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German Bishops at Fulda – Pastoral Letter by the Conference of Catholic Bishops (August 23, 1945)

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We offer special thanks to you, beloved young people. You have stood up for your ideals even to the shedding of blood and your stand has given us consolation and strength in a battle that appeared humanly hopeless.

We thank all the priests and the members of the laity who have fearlessly stood up in large numbers for the Divine law and the teachings of Christ. In prison and through mistreatments many of them have become true confessors and many have given their lives for their convictions.

How it warms our hearts to remember that time and again Catholics of all walks of life and of all ages were not afraid to protect fellow-Germans of another race, to defend them and to show them Christian charity. Many perished in concentration camps because of such charity. They have received their “extraordinary reward,” and we all have the comforting assurance that Christianity has been practiced in our nation, despite all oppression and persecution.

Deeply moved we remember all those who shared their meager daily bread with innocent persecuted non-Aryans, while they had to fear, day after day, that they might have to face terrible retribution together with their wards.

Catholic people, we rejoice that you have refrained to such an extent from the idolatry of brutal power. We rejoice that so many of our Faith never bent their knees to Baal. We rejoice that these God-less and inhuman doctrines were also rejected far beyond the circle of our fellow-Catholics.

And yet, terrible things were perpetrated even before the war in Germany and during the war by Germans in the occupied countries. We deeply deplore that many Germans, even of our own ranks, allowed themselves to be misled by the false teachings of National Socialism, remaining indifferent to the crimes against human freedom and human dignity; many abetted crimes by their attitude; many became criminals themselves.

A grave responsibility rests upon those who because of their position could have known what was going on in our midst; who because of their influence could have prevented such crimes and have not done so and even made them possible, thereby manifesting their solidarity with the criminals.

On the other hand, we also know that in the case of those who were in dependent positions, especially civil servants and school teachers, membership in the Nazi Party often did not mean an inner assent to the awful acts of the Nazi regime. Many joined, knowing little of the activities and aims of the Nazi Party. Many were forced to join and others joined with the good intention of preventing evil. It is, therefore, a demand of justice that the guilt be investigated in each individual case lest the innocent have to suffer with the guilty. For this we Bishops have always stood and we shall stand for it in the future.


But we shall also do everything so that the concepts of Divine and human rights, of human dignity, of freedom of conscience, take root once more among our people, particularly the younger generation, and that preventive measures be adopted in our midst against the return of such conditions and the outbreak of another war.

We want to build anew and we are grateful for any assistance in our religious mission. We hope that Catholic parents will again be enabled to send their children to Catholic schools. There is no better guaranty for the recovery of the spiritual situation than a truly religious education, which is assured in the confessional schools. For this reason, and in full accordance with the direction laid down by His Holiness Pope Pius XI in his magnificent encyclical on education, we insist upon Catholic schools for Catholic children.

Wherever there is no possibility of public Catholic schools, the Church must retain the liberty of opening private Catholic elementary schools. At the same time we demand Catholic private secondary schools, particularly those conducted by religious Orders, as they existed and prospered before 1933. We base this demand upon our rights guaranteed by law and the Concordat. We expect all the Faithful to assist energetically our endeavors to bring about a genuinely Catholic education of the children.

Beloved flock: In making a new start after the frightful catastrophe, in preparing to reconstruct the house of our national (voelkisch) and political life, let us bear in mind the lessons of the immediate past. Was it not the intention to build the house without the help of the Lord? Is that not the reason why it finally became a tower of Babel? Was it not the intention to build in disregard of the one cornerstone laid by God Himself, Jesus Christ, through Whom alone the walls are kept together for all times? The primary consideration in the work of reconstruction will have to be this: To assign once more to God that position in the life of the individual and of society due to Him as the highest Lord, but which had been assigned to other, secondary values: to the State, the race, the nation.

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