THE PLOT AGAINST HITLER
In the fourth of his articles, based upon his recent visit to Germany, Our Special Correspondent analyses the history and the springs of Catholic political life there with reference to the future.
He reveals how the Bishop of Berlin was an assiduous listener to the B.B.C. and gives some very interesting information about Catholics and the plot against Hitler last summer.
I. rain Our Special Correspondent In a country under military occupation, political life, and especially party politics, are bound to seem unreal. This is par ticularly so when some of the largest parties are prohibited and other political groups receive support from the military authorities out
After a taste ot the Russian occupation, it is difficult to believe that many Germans are enthusiastic about Com
munism. In the Russian zone, however, the Communists occupy the key positions. They are proeubly least interested in free and secret elections. To save appearances, the Russians have introduced the political bloc system, whereby all the tour parties are supposed to share in whatever degree of self-government and administration the Russians allow.
In the American zone, the Catholic party in Bavaria appears to he giving place to the Socialists since General Patton's transfer to another command.
In the British zone, the Socialists are also the white-haired boys at the moment. In Hamburg, the chief city of the British zone, the Liberal Democrats are still in favour, but in the Rhineland both of the Catholic leaders. Dr. Adcnauer and Dr. Fuchs, have recently been dismissed.
In the French zone, Social Democrats appointed by the Americans have in some cases been retained in office, elsewhere Catholics have been appointed.
One of the most urgent tasks during my recent visit In Germany was to find out the altitude of Catholics towards the Christian Democratic Union. This party has been formed to represent both Catholics and Protestants in Germany. to restore the Christian tradition in public life and to defend Christian values against the onslaught of materialism.
THE CENTRE PARTY The First "Popular " Party The Christian Democratic Union replaces the former Centre Party which was in fact, if not in theory, the political organ of German Catholicism. Many F.nglishmen who read about the Centre Party in the Weimar Republic exclaim with annoyance: " Why must the Catholics have their own special party and upset the balance ?" The balance being, of course, a fairly equal grouping of parties to the Left and the Right, which would reproduce, as far as is possible on the benighted Coto tinent, the British two-party system. The continuance of the Centre Party in the Weimar Republic was partly due to the fact that the Protestants also had their own party which was strongly nationalistic and whose leader. Hugen berg, was morbidly anti-Catholic. An attempt by Briining and Treviranus to form a Christian group was torpedoed by Hugenherg. Catholic workers could not join the Socialist party because of its atheistic Weltanschauung.
In view of the attacks made upon the Centre Party by German Socialist refugees. it is important to recall how it came about and what it did.
The Centre Party was founded at the time when Bismarck established the Protestant Hohenzollern Empire by excluding Catholic Austria from the German Confederation. The Kulturkampf which Bismarck, with the powerful ideological support of the Liberals, waged against the Catholic Church fully justified the existencce of the Centre Party. it was the first really popular party in Germany.
Whilst the Conservative and Liberal parties were recruited mainly from the landed gentry, the Civil Service, the Army and the commercial clasp, the Centre enjoyed the mass support of the peasants and also of the workers in the industrial areas of the Ruhr and Silesia.
Early in its history, as names like Bishop Ketteler, Windthorst, Reiohensperger and Hitze show, the Centre developed a strong social and democratic tradition. It stood for a federal Germany in which the Catholic and more democratic institutions of the west and the south would be safeguarded against the encroachments of the Prussianised central Government. It also defended the rights of the Alsatians and the Poles in the Hohenzollern Empire, thus earning the undying hatred of Bismarck and many other influential Prussians. Although opposed to the atheistic materialism which was the official doctrine of the Social Democrats,it refused to support Bismarck's anti-Socialist' legislation, which was undemocratic.
In 1918-19 the Centre was the chief 'non-revolutionary party to collaborate with the Social Democrats in establishing the Weimar Republic. This coalition was of the highest importance in that the Centre exerted a restraining influence over the Socialists and prevented any serious Bolshevisation of Germany. From 1890 until 1933 the Volksverein of Muenchen-Gladbach, a great organisation for the propagation of Catholic social doctrine, did much to train German Catholics in social and political work. It also kept alive a strong social conscience among educated Catholics.
CENTRE PARTY'S MISTAKE
But the Church Carried On The Centre Party was dissolved in 1933. not, however before it had voted Hitler special powers to override the constitution. The Centre leaders imagined that they could come to terms with the Nazis as they had done with the Socialists in 1918-19.
This belief proved to be wrong and caused (and is still causing) much suspicion of the Centre Party among German Socialists.
It is only fair to se!" that Brilning was strongly opreised to this inept policy.
However, with the dissolution of the Centre Party the social and political influence of German Catholicism was by no means at an end. The universities were silenced, the press was corm pletely Naiified, the parties were suppressed and the Protestant Church was invaded by Nazis, betrayed by some of its own Bishops and hopelessly torn asunder.
The Catholic Church was the only body left intact and able to continue an independent existence in the Third Reich.
Throughout the twelve years of the Nazi regime, the Catholic Bishops spoke out fearlessly in their pastorals, condemning Nazi doctrine and practice. It must he remembered that when a Catholic Bishop spoke, the Nazis -tartly attacked him personally, but instead arrested and tortured some of his priests. 'Die Bishops spoke tiot only for Catholics but for all Christians and for Jews and other races whom the Nazis persecuted.
When I spoke to Bishop Pieysing, of Berlin, who was an assiduous listener to the B.B.C. dpriug the war, particularly when Churchill's speeches were broadcast, he referred to his Advent Pastoral of 1942 as his Atlantic Charter. I am quoting this not to show how completely the German Bishops are out of touch with British thought to-day, but rather to indicate how closely they identified themselves with out nobler aspiration before Casablanca and Teheran. This fact is of the highest political importance and constitutes one of the claims of the Getman Catholics to be heard to-day., As long as the Church remained in Germany (and the secret reports of Himmler's agent, prove that it was very much there). there was always the possibility of reconstituting the Centre Party, once the Nazi regime had been overthrown. That this has not been done, is due to the close and loyal collaboration between Catholics and Confessional Protestants whom the Nazis subjec'ed to the same cruel persecution.
This is the moral basis of the Christian Democratic Union.
But the party makes a wide' appeal. After their experience of National Socialism. not only Christians but also Liberals who believe in the humanitarian ideals which derive from Christianity, see the necessity of a common front against materialism. For they know that materialism, under whatever flag it may sail, sacrifices the dignity and liberty of the person to the power and might of the State.
CHRISTIAN UNION BEGINS The Plot Against Hitler The idea ot a Christian Democratic Union was conceived in the Rhineland, but it first took shape in Berlin under the Russian occupation. Here the necessity of Christians forming a united front was particularly urgent: Catholics and Protestants who had conspired together to overthrow the Nazi regime in July, 1944, quite naturally continued their collaboration after the collapse of the Third Reich.
When I was in Berlin i spoke to some of the founders of the Union. Among them was a Catholic who had been arrested for his share in the plot to remove Hitler. The advance of the Russians to Berlin had saved him from
being hanged. He was at pains to emphasise that there were two quite distinct groups plotting to get rid of Hitler.
One was under Goerdeler, the former burgomaster of Leipzig, whose aim it was to return to the Weimar Republic. The other group was composed of positive Christians who were working for the Christian renewal of Germany after the passing of the Third Reich.
To this group belonged Count Stauffenberg. a practising Catholic, who placed the bomb in Hitler's headquarters, Count Moltke and Count York von Wartenburg, both devout Protestants, the Rector of the Jesuit College at Pullach, in Bavaria, the Provincial of the Jesuit Province of Bavaria. and Fr, Delp. S.J., a convert, who had been active in workers' professional associations.
There were also Social Democrats in this group, such as Julius Leber, and they were prepared to implement the Christian programme if they came into power. Many of thesemen were hanged by the Nazis. I was told that a number of officers in the German General Staff were also working with
them. The Generals. however, were pitiable in their lack of decision and dependence on the Nazis, to whom they owed their exalted position in the Third Reich. It was the indecision of the Generals which caused the failure of the plot.
My Catholic friend spoke rather bitterly of those German Catholics who are now trying to dissociate themselves from the attempt on Hitler's life. Some German Catholics had just explained to me that they could not, as Catholics, take part in killing a man to whom they had sworn an oath of fidelity. To this objection he replied that immediately after the failure of the plot, when he was expecting thy Gestapo to arrest him at any minute, he had consulted first a simple parish priest and then a distinguished moral theologian. Both told him to put his mind at rest. The theologian declared:
" Das sind letzle persoenliche Gewissensentscheidungen. (Those are ultimate decisions for the individual conscience).
I asked my Catholic friend what he thought of the Christian Democratic Union He replied that almost every German Catholic agreed that political collaboration with the Protestants had to be tried. After their common suffering they could not go back to confessional politics. He was, how. ever, frankly sceptical about the ultimate success of such a party. Already he was wondering whether it was not a party of Christians and Democrats rather than of Christian Democrats. He also feared that the admission of Liberals and Jews might compromise the Christian character of the Union. This is not the view of most Catholics who desiderate a party with a positive Christian basis, which shall. however, not exclude Liberals, Humanitarians and Jews. who desire the restoration of Christian standards and principles in German public lift.
There is little doubt that the stand made by the German Bishops for the decencies of Western civilisation has won the admiration of countless Germans who, themselves not believers, yet wish to see Christianvalues preserved. These men, if faced with the choice between materialism and Christian political philosophy will certainly choose the latte..
German Catholics, both priests and laymen, by no means underrate the difficulties of political collaboration with non-Catholics. Wherever I went and to whomever I spoke. 1 had evidence of this.
It must not be forgotten that tined! 1918 Lutheranism was the State religion
(Continued at foot of cols. 5 and 6)