ADSS 3.2.443 Maglione to Orsenigo: Conditions in the Wartheland
ADSS 3.2.443 Maglione to Orsenigo
Reference: AES 8113/42
Location and date: Vatican, 18.11.1942
Summary statement: Maglione makes mention to the restrictive measures against the Catholic religion in the Warthegau. It is forbidden to baptise adults without special permission – che del resto non viene dato, nell’intensione di colpire specialmente gli Ebrei (it will not affect most, but the intention is directed towards the Jews); forbidding Poles to marry under the ages of 28 and 25; banning preaching in Polish; and religious education of the young is all but impossible.
I have the honour of acknowledging the accurate reports number 2224 and 2227 respectively of 23 and 27 October, with which Your Excellency sent me news relevant to the Warthegau.
It is possible the departure of Dr Birk from the region could show a change in the religious situation! The circular (Verfügung [a legal compendium]) of the secret police – attached to the second report – of 13 July  offers in this regard minor elements of judgement, even compared with those of the previous 24 October 1940. (2) The second report, which Your Excellency attached to a report from Monsignor van Blericq (Report number 979, 4 January 1941). The restrictions placed on the exercise of religion are exceptionally serious; and not in the sense that was made in the October of last year in “Aktion zur Zerschlagung der polnisch-katholishen Kirche im Reichsgau Wartheland”. (3)
Concerning limitations and restrictions, we hear here of measures – some in place for some time – in the territory “annexed” to the Reich, particularly in the Warthgau, about the administration of the Sacraments. It is forbidden to confer baptism on adults without special permission (it will not affect most, but the intention is directed towards the Jews); the minimum age for marriage for Poles is 28 year for men and 25 years for women; it is forbidden to prepare children for Communion and to preach.
I have the impression that this news, at least as regards the last two prohibitions, is not entirely accurate. For example, the circular – cited above – from the secret police, dated 24 October 1940, II B, in part has left unchanged that part of the circular of 13 July 1940 the express statement “concerning sacred functions, on Sundays and feast days, a sermon is permitted”. Perhaps the prohibition reported referred to the use of the Polish language used in preaching, with the consequence – practically – that there is no preaching in the district of Hohensalza, (4) as Monsignor van Blericq (5) has mentioned in the report, “In any case German Catholics are there …they can not attend church services and the Poles who number between 50-60% of the district (the number of whom increases depending on the area can be higher, but who average about 38 years of age [sic]) do not understand German, but also among the older people, there are many who understand almost no German at all”.
Concerning the religious education of German youth, refer to the decrees of the Lieutenant of the Reich (6) in Warthegau, “1/51, 147/7-10” of 19 August 1941 and of 17 November 1941, (see report numbers 1572 and 2177). As far as the decrees seem to imply, it does not seem impossible to prepare German children for their First Holy Communion. For Polish youth, there is a decree of the Lieutenant of the Reich, (mentioned in the first of the two papers just mentioned), “1/51-147” of 26 June 1941, but we do not have it here.
I would like your Excellency to try and get more exact information, especially the text of the relevant Ordinances, as well as the text of the Decree of the Lieutenant of the Reich, “AZI / SD 147” of 3 October 1940 and the “Circular” of the secret police, cited above and sent by your Excellency with report number 2227, as well as the aforementioned Decree of the Lieutenant of the Reich “1/51-147’ of 26 June 1941 relating to “Religious events for Polish youths”.
Finally, I add that it has been reported – but the source has not been confirmed – that Monsignor Edward van Blericq, vicar general of Gniezno, may have died. If your Excellency is able to obtain details of this information, you are to not to fail to send it.
(1) Cf ADSS 3.2.431. Dr Birk was the Poznan-based representative of the Reichsstatthalter, Arthur Greiser of the Wartheland in religious matters. In his report of 27.10.1942 Orsenigo had been assured that Birk had been transferred to Munich. There was mention of the circular in his telegram to Rome. Orsenigo believed that the lifting the more catastrophic of the restrictions could help the Poles in the provision of Divine Service.
(2) There are literally dozens of documents in ADSS 3.1 and 3.2 that outline the avalanche of legal restrictions placed on the Catholic Church in the Wartheland. By late 1942 with the stalled military situation in the Soviet Union giving some cause for concern for the duration of the war and the long-term demand for labour in German factories, some consideration was given to the amelioration of the living situation for Poles living under German rule. This may be what Maglione was referring to, although he would not have understood a change in practice to be necessarily linked to a change in government policy.
(3) “Operation to dismantle the Polish Catholic Church in Reichsgau Wartheland”. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_areas_annexed_by_Nazi_Germany#Religion
(4) Hohensalza (German), (Inowroclaw - Polish), was used as a resettlement camp for ethnic Poles and a POW camp for English, French and later Soviet prisoners. It was liberated by the Red Army on 21.01.1945.
(5) Edward van Blericq (1895-1946) was Vicar General of the archdiocese of Gniezno. When Cardinal Hlond left the archdiocese upon the German invation, van Blericq assumed de facto administration until the Germans expelled him in July 1941. He spent the rest of the war in Hohensalza. He sent reports to Rome detailing the persecution of the church in the Wartheland.
(6) “Luogotenente del Reich” (lit: Lieutenant of the Reich) probably refers to the Reichsstatthalter, Arthur Greiser (1897-1946), a fanatical Nazi who was determined to Germanise the Wartheland as perfectly as he could. He ordered the mass expulsions of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Poles and Polish Jews. Much of their land and property was given to Volksdeutsche – ethnic Germans who were “brought home” to the Reich.