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Excerpt from the Minutes of a Conference of Ministers (July 14, 1933)

In 1933, Hitler promised to protect the rights and authority of the churches, but in actuality he pursued their "coordination" [Gleichschaltung]. The Catholic Church ultimately gave in to the Hitler regime by agreeing to the terms of the Reich Concordat; and the Church’s most influential political organ, the Center Party, dissolved in order to avoid the ban on political parties. With the signing of the Concordat on July 30, 1933, Hitler scored a great propaganda victory, both in Germany (whose Catholics were initially critical of National Socialism) and abroad. The Vatican saw common ground in the Nazis’ vehement anti-Bolshevism and hoped that by refraining from political statements and activism the Catholic Church would be spared total subordination to the Nazi regime. This proved wrong, however.

The following protocol of a cabinet meeting on July 14, 1933 (six days before the signing of the Concordat) shows that Hitler was more or less amazed by the speed with which he had managed to silence the Catholic Church in the political arena.

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Excerpt from the Minutes of the Conference of Ministers on July 14, 1933

(Point 17 of the Agenda)
Reich Concordat

The Reich Minister of the Interior [Wilhelm Frick] discussed the content of the proposal that article 1 of the draft omitted.

The Vice Chancellor [Franz von Papen] stated regarding the proposal that it had been necessary to define the functions of the Reich and State on the one hand and the Church on the other. The Church ought to have some freedom of movement. On the other hand, the sphere of authority of the State ought to be clearly worked out in the Concordat. Objections to the conclusion of the Concordat had been addressed to the Pope by all sorts of sources. However, he had insisted on the conclusion of the Concordat because he wanted to come to an agreement with Italy and Germany as the countries which in his opinion represented the nucleus of the Christian world. He himself had also brought the distinct impression from Rome that the Curia was agreeable to creating a new concordat law after some time, utilizing the experiences made in the meantime. Mussolini, too, had always urgently recommended the conclusion of the Concordat, because he felt that this would represent a considerable strengthening of the German position.

The Vice Chancellor pointed to the particularly noteworthy passages in the Concordat according to which the Church stated its willingness to entrust all associations to the State (Reich), with the exception of purely religio-moral and charitable associations. The elimination of the clergy from politics and the introduction of an oath of loyalty for the bishops and a prayer for the State, the introduction of independent pastoral care in the armed forces with an independent Army Bishop, the reference to possible general compulsory military service, and the treatment accorded German minority rights were particularly noteworthy provisions of the Reich Concordat.

[ . . . ]

The Reich Chancellor rejected a debate on the particulars of the Reich Concordat. He was of the opinion that one should see only the great success here. In the Reich Concordat, Germany had been given a chance and an area of confidence had been created which was particularly significant in the urgent fight against the international Jews. Possible shortcomings in the Concordat could be rectified later when the foreign policy situation was better.

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