The Dutch Bishop who defied the Nazis.

The Roman Catholic church , especially the Vatican, still has a lot of questions to answer when it comes to the Holocaust. However there were some Catholic clergymen, even some high placed ones, who did not keep their mouth shut and defied the Nazis.

Cardinal Johannes de Jong was one of those men. He was ordained to the priesthood on August 15, 1908, and further studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Angelicum in Rome, obtaining his doctorates in philosophy and theology.

On August 3, 1935, de Jong was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Utrecht and Titular Archbishop of Rhusium.

He said he didn’t want to be another Theodor Innitzer, his colleague in Vienna with fascist sympathies. In April 1938, in honour of Hitler’s birthday, Cardinal Innitzer had ordered that all Austrian churches fly the swastika flag, ring bells, and pray for Hitler

De Jong ordered his priests to refuse the sacraments to Nazi Dutchmen. During the Second World War, he was one of the major leaders against the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. On July 26, 1942 Dutch bishops, including Archbishop Johannes de Jong, issued a decree that openly condemned Nazi deportations of Dutch workers and Jews. The Nazis retaliated by seizing 245 Catholics of Jewish descent, including Edith Stein. The Vatican used the Netherlands’ experience to explain its silence during the years of the Holocaust. After the German retaliation, Sister Pasqualina Lehnert, Pius XII’s housekeeper and confidante, said the Pope was convinced that while the Bishop’s protest cost more than two hundred lives, a protest by him would mean at least two hundred thousand innocent lives that he was not ready to sacrifice. While politicians, generals, and dictators might gamble with the lives of people, a Pope could not. -Personally I don’t buy that argument. The pope was the spiritual leader of about a billion Catholics globally, his words would have had an impact.- Bishop Johannes de Jong did not keep silent.

‘It is impossible to talk to this man’, said a high-ranking German official during the war years about the Bishop.

On Sunday, August 3, 1941, two Gestapo men called the archbishop’s palace on Maliebaan in Utrecht to persuade De Jong to withdraw a ‘pastoral letter’ in which he urged his co-religionists to passively resist the Nazification of Dutch society. He had received the men in the most magnificent room of his official residence. There, ‘after an uneasy silence’, he received the order of the Reichskommissar. He informed his guests “with a single word” that he had understood them, but then instructed all bishops to read the pastoral letter as scheduled this Sunday. Aside from the 245 people arrested, the Bishop was fined 500 Guilders, this should be a sign for the Pope too. The Bishop was not arrested, despite defying the Nazis, the Nazis clearly knew that it would have caused problems for them.

One could argue that if the letter had not been read, the 245 would not have been arrested and perhaps Edith Stein, would have survived, but they would have been arrested and send to the camps at some stage anyway. Edith Stein was murdered on August 7,1942 in Auschwitz.

After the liberation in 1945 and the return of the Dutch government, Pius XII named him cardinal as a result of his share in the resistance against the occupation of his homeland and his unwavering stance as church leader. In addition, he was knighted with the highest accolades, the decorations of which are still on display in the cultural-historic museum Sorgdrager in Hollum. On 8 September 1955, Cardinal de Jong died in Amersfoort.

On Tuesday 1 February 2022, it was announced that cardinal Jan de Jong was honoured with the Yad Vashem-medal posthumously, for his resistance against the Nazis and – more in particular – for his ban on Roman Catholics from participating in the deportation of Jews.

sources

https://www.vvvameland.com/practical/general/villages/nes/johannes-cardinal-de-jong

https://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/bishop/bdejongj.html

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Letter from a Bishop to the Reichsminister.

No one can deny that the Roman Catholic church, and especially the Vatican. has a lot to answer for when it comes to their part in the Holocaust.

However there were Catholic clergy men who did speak out to the Nazi regime and many of them paid the ultimate price for that.

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, 13August 1941

To the Reich Minister of Justice
Berlin

Regarding the report submitted on July 16 (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 destruction of so-called “useless life”.

About 8 kilometers 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 practiced 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 busses arrive in Hadamar with a considerable number of such victims. School children of 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 with the ever-present thought of depending on the direction of the wind.

The effect of the principles at work here are 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 are carried out which in accordance with paragraph 211 of the German Penal Code are punishable with 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, and 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.

[Signed]
DR.HTLFBICH£

11 days later on August 24,1941 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.

source.

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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Hugh O’Flaherty-WWII Hero

w_Priest-Hugh-Oflaherty_-Nazis_Moliere_CC3_600

I did not call this blog Forgotten History since his story is quite well known in some parts of the world,nevertheless it is a story that needs be re-told especially nowadays where we need to hear about heroes.

Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, CBE (28 February 1898 – 30 October 1963) was an Irish Roman Catholic priest and senior official of the Roman Curia, and significant figure in Catholic resistance to Nazism. During World War II, he was responsible for saving 6,500 Allied soldiers and Jews. His ability to evade the traps set by the German Gestapo and Sicherheitsdienst, earned O’Flaherty the nickname “The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican”. He was the first Irishman named Notary of the Holy Office.

This ingenious priest was the mastermind of an underground movement to house and save over 6,500 jews and allied soldiers. He was so audacious that the nazi germans painted a large circle around the vatican saying that if O’flaherty crossed that line he would be killed. This did not hold him back. Instead he would disguise himself as a nun, a street cleaner, a beggar, etc. in order to get into travel incognito throughout Rome to help refugees. He was so daring that he even dressed up as a German general in order to go into a German prison and give last communion to a fellow priest who was to be exectuted.

The stunts and risks that he took were amazing. For example, they housed many Jews and refugees in a house next door to the gestapo offices. They seemed always to be one step ahead of them. However, what is most unique about this man’s story is what he did after the war. Herbert Kappler, the head of the Nazi occupation force, who was determined to kill O’flaherty recieved a sentence of life in prison. For the next months and years that followed rarely did anyone ever visit Kappler, no one that is except for O’Flaherty who monthly visited his old nemesis. A few years later, O’Flaherty baptized Kappler into the catholic faith. This is an amazing story of someone who followed the teachings of Jesus of loving his neighbor as himself even when that neighbor used to be an enemy.

kappler_herbert

Shortly after O’Flaherty’s birth in Lisrobin, Kiskeam, County Cork, his parents, James and Margaret, moved to Killarney.The family lived on the golf course where James O’Flaherty worked as a steward.By his late teens, young O’Flaherty had a scratch handicap and a scholarship to a teacher training college.

However, in 1918 he enrolled at Mungret College, a Jesuit college in County Limerick dedicated to preparing young men for missionary priesthood.

Normally, students ranged from 14 to 18 years of age. At the time when O’Flaherty came in, he was a little older than most of the students, about 20.The college allowed for some older people to come in if they had been accepted by a bishop who would pay for them.

O’Flaherty’s sponsor was the Bishop of Cape Town, Cornelius O’Reilly, in whose diocese he would be posted after ordination,a big step for a young man who had never stepped foot outside of Munster. At the time when O’Flaherty was in Mungret, the Irish War for Independence was ongoing.He was posted to Rome in 1922 to finish his studies and was ordained on 20 December 1925. He would never join his diocese. Instead, he stayed to work for the Holy See, serving as a Vatican diplomat in Egypt, Haiti, Santo Domingo, and Czechoslovakia. In 1934, he was appointed Monsignor.

In the early years of World War II, O’Flaherty toured prisoner of war (POW) camps in Italy and tried to find out about prisoners who had been reported missing in action. If he found them alive, he tried to reassure their families through Radio Vatican.

Monsignor O’Flaherty got his start in smuggling and hiding refugees in the fall of 1942, when the Germans and Italians cracked down on prominent Jews and aristocratic anti-Fascists. Monsignor O’Flaherty had socialized with these people before the war; now he hid them in monasteries and convents, and in his own residence–the German College.

In the spring of 1943, his operation broadened to include escaped British POWs; and he acquired a most improbable partner, Sir Francis D’Arcy Godolphin Osborne, British Minister to the Vatican. The POWs would be safe in the Vatican, but as internees they would be unable to rejoin their fighting units. Sir D’Arcy’s status prevented him from leaving the Vatican, so Msgr. O’Flaherty developed a network of apartments in Rome in which they could hide.

In September the Germans occupied Rome. The Italian game of “forgetting” to round up Jews was over.

According to Msgr. O’Flaherty’s biographer, J.P. Gallagher, Vatican officials who had inclined to prudence and ordinary Italians who had been indifferent to the plight of the Jews were radicalized by the Gestapo. “Even the most conservative men in the Vatican were prepared now to give the trouble-shooting Monsignor quite a bit more rope.”

Monsignor O’Flaherty hid Jews in monasteries and convents, at Castel Gandolfo, in his old college of the Propaganda Fide, in the German College and in his network of apartments. Every evening, he stood in the porch of St. Peter’s, in plain view both of the German soldiers across the piazza and of the windows of the Pope’s apartments. Escaped POWs and Jews would come to him there. He would smuggle them across the piazza and through the German Cemetary to the college. Sometimes he would disguise them in the robes of a monsignor or the uniform of a Swiss Guard.

One Jew,made his way to St. Peter’s and, coming up to O’Flaherty at his usual post on the steps and drawing him deeper into the shadows, proceeded to unwind a solid gold chain that went twice around his waist. ‘My wife and I expect to be arrested at any moment,’ said the Jew. ‘We have no way of escaping. When we are taken to Germany we shall die. But we have a small son; he is only seven and is too young to die in a Nazi gas chamber. Please take this chain and take the boy for us too. Each link of the chain will keep him alive for a month. Will you save him?'”

Monsignor O’Flaherty improved upon this plan: he accepted the chain, hid the boy and procured false papers for the parents. At the end of the war, he returned the boy and the chain.

 

When Mussolini was removed from power by the King in 1943, thousands of Allied POWs were released; however, when Germany imposed an occupation over Italy, they were in danger of recapture. Some of them, remembering visits by O’Flaherty, reached Rome and asked him for help. Others went to the Irish embassy to the Holy See, the only English-speaking embassy to remain open in Rome during the war. Delia Murphy, who was the wife of the ambassador and in her day a well-known ballad singer, was one of those who helped O’Flaherty.

O’Flaherty did not wait for permission from his superiors. He recruited the help of other priests (including two young New Zealanders, Fathers Owen Sneddensnedden and John Flanagan), two agents working for the Free French, François de Vial and Yves Debroise, and even communists and a Swiss count.

One of his aides was British Major Sam Derry, a POW escapee.

Derry along with British officers and escaped POWs Lieutenants Furman and Simpson, and Captain Byrnes, a Canadian, were responsible for the security and operational organisation. O’Flaherty also kept contact with Sir D’Arcy Osborne, British ambassador to the Holy See and his butler John May (whom O’Flaherty described as “a genius … the most magnificent scrounger”).

O’Flaherty and his allies concealed 4,000 escapees, mainly Allied soldiers and Jews, in flats, farms and convents. One of the first hideouts was beside the local SS headquarters. O’Flaherty and Derry coordinated all this. When outside the Vatican, O’Flaherty wore various disguises. The German occupiers tried to stop him and eventually they found out that the leader of the network was a priest. SS attempts to assassinate him failed. They learned his identity, but could not arrest him inside the Vatican. When the German ambassador revealed this to O’Flaherty, he began to meet his contacts on the stairs of the St. Peter’s Basilica.

Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Kappler, the head of the SS Sicherheitsdienst and Gestapo in Rome learned of O’Flaherty’s actions; he ordered a white line painted on the pavement at the opening of St. Peter’s Square (signifying the border between Vatican City and Italy), stating that the priest would be killed if he crossed it. Ludwig Koch, head of the Fascist police in Rome, often spoke of his intention to torture O’Flaherty before executing him if he ever fell into his hands.

Finally Colonel Kappler complained to Berlin. Monsignor O’Flaherty received an invitation to a reception at the Hungarian Embassy, with an implicit safe-conduct. There Baron von Weiszacker, the German Ambassador, told him:

Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-1979-093-29,_Ernst_v._Weizsäcker

“Nobody in Rome honors you more than I do for what you are doing. But it has gone too far for us all. Kappler is waiting in the hall, feeling rather frustrated.I have told him that you will of course have safe-conduct back to the Vatican tonight. But…if you ever step outside Vatican territory again, on whatever pretext, you will be arrested at once. Now will you please think about what I have said?”

O’Flaherty smiled down at von Weiszacker and replied: “Your Excellency is too considerate. I will certainly think about what you have said– sometimes

Several others, including priests, nuns and lay people, worked in secret with O’Flaherty, and even hid refugees in their own private homes around Rome. Among these were the Augustinian Maltese Fathers Egidio Galea, Aurelio Borg and Ugolino Gatt and Brother Robert Pace of the Brothers of Christian Schools. Another person who contributed significantly to this operation was the Malta-born widow Henrietta (Chetta) Chevalierwho hid some refugees in her house with her children, and was lucky to escape detection.Jewish religious services were conducted in the Basilica di San Clemente, which was under Irish diplomatic protection, under a painting of Tobias.

When the Allies arrived in Rome in June 1944, 6,425 of the escapees were still alive. O’Flaherty demanded that German prisoners be treated properly as well. He took a plane to South Africa to meet Italian POWs and to Jerusalem to visit Jewish refugees. Of the 9,700 Jews in Rome, 1,007 had been shipped to Auschwitz. The rest were hidden, 5,000 of them by the official Church − 3,000 in Castel Gandolfo, 200 or 400 (estimates vary) as “members” of the Palatine Guard and some 1,500 in monasteries, convents and colleges. The remaining 3,700 were hidden in private homes.

castel

At the time of the liberation of Rome, O’Flaherty’s and Derry’s organisation was caring for 3,925 escapees and men who had succeeded in evading arrest. Of these 1,695 were British, 896 South African, 429 Russian, 425 Greek and 185 American. The remainder were from 20 different nations. This does not include Jews and sundry other men and women who were in O’Flaherty’s personal care

After the war O’Flaherty received a number of awards, including Commander of the Order of the British Empire and the US Medal of Freedom with Silver Palm.

replicas-of-medals

He was also honoured by Canada and Australia. He refused to use the lifetime pension that Italy had given him. In the 1950s, the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, in the form proposed by the now-canonised Mary Faustina Kowalska, was under a ban from the Vatican. It was O’Flaherty who, as Notary, signed the document that notified Catholics of the ban.

O’Flaherty regularly visited his old nemesis Colonel Herbert Kappler (the former SS chief in Rome) in prison, month after month, being Kappler’s only visitor. In 1959, Kappler converted to Catholicism and was baptised by O’Flaherty.

In 1960, O’Flaherty suffered a serious stroke during Mass and was forced to return to Ireland. Shortly before his first stroke in 1960, he was due to be confirmed as the Papal Nuncio to Tanzania. He moved to Cahersiveen to live with his sister, at whose home he died on 30 October 1963, aged 65. He was buried in the cemetery of the Daniel O’Connell Memorial Church in Cahersiveen.

There is a monument in Killarney town and a grove of trees dedicated to his memory in the Killarney National Park.

killarney

O’Flaherty was portrayed by Gregory Peck in the 1983 television film, The Scarlet and the Black, which follows the exploits of O’Flaherty from the German occupation of Rome to its liberation by the Allies

 

Colonel Kappler

Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Kappler was head of The Gestapo in Rome during the occupation.

Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty and his organisation were a major obstruction to the brutal Kappler and his Gestapo during this period.

Kappler was responsible for many cruel deeds in Rome as well as the massacre at The Ardeatine Caves, which were personally supervised by Kappler.

Despite this O’Flaherty assisted in helping members of Kapplers family in escaping from Rome at Liberation.

At his trial in 1948, after six hours, the head of the five-judge military tribunal gravely pronounced the stiffest sentence he could give under Italian law: “life imprisonment, including four years’ solitary confinement, for “repeated and premeditated murder.”

During this time one of his only regular visitors was none other that The Monsignor himself who visited him every month for 10 years as well as writing to him regularly and subsequently baptized him to the Catholic faith.

In 1977 he escaped from a Rome Prison hidden in a laundry basket, and was spirited away to Germany, by his recently wedded wife, whom he had married in Prison in 1972. He died of cancer in 1978, never having been returned to Prison.

 

Whether you are Christian,Jewish,Muslim,Budhist or Atheist ,one most admire Father Hugh O’Flaherty for his ability to forgive this cruel man.

Fr O’Flaherty a hero in the purest sense of the word.