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Totalitarianism: Racial Values vs. Religious Values:Clerical Opposition to Nazi Anti-Polish Racial Policy

  • John J. Delaney (a1)


Hitler's wars for living space sent millions of Germans abroad and aggravated a severe labor shortage at home. German authorities recruited or forcibly transported up to seven million foreign workers to the Reich from 1939 to 1945. A great many of these civilian workers, POWs, and slave laborers came from Poland, the Ukraine, and western areas of the Soviet Union, that is, homelands the Nazi regime stigmatized as particularly “inferior.” Nazi racial thinking and wartime security concerns produced an extensive set of discriminatory measures aimed at the subjugation and strict control of Slavs. Nazi edicts required Poles and so-called Eastern Workers (Ostarbeiter) to wear a purple “P” or “Ost” badge on their outer clothing. Restrictive measures limited allowable movement to their immediate area of residence and work. The regime also imposed a system akin to apartheid. Racial law thus prohibited unnecessary social contact between members of the so-called master race and their “racial inferiors.”



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1. Herbert, Ulrich, Hitler's Foreign Workers: Enforced Foreign Labor in Germany under the Third Reich, trans. Templer, William (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997);Homze, Edward L., Foreign Labor in Nazi Germany (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967).A shift to confined and geographically focused studies is rapidly emerging as the literature on foreign labor grows. Several regional and municipal studies have appeared in recent years.See for example the rich and detailed study of forced laborers in Munich's war economy by Heusler, Andreas, Ausländereinsatz: Zwangsarbeit für die Munchner Kriegswirtschaft, 1939–1945 (Munich: Hugendubel, 1996).

2. Herbert, Hitler's Foreign Workers.

3. Herbert, Hitler's Foreign Workers, 298.

4. Łuczak, Czestaw, ed., Potizenie polskich robotkików przymusowych w Rzeszy: 1939–1945 (Die Lage der polnischen Zwargsarbeiter im Reich 1939–1945; documents chiefly in German; introduction also in English, German, and Russian), Vol. 9 of Documenta occupationis (Poznan: Instytut Zachodni, 1975), lxxiv.

5. Over 90 percent of farms in Bavaria were 20 hectares or less in size in 1933.See Kershaw, Ian, Popular Opinion and Political Dissent in the Third Reich: Bavaria 1933–1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), 33.

6. “[I]n der Landwirtschaft ging es ihnen in der Regel erheblich besser als in der Industrie, und auch dort waren die Unterschiede in der Behandlung und der Ernährung eklatant, vor allem seit Ende 1942.”Herbert, Ulrich, “Introduction” in Europa und der “Reicheinsatz”: Ausländische Zivilarbeiter, Kriegsgefangene und KZ-Häflinge in Deutschland, 1938–1945, ed. Herbert, Ulrich (Essen: Klartext Verlag, 1991), 12;Lutz Niethammer's comments in Matthias Arning, “Viele waren keine zwölf Jahre alt,” Frankfurter Rundschau online, 18 February 2000;Bauer, Theresia, Nationalsozialistische Agrapolitik und bäuerliches Verhalten im Zweiten Weltkrieg: Eine Regionalstudie zur ländlichen Gesellschaft in Bayern (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1996), 161–72; and (my doctoral dissertation, SUNY/ University at Buffalo) Delaney, John J., Rural Catholics, Polish Workers, and Nazi Racial Policy in Bavaria, 1939–1945 (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, 1995), 220–94.

7. Delaney, Rural Catholics, Polish Workers, 60–128, 155–220.

8. After years of leading the team at work on the now famous Bavarian Project, Martin Broszat observed: “Oppositionelle katholische Pfarre und Bischöfe mit starkem sozialen und geistlichen Einfluβ konnen sich in Regionen mit dichtem katholischem Milieu, infolge auch der relativen Zurückhaltung vom Amts- und Parteistellen ihnen gegenüber, häufig mehr ≪leisten≫ als andere Oppositionelle. Oft bestand ein konkurrierendes Neben- und Gegeneinander kirchlichen und nationalsozialistischen Weltanschauungs- Einflusses, in seltenen Fällen gerieten die lokalen Repräsentanten der NSDAP sogar in die Defensive.”See Broszat, Martin “Resistenz und Widerstand: Eine Zwischenbilanz des Forschungsprojekts,” in Bayern in der NS-Zeit IV Herrschaft und Gesellschaft im Konflikt, Teil C, eds. Broszat, Martin et al. (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1981), 691709, this quote on 697; in his ground breaking study of Bavaria a dozen years earlier, Peterson, Edward N. noted: “[There was] a remarkable feature of Catholic villages: the priest often made the decision about who would join the party and therewith remain in control of the village.” The Limits of Hitler's Power (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 412.Long overlooked or unappreciated, the rural clergy's authority, staying power, and oppositional leadership in village life is finally gaining recognition in general histories of the Third Reich: “Beneath the level of active resistance, there was … a broad scale of nonconformist behaviour, including preservation of a non-National Socialist identity. … Protestant pastors and, above all, Catholic priests in isolated rural areas sought, together with their congregations, to maintain ethical norms contrary to those ordered and practiced by the regime.”Dülffer, Jost, Nazi Germany 1933–1945: Faith and Annihilation, trans. McMurry, Dean Scott (London: Arnold, 1996), 204.

9. Herbert, Hitler's Foreign Workers, 67;and Welch, David, The Third Reich: Politics and Propaganda (London: Routledge, 1993), 92.

10. August, Jochen, “Die Entwicklung des Arbeitsmarks in Deutschland in den 30er Jahren und der Masseneinsatz ausländischer Arbeitskräfte während des Zweiten Weltkrieges: Das Fallbeispiel der polnischen zivilen Arbeitskräfte und Kriegsgefangenen 1939/1940,” Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 24 (1984): 347, n.164 in which he cites SD reports dated as early as September and October 1939, in BA (Bundesarchiv Koblenz), R 58/144, 145.

11. This translated excerpt quoted in Herbert, Ulrich, A History of Foreign Labor in Germany, 1890–1980: Seasonal Workers/Forced Laborers/Guest Workers, trans. Templer, William (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990), 136–37;see also Steinert, Marlis G., Hitler's War and the Germans: Public Mood and Attitude during the Second World War, ed. and trans. Witt, Thomas E. J. de (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1977), 56; and Kitchen, Martin, Nazi Germany at War (New York: Longman, 1995), 155.

12. Boberach, Heinz, ed., Meldungen aus dem Reich: Die geheimen Lageberichte des Sicherheitsdienstes der SS 1938–1945 (Herrsching: Pawlak Verlag, 1984), Nr. 27, 11 December 1939, 3: 555–56.

13. Staatsarchiv München (hereafter StAM): Landratsamt (hereafter LRA) 192200, Gendarmarie Posten (hereafter GP) Murnau, Nr. 3023, 28 October 1939.

14. “From information from the intelligence officer, it is supposed that the prisoners have outside contacts. Further research efforts were already undertaken by the Intelligence Department.” StAM: LRA 192201, Monatsbericht des Landrats (hereafter MB d LR) Weilheim, Nr. 1331, 31 January 1940, 4. This is but one small indication that SD sources included not only field agents but the monthly reports of county executives.

15. Meldungen au. dem Reich, Nr. 27, 11 12 1939, 3: 556. For Bavaria, and couched in both traditional and positive terms, see the somewhat contemporaneous appeal by a priest in Erlangen for goods destined for Catholic parishes in Poland: “We ask for Christian compassion for our brothers and sisters in Poland, as well as your support!” Meldungen aus dem Reich, “Bericht zur innenpolitishen Lage,” Nr. 24, 4 December 1939, 3: 528.

16. The published decree (Bayerisches Gesezts- und Verordnungsblatt, Nr. 37, 11 December 1939, 341) forbade social interaction of Germans and Poles.See Ziegler, Walter, ed., Band IV: Regierungsbezirk Niederbayern und Oberpfalz, 1933–1945 (hereafter KLB iv),Quellen, Reihe A., Vol. 16 of Die Kirchliche Lage in Bayern, Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für Zeitgeschichte (Mainz: Matthias-Grünewald-Verlag, 1973), 248, n. 15;and Steinert, Hitler's War, 104, n. 52.

17. Staatsarchiv Würzburg (hereafter StAW): Gestapo 1058.

18. StAW: Gestapo 1058: “Father Henneberger declared himself now prepared to gather the prisoners into the church, that is, to admit them to mass. To my objection, that these prisoners were not permitted to come into contact with the civil population during the service, the priest said that he would then place the sacristy at their disposal.” Statement of Emil Müller to the Gestapo, 12 January 1940.

19. Henneberger had two more direct encounters with the law but neither of them challenged the racial policies of the regime. One concerned his attempt to retain influence over community youth. The other was his violation of laws aimed at Catholic Holy Days involving public processions and celebrations. See StAW: Gestapo 1058.

20. Henneberger declared in his own defense, and internal Gestapo memos concur, that prohibitions befitting his case only appeared in the diocesan newsletter and area daily newspaper after the fact, namely on 2 December 1939. See Henneberger's statement to the Gestapo dated 12 January 1940 in StAW: Gestapo 1058.

21. In a circular of 15 July 1941, the Reich Minister for Church Affairs also acknowledged that priests had “held up the Poles as an example to the German parishioners.” Quoted in Herbert, Hitler's Foreign Workers, 110, n. 43.

22. StAW: Gestapo 13682; Kreisleiter's memo of 12 January 1940.

23. See “Bericht zur Lnnenpolitishen Lage,” Nr. 14, 10 November 1939, in Boberach, Heinz, ed., Berichte des SD und der Gestapo über Kirchen und Kirchenvolk in Deutschland 1934–1944, Reihe A, Quellen, Vol. 12, Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für Zeitgeschichte (Mainz: Matthias-Grünewald-Verlag, 1971), 370;also noteworthy are the laudatory statements and acts recorded coming from East Prussia's Catholic enclaves. In this same vein, yet surfacing near Stuttgart, are a priest's urgings to his parishioners to observe and emulate the “Frömmigkeit der Polen” in Berichte des SD und der Gestapo über Kirchen und Kirchenvolk in Deutschland, 6 03 1940, 407.

24. Ziegler, KLB iv, “Monatsbericht der Regierung,” 8 November 1939, 248.

25. Meldungen aus dem Reich, “Bericht zur innenpolitischen Lage,” Nr. 12, 6 November 1939, 2: 422.

26. Meldungen aus dem Reich, Nr. 47, 31 January 1940, 3: 709.

27. See for example the references in December 1939 to such places as Flemming and Schellen in Meldungen aus dem Reich, “Bericht zur innenpolitischen Lage” Nr. 23, 1 December 1939, 3: 515.

28. Meldungen aus dem Reich, Nr. 62, 6 March 1940, 3: 844.

29. In the case of the captured French, whose military status lasted longer than that of Poles, standard procedure was for French POW priests to look after the spiritual needs of their country's POWs. The presence of French priests meant they eventually came into contact with local German ones. Alexander Janta, for all his critical observations of the Germans he came in contact with, noted that German priests did not identify with the Nazi racial policies. French and German clerics identified identified with their common church, callings, and with one another. When possible, they ignored Nazi decrees prohibiting contact with one another and conversed in Latin.See Janta, Alexander, I Lied to Live: A Year as a German Family Slave (New York: Roy Publishers, 1944), 215and Witetschek, Helmut, ed., Band II: Regierungsbzirk Ober- und Mittelfranken, QuellenReihe A, Reihe A,, Vol. 8 of Die Kirchlich Lage in Bayern, Veröffentlichung der Kommission für Zeitgeschichte (Mainz: Matthias-Grünewald-Verlag, 1971),“Monatsbericht der Regierung,” 7 April 1940, 356–57.

30. Staatsarchiv Landshut (hereafter StAL): Rep. 164, Verz. 10, Nr. 3134, GP Adlkopfen, Nr. 1139, 21 July 1940.

31. In this same vein of common worship by Frenchmen and Germans, there is an extraordinary report of a peasant in Unterbleichfeld whose three farm workers were French POWs and chaplains. With his encouragement, the three gradually established a practice of celebrating Mass in their room on a daily basis. With exceptional devotion, the peasant attended these until discovered by the authorities. StAW: SD 27, Abschnitt Würzburg, 14 October 1940, 5.

32. Witetschek, Helmut, ed., Band III: Regierungsbezirk Schwaben, Reihe A, Quellen, Vol. 14 of Die Kirchliche Lage in Bayern, Veroffentlichung der Kommission für Zeitgeschichte (Mainz: Matthias-Grünewald-Verlag, 1971), 195.

33. Meldungen aus dent Reich, “Bericht zur innenpolitischen Lage,” Nr. 21, 27 November 1939, 3: 502. Noteworthy too is that the Mass in Schuttertal near the Black Forest concluded with a benefaction of useful items presented to the POWs in Meldungen aus dent Reich, “Bericht zur innenpolitischen Lage,” Nr. 21, 27 November 1939, 3: 844.

34. Witetschek, KLB, ii, “Monatsbericht der Regierung,” 7 April 1940, 345–46 and “Monatsbericht” 5 March 1941, 374.

35. Before and after Easter of 1940, it was reported that silver rosaries and even gold crosses were handed out. For Bavaria, see Meldungen aus dem Reich, Nr. 54, 16 February 1940, 3: 766; for Baden, Meldungen aus dem Reich, Nr. 74, 8 April 1940, 4: 968.

36. StAW: Gestapo 7617; GP Neuses am Sand, 4 April 1940.

37. Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Abteilung II, Geheimes Staatsarchiv München (hereafter GStA) Monats Bericht der Regierungspresidents Oberbayern (hereafter MB d RP O), January 1940 cited in Groâmann, Anton “Fremd- und Zwangsarbeiter in Bayern 1939–1945,” in Auswander—Wanderarbeiter—Gastarbeiter: Bevölkerung, Arbeitsmarkt und Wanderung in Deutschland seit der Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts, edited by Bade, Klaus J., Vol. 2 (Ostfildern: Scripta Mercaturae, 1984), 615, n. 137;and for a separate case see, Meldungen aus dem Reich, Nr. 74, 8 April 1940, 4: 968.

38. Hehl, Ulrich von, Priester unter Hitlers Terror: Eine biographische und statistische Erhebung, 2d ed. (Mainz: Matthias-Grünewald-Verlag, 1985), column 1117.

39. Meldungen aus dem Reich, Nr. 47, 31 January 1940, 3: 709.

40. Meldungen aus dem Reich, Nr. 47, 31 January 1940, 3: 708–709.

41. Here, for example, is a January 1940 directive to German newspapers issued by Goebbels' Press Information Service: “The attention of the Press is drawn to the fact that articles dealing with Poland must express the instinctive revulsion of the German people against everything which is Polish. Articles and news items must be composed in such a way as to transform this instinctive revulsion into a lasting revulsion. This should be done, not by special articles, but by scattering phrases here and there in the text. Similarly, it must be suggested to the reader that Gypsies, Jews, and Poles ought to be treated on the same level. This is particularly important since there is no doubt that for a long time we shall be obliged to employ Poles as agricultural labourers in Germany. It is, therefore, desirable to build up a defensive front in the heart of the German Nation. Further, in composing news items, the principle must be adopted that everything representing civilization and economic activity in Polish territory is of German origin. It will be as well also to avoid speaking in sympathetic terms of Polish prisoners of war. It is preferable to say nothing at all about them in the press.”Noakes, J. and Pridham, G., eds., Nazism, 1919–1945, Vol. 3: Foreign Policy, War and Racial Extermination: A Documentary Reader (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1997), 934–35.

42. Herbert, Hitler's Foreign Workers, 71–75.

43. Bayerisches Gesetz und Verordnungsblatt, Nr. 7, 14 March, 37, section I, § 4, (2), restricts Poles' social contact with Germans; section II § 6 restricts Germans' social contact with Poles. StAM: Arbeits Ämter 880.

44. Reichsministerium des Innern, Reichsgesetzblatt: Teil I, Jahrgang 1940, Erstes halbjahr (Berlin: Reichsverlagsamt, 1940), “Polizeiverordnung über die Kenntlichmachung im Reich eingesezter Zivilarbeiter und arbeiterinnen polnischen Volkstums vom 8. Marz 1940,” 555–56.The same set of regulations would apply to most Polish POWs in a little over two months' time. By 18 May 1940, Nazi and Wehrmacht administrative initiatives eliminated the prisoner status of most Polish POWs (officers and NCOs excepted). Former prisoners became Polish civilian workers and were forced to sign work contracts in Germany. Homze, Foreign Labor, 36.

45. Berlin Document Center (hereafter BDC), Arbeiter 0216/I: Himmler's Schnellbrief to Bavaria's Regierungspräsidenten (among others) dated 8 March 1940, which includes an Abdruck entitled “Pflichten der Zivilarbeiter und -arbeiterinnen polnischen Volkstums während ihres Aufenthaltes im Reich.”

46. Groβmann, Anton, “Polen und Sowjetrussen als Arbeiter in Bayern 1939–1945,” Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 24 (1984): 373.

47. Groβmann, Anton, “Polen und Sowjetrussen als Arbeiter in Bayern 1939–1945,” Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 24 (1984): 373, n. 124: my translation of the ten points.

48. See also, Wunderlich, Frieda, Farm Labor in Germany 1810–1945 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961), 250.

49. Herbert, Hitler's Foreign Workers, 77–78.

50. For an additional example centering on POWs generally, there is the July 1940 instruction sheet entitled, “Verhalten gegenüber Kriegsgefangenen,” reprinted in Heusler, Andreas, Zwangsarbeti in der Munchner Kriegsirtschaft, 1939–1945 (Munich: Buchendorfer, 1991), 43.

51. Delaney, Rural Catholics, Polish Workers, 186–87.

52. For Lower Franconia, see StAW: SD 32, Abschnitt Würzburg, March 1941, 3; and Gestapo 5784. For Lower Bavaria and the Upper Palatinate, see Ziegler, KLB iv, 8 April 1941, 280; and 8 June 1941, 284.

53. Groβmann, Anton, “Fremd- und Zwangsarbeiter in Bayern 1939–1945,” Auswanderer, 615.

54. Gellately, Robert, The Gestapo and German Society: Enforcing Racial Policy, 1933–1945 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1990).

55. Ziegler, KLB iv “Monatsbericht der Regierung,” 8 October 1942, 313, n. 4.

56. “Der Einsatz der Polen ist in Norddeutschland auf den grossen Güttern richtig und ohne weiteres durchführbar, weil dort der Sachsengänger seit vielen Jahrzenten eingespielt ist. Bei unseren Kleinbetrieben und dem Einzelhofsystem sind jedoch die Erfahrungen alle andere als ermutigend.” StAM: LRA 135113, MB d LR, April-May-June 1940, 11/1.

57. StAM: LRA 135113, MB d LR, April-May-June 1940, II/1.

58. For a history and the significance of the Herrgottswinkel in Bavaria's traditional peasant culture, see Lepovitz, Helena Waddy, Images of Faith: Expressionism, Catholic Folk Art, and the Industrial Revolution (Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 1991), 100–44.

59. StAW: Gestapo 9035; NSDAP Ebersbrunn, 14 January 1941.

60. StAW: Gestapo 9035; NSDAP Ebersbrunn, Georg Appold's statement to the Gestapo dated 9 April 1941.

61. StAW: Gestapo 9035; NSDAP Ebersbrunn, Bnr. 1259/41–II E-Lb., 18 April 1941.

62. StAW: Gestapo 7645; GP Giebelstadt, Nr. 508, 27 April 1943.

63. It is worth noting that this was in fact at least the second time that she appeared before the police. The previous occasion came in 1938 after she demonstrated her support for her faith and its struggle with the state by hanging out prohibited church flags. That was a traditional manner in which area Catholics celebrated Corpus Christi. StAW: Gestapo 7645; GP Giebelstadt, Nr. 508, 27 April 1943; GP Giebelstadt, Nr. 1582, 8 July 1938.

64. StAW: Gestapo 941; Gestapo Aussendienststelle Duisburg, 11 February 1943.

65. StAW: Gestapo 941; Gestapo Aussendienststelle Duisburg, 11 February 1943; Report of Gendarmerieposten Dettingen, 29 April 1943.

66. StAW: Gestapo 4285; GP Gerolzhofen, Nr. 3645, 21 December 1941.

67. StAW: Gestapo 4285; GP Gerolzhofen, Nr. 3645, 21 December 1941; SA Sturm 9/11, 8 November 1941.

68. StAW: Gestapo 4285.

69. StAW: Gestapo 4285.

70. StAW: Gestapo 4285; SA Standarte 11, 9 lanuary 1942.

71. For this particular case, see also Groβmann, Anton, “Polen und Sowjetrussen als Arbeiter in Bayern 1939–1945,” Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 24 (1984): 376.

72. Delaney, Rural Catholics, Polish Workers, 271–73.

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