No one can deny that the Roman Catholic Church, and especially the Vatican have a lot to answer for when it comes to its part in the Holocaust.
However, some Catholic clergymen did speak out to the Nazi regime and many of them paid the ultimate price.
Antonius Hilfrich was a German priest and Roman Catholic Bishop of Limburg, Germany. Amid 1941 Catholic protests over Nazi euthanasia led by Bishop Clemens August von Galen of Münster, Hilfrich wrote to Franz Gürtner, the German Minister for Justice, to denounce the murders, calling them an “injustice that cries out to heaven…”
Below is the translated version of that letter.
The Bishop of Limburg
“Limburg/fiahm, 13 August 1941
To the Reich Minister of Justice
Regarding the report submitted on 16 July (sub. ZV, pp.6-7) by the Chairman of the Fulda Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Dr Bertram, I consider it my duty to present the following as a concrete illustration of the destruction of the so-called “useless life.”
About eight kilometres from Limburg in the little town of Hadamar, on a hill overlooking the town, there is an institution which had formerly served various purposes and of late had been used as a nursing home. This institution was renovated and furnished as a place in which, by consensus of opinion, the above-mentioned euthanasia has been systematically practised for months— approximately since February 1941. The fact is, of course, known beyond the administrative district of Wiesbaden because death certificates from the Hadamar-Moenchberg Registry are sent to the home communities. (Moenchberg is the name of this institution because it was a *Franciscan monastery prior to its secularization in 1803.)
Several times a week buses arrive in Hadamar with a considerable number of such victims. Schoolchildren in the vicinity know this vehicle and say: “There comes the murder box again.” After the arrival of the vehicle, the citizens of Hadamar watch the smoke rise out of the chimney and are tortured by the ever-present thought of depending on the direction of the wind.
The effect of the principles at work here is that children call each other names and say, “You’re crazy; you’ll be sent to the baking oven in Hadamar.” Those who do not want to marry, or find no opportunity, say, “Marry, never! Bring children into the world so they can be put into the bottling machine!” You hear old folks say, “Don’t send me to a state hospital! When the feeble-minded have been finished off, the next useless eaters whose turn will come are the old people.”
All God-fearing men consider this destruction of helpless beings a crass injustice. And if anybody says that Germany cannot win the war, if there is yet a just God, these expressions are not the result of a lack of love for the Fatherland but of a deep concern for our people. The population cannot grasp the fact that systematic actions carried out in accordance with paragraph 211 of the German Penal Code are punishable by death. High authority as a moral concept has suffered a severe shock as a result of these happenings. The official notice that N. N. died of a contagious disease and, therefore, his body had to be burned, no longer finds credence, and official notices of this kind which are no longer believed have further undermined the ethical value of the concept of authority.
Officials of the Secret State Police, it is said, are trying to suppress discussion of the Hadamar occurrences by means of severe threats. In the interest of public peace, this may be well intended. But the knowledge, the conviction, and the indignation of the population cannot be changed by it; the conviction will be increased with the bitter realization that discussion is prohibited by threats, but that the actions themselves are not prosecuted under penal law.
I beg you most humbly, Herr Reich Minister, in the sense of the report of the Episcopate of 16 July of this year, to prevent further transgressions of the Fifth Commandment of God.
11 days later on 24 August 1941 Hitler ordered the cessation of Nazi Germany’s systematic T4 euthanasia program of the mentally ill and the disabled due to protests, although killings continue for the remainder of the war.