Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

Totalitarianism: Last Years of a Resister in the Diocese of Berlin: Bernhard Lichtenberg's Conflict with Karl Adam and his Fateful Imprisonment

  • Kevin Spicer (a1)

Extract

Among the priests of the diocese of Berlin who lived and served as parish ministers during the Third Reich, one individual stands out for his courage and willingness to risk his life and speak the Christian truth in a world often devoid of any gospel values. Monsignor Bernhard Lichtenberg (1875–1943) surpassed the other clergy of his diocese in his conscious efforts to challenge the perverse policies of the state in a consistent, profound manner. To defend the faith against encroachment by the state, Lichtenberg not only exhibited Resistenz by creating defensive barriers through his own ministry, but also publicly protested, in a rigorous manner, state actions that he deemed immoral and contradictory to Catholic values.

Copyright

References

Hide All

1. Taken from the field of medicine, denoting immunity, Martin Broszat introduced the term Resistenz. According to Broszat, it included those actions that offered an “effective defense, demarcation, and curbing of the National Socialist control or its claims of control.” In contrast, he limited the term resistance (Widerstand) to those who consciously opposed the Nazi regime on political grounds. On this point see Broszat, Martin, “Resistenz und Widerstand. Eine Zwischenbilanz des Forschungsprojekts,” in Bayrern in der NS-Zeit, Vol. 4, Herrschaft und Gesellschaft im Konflikt, Part C (Munich: R. Oldenbourg, 1981), 698.

2. Erb, Alfons, Bernhard Lichtenberg: Dompropst von St. Hedwig zu Berlin (Berlin: Morus, 1949), 18.

3. Klein, Gotthard, “Bernhard Lichtenberg und die Berliner Blutzeugen 1933–1945” in Wie im Himmel so auf Erden. 90.Deutscher Katholikentag vom 23. bis 27. Mai 1990 in Berlin, Dokumentation, Vol. 2 (Paderborn: Bonifatius, 1990), 1703.

4. Beilmann, Christel, “Eine Jugend im katholischen Milieu. Zum Verhältnis von Glaube und Widerstand,” in Piraten, Swings und Junge Garde, jugendwiderstand im Nationalsozialismus, ed. Breyvogel, Wilfried (Bonn: Dietz, 1991), 70.

5. Schmeichen-Ackermann, Detlef, “Katholische Diaspora zwischen Rückzug und Selbstbehauptung in der NS-Zeit. Überlegungen zum Verhältnis von Milieubindung und Widerstandspotentialen am Fallbeispiel Hannover,” Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht 49 (1998): 475–76.

6. Hürten, Heinz, “Widerstand und Zeugnis: Ein Nachwort,” in Die Katholiken und das Dritte Reich, eds. Gotto, Klaus and Repgen, Konrad, 3d ed. (Mainz: Matthias- Grünewald, 1990), 195, 198. On this point see also Hürten, Heinz, Verfolgung, Widerstand und Zeugnis. Kirche im Nationalsozialismus. Fragen eines Historikers. (Mainz: Matthias- Grünewald, 1987).

7. For a summary of Lichtenberg's many protests and actions during the Third Reichsee Hürten, Heinz, “Bernhard Lichtenberg. Zur Seligsprechung eines Seelsorgers,” Stimmen der Zeit 121 (1996): 372–80;Pruβ, Ursula, “Seliger Dompropst Bernhard Lichtenberg,” in Zeugen für Christus. Das deutsche Martyrologium des 20. Jahrhunderts, ed. Moll, Helmut (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 1999), 104–10;Spicer, Kevin, C.S.C., “The Propst from St. Hedwig: Bernhard Lichtenberg as a Paradigm for Resistance,” in The Burdens of History: Post Holocaust Generations in Dialogue, eds. Leder, Sharon and Teichman, Milton (Merion Station, Pa.: Merion Westfield, 2000), 2540.

8. Hehl, Ulrich von, Kösters, Christoph, Strenz-Maur, Petra, Zimmermann, Elisabeth, eds., Priester unter Hitlers Terror. Eine Biographie und Statistische Erhebung, Vol. 2, 3d ed., VKZ A37 (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 1996), 1321.

9. Kreidler, Hans, “Karl Adam und der Nationalsozialismus,” Rottenburger Jahrbuch für Kirchengeschichte 2 (1983): 136–37. See also the commentary, mainly derived from Kreidler's article in Krieg, Robert Anthony, Karl Adam: Catholicism in German Culture (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992), 133–35.

10. On the German Faith Movement, see Nanko, Ulrich, Die Deutsche Glaubensbewegung. Eine historische und soziologische Untersuchung (Marburg: Diagonal, 1993). Also see Scholder, Klaus, The Churches and the Third Reich: Preliminary History and the Time of Illusions 1918–1934, Vol. 1, trans. Bowden, John (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988), 451–53and Scholder, Klaus, The Churches and the Third Reich, Vol. 2: The Year of Disillusionment: 1934: Barmen and Rome, trans. Bowden, John (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988), 98102.

11. On Hauer see Dierks, Margarete, Jakob Wilhelm Hauer, 1881–1962. Leben-Werk-Wirkung (Heidelberg: L. Schneider, 1986).See also the three articles by Hauer, : “The Origins of the German Faith Movement,” “An Alien or a German Faith?,” “The Semitic Character of Christianity,” in Germany's New Religion: The German Faith Movement, trans. Scott-Craig, T. S. K. and Davies, R. E. (NY: Abingdon, 1937), 2784.

12. Kreidler, “Karl Adam und der Nationalsozialismus,” 133.

13. Hagen, August, Geschichte der Diözese Rottenburg, Vol. 3 (Stuttgart: Schwaben, 1960), 522–23;Kreidler, , “Karl Adam und der Nationalsozialismus,” 134–36; Krieg, Karl Adam, 126–30. The Nazis also attacked Adam because he spoke positively concerning the Jewish people in relation to the Catholic Church: “Therefore, for the Catholic Church the Jewish history is a unique experience because the unparalleled experience of Christ took place through it.” Reichswart, 28 January 1934. See the same issue for a critique of Adam's speech.

14. Adam, Karl, Die geistige Lage des deutschen Katholizismus (hereafter Lage), 10 12 1939, Bundesarchiv Berlin (BArch B) NS43 20ff., 231R232.

15. Adam, Karl, “Deutsches Volkstum und katholisches Christentum,” Theologische Quartalschrift 114 (1933): 4063. On Adam and other Catholic theologians' response to the Third Reich, see Breuning, Klaus, Die Vision des Reiches: Deutscher Katholizismus zwischen Demokratie und Diktatur, 1929–1934 (Munich: Max Hueber, 1969), 248–49;Dietrich, Donald J., “Catholic Theologians in Hitler's Reich: Adaptation and Critique,” Journal of Church and State 29 (1987): 1945;Dietrich, , Catholic Citizens in the Third Reich, 180214;Krieg, Robert A., “Karl Adam, National Socialism, and Christian Tradition,” Theological Studies 60 (1999): 432–56;Scholder, , The Churches and the Third Reich, 1: 425–30.

16. Adam, Karl, “Vom gottmenschlichen Erlöser,” in Glaubenstage und Glaubenswallfährten, Zentralkomitee der Generalversammlungen der deutschen Katholiken. (Paderborn: Bonifacius, 1934), 111–45. Originally printed in two parts in Deutsches Volksblatt (Stuttgart), “Christus und das deutsche Volk,” 23 01 1934 and “Die Erlösungstat Jesu Christi,” 24 January 1934.The only remaining copies of these articles taken from Deutsches Volksblatt may be found in BArch B R53 198, ff. 90–91. According to extensive research and inquiries, all library and archival holdings of the newspaper were destroyed by bombing raids during the war. For an analysis of the lecture see Kreidler, “Karl Adam und der Nationalsozialismus,”132–33 and Krieg, Karl Adam, 123–26. The concept of Volksgemeinschaft tied directly into Adam's understanding of community within the church. On this point see Adam to Pirchen, 4 July 1940, Universität Archiv Eichstätt (UAE), Flugblatt Sammlung, No. 196.

17. For a discussion of theology and neoromanticism see Krieg, Karl Adam, 159–78.

18. Krieg, Karl Adam, 9.

19. Krieg, Karl Adam, 159.

20. Adam, Lage, f. 203R.

21. Adam, Lage, f. 231R.

22. Adam, Lage, ff. 230R–231.

23. Adam, Lage, f. 231.

24. Adam, Lage, f. 231.

25. Adam, Lage, ff. 238R–239.

26. Adam, Lage, f. 234R.

27. Adam, Lage, f. 240R.

28. Adam, Lage, f. 239R.

29. Adam, Lage, ff. 240R–241R.

30. See Schulte to Orsenigo, 27 September 1940; note of Sebastian concerning a talk with Bornewasser, 8 November 1940 in Volk, Ludwig, Akten Deutscher Bischöfe über die Lage der Kirche 1933–1945, Vol. 5, 1940–1942, VKZ A34, (Mainz: Matthias-Grünewald, 1983), 75, 252.Ludwig Sebastian (18621943), Bishop of Speyer, noted that Adolf Cardinal Bertram (1859–1945), Archbishop of Breslau, had declared to President Hürth of the Kolpingsblatt that if the newspaper continued to print things in a similar vein concerning Adam's comments, he would close down the newspaper.

31. Aretz, Jürgen, Katholische Arbeiterbewegung und National Sozialismits, VKZ B25, 2d ed. (Mainz: Matthias-Grünewald, 1982), 225. Also see Joos, Josef, Am Räderwerk der Zeit. Erinnerungen aus der katholischen und sozialen Bewegung und Politik (Augsburg: Windried-Werk, 1951), 155–57.

32. Nagel to Cardinals, Archbishops, and Bishops of Germany, 4 06 1940, BArch B R5101 (Specific folder undetermined. Copy in the possession of the author.).

33. Lichtenberg to Adam, 4 November 1940, in Klein, Gotthard, ed., Berolinen Canonizationis Servi Die Bernhardi Lichtenberg. Sacerdotis Saecidaris in Odium Fidei, Uti Fertur, Interfecti (1875–1943), Vol. 2 (Rome: Congregation de Causis Sanctorum, 1992), 126, (hereafter Berolinen II).

34. See Gellately, Robert, The Gestapo and German Society: Enforcing Racial Policy, 1933–1945 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991), 129–58.

35. Lichtenberg to Adam, 4 11 1940, Berolinen II, 126–27.

36. Lichtenberg to Adam, 4 11 1940, Berolinen II, 127.

37. Lichtenberg to Adam, 4 11 1940, Berolinen II, 127.

38. Lichtenberg to Adam, 4 11 1940, Berolinen II, 127.

39. Lichtenberg to Adam, 4 11 1940, Berolinen II, 129. Lichtenberg quoted from Mein Kampf, chap. 5: “Philosophy and Organization.” See Hitler, Adolf, Mein Kampf, trans. Manheim, Ralph (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971), 454–55.

40. Lichtenberg to Adam, 4 11 1940, Berolinen II, 129.

41. Lichtenberg to Adam, 4 11 1940, Berolinen II, 129–30.

42. Lichtenberg to Adam, 4 11 1940, Berolinen II, 133.

43. Lichtenberg to Adam, 4 11 1940, Berolinen II, 134.

44. Lichtenberg to Adam, 4 11 1940, Berolinen II, 135.

45. Lichtenberg to Adam, 4 11 1940, Berolinen II, 136.

46. Lichtenberg to Adam, 4 11 1940, Berolinen II, 137.

47. Adam to Lichtenberg, 23 11 1940, Berolinen II, 138.

48. Adam to Lichtenberg, 23 11 1940, Berolinen II, 138–39.

49. Adam to Lichtenberg, 23 11 1940, Berolinen II, 139.

50. Adam to Lichtenberg, 23 11 1940, Berolinen II, 139.

51. Adam to Lichtenberg, 23 11 1940, Berolinen II, 139.

52. Adam to Lichtenberg, 23 11 1940, Berolinen II, 139.

53. Adam to Lichtenberg, 23 11 1940, Berolinen II, 139–40.

54. Adam to Lichtenberg, 23 11 1940, Berolinen II, 140.

55. Adam to Lichtenberg, 23 11 1940, Berolinen II, 141.

56. Adam charged Lichtenberg to review the thought of Luis de Molina, S.J. (1535–1600). On Molina's thought see Edwards, Francis, “Molina/Molinismus,” in Theologische Realenzyklopädie, Vol. 23, ed. Müller, Gerhard (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1994), 199203.

57. For a discussion of original sin see Rahner, S.J. Karl, “Original Sin” in Sacramentum Mundi, Vol. 4 (NY: Herder and Herder, 1969), 328–34.

58. For an interpretation of Adam's understanding of spiritual and cultural decline in western society see Krieg, , “Karl Adam, National Socialism, and Christian Tradition,“ especially 435, 441–42.

59. Adam to Lichtenberg, 23 11 1940, Berolinen II, 142.

60. Adam to Lichtenberg, 23 11 1940, Berolinen II, 142.

61. Lichtenberg to Adam, 30 11 1940, Berolinen II, 143.

62. Lichtenberg to Adam, 30 11 1940, Berolinen II, 143.

63. Lichtenberg to Adam, 30 11 1940, Berolinen II, 144.

64. Lichtenberg to Adam, 30 11 1940, Berolinen II, 146.

65. Adam to Roth, 16 04 1941, BArch B R5101 21679, f. 75.

66. Protokoll, 29 September 1941, Mann, H. G., Prozeβ Bernhard Lichtenberg. Ein Leben in Dokumenten (Morus: Berlin, 1977), 4445.The young women's names are specified in a Note of the Gestapo, 6 October 1941, Berolinen II, 156.

67. For a discussion of the evidence and testimony that support the fact that Hanke's father denounced Lichtenberg see Klein, Gotthard, ed., Berolinen Canonizationis Servi Die Bernhardi Lichtenberg. Sacerdotis Saecularis in Odium Fidei, Uti Fertur, Interfecti (1875–1943), Vol. 1 (Rome: Congregation de Causis Sanctorum, 1992), 83, n. 6, (hereafter Berolinen I).At first, the reason for Lichtenberg's arrest and preventive detention was not clear even to the Ministry of Church Affairs who sent a letter of inquiry to the Ministry of Interior over this question. Church Affairs questioned whether the Gestapo arrested him for a “scandalous” letter Lichtenberg had written and sent in 1941 to Dr. Leonardo Conti (1900–1945), Reich Chief of Physicians, criticizing the government's euthanasia program. Kerrl to Frick, 31 October 1941, Berolinen II, 178.

68. Arrest Order, Gestapo, Berlin, October 23, 1941, Berolinen II, 159.

69. Wenn Du dieses Zeichen siehst … Jude, an anonymous anti-Semitic pamphlet, October 1941, Berolinen II, 157–58.

70. Pulpit declaration, 10 1943, Berolinen II, 160–61.

71. Interrogation, 25 10 1941, Berolinen II, 165–66.

72. Interrogation, 25 10 1941, Berolinen II, 167.

73. Interrogation, 25 10 1941, Berolinen II, 166.

74. Interrogation, 25 10 1941, Berolinen II, 168.

75. Protokoll, 29 09 1941, Mann, Pwzeβ Bernhard Lichtenberg, 45.

76. Interrogation, 25 10 1941, Berolinen II, 168.

77. Interrogation, 27 10 1941, Berolinen II, 171.

78. Ministry of Propaganda to Berndt, 10 11 1941, Berolinen II, 193.

79. Interrogation, 30 10 1941, Berolinen II, 177.

80. Interrogation, 30 10 1941, Berolinen II, 177–78.

81. Interrogation, 25 10 1941, Berolinen II, 165–66.

82. Attorney General Berlin to Special Tribunal Berlin, 21 March 1942, BArch B R5101 23335, ff. 53–56. A letter from the SD to Kerrl confirms the charge related to the “intercessions for Jews and prisoners.” SD to Kerrl, 24 November 1941, BArch B R5101 23335, ff. 48–49.

83. Court Decision, 22 05 1942, BArch B R5101 23335, ff. 59–65.

84. Preysing visited Lichtenberg on five separate occasions: 9 12 1941, 4 May 1942, 4 November 1942, 21 March 1943, and 29 September 1943. See Berolinen, I, 41–46.

85. See especially, Pius XII to Preysing, 20 April 1943: “It gives us … solace to hear, that Catholics, specifically Berlin Catholics, have shown the so-called non-Aryans so great a love in their distress, and we say in this connection a special word of fatherly appreciation as well as intimate sympathy to the imprisoned Monsignor Lichtenberg.” Mann, Prozeβ Bernhard Lichtenberg, 105. Also see Pius XII to Preysing, 21 March 1944, Berolinen II, 330.

86. Note of Weizsacker, 10 March 1942, Mann, Prozeβ Bernhard Lichtenberg, 87. The Foreign Office seemed to be concerned about the Nuncio's involvement in the Lichtenberg affair and informed Ernst Freiherr von Weizacker, State Secretary in the Foreign Office, of this possibility. Haidlen to Weizacker, 11 November 1941, Berolinen II, 194.

87. Preysing, Sermon in St. Hedwig, 2 November 1941, Berolinen II, 182.

88. Preysing to Pius XII, 25 October 1941, Berolinen II, 169.

89. Klein, “Bernhard Lichtenberg und die Berliner Blutzeugen 19331945,” 1711.

90. Preysing to Gestapo, Berlin, 4 November 1941, Berolinen II, 187–88.

91. Preysing to Director of Tegel Prison, 22 March 1943, Mann, Prozeβ Bernhard Lichtenberg, 104. This was a great concern because Lichtenberg's weight had gone from 188 pounds on 23 October 1941 to 124 pounds on 7 March 1943. See Mann, Prozeβ Bernhard Lichtenberg, 102.

92. Preysing to Attorney General Berlin, 17 February 1942, Mann, Prozeβ Bernhard Lichtenberg, 85.

93. Report of Preysing, October 1943, Mann, Prozeβ Bernhard Lichtenberg, 112.

94. Interrogation, 25 October 1941, Berolinen II, 166 and Report of Preysing, October 1943, Mann, Prozeβ Bernhard Lichtenberg, 112.

95. Exit Form of Tegel Prison, 22 October 1943, Mann, Prozeβ Bernhard Lichtenberg, 90.

96. Exit Form of Tegel Prison, 22 October 1943, Mann, Prozeβ Bernhard Lichtenberg, 90.

97. Doctor's Certificate, October 1943, Mann, Prozeβ Bernhard Lichtenberg, 113.

98. Ogiermann, Bis zum letzten Atemzug, 276–78.

99. Gestapo, Berlin, 28 October 1943, Mann, Prozeβ Bernhard Lichtenberg, 114.

100. Erb, Bernhard Lichtenberg, 63–65.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Church History
  • ISSN: 0009-6407
  • EISSN: 1755-2613
  • URL: /core/journals/church-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed