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«Wartime Rescue of Jews by the Polish Catholic Clergy The Testimony of Survivors Edited and compiled by Mark Paul Polish Educational Foundation in ...»

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6 Many priests are imprisoned, suffering humiliations, blows, maltreatment. A certain number were deported to Germany, and of those there is no news. Others have been detained in concentration camps. Already there has begun the expulsion of priests into Central Poland, whence it is impossible and forbidden to return. … It is not rare to see a priest in the midst of labour gangs working in the fields, repairing roads and bridges, drawing wagons of coal, at work in the sugar factories, and even engaged in demolishing the synagogues. Some of them have been shut up for the night in pigsties, barbarously beaten and subjected to other tortures. As illustrations, we cite these facts.

At Bydgoszcz, in September [1939], about 5,000 men were imprisoned in a stable, in which there was not even room to sit on the ground. A corner of the stable had been designated as the place for the necessities of nature. The Canon Casimir Stepczynski [Kazimierz Stępczyński], rural dean and parish priest of the place, was obliged, in company with a Jew, to carry away in his hands the human excrement, a nauseating task, considering the great number of prisoners. The curate, Adam Musial [Musiał], who wished to take the place of the venerable priest, was brutally beaten with a rifle-butt. … From an authoritative source it is stated: “Between Bydgoszcz (Bromberg) and Gniezno the churches have been closed, with very few exceptions.” … This situation (in the total 261 parishes almost half are without any priest) is growing worse … Those churches which still have the ministrations of priests are permitted to be open only on Sunday, and then only from nine to eleven o’clock in the morning. … Sermons are allowed to be preached only in German … Church hymns in Polish have been forbidden. … The crucifixes were removed from the schools. No religious instruction is being imparted. It is forbidden to collect offerings in the churches for the purposes of worship. … In such conditions pious and religious associations are not functioning. … From the time of the entrance of the German troops into those regions, numerous crucifixes, busts, and statues of Our Lord, of the Blessed Virgin and of the Saints that adorned the streets were battered to the ground. … The oppression being exerted against the houses and apostolate of Religious houses has as its purpose and end their total extinction. … The Minorites were expelled from their new and large college at Jarocin. The same fate fell to the lot of the Congregation at the Holy Ghost at Bydgoszcz, to the novitiate of the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Holy Family at Górka Klasztorna, to the novitiate of the Pallottine Fathers of Suchary, to the novitiate of the Oblates of the Immaculate Conception of Markowice, and to the Mother-House along with the novitiate of the Society of Christ for Emigrants at Potulice.

Much more serious were the losses suffered by the religious institutes of women. The Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul lost fourteen houses, among these hospitals, orphanages, asylums. The Congregation of the Sacred Heart witnessed the occupation of its new High School and College and Boarding-School at Polska Wies [Wieś]. The Sisters of St.

Elizabeth [Grey Sisters] were expelled from nineteen houses. The Daughters of the Immaculata, whose mother-house is at Pleszew, were forced to close their house for aspirants to the congregation, their novitiate, and in addition lost seventeen other houses. Two houses were taken from the Congregation of St. Dominic of the Third Order, and likewise from the Daughters of the Mother of Sorrows.

A repugnant scene took place at the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of Bydgoszcz. The Gestapo invaded the papal cloister, and summoned the nuns to the chapel, where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed. One of the police ascended the pulpit and cried that the nuns were wasting their time praying, because “God does not exist, for if there were a God, we would not be here.” The nuns, with the exception of the Mother Superior, who was gravely ill, were conducted outside the cloister, and shut up for twenty-four hours in the cellars of the Passtelle (passport office). Meanwhile the Gestapo searched the convent, and one of the policemen carried to the Mother Superior, confined to bed in her cell, the

ciborium that had been taken out of the tabernacle. He commanded her to consume the consecrated hosts, crying:

Auffressen! (Eat them up.) The unfortunate nun carried out the command, but at one point asked for water, which was refused. With an effort the nun managed to consume all the sacred element, and thus save them from further profanation.

The Church is in the hands of the Gestapo also with regard to its possessions. The funds of the archdiocesan Curia have been sequestrated. … Funds for the maintenance of the churches have begun to fail, and the priests are living solely on the charity of the faithful. If this state of affairs continues for any length of time, a complete spoliation of the Church will be the consequence …

In the archdiocese of Poznań:

The Vicar-General, His Excellency Mgr. Valentine [Walenty] Dymek, an able prelate, pious, generous and very active, has been interned in his own house since October 1st [1939]. The Curia and the Metropolitan Court, whether of first or second instance for, Cracow [Kraków], Lwow [Lwów] and Wloclawek [Włocławek] are closed and in the hands of the Gestapo, 7 who are making a study of the records. The archiespiscopal palace was invaded by soldiers who have remained there for weeks ruining its fittings. The records of the Primatial Chancellory have been and still are being carefully examined by the Gestapo, who also raided the important archiepiscopal archives.

Of the Metropolitan Chapter the Canons [Franciszek] Rucinski [Ruciński], [Henryk] Zborowski and [Kazimierz] Szreybrowski have been imprisoned. Mgr. [Józef] Pradzynski [Prądzyński], who is seriously ill, is under military guard in his home. … The Cathedral of Poznan, which is at the same time a parish church for 14,000 souls, was closed by the police …The Vicar Forane and the pastors of the city, with the exception of a few from the suburbs, are in prison. A good number of the assistants, too, were deported, so that just about 25 per cent. Of the parish clergy of twenty-one parishes are at their posts.

The Theological Seminary, which numbered 120 students in the four-year course, was closed by the German authorities in October [1939] and the buildings given over to a school for policemen.

The clergy is subjected to the same treatment as the priests of the archdiocese of Gniezno. They are maltreated, arrested, held in prison or concentration camps, deported to Germany, expelled to Central Poland. At present about fifty are in prison and in concentration camps.

The pastors Rev. John Jadrzyk [Jan Jądrzyk] of Lechlin, Rev. Anthony Kozlowicz [Antoni Kozłowicz], Rev. Adam Schmidt of Roznowo [Różnowo], and Rev. Anthony [Antoni] Rzadki, professor of religion at Srem [Śrem], have been shot.

… The Polish Episcopate had made Poznan the national centre for organization and direction of religious activity and especially of the Catholic Action for the entire Republic. Unfortunately, all these centres of tremendous activity, charitable works, organizations, and publications, have been destroyed by German authorities. … Besides these organizations and publications of national scope, all the organizations and publications in Poznan belonging to the archdiocese of Gniezno and Poznan were suppressed. … The losses suffered by Religious Institutes are likewise very painful. … The Jesuits of Poznan are in prison and their church has been closed by the police. … The Mother-House of the Ursulines of the lately deceased Mother Ledochowska [Ledóchowska] at Pniewy is in the hands of a German Treuhaenderin, who makes the Sisters work like servants. The Vincentian Sisters were removed from their large hospital of the Transfiguration in Poznan, lost four other important hospitals and about twenty of their prosperous centres of activity. The Sisters of St. Elisabeth (Grey Sisters) have lost about twenty houses … Other Religious Institutes, both those for men as well as those for women, are meeting with the same fate …

Conditions in the diocese of Chełmno in Pomerania were even worse:

The episcopal Curia at Pelplin was closed and its archives confiscated; the ecclesiastical court suffered the same fate. All the members of the Curia without exception were deported.

The Cathedral Canons, with the exception of H.E. Mgr. [Konstanty] Dominik and Mgr. [Franciszek] Sawicki, were thrown into prison, and some were sent to forced labour. The others likewise had much to suffer. The head of the Chapter, Mgr. [Juliusz] Bartkowski, apostolic protonotary, despite his advanced age and precarious health, was forced to perform hard labour.

The ancient Cathedral, a veritable jewel of Gothic art, was first closed and then made into a garage, and it is now proposed to turn it into a market-hall. … The bishop’s palace was entered and despoiled of all its treasures, works of art and furniture. The valuable library, containing about twenty thousand volumes, was pillaged. … Of the 650 priests devoted to the cure of souls in the schools and in the Catholic Action, only some twenty have been left.

The others were imprisoned or deported, or forced to perform exhausting and humiliating labour, at which time some died of fatigue. … It is not known where the majority of the clergy are detained, as the German authorities keep it a secret. It seems likely, however, that a large number are imprisoned in the concentration camp at Gorna [Górna] Grupa, and the rest in that of Kazimierz Biskupi, or at Stuthof [Stutthof] near Danzig, if not in other concentration camps in Germany … It is stated that a large number of priests have been shot [this was later confirmed to be true—Ed.], but neither the number nor the details are as yet known, as the occupation authorities maintain an obstinate silence on the subject.

In any case it seems certain that nine priests … have been executed. … Religious institutions have been ruthlessly suppressed. … All the crosses and sacred emblems by the roadsides have been destroyed. … It goes without saying that the Nazi aim is to dechristianize as rapidly as possible these countries which are attached to the Catholic faith, and the results are as follows: 95 per cent. Of the priests have been imprisoned, expelled, or humiliated

–  –  –

In the diocese of Katowice in Silesia:

The treatment inflicted on certain priests has been outrageous. For example, Fr. [Franciszek] Kupilas, parish priest of Ledziny [Lędziny], was shut up for three days in the confessional at the church in Bierun [Bieruń], where 300 men and women were imprisoned at the same time without anything to eat and without being allowed to go out to satisfy their natural needs. Fr. [Franciszek] Wycislik [Wyciślik], vicar of Zyglin [Żyglin], was arrested and beaten in the streets of Tarnowskie Gory [Góry] until the blood ran, and kicked and even trampled until he lost consciousness. Curate Budny had his sides pierced by numerous bayonet stabs, because the German authorities had ordered him to hold his hands up, and after a certain time he was unable through fatigue to do so any longer.

The terrorism to which the clergy and the 500 civilians interned in the concentration camp at Opava (Troppau) in the Sudenten were exposed during September and October, 1939, was particularly frightful. On their arrival they were received with a hail of blows from sticks. Priests were deliberately confined together with Jews in wooden huts, without chairs or tables. Their bedding consisted of rotten and verminous straw. The Germans forced the priests to take off their cassocks, and their breviaries and rosaries were taken from them. They were set to the most degrading labours. For any infraction of the regulations, even involuntary, the prisoners were beaten; sometimes, merely in order to terrorize them or perhaps from caprice, they were beaten until the blood ran. Many died, among them Fr. Kukla... and it seems, also, Fr.

Galuszka [Gałuszka], curate of Jablonkow [Jabłonków], of whom no news has been received since it was learned that he was suffering harsh treatment in the camp in question.

In the diocese of Włocławek:

H.E. Mgr. [Michał] Kozal, suffragan bishop and Vicar-General, devoted himself most zealously to the service of the people of Wloclawek during the hostilities. On the arrival of the Gestapo he was arrested and subject to painful examinations; and after two months passed in the prison at Wloclawek he was interned in the concentration camp at Lad [Ląd] … Of the forty-two clergy resident at Wloclawek, either as members of the Chapter, or attached to the Curia or the Catholic Action, or engaged in the cure of souls, only one sick canon and one young priest were left; the rest were imprisoned and sent to concentration camps. … The clergy are suffering the same fate as those of the other dioceses incorporated in the Reich. Both secular and regular priests are maltreated, injured, and beaten. Half of the clergy have been arrested. After weeks in various prisons where they suffered as has been described, these priests were collected, together with those of the contiguous dioceses, in three concentration camps: at Gorna [Górna] Grupa, at Kazimierz Biskupi, and at Lad. In the last camp Mgr. Kozal and about eighty priests are detained … At Kalisz Fr. [Roman] Pawlowski [Pawłowski], vicar of Chocz, was publicly shot. He was led to the place of execution barefoot and without his cassock. The police compelled the Jews to fasten him to the execution post, to unbind him after he had been shot, to kiss his feet, and to bury him in their ritual cemetery.

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