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Excerpt from Bishop von Galen’s Sermon (August 3, 1941) and Government Correspondence Regarding the Sermon and the Charges Raised against Galen as a Result (August 12-13, 1941)

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Berlin, 13. August 1941

Secret Proposal for Reichsleiter Bormann
Concerning: Sermon of the Bishop of Muenster

After the conference of Ministers, Dr. Goebbels discussed with me the sermon of the Bishop of Muenster. He could not say what effective measures could be taken at the moment.

I explained to him that in my opinion there could be only one effective measure, namely, to hang the bishop and that I already had informed Reichsleiter Bormann accordingly.

Thereupon Dr. Goebbels said that this was a measure upon which the Fuehrer alone could decide. He feared, however, that the population of Muenster could be regarded as lost during the war, if anything were done against the bishop, and in that fear one safely could include the whole of Westphalia.

I pointed out to him that it would only be necessary to expose properly that very vulgar lie through propaganda channels. In that way it ought to be possible not only to bring the population there to an understanding of that measure but to create among them rebellion against the bishop.

To that Dr. Goebbels answered again that the Fuehrer himself would certainly come to a decision in that question.

After that he observed that it would have been wiser, in his opinion, not to challenge the Church during the war but to try only to steer them according to our interests as far as possible. For that reason he had ordered the interview with party comrade Gutterer. But then he had not followed up the matter in this way because the Chancery of the Party had chosen the way of uncompromising refusal and open breach. As much as it was for him — (in contrast to other Reich's Leaders) — a matter of course to suppress the press of the Church, because in that regard he had proof and excuse concerning the Church. This preserved appearances. He maintained the stand, however, that it would have been better during the war to preserve appearances as far as the Church is concerned. It is permissible always to attack an opponent only if one is in a position to answer properly at the decisive counterattack of that opponent. But this was extraordinarily difficult in the case of the counterattack of the Church during the war, yes, nearly impossible. One should not enjoy a revenge with heat but coldly. In politics one should know how to wait. This the Fuehrer clearly and distinctly had proved again in the case of Russia. If he would have had his way one would have pretended during the war as if [the following line at end of page is missing].

I explained to him that the procedure employed so far had nevertheless accomplished this much, that the Church had opened up and in doing so played into our hands by documents valuable after the war for the struggle against it.

Dr. Goebbels said that in his opinion those measures would have been possible after the war, even without the documents, whereas the effect of the Church documents on the attitude of the people was extraordinarily troublesome now. In any case it is necessary now to establish an absolute and clear rule as to the road to be followed. In the deliberations which have to take place in this connection we should not allow ourselves to be guided by the heart but by completely cold logic.

I personally retain the viewpoint that, if the Fuehrer should agree with my proposal to hang the bishop, we could safely still continue along the lines used so far. However, should the Fuehrer reject this proposal and postpone a reckoning, and defer action in the present case also, until after the war, I herewith request that it be considered whether Dr. Goebbels should not try, as far as might be possible, to pursue the course he suggested.


Source of English translations: Benjamin Sax and Dieter Kuntz, eds., INSIDE HITLER’S GERMANY: A DOCUMENTARY HISTORY OF LIFE IN THE THIRD REICH. 1st edition. Lexington, MA, and Toronto: D.C. Heath & Company, 1992, pp. 486-90.

Materials from Sax, INSIDE HITLER’S GERMANY, 1st edition, displayed with special permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All Rights Reserved.

Source of original German texts: Rev. Edmund A. Walsh, S.J. Papers, Box 7, Folder 49, Special Collections Division, Georgetown University Library, Washington, D.C.

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