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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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In the diocese of Lublin, in the so-called General Government (Generalgouvernement, i.e. the central part of Poland administered by Germany), In the middle of October [1939], on the anniversary of the consecration of Bishop [Marian Leon] Fulman, when the local clergy was gathered in the bishop’s residence to give their pastor their good wishes, agents of the Gestapo made their way in and arrested the bishop, his suffragan, Bishop [Władysław] Goral, and all the assembled clergy … After some weeks’ detention in Lublin, Bishop Fulman and his companions were in November [1939] brought before a court-martial (Sondergericht), and at a secret hearing at which they had no defending lawyer were sentenced to death. The GovernorGeneral exercised his prerogative of mercy by commuting the death sentence to one of imprisonment for life.

After sentence Bishops Fulman and Goral and a number of other clerics were taken to Berlin, and thence to the [concentration] camp situated near Oranienburg … After their arrival their clerical dress was taken from them, their heads were shaved, and they were led under a shower-bath, where streams of cold, almost icy water were discharged upon them, after which, shivering with cold, they were filmed from all sides before the eyes of the warders and of Hitler youth. … Since October [1939] about 150 priests have been held in prison in the diocese of Lublin—that is to say, more than half

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The chronicle continues:

Besides Bishops Fulman, Goral and [Leon] Wetmanski [Wetmański], the suffragan bishop [Kazimierz] Tomczak was arrested at Lodz [Łódź], beaten with reeds upon his arms until the blood ran, and then made to clean the streets. The local director of the Catholic Action, Fr. Stanislas [Stanisław] Nowicki, had his head so severely injured in the course of his interrogation by the Gestapo that his skull had to be trepanned.

At Radom four priests were severely knocked about during their examination by the Gestapo, their teeth being broken and their jaws dislocated. The following question, among others, was put to them …: “Do you believe in God? If you do you are an idiot, and if you don’t you’re an impostor.” When the person questioned pointed out that the question itself was insulting, he was struck in the face.

In Częstochowa,

On … September 4th, [1939], the Germans drove into the space round the Cathedral of the Most Holy Family from seven to eight hundred men and women, Polish and Jewish. They were all made to stand with their hands up for two hours; and those who fainted or lowered their hands were beaten and kicked by the soldiers. Towards evening they were all driven into the Cathedral and shut up without food for two days and two nights. Dozens fainted. The Cathedral was shockingly befouled. Appeals to the German authorities were fruitless. … In the evening about 600 persons, including three priests, were arrested in their houses, taken in front of the municipal building, and threatened with death.

By March 1941, it was reported that:

some seven hundred Polish priests have been shot or have died in concentration camps, throughout the German-occupied area. Some 3,000 Polish priests are held in concentration camps … According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967), “Poland—The Church in

Poland, 1939–1945,” volume 11, at pages 481–83:

In all, 13 Polish bishops were exiled or arrested and put in concentration camps. Of these the following died: Auxiliary Bishop Leon Wetmański of Płock on May 10, 1941, and Archbishop Antoni Nowowiejski of Płock on June 20, 1941, in Soldau (Działdowo); Auxiliary Bishop Michał Kozal of Włocławek on Jan. 26, 1943, in Dachau; Auxiliary Bishop Władysław Goral of Lublin at the beginning of 1945 in a hospital bunker in Berlin. There were 3,647 priests, 389 clerics, 341 brothers, and 1,117 sisters put in concentration camps, in which 1,996 priests, 113 clerics, and 238 sisters perished … The diocesan clergy of the Polish Church, who at the beginning of World War II numbered 10,017, lost 25 per cent (2,647). The Dioceses of Włocławek (220, or 49.2 per cent), Gniezno (Gnesen, 137, or 48.8 per cent), and Chełmno (Kulm, 344, or 47.8 per cent) suffered a loss of almost half their clergy. The losses for the Dioceses of Łódź (132, or 36.8 per cent) and Poznań (Posen, 212, or 31.1 per cent) were also very heavy.

Zenon Fijałkowski, Kościół katolicki na ziemiach polskich w latach okupacji hitlerowskiej (Warszawa: Książka

i Wiedza, 1983), provides the following synopsis at page 375:

During the Nazi occupation, the Catholic Church in Poland experienced enormous clerical and material losses. According to the latest research by W. Jacewicz and J. Woś, in the years 1939–1945, 2,801 members of the clergy lost their lives; they were either murdered during the occupation or killed in military manoeuvres. Among them were 6 bishops, 1,926 diocesan priests and clerics, 375 priests and clerics from monastic orders, 205 brothers, and 289 sisters. 599 diocesan priests and clerics were killed in executions, as well as 281 members of the monastic clergy (priests, brothers and sisters). Of the 1,345 members of the clergy murdered in death camps, 798 perished in Dachau, 167 in Auschwitz, 90 in Działdowo, 85 in Sachsenhausen, 71 in Gusen, 40 in Stutthof, and the rest in camps such as Buchenwald, Gross-Rosen, Mauthausen, Majdanek, Bojanowo, and others.





10 The toll among the diocesan clergy and male religious orders in the so-called Wartheland were staggering. Of the approximately 2,100 priests in 1939, 133 were murdered inside that district, 1,523 were arrested, 1,092 were sent to concentration camps, 682 were murdered in concentration camps, and around 400 were deported to the General Government. In all, 72 percent of the clergy were imprisoned in Nazi camps and prisons, and 39 percent perished.

(Marcin Libicki and Ryszard Wryk, eds., Zbrodnie niemieckie w Wielkopolsce w latach 1939–1945 [Poznań:

Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, 2004], p.140.) A detailed, comprehensive listing of losses among the Polish Catholic clergy is found in Wiktor Jacewicz and Jan Woś, Martyrologium polskiego duchowieństwa rzymskokatolickiego pod okupacją hitlerowską w latach 1939–1945, 5 volumes (Warszawa: Akademia Teologii Katolickiej, 1977– 1981) [afterwards Martyrologium]. For more recent overviews of the fate of the Roman Catholic clergy in occupied Poland see Czesław Łuczak, Polska i Polacy w Drugiej wojnie światowej (Poznań: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza, 1993), at pages 489–506; and Jerzy Kloczowski, A History of Polish Christianity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), at pages 297–308.

Thus, according to the most recent research, losses among the Catholic clergy and religious, especially the diocesan clergy, under German occupation were proportionately higher than among the Christian population as a whole. Almost 2,800 out of approximately 18,000 Polish priests and male religious were killed, which represents almost 16 per cent of their total number. Some 4,000 of them (and an additional 400 clerics) were interned in concentration camps; thousands more suffered other forms of internment or repression. Of the almost 17,000 Polish nuns, more than 1,100 were imprisoned in camps and 289 were killed. Of the 38 bishops in Poland at the outbreak of the war, thirteen were exiled or arrested and sent to concentration camps (six of them were killed). In addition, some 240 Catholic priests and 30 clerics lost their lives at the hands of the Soviets, who occupied Eastern Poland from September 1939 until June 1941.

Poles constituted the vast majority of the Christian clergy persecuted by the Nazis. Nowhere else in occupied Europe was the Church hierarchy under direct assault. In Dachau, the principal camp employed to imprison clergy from all of Europe, Poles constituted 65 percent of the total clergy population, and about 90 percent of the clergymen put to death. (Franciszek J. Proch, Poland’s Way of the Cross 1939–1945 [New York: Polish Association of Former Political Prisoners of Nazi and Soviet Concentration Camps, 1987], pp.32–36; “Dachau”, Encyklopedia katolicka, volume 3 [Lublin: Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski, 1979], columns 965–67.) According to the latter source, 4,618 Christian clergymen were imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps, 2,796 of them in Dachau. Almost 95 percent of the clergymen in Dachau were Roman Catholics, and almost 65 percent were Poles.

The 1,807 Polish clergymen interned in Dachau were comprised of 1,413 diocesan priests and 360 monks belonging to the Catholic faith, and 34 clergymen of other Christian faiths. Of the 947 clergymen put to death in Dachau, 866 were Poles (over 91 percent of those killed there). These consisted of 747 diocesan priests, 110 monks, and 9 clergymen of other faiths. Of all the Christian clergy in Dachau, Polish priests were undoubtedly the worst treated and were especially targeted for hypothermia and other forms of medical experimentation. For a detailed account of the fate of the Catholic clergy in Dachau see Bedřich Hoffmann, And Who Will Kill You: The Chronicle of the Life and Suffering of Priests in the Concentration Camps (Poznań: Pallottinum, 1994). For resistance activities of priests in Dachau and other camps, see Krzysztof Dunin-Wąsowicz, Resistance in the Nazi Concentration Camps, 1933–1945 (Warsaw: PWN–Polish Scientific Publishers, 1982), chapter 13 (“Religious life in the concentration camps”), pages 348–65.1 1 The massacre of thousands of Roman Catholic clergy by the Nazi Germans was not the largest massacre of Catholic clergy in the Twentieth Century. The Spanish Left, especially Communists and Socialists, managed to butcher 13 bishops, 4,184 diocesan priests, 2,365 members of religious orders of men, and 283 nuns in a shorter span, just before and during the Civil War in Spain (July 1936 to April 1939), the vast majority of them in 1936. The highest concentration of killings took place in Catalonia, where virtually every Catholic church was set on fire in Barcelona. The cruelty and barbarity with which those who remained faithful to their faith were murdered often exceeded the methods employed by the Nazis and the Soviets. See William James Callahan, The Catholic Church in Spain, 1875–1998 (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2000); Michael Burleigh, Sacred Causes: The Clash of Religion and Politics, from the Great War to the War on Religion (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), pp.127–35. For some examples of the mistreatment of the Spanish clergy see http://www.catholicism.org/good-martyred.html. See also http://www.holycross.edu/departments/history/vlapomar/persecut/spain.html. This Spanish anti-clerical bloodbath was exceeded only by the Soviet strike against the Russian Orthodox Church over a much longer period (between 1918 and 1938), when, according to the

–  –  –

It should be noted that the number of Roman Catholic clergy (of the Latin rite) in Poland on the eve of the Second World War was not large, counting some 18,000 priests and male religious and 17,000 female religious. Their number was smaller than the ranks of the Catholic clergy in Belgium, and many times smaller than that of the Catholic clergy in France or Italy.3 Unlike Poland, the German authorities rarely interfered with the day-to-day activities of Christian clergy in most other occupied countries and, with few exceptions, the Christian clergy did not suffer mistreatment in those countries. This makes the wartime losses of the Polish Caholic clergy, as well as their rescue efforts, all the more striking. Unlike the Latin-rite Catholic clergy, the Eastern-rite Catholic or Uniate clergy in occupied Polish territories was virtually untouched by the Germans.4 The rescue efforts of the Polish Catholic clergy, especially those of nuns, became widely known immediately after the war, and the clergy suffered no ostracization by Catholic society on this account.

calculations of Canadian historian Dimitry Pospielovsky, about 600 bishops and 40,000 Orthodox priests were physically eliminated, that is between 80 and 85 percent of the clergy existing at the moment of the Revolution.

Surprisingly, but perhaps very tellingly, in a survey conducted in the early part of 2007, by the Mannheimer Foschungsgruppe Wahlen institute for Germany’s ZDF public television program, Germans, who pride themselves on their tolerance, declared that Poland was, by far, the country in the European Union that they disliked the most. Almost one quarter (23 percent) of Germans polled openly declared their animosity toward the country that Germany most directed its fury and destruction at during the Second World War, and where the Germans killed six million people, half of them Jews and half Christians. (The next most loathed country, Romania, came in only at 11 percent.) This obscene resurgence of antipathy toward Poland in certain constituencies in Europe, peppered with anti-Catholic rhetoric, is epitomized by Pilar Rahola, a Catalan member of the Spanish extreme Left and self-styled human rights activist, who wrote in El País, a leading Spanish daily, on March 17, 2007: “Without any doubt, Poland is the key to the wickedness that culminated in the extermination of two thirds of the Jewish population of Europe.” The curious symbiosis the extreme Right and Left is all too reminiscent of the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact which unleashed the most tragic episode in Twentieth Century Europe.

2 Roman Dzwonkowski, “Represje wobec polskiego duchowieństwa katolickiego na ziemiach północno-wschodnich II RP 1939–1941,” in

Michał Gnatowski and Daniel Boćkowski, eds., Sowietyzacja i rusyfikacja północno-wschodnich ziem II Rzeczypospolitej (1939–1941):

Studia i materiały (Białystok: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu w Białymstoku, 2003), pp.75–93; Roman Dzwonkowski, “Represje wobec polskiego duchowieństwa katolickiego pod okupacją sowiecką 1939–1941,” in Piotr Chmielowiec, ed., Okupacja sowiecka ziem polskich (1939–1941) (Rzeszów and Warsaw: Instytut Pamięci Nardowej–Komisja Ścigania Zbrodni przeciwko Narodowi Polskiemu, 2005), 139– 49.



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