportunity to meet history face to face Tuesday when Holocaust survivor Eva Rappart Edmands visited CCCHS [in Lawrence, KS] Tuesday afternoon.

Edmands who lives in Lawrence opened her morning presentation by asking students to complete a quotation often attributed to Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is . . . “ (that good men do nothing.)

She went on to explain that’s what happened in Germany that allowed Hitler and the Nazis to do so much evil.   [….]

By conservative estimates more than 1,000 priests and ministers died in the gas chambers because they helped Jews, Edmands said.

The Clay Center Dispatch did not report whether Ms. Edmands told the students which gas chamber was used to kill priests and ministers. Dachau was the concentration camp where the priests and ministers were sent.  Were the priests and ministers killed in the Dachau gas chamber?  You can read about the priests at Dachau here.

What right do “Holocaust survivors” have to come into American schools and tell lies about the Holocaust?  Ms. Edmands survived because she hid from the Nazis.  She was never in a concentration camp.

This quote from The Dispatch shows that Ms. Edmands is not qualified to talk to students on the subject of the Holocaust:

As for those today who would deny the holocaust, the German’s own records prove it happened.

“The Germans kept excellent records of the trains that went to the death camps. The records had the names of the people who were on the trains,” Edmands said.

It is well known that the “records of the trains that went to the death camps” have never been found. That is why it is ESTIMATED that 1.3 million Jews were sent on trains to Auschwitz; the exact number is unknown.

The train records were kept on IBM Hollerith cards, but those cards were confiscated by the Soviet Union and have never been released.  The Soviet Union claimed at the Nuremberg IMT that 4 million prisoners had been killed at Auschwitz, but there was no evidence submitted to back up that claim.

This quote is from the website of the Auschwitz Museum:

We should remember that the Nazis destroyed most of the documents they created and that a list with the names of all Auschwitz victims does not exist.

Should Ms. Edmands be arrested and sent to prison for 5 years for lying about the Holocaust?  No, it is only “Holocaust deniers” who are sent to prison for as long as 5 years in 19 countries.  A “Holocaust denier” is defined as a person who does not believe Holocaust lies.

September 14, 2010

The priests who were imprisoned at Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, movies — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 12:36 pm

The history of Dachau has changed since I first visited the Memorial site in 1997. Especially, the history of the priests at Dachau.  You can read some of the revised history of the priests at Dachau here.

These quotes are from the web site cited above:

“Many people do not know that Dachau was the concentration camp that Hitler designed just for priests.  Several hundred thousand priests were tortured and murdered there.”

[…]

“In April 1945, as the war was ending, the Nazis, in order to destroy any evidence or witnesses to their crimes, decided to liquidate all the priests left at he death camp in Dachau.  One of the priests encouraged the other prisoners to pray to the Holy Family of Kalisz.  The camp was miraculously liberated several hours before the Nazis could begin their planned executions.  Ever since, the priests from Dachau have made an annual thanksgiving pilgrimage to the Icon of the Holy Family in Kalisz.”

A movie entitled The Ninth Day has been in the news a lot lately.  It is about Father Jean Bernard, a Catholic priest from Luxembourg, who was a prisoner in the Dachau concentration camp from May 19, 1941 to August 1942. Father Bernard wrote a book entitled Pfarrerblock 25487 which was translated into English in 2007 under the title Priestblock 25487. The movie The Ninth Day by Volker Schlöndorff was based on a 9 day furlough that Father Bernard was given to go home when his mother died.

Ronald J. Rychlak wrote the following in his review of Father Bernard’s book:

There was so little food that Fr. Bernard tells of risking the ultimate punishment in order to steal and eat a dandelion from the yard. The prisoners would secretly raid the compost pile, one time relishing discarded bones that had been chewed by the dogs of Nazi officers. Another time the Nazi guards, knowing what the priests intended, urinated on the pile. For some priests, this was not enough to overcome their hunger.

Here is another quote from Ronald J. Rychlak about what he read in Father Bernard’s book, Priestblock 25487:

Priests at Dachau were not marked for death by being shot or gassed as a group, but over two thousand of them died there from disease, starvation, and general brutality. One year, the Nazis “celebrated” Good Friday by torturing 60 priests. They tied the priests’ hands behind their backs, put chains around their wrists, and hoisted them up by the chains. The weight of the priests’ bodies twisted and pulled their joints apart. Several of the priests died, and many others were left permanently disabled. The Nazis, of course, threatened to repeat the event if their orders were not carried out.

I haven’t read Father Bernard’s book and I don’t plan to read it any time soon because I have to watch my blood pressure and I don’t want to have another stroke from reading such a sensational account of the treatment of the priests at Dachau.

In 1940, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler designated Dachau as the camp for clergymen because it was the mildest of all the camps in the Nazi system; 2,720 clergymen were sent there, 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. This information comes from the book, What was it like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau?, by Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler.

The clergymen at Dachau included 109 Protestant ministers, 22 Greek Orthodox, 2 Muslims and 8 men who were classified as “Old Catholic and Mariaists.” A few of the priests, who were sent to Dachau, had been arrested for child molestation or for a violation of Paragraph 175, the German law against homosexuality.

The most famous priest at Dachau was Leonard Roth, who had to wear a black triangle because he had been arrested as a pedophile.  A street that borders the Dachau Memorial site has been named for him.

Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler, an auxiliary Bishop from Munich, was one of  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, according to his book, 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, before he was transferred to Dachau.

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

The German bishops and the Pope had persuaded  Himmler to concentrate all the priests imprisoned in the various Nazi 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.

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.

One of the German Catholic priests who survived Dachau was Father Hermann Scheipers who was still alive in October 2009 at the age of 96. In an interview with Stu Bykofsky of the Philadelphia Daily News, Father Scheipers said, regarding Dachau:

“So this is what I saw in front of my eyes, that people were gassed in the gas chambers.”

After an interview with Father Scheipers in October 2009, Greg Hayes of the Sun Gazette wrote the following:

Scheipers described the horrors of working and living among the sickness, torture, horrific experiments and death that inundated Dachau.

The priest delivered the story of how his life was saved by his sister Anna and how her courage not only rescued Scheipers but about 500 other priests who were lined up to go, or would have later been sent, to the gas chambers.

Scheipers said his “death certificate” was signed when he was feeling faint during a role (sic) call session one morning in 1942, because he had become “completely exhausted from all the work” in the camp, not because he was sick.

When Anna got word by making illegal contact with other imprisoned priests from the outside that her brother was sentenced to die, she and her father entered the SS security main office (RSHA in Berlin), and Scheipers’ sister insisted the officer guarantee her brother’s safety.

It was then that orders were made to spare the lives of the priests.

Paul Berben was a Dachau prisoner who wrote the Official History of Dachau.   He wrote the following about how the priests were treated differently than the other prisoners:

On 15th March 1941 the clergy were withdrawn from work Kommandos on orders from Berlin, and their conditions improved. They were supplied with bedding of the kind issued to the S.S., and Russian and Polish prisoners were assigned to look after their quarters. They could get up an hour later than the other prisoners and rest on their beds for two hours in the morning and afternoon. Free from work, they could give themselves to study and to meditation. They were given newspapers and allowed to use the library. Their food was adequate; they sometimes received up to a third of a loaf of bread a day; there was even a period when they were given half a litre of cocoa in the morning and a third of a bottle of wine daily.

Father Bernard arrived at Dachau on March 19, 1941, just in time to benefit from the changes made on March 15, 1941. Yet Dr. Neuhäusler wrote this about Father Bernard who first published his dairy in 1945:

In his memoirs he writes: “My first day at the transport commando “Präzifix”: It is March 19, 1941, the feast of St. Joseph – As we push the wagon through the door, I pray to him.

Präzifix was the name of a screw factory just outside the “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate at Dachau. According to the diary that he kept at Dachau, Father Bernard was doing heavy work outside the camp on his first day there.

Regarding the priests’ ration of “a third of a bottle of wine daily,” Father Bernard wrote that the priests were forced, under threats of a beating, to uncork the wine and pour a third of the bottle into a cup, then consume the wine all in one gulp. He mentions an occasion in which one priest, who hesitated, had the cup slammed into his face, cutting through his lips and cheeks to the bone.

The regular prisoners in the camp had to drink ersatz coffee, and they were never allowed to drink wine.