The SS ransom demand of September 26-1943.

Kappler

The killing of innocent lives is despicable enough but trying to make a profit out of it in the most deceitful way is beyond evil. Giving people hope that someway they will survive, where there really was no intention of sparing their lives,sickens me to the core.

Shortly after  the armistice between Italy and the Allied forces on 8 September 1943, the German military occupied Rome and Herbert Kappler was appointed as Chief of the Security Police and Security Service  for all SS and Order Police units deployed in Rome.

rOME

On September 26 Major Herbert Kappler, delivered a 36-hour ultimatum to the city’s Jewish community, requiring a ransom payment of fifty kilograms of gold, as well as 100 million Italian lire, to the SS headquarters in Rome , to avoid the mass arrest and deportation of Rome’s Jews to concentration camps.

The Jewish community ,via Israel Zolli, the Chief Rabbi of Rome told the Vatican about the ransom and asked if they could help because the Jews did not have the 50 kg of  gold to fulfill the ransom demand. The Vatican’s replied on September . 27,  that the Pope,Pius XII, was willing to lend,interest free, the 110 pounds of gold to the Jewish community.

Pope

But, by September. 28,  the Jewish community received donations of Jews and non-Jews exceeding 110 pounds. The loan of the Vatican was therefor no longer required.

However, on October 16, 1943 the Nazis, in conjunction with the Italians, conducted a roundup of the Jews in Rome and 2 days later on October 18,1,035 Jews were deported to Auschwitz.

raid

Rabbi Israel Zolli survived and converted together with his 2nd wife and daughter ,to Catholicism in 1945.

In 1948, Kappler was tried by an Italian military tribunal and sentenced to life imprisonment in the Gaeta military prison. In 1977 he escaped prison, because he had been terminally ill, he only weighed 47 KG, His wife was able to carry him ot in a suitcase.6 months after his escape he died.

 

 

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Why the story of Edith Stein is still relevant.

Edith Stein

An increasing amount of people say that stories of the Holocaust are no longer relevant and should be left in the past. I don’t subscribe to that point of view, remembering the Holocaust is now more important then it ever has been.In a time where some politicians are making policies based on hate, it is relevant to remember it could cost the lives of millions.

The story of Edith Stein also has personal relevance to me. It is a story that intrigues me because it shows how much the Nazis hated the Jewish people, and I do apologize for the phrase but I don’t think there is any other way of saying it. to the Nazis once a Jew always a Jew. It also highlights an ignorance I had as a youngster.

I will not go to deep into the life of Edith Stein because so much is already written about her, and I will not be able to add any value to that.

1938

Edith Stein was born to Jewish parents in Breslau on 12 October 1891, the youngest of 11. In 1921 she converted to Catholicism, as did her sister Rosa Stein.

Edith entered the Discalced Carmelite monastery St. Maria vom Frieden (Our Lady of Peace) in Cologne in 1933 and took the religious name of Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

In 1933 the Nazis also came to power, according to their Nuremberg Race laws both Edith and her sisters were considered to be Jewish, despite the conversion to Catholicism, therefor to avoid persecution by the Nazis, Edith and her sister were transferred to a monastery in Echt in the Netherlands.

Klooster

As I mentioned my youthful ignorance before, Echt is only about 15 km away from my birthplace. It is a small town in the province of Limburg in the south east of the Netherlands. In my late teens and early twenties I would often frequent a nightclub’the Majestic’ in Echt. which was really a stones throw away from the monastery. I also would go there by train and would get off on the very same station which was used decades earlier to transport Edith and Rosa to Camp Amersfoort. And I was completely oblivious to all of that.

station

The Stein sisters were arrested by the SS on 2 August 1942. They were imprisoned at the concentration camps of Amersfoort and Westerbork before being deported to Auschwitz. A Dutch official at Westerbork was so impressed by Edith’s  sense of faith and calm, he offered her an escape plan. She  refused his assistance, stating, “If somebody intervened at this point and took away her chance to share in the fate of her brothers and sisters, that would be utter annihilation”

Edith and Rosa among 985 other Jews were sent to Auschwitz on August 7,1942. It is believed that Edith and her sister both died in the gas chambers on August 9th 1942.

who you are

 

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Bishop Clemens August Graf von Galen’s condemnation of the T4 program.

Bishop

The christian churches and especially the Catholic church have often been criticized for turning a blind eye to the Nazi regime, and to an extend that is true for they could have done more. However to say they did nothing is untrue, There were may clergy men who spoke out to Hitler and his friends, and some of them were even actively involved in the resistance.

One of the leading Catholic ministers, Bishop von Galen, held 3 sermons were he strongly condemned the Nazi regime. Each time he risked his life for Hitler allowed no criticism. From 1941 to the end of the war the Bishop was put under a virtual house arrest.

Below is the translation of the sermon he held on August 3, 1941. Condemning the T4 Program, the euthanizing of the mentally disabled.

t4

It is quite a lengthy text, so therefor  have used an abbreviated version but it still captures the essence of the sermon

“My dear diocesans In the pastoral letter of the German bishops of June 26, 1941, which was read out in all the Catholic churches in Germany on July 6, 1941, it states among other things: It is true that there are definite commandments in Catholic moral doctrine which are no longer applicable if their fulfillment involves too many difficulties.

However, there are sacred obligations of conscience from which no one has the power to release us and which we must fulfil even if it costs us our lives. Never under any circumstances may a human being kill an innocent person apart from war and legitimate self-defense. On July 6, I already had cause to add to the pastoral letter the following explanation: for some months we have been hearing reports that, on the orders of Berlin, patients from mental asylums who have been ill for a long time and may appear incurable, are being compulsorily removed. Then, after a short time, the relatives are regularly informed that the corpse has been burnt and the ashes can be delivered. There is a general suspicion verging on certainty, that these numerous unexpected deaths of mentally ill people do not occur of themselves but are deliberately brought about, that the doctrine is being followed, according to which one may destroy so-called ‘worthless life,’ that is, kill innocent people if one considers that their lives are of no further value for the nation and the state.

I am reliably informed that lists are also being drawn up in the asylums of the province of Westphalia as well of those patients who are to be taken away as so-called ‘unproductive national comrades’ and shortly to be killed. The first transport left the Marienthal institution near Münster during this past week.

transport

German men and women, section 211 of the Reich Penal Code is still valid. It states: ‘He who deliberately kills another person will be punished by death for murder if the killing is premeditated.’

Those patients who are destined to be killed are transported away from home to a distant asylum presumably in order to protect those who deliberately kill those poor people, members of our families, from this legal punishment. Some illness is then given as the cause of death. Since the corpse has been burnt straight away, the relatives and also the criminal police are unable to establish whether the illness really occurred and what the cause of death was.

However, I have been assured that the Reich Interior Ministry and the office of the Reich Doctors’ Leader, Dr. Conti, make no bones about the fact that in reality a large number of mentally ill people in Germany have been deliberately killed and more will be killed in the future.

The Penal Code lays down in section 139: ‘He who receives credible information concerning the intention to commit a crime against life and neglects to alert the authorities or the person who is threatened in time…will be punished.’

When I learned of the intention to transport patients from Marienthal in order to kill them, I brought a formal charge at the State Court in Münster and with the Police President in Münster by means of a registered letter which read as follows: “According to information which I have received, in the course of this week a large number of patients from the Marienthal Provincial Asylum near Münster are to be transported to the Eichberg asylum as so-called ‘unproductive national comrades’ and will then soon be deliberately killed, as is generally believed has occurred with such transports from other asylums. Since such an action is not only contrary to the moral laws of God and Nature but also is punishable with death as murder under section 211 of the Penal Code, I hereby bring a charge in accordance with my duty under section 139 of the Penal Code, and request you to provide immediate protection for the national comrades threatened in this way by taking action against those agencies who are intending their removal and murder, and that you inform me of the steps that have been taken.”

I have received no news concerning intervention by the Prosecutor’s Office or by the police…Thus we must assume that the poor helpless patients will soon be killed.

For what reason?

Not because they have committed a crime worthy of death. Not because they attacked their nurses or orderlies so that the latter had no other choice but to use legitimate force to defend their lives against their attackers. Those are cases where, in addition to the killing of an armed enemy in a just war, the use of force to the point of killing is allowed and is often required.

No, it is not for such reasons that these unfortunate patients must die but rather because, in the opinion of some department, on the testimony of some commission, they have become ‘worthless life’ because according to this testimony they are ‘unproductive national comrades.’ The argument goes: they can no longer produce commodities, they are like an old machine that no longer works, they are like an old horse which has become incurably lame, they are like a cow which no longer gives milk.

poster

What does one do with such an old machine? It is thrown on the scrap heap. What does one do with a lame horse, with such an unproductive cow?

No, I do not want to continue the comparison to the end–however fearful the justification for it and the symbolic force of it are. We are not dealing with machines, horses and cows whose only function is to serve mankind, to produce goods for man. One may smash them, one may slaughter them as soon as they no longer fulfil this function.

No, we are dealing with human beings, our fellow human beings, our brothers and sisters. With poor people, sick people, if you like unproductive people.

But have they for that reason forfeited the right to life?

Have you, have I the right to live only so long as we are productive, so long as we are recognized by others as productive?

If you establish and apply the principle that you can kill ‘unproductive’ fellow human beings then woe betide us all when we become old and frail! If one is allowed to kill the unproductive people then woe betide the invalids who have used up, sacrificed and lost their health and strength in the productive process. If one is allowed forcibly to remove one’s unproductive fellow human beings then woe betide loyal soldiers who return to the homeland seriously disabled, as cripples, as invalids. If it is once accepted that people have the right to kill ‘unproductive’ fellow humans–and even if initially it only affects the poor defenseless mentally ill–then as a matter of principle murder is permitted for all unproductive people, in other words for the incurably sick, the people who have become invalids through labor and war, for us all when we become old, frail and therefore unproductive.

Then, it is only necessary for some secret edict to order that the method developed for the mentally ill should be extended to other ‘unproductive’ people, that it should be applied to those suffering from incurable lung disease, to the elderly who are frail or invalids, to the severely disabled soldiers. Then none of our lives will be safe any more. Some commission can put us on the list of the ‘unproductive,’ who in their opinion have become worthless life. And no police force will protect us and no court will investigate our murder and give the murderer the punishment he deserves.

Who will be able to trust his doctor any more?

Brandt

He may report his patient as ‘unproductive’ and receive instructions to kill him. It is impossible to imagine the degree of moral depravity, of general mistrust that would then spread even through families if this dreadful doctrine is tolerated, accepted and followed.

Woe to mankind, woe to our German nation if God’s Holy Commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ which God proclaimed on Mount Sinai amidst thunder and lightning, which God our Creator inscribed in the conscience of mankind from the very beginning, is not only broken, but if this transgression is actually tolerated and permitted to go unpunished.

Cardinal Clemens von Galen – August 3, 1941

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“Sources

http://www.traditioninaction.org

http://www.historyplace.com

http://www.catholicculture.org

 

“It is not you who are in charge. God will judge you” the bravery of Fr.Józef Cebula.

jozef cebula

The word ‘Hero’ is branded way too easily nowadays, Recently I heard someone on a current affairs program saying he saw the Kardashians as his role models and heroes, that actually scared me. If people whose only contribution to society is self indulgence and self promotion are seen as heroes, then real heroes like Father Józef Cebula will soon be forgotten.

Father Józef Cebula was born into a modest family of Polish origin on March 23, 1902, at Malnia in southern Poland. He suffered tuberculosis as a child,and was in fact declared incurable . After an unexpected recovery, he visited an Oblate shrine where he shared his story with an Oblate priest. The priest advised Józef to study with the Oblates at the newly-established Oblate minor seminary.

oblates

Jozef entered the Oblate Junior Seminary in 1920, and was ordained to the priesthood on June 25, 1927.While still in a seminary. Father Cebula became a superior at the Oblate seminaries in 1931, and became novice master at Markowice in 1937.

When the Germans invaded and occupied Poland in September 1939, they declared loyalty to the Church illegal. In October 1939 the 100 member community at Markowice was placed under house arrest, and set to work as farm laborers.

Later on that month, the Community was evicted and the novitiate was turned into a centre for the Hitler Youth.

H Y

Fr. Jozef was called before the authorities on several occasions for refusing to stop saying Mass and hearing confessions. Eventually he was arrested and sent to the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria.

Known for his humility, Fr. Cebula was a man of quiet prayer with a deep spiritual life. He radiated peace in the very middle of the death camp, even when tormented by the Nazis.

Mauthausen

In Mauthausen he was harassed and forced to work hard, to break rocks in the quarry, simply because he was a Roman Catholic priest. Father Cebula was forced to carry 60-pound rocks from the quarry to a camp two miles away. He had to climb a 144-step staircase called the Death Stairs, while being beaten and insulted by his tormentors. The guards humiliated and mocked him by ordering him to sing the texts of the Mass while he worked.

quarry

On May 9th 1941 , Fr. Cebula summoned up his strength and courage  and said, “It is not you who are in charge. God will judge you.” The Nazis ordered him to run, with a rock on his back, towards the camp’s barbed wire fence, where a guard shot him with a sub-machine gun and declared that Fr. Cebula “was shot while trying to escape”. He died  in this volley of bullets. His body was taken to a crematorium and burned.

It takes a Hero to stand up against evil knowing it will cost you your life. Lets never forget the real heroes.

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Sources

OMI World

USHMM

When the Pope warned about an imminent attack on the low countries.

Pope Pius XII

On 4 May 1940, the Vatican advised the Netherlands envoy to the Vatican that the Germans planned to invade France through the low countries. With the blessing of the Pope, the Vatican sent a coded radio message to its nuncios in Brussels and The Hague. The messages were intercepted by the Nazis

On May 5 1940,Pope Pius XII shared the intelligence gathered by Vatican agents that Germany was planning on invading the Low Countries with the Princess of Piedmont Marie José, who was the sister of King Leopold III of Belgium and wife of Italian Crown Prince Umberto.

Marie-José_of_Belgium2

On the same day, a massive German armoured motorised column many miles long was spotted driving west through the Ardennes forest but the Belgian Army did not respond.

convoy

 

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Crazy Irish Priest

Cornelius-Neil-Horan

Unfortunately there is no other way to describe Father Neil Horan(not the One Direction dude) then crazy. On several occasions he disrupted major events and costing one athlete a GOLD medal.

On 20 July 2003, Horan ran across the track at the Formula One British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, wearing a kilt and waving a religious banner, which stated “Read the Bible. The Bible is always right”.

His protest took place on the 200 mph (320 km/h) Hangar Straight. Several drivers chose to swerve to avoid him and the safety car had to be deployed to protect him and the competitors. Horan was tackled by track marshal Stephen Green, who removed him from the track before he was arrested.He was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, aggravated trespass and sentenced to two months imprisonment.

grand prix

At the 5 June 2004 Epsom Derby, Horan was spotted by police and shoved to the ground moments before they believed he was about to run in front of the horses. He was later released without charges, although police did circulate information about Horan to other sporting events.

In spite of the fact that security for the 2004 Athens Olympics was tight due to fears of a terrorist attack, on 29 August Horan (who had flown to Athens earlier that day) was able to run onto the course of the men’s marathon event near the 35 km mark, carrying a placard.

Horan pushed Brazilian Vanderlei de Lima, who was leading the race, into the crowds alongside the course.After a few seconds Horan was hauled off the shaken runner by Greek spectator Polyvios Kossivas. Kossivas subdued Horan and helped de Lima up and back to the lane.

Horan was promptly arrested by Greek police (who were later criticized for not giving runners adequate protection). Following the encounter with Horan, De Lima suffered from leg cramps and muscle pain, although he continued running and completed the race. He lost 20 seconds from his 48-second lead and finished third, after being passed by Italian Stefano Baldini and American Mebrahtom Keflezighi at the 38 km mark.

de-lima

Horan ruined years of preparation and hard training by de Lima in a few seconds

The head of the Brazilian Track Federation launched an appeal based on the controversy surrounding Horan’s interference in the marathon. The federation asked that de Lima also be awarded a gold medal, citing precedents set in past Olympic matches where extenuating circumstances have led to more than one winner in certain sports. This request was denied. Horan was given a 12 months’ suspended sentence by a Greek court and fined €3,000. Although he could have been sentenced to up to five years’ imprisonment, the judge gave him a suspended sentence due to his mental state.

During the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, Horan was arrested by German police before he could stage a planned protest. He had written to German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and The Kingdom newspaper in County Kerry, Ireland, informing them that he planned to dance a peace jig outside the stadium in Berlin before the World Cup final. He told The Kingdom he would carry posters declaring “Adolf Hitler was a good leader who was following the word of Christ”, give the Hitler salute and light a candle for Hitler at the Gestapo headquarters.He spent two months in custody awaiting trial but was released on 15 September 2006 when the judge discharged the case.

On 20 January 2005, Kevin McDonald, the Archbishop of Southwark (South London), defrocked Horan. Horan later made the following statement to the press: “I completely reject this decision. I appeal to the much higher court of heaven and the court of Jesus Christ … I now cannot preach, I cannot give out communion – I am little more than a pagan.”

On 13 April 2007, Horan was served with an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) banning him from entering, on the day of the race, any of the London boroughs that the course of the London Marathon passed through.

Horan auditioned for Series 3 of Britain’s Got Talent in 2009 (airing 16 May) performing an Irish jig in traditional costume. The judges put Horan through to the next round. It was revealed he was let through because the producers “did not know” who he was.[10] The makers of the show, TalkbackThames and Syco, defended showing Horan’s audition on the show.[1] Horan then appeared on The Ray D’Arcy Show on Today FM and revealed that he did not get through to the next stage.

Neil_Horan

With all the mayhem he caused you’d suspect he would be locked up in a mental institution, but no he still roams free.

 

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The King’s great matter

800px-the_great_matter2

By the mid-1520s, King Henry VIII had grown very unhappy in his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. She had, by then, borne him eight children, with only the Princess Mary (born 1516) surviving infancy. Henry wished for a male heir to stabilize the future succession of the Crown. For state and personal reasons, he sought a divorce from Catherine so that he might marry Anne Boleyn, a young lady of the court with whom he had fallen in love. Between 1527 and 1535, England was preoccupied with the political and religious questions attendant to what was called “the King’s great matter.”

In 1525, Henry VIII became romantically interested in Anne Boleyn, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine who was 11 years younger than Henry.

Annebhever

Henry began pursuing her;Catherine was no longer able to bear children by this time. Henry began to believe that his marriage was cursed and sought confirmation from the Bible, By 1527, Henry was citing Biblical verses Leviticus 18:1-9 and Leviticus 20:21, interpreting these to mean that his marriage to his brother’s widow explained his lack of a male heir by Catherine.which he interpreted to say that if a man marries his brother’s wife, the couple will be childless.Even if her marriage to Arthur had not been consummated (and Catherine would insist to her dying day that she had come to Henry’s bed a virgin), Henry’s interpretation of that biblical passage meant that their marriage had been wrong in the eyes of God.Whether the Pope at the time of Henry and Catherine’s marriage had the right to overrule Henry’s claimed scriptural impediment would become a hot topic in Henry’s campaign to wrest an annulment from the present Pope. It is possible that the idea of annulment had been suggested to Henry much earlier than this, and is highly probable that it was motivated by his desire for a son. Before Henry’s father ascended the throne, England was beset by civil warfare over rival claims to the English crown, and Henry may have wanted to avoid a similar uncertainty over the succession.

It soon became the one absorbing object of Henry’s desires to secure an annulment.Catherine was defiant when it was suggested that she quietly retire to a nunnery, saying: “God never called me to a nunnery. I am the King’s true and legitimate wife”.He set his hopes upon an appeal to the Holy See, acting independently of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, whom he told nothing of his plans.

Cardinal_Wolsey_Christ_Church

William Knight, the King’s secretary, was sent to Pope Clement VII to sue for an annulment, on the grounds that the dispensing bull of Pope Julius II was obtained by false pretenses.

As the Pope was, at that time, the prisoner of Catherine’s nephew, Emperor Charles V, following the Sack of Rome in May 1527.

800px-Elderly_Karl_V

Knight had difficulty in obtaining access to him. In the end, Henry’s envoy had to return without accomplishing much. Henry now had no choice but to put this great matter into the hands of Wolsey, who did all he could to secure a decision in Henry’s favour.

However, the Pope had never had any intention of empowering his legate. Charles V resisted the annulment of his aunt’s marriage, but it is not clear how far this influenced the Pope. But it is clear that Henry saw that the Pope was unlikely to give him an annulment from the Emperor’s aunt.

The Pope forbade Henry to proceed to a new marriage before a decision was given in Rome, not in England. Wolsey bore the blame. Convinced that he was treacherous, Anne Boleyn maintained pressure until Wolsey was dismissed from public office in 1529. After being dismissed, the cardinal begged her to help him return to power, but she refused. He then began a plot to have Anne forced into exile and began communication with Queen Katherine and the Pope. When this was discovered, Henry ordered Wolsey’s arrest and had it not been for his death from illness in 1530, he probably would have been executed for treason.

A year later, Catherine was banished from court, and her old rooms were given to Anne Boleyn. Catherine wrote in a letter to Charles V in 1531:

My tribulations are so great, my life so disturbed by the plans daily invented to further the King’s wicked intention, the surprises which the King gives me, with certain persons of his council, are so mortal, and my treatment is what God knows, that it is enough to shorten ten lives, much more mine

Wolsey was replaced by Sir Thomas More, who took the job on the condition that he not be involved in the divorce matter, and who would later prove a greater problem for Henry than Wolsey.

thomas-more-2

At this time the government was effectively in the hands of the dukes of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Wiltshire, the last of whom was Anne Boleyn’s father. .

In July 1531, Henry officially separated from Catherine and began to live openly with Anne Boleyn. Also that year, the politically enterprising Thomas Cromwell was appointed to the inner circle of the king’s council, soon gaining the king’s confidence and advising him toward a direct break with the Roman Church.

1200px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01

Matters came to a head when Henry married Anne Boleyn secretly in January 1533, after discovering she was pregnant with the king’s child. Also that month, the reform-minded Thomas Cranmer was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. In March, all appeals to Rome were suspended with Parliament’s Act of Appeals, effectively breaking off England’s legal ties to the Papacy. In May, Cranmer assembled a court at Dunstable that delivered sentence that the marriage with Catherine was void, and the marriage with Anne was true. Catherine lost her title, Anne was named Queen of England, and the infant Elizabeth born in September 1533 replaced Princess Mary as the legitimate heir to the throne. Henry received his divorce and his new wife, King-Henry-VIIIbut he did not yet have a male heir, and in conjunction with these events, he declared himself the Supreme Head on Earth of the Church of England, igniting a virtual revolution of Church and State.The declaration received legal force in the 1534 Act of Supremacy, and was followed by the Oath of Succession which was demanded from all government officials, lay and clerical. The oath concerned the transferral of the primary sovereign right to the inheritance of Anne’s daughter Elizabeth, taking it from Catherine’s daughter Mary.

Thomas More, also unwilling to take an oath to support the Act of Succession, and having opposed Henry’s marriage to Anne, was charged with treason, imprisoned, and executed. Bishop Fisher, an early and consistent opponent of the divorce and supporter of Catherine’s marriage, was also imprisoned for refusing to recognize Henry as head of the church. While in prison, the new Pope, Paul III, made Fisher a cardinal, and Henry hurried Fisher’s trial for treason. More and Fisher were both beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 1886 and canonized in 1935.

In 1534 and 1535, when Catherine heard that her daughter Mary was ill, each time she asked to be able to see her and nurse her, but Henry refused to allow that. Catherine did get word out to her supporters to urge the Pope to excommunicate Henry.

When, in December 1535, Catherine’s friend Maria de Salinas heard that Catherine was ill, she asked permission to see Catherine. Refused, she forced herself into Catherine’s presence anyway. Chapuys, the Spanish ambassador, was also allowed to see her. He left on January 4. On the night of January 6, Catherine dictated letters to be sent to Mary and to Henry, and she died on January 7, in the arms of her friend Maria. Henry and Anne were said to celebrate upon hearing of Catherine’s death.

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The Lübeck martyrs

Lübecker_Märtyrer

It would be easy to say that all Germans were bad during WWII and that none of the Catholics and Protestant Christians lifted a finger to fight the Nazi regime. Although I hear this increasingly, it is a wrong assumption to make. In fact there were many who risked their lives,knowing quite well the chances of being caught and being tortured and executed were high. The 4 brave men commonly referred to as the Lübeck martyrs are a good example.

lubeckmartyrs

Fathers Hermann Lange, Eduard Müller and Johannes Prassek, along with Lutheran pastor Karl Friedrich Stellbrink, were guillotined in a Hamburg prison in November 1943.  The Nazi regime found them guilty of “defeatism, malice, favouring the enemy and listening to enemy broadcasts.

What distinguishes these four also is the fact that in the face of National-Socialist despotism they overcame the divide between the two faiths to find a common path to fight and act together.

All four were executed by beheading on 10 November 1943 less than 3 minutes apart from each other at Hamburg’s Holstenglacis Prison (then called Untersuchungshaftanstalt Hamburg-Stadt)

The Catholic priests worked at the Herz-Jesu Kirche (Sacred Heart Church) in the centre of Lübeck, Prassek as a chaplain, Müller as assistant minister and Lange as vicar. Stellbrink was pastor of the city’s Lutherkirche (Luther Church). The four had been close friends since 1941, exchanging information and ideas, and sharing sermons, including those of Clemens August Graf von Galen, Catholic bishop of Münster.

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In his Palm Sunday 1942 sermon, Stellbrink had interpreted a British air raid on Lübeck the previous night as God’s judgment. He was arrested on 7 April 1942, followed by Prassek on 18 May, Lange on 15 June, and Müller on 22 June. In addition to the clerics, a further 18 Catholic lay people were arrested, including Stephan Pfürtner, who would later become a moral theologian.

A year later, between 22 and 23 June 1943, the trial of the four men took place before the second chamber of the People’s Court, with Wilhelm Crohne presiding. He had journeyed to Lübeck specifically for the hearing. The clerics were sentenced to death for ‘broadcasting crime [specifically, listening to enemy broadcasts ], treasonable support for the enemy and demoralisation of the Armed Forces’. Some of their co-accused lay brethren received long prison sentences. The trial became known as the “Lübeck Christians’ Trial”, an indication of the anti-Christian bias of proceedings.

The clerics were immediately transferred to Hamburg’s Holstenglacis Prison, which had become the regional centre for executions in 1936 and had added an execution building with permanently mounted guillotine in 1938.The Catholic bishop under whose care the Catholic priests fell, Wilhelm Berning (Diocese of Osnabrück) visited the priests in prison and wrote a plea for clemency, which was rejected. Pastor Stellbrink received no support from his Province’s church authorities, and prior to his execution was ejected from Holy Orders because of his conviction.

Pastor Karl Friedrich Stellbrink’s career is not without controversy. He, who was sentenced and executed as an opponent of the Nazi Regime, came to Lübeck as a supporter of that regime in 1934. Stellbrink supported the program of the NSDAP (National-Socialist German Labour Party) from a German-national point of view and had welcomed Adolf Hitler’s ascension to power with great hopes. Contributing to his expectations would have been the romanticised picture of Germany which Stellbrink would have carried with him during his time of service as pastor to German parishes in Brazil (1921 to 1929).

 

Pastor Stellbrink and familiyStellbrink, like many others, fell victim to the deceptions of Hitler, who pretended to be a Christian and liked to quote biblical texts. As time proceeded, Stellbrink’s idea of a fruitful symbiosis between Christendom and National-socialism proved to be nothing but an illusion. stellbrink_bA crucifix covered up with a greatcoat at the chapel of the Vorwerk Cemetery during the funeral of a Lübeck Nazi personality was to him the beacon of Christ-hatred, a hatred which he openly denounced in his sermon on Palmarum (Palm Sunday) 1942, after the terrible bombing raid on Lübeck: “God has spoken in a loud voice and the people of Lübeck will once again learn to pray”. This sermon led to his arrest by the Secret State Police (Gestapo), which was followed by the arrest of the three catholic priests. Also arrested and charged were 17 members of the catholic community and an evangelical-Lutheran parishioner. They were tried and sentenced to various lengths of imprisonment, except for two cases, which were deemed to have served their time in remand.

Realising the true character of National-socialism was paralleled with Stellbrink’s growing friendship with the three catholic chaplains and the von de Berg family, who played a leading role in the catholic community in Lübeck. While Stellbrink’s initial anti-catholicism had been implanted during his education, it turned into acceptance. This friendship also led to the appreciation of the importance and implications of the sermons of the bishop of Münster, Graf von Galen, which revealed irrefutably the criminal and inhuman character of the Nazi regime. It resulted in their copying and duplicating these sermons together, which were distributed among the community. This was the true reason for their arrests, trials and executions.

Stellbrink stood, like many other evangelical theologians before 1933, for a tradition which had an anti-catholic, anti-jewish character. „Against Rome and Juda!“ became their motto, because both were deemed to be un-German and alien to the German psyche. As his anti-catholic stance withered so did his anti-jewish attitudes.

Pastor Karl Friedrich Stellbrink thus took a long route, which changed from a German-national and National-socialist conviction, his rejection of catholicism and judaism, to their acceptance and a furtherance in the latter phase of his life; yet it ultimately led to his conviction.

Fifty years would pass before the North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church, successor of the Lübeck Lutheran church body, would initiate court proceedings to clear Stellbrink’s name and admit their shame at how this noble martyr had been treated.

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Johannes Prassekprassek_b was ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1937, Father Prassek was assigned to Herz-Jesu Church together with Eduard Müller and Hermann Lange. He openly warned soldiers and youth groups against anti-Semitism, and protested the shooting of prisoners and Jews. Under German law at that time, such words were subject to the death penalty if reported to the Gestapo. Because of his sympathy for Polish workers who were forced laborers in the area, Father Prassek learned Polish so he could minister to them. Again, such ministry was illegal and could have led to his arrest – but the Gestapo never found out.

Eduard Müllermueller_b grew up in a very poor family, and he first trained to become a joiner, prior to studying for the priesthood. Ordained as a Catholic priest in 1940, he served at the Herz-Jesu Church. His youth group work and a discussion group he directed were very popular. Having experienced trade training himself probably gave him special rapport with young journeymen of the discussion group he led.

He took part in the copying and distribution of literature critical of the regime and allowed discussions, critical of the regime, during group meetings with young men. Müller never lost his gentleness, not even in the clutches of the Gestapo.

Hermann Langelange_bwas an intellectual preacher. He told young soldiers in discussions, that participation in a war was strongly against the Christian faith. He wrote in a letter from prison on 25 July 1943 about the ecumenical consequences of the sufferings he and his fellow Catholics had shared with their Lutheran neighbors, even prior to the shared arrests and imprisonment: “The common sufferings of the past few years have brought about a rapprochement of the two Churches. The imprisonment of the Catholic and Protestant clergy is a symbol both of their joint suffering and of the rapprochement”

They felt, like many others, the liberating tone of these sermons, which broke the silence and proclaimed aloud the thoughts many had in their hearts, when the Nazi action for the ‘destruction of unworthy lives’ began, with the euthanasia of mentally disabled people.

The men’s last letters, written just hours before their deaths, have been preserved. Father Johannes Prassek wrote to his family: “I am so happy, I can hardly explain how happy.  God is so good to have given me several beautiful years in which to be his priest.

“Do not be sad!  What is waiting for me is joy and good fortune, with which all the happiness and good fortune here on earth cannot compare.”

Father Eduard Muller wrote to his bishop: “It gives me great pleasure to be able to write a few lines to you in this, my last hour.  Whole-heartedly, I thank you first of all for the greatest gift which you gave me as a successor of the apostles, when you placed you hands on me and ordained me as God’s priest.

“But now we must embark upon this – in human terms difficult- final walk, which is to lead us to Him, whom we served as priests.”

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Martyrs of Gorkum(Gorinchem)

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This story might surprise many for the Netherlands is known as a tolerant and multi cultural society, this wasn’t always the case.

The Martyrs of Gorkum (Dutch: Martelaren van Gorinchem) were a group of 19 Dutch Catholic clerics and friars who were hanged on 9 July 1572 in the town of Brielle (or Den Briel) by militant Dutch Calvinists during the 16th century religious wars in the Low Countries.

As of 1572, Lutheranism and Calvinism had spread through a great part of Europe. In the Netherlands this was followed by a struggle between the two denominations in which Calvinism was victorious. On 1 April of the next year, Calvinist forces and a rebel group called the Watergeuzen (Sea Beggars) conquered Brielle (Den Briel) and later Vlissingen.

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In June, Dordrecht and Gorkum fell, and at the latter the rebels captured nine Franciscans: Nicholas Pieck, guardian of Gorkum; Hieronymus of Weert, vicar; Theodorus van der Eem of Amersfoort; Nicasius Janssen of Heeze; Willehad of Denmark; Godefried of Mervel; Antonius of Weert; Antonius of Hoornaer, and Franciscus de Roye of Brussels. To these were added two lay brothers from the same friary, Petrus of Assche and Cornelius of Wijk bij Duurstede. At almost the same time the Calvinists arrested the parish priest of Gorkum, Leonardus Vechel of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, and his assistant.

Also imprisoned were Godefried van Duynsen of Gorkum, a priest in his native city, and Joannes Lenartz of Oisterwijk, a canon regular from a nearby priory and spiritual director for the monastery of Augustinian nuns in Gorkum. To these fifteen were later added four more companions: Joannes van Hoornaer (alias known as John of Cologne), a Dominican of the Cologne province and parish priest not far from Gorkum, who when apprised of the incarceration of the clergy of Gorkum hastened to the city in order to administer the sacraments to them and was seized and imprisoned with the rest; Jacobus Lacops of Oudenaar, a Norbertine, who became a curate in Monster, South Holland; Adrianus Janssen of Hilvarenbeek, a Premonstratensian canon and at one time parish priest in Monster, who was sent to Brielle with Jacobus Lacops. Last was Andreas Wouters of Heynoord.

In prison at Gorkum (from 26 June to 6 July 1572), the first 15 prisoners were transferred to Brielle, arriving there on 8 July.On their way to Dordrecht they were exhibited for money to the curious. The following day, William de la Marck, Lord of Lumey, commander of the Gueux de mer, had them interrogated and ordered a disputation. In the meantime, four others arrived. It was demanded of each that he abandon his belief in the Blessed Sacrament and in papal supremacy. All remained firm in their faith. Meanwhile, a letter arrived from the Prince of Orange, William the Silent, which enjoined all those in authority to leave priests and religious unmolested. But to no avail.On 9 July, they were hanged in a turf shed.

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A shrub bearing 19 white flowers is said to have sprung up at the site of the martyrdom. Many miracles have been attributed to the intercession of the Gorkum martyrs, especially the curing of hernias.The beatification of the martyrs took place on 14 November 1675, and their canonization on 29 June 1867. They were canonised on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, as part of the grand celebrations to mark the 1800th anniversary of the martyrdom of Peter and Paul AD67.

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For many years the place of their martyrdom in Brielle has been the scene of numerous pilgrimages and processions. The reliquary of their remains is now enshrined in the Church of Saint Nicholas, Brussels, Belgium.

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Edith Stein- AKA Teresa Benedict of the Cross.

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Today is the 30th anniversary of the beatification of Edith Stein by Pope John Paul II.Her story intrigued me, not because I am a Catholic and I pray to saints, but because Edith Stein’s life has remarkable similarities to another converted Jewish woman called Luise Löwenfels, who was deported from my birth place.

https://dirkdeklein.net/2016/03/24/forgotten-history-luise-lowenfels/

Both women had fled Germany and moved to the Netherlands,in fact they had met while in the Netherlands because the convents they belonged to were only a few miles from each other. And both fates were intertwined.

Edith Stein, also known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, (12 October 1891 – 9 August 1942), was a German Jewish philosopher who converted to Roman Catholicism and became a Discalced Carmelite nun. She is canonized as a martyr and saint of the Catholic Church.

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In the midst of all her studies, Edith Stein was searching not only for the truth, but for Truth itself and she found both in the Catholic Church, after reading the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila. She was baptized on New Year’s Day, 1922.

After her conversion, Edith spent her days teaching, lecturing, writing and translating, and she soon became known as a celebrated philosopher and author, but her own great longing was for the solitude and contemplation of Carmel, in which she could offer herself to God for her people. It was not until the Nazi persecution of the Jews brought her public activities and her influence in the Catholic world to a sudden close that her Benedictine spiritual director gave his approval to her entering the Discalced Carmelie Nuns’ cloistered community at Cologne-Lindenthal on 14 October 1933. The following April, Edith received the Habit of Carmel and the religious name of “Teresia Benedicta ac Cruce,” and on Easter Sunday, 21 April 1935, she made her Profession of Vows.

When the Jewish persecution increased in violence and fanaticism, Sister Teresa Benedicta soon realized the danger that her presence was to the Cologne Carmel, and she asked and received permission to transfer to a foreign monastery. On the night of 31 December 1938, she secretly crossed the border into Holland where she was warmly received in the Carmel of Echt.

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There she wrote her last work, The Science of the Cross.

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Stein’s move to Echt prompted her to be more devout and an even greater subscriber to the Carmelite rule. After having her teaching position revoked by the implementation of the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, Stein quickly eased back into the role of instructor at the convent in Echt, teaching both fellow sisters and students within the community Latin and philosophy.

Even prior to the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Stein believed she would not survive the war, going as far to write the Prioress to request her permission to “allow [Stein] to offer [her]self to the heart of Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement for true peace” and created a will. Her fellow sisters would later recount how Stein began “quietly training herself for life in a concentration camp, by enduring cold and hunger” after the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands in May, 1940.

Ultimately, she was not safe in the Netherlands. The Dutch Bishops’ Conference had a public statement read in all the churches of the nation on 20 July 1942 condemning Nazi racism. In a retaliatory response on 26 July 1942 the Reichskommissar of the Netherlands, Arthur Seyss-Inquart ordered the arrest of all Jewish converts who had previously been spared.

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Along with two hundred and forty-three baptized Jews living in the Netherlands, Stein was arrested by the SS on 2 August 1942. Stein and her sister, Rosa, were imprisoned at the concentration camps of Amersfoort and Westerbork before being deported to Auschwitz. A Dutch official at Westerbork was so impressed by her sense of faith and calm,he offered her an escape plan. Stein vehemently refused his assistance, stating, “If somebody intervened at this point and took away her chance to share in the fate of her brothers and sisters, that would be utter annihilation.”

On 7 August 1942, early in the morning, 987 Jews were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. It was probably on 9 August that Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, her sister, and many more of her people were killed in a mass gas chamber.