1942: Just Because You’re Paranoid

A September article in De Misthoorn, a Dutch Nazi Journal, scorned plutocracy as an enemy of National Socialism. The Nazi Party, representing the socialism of the masses, declared itself more hostile to capitalism than to Marxism, because the latter was based on “sounder principles.” Nonetheless, Bolshevism in the Soviet Union was collapsing under the hammer blows of the German forces and would not prevail in post-war Europe, even if Communism should ever succeed in making America its second stronghold.
Ancillary threats to Nazism were Judaism and Freemasonry. In Europe, “Jewry” was being radically settled with, and wherever the cleansing process may have been retarded by the war, the argument went, it would by and by be resumed and finished with redoubled vigor and thoroughness. Freemasonry would be a more intractable problem, because it was more scattered and clandestine. As the Freemasons were not generally considered inferior by race, they might be given another chance. In a victorious Nazi world, it would be essential to exclude from leading positions all those who had at any time belonged to Masonic societies, unless one had sound guarantees that the Masonic past of those persons would indeed remain a thing of the past.

Greater than any other danger to the progress of Nazism was the menace that De Misthoorn accorded an exclamation mark: “Jesuitism!” It behooved the “Fog Horn” to warn the public, with a paranoia redolent of late Tudor England and modern China, that Jesuitism had gained influence, unnoticed by the guileless citizen, and was the strongest weapon of the “Roman Church” in propagating cultural products of a foreign race. The International Holy Church represented an age-long and fanatical Oriental and southern penetration, but its monuments in Germanic lands were eroding. De Misthoorn claimed proof that the Jesuits were fighting at the side of Jewry, Freemasonry, Bolshevism, and capitalism to break the German sword. Due to their “craftiness,” the word “Jesuit” became “a synonym for Jew” but they were also tethered to Bolshevism, so the Jesuit was the “false comrade.”
Enflaming such rampant phobia, the 81-year-old auxiliary bishop of Paris, Bishop Emanuele-Anatole-Raphael Chaptal de Chanteloup, publicly wore a Star of David in protest against the treatment of Jews. He had begun to see firsthand what he had earlier found incredible, when Jews began to be sent to Auschwitz from an internment camp in Drancy outside Paris. On September 12 — three days after the Japanese bombed Oregon in an attempt to start forest fires, and ten days after German troops entered Stalingrad — exiled Poles and Belgians sent a plea to the pope to condemn Nazi war crimes. Although there was no action, the previous year Pope Pius XII had strongly condemned the racial legislation of the new pro-Nazi republic of Slovakia. On September 30, the German S.S. began mass executions of 3,500 Jews in Lodz, Poland, lasting six weeks.
Six years before, Hans Reinhold (the liturgical scholar and student of Romano Guardini at Freiburg), having escaped the Gestapo, had traveled from country to country to expose the Nazis. He found Bishop Chaptal skeptical of his descriptions of what was going on in Germany. He was also disappointed in Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli, who gave him little attention, and Theodore Cardinal Innitzer, who thought him “an excitable émigré.” In the United States, he was welcomed by Dorothy Day, but James Francis McIntyre (the vicar general of New York under Patrick Cardinal Hayes, and the future Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles) forbade him to speak publicly, and in Boston he found William Cardinal O’Connell frankly sympathetic toward Mussolini and Hitler. He would further be saddened when Martin Heidegger and his wife, whom Heidegger had married in 1917, became Nazi propagandists. One of Father Reinhold’s academic colleagues, Dietrich von Hildebrand, was condemned to death by the Nazis in absentia. Among other fellow Catholic scholars, Joseph Schmidlin was killed in a concentration camp, and Max Metzger and Alfred Delp were executed. Karl Rahner, who chose to go into unobtrusive retreat and not speak out, later said: “We should have done more to protect the skins of other people.”
As Bishop Chaptal was taking a stand in his old age, the Vichy broadcasts mocked Pierre-Marie Cardinal Gerlier of Lyons, who became an archbishop “thanks more to the omnipotent grace of the House of Rothschild than to the laws of Holy Mother Church.” Marshall Pétain’s spokesman urged the cardinal to “move to London and join the anti-France triumvirate of Churchill, Cripps, and de Gaulle.” Other prelates were better regarded: The controlled Radio Paris claimed that a message of loyalty to Pétain from the bishops of Provence had been unmistakably approved by the Holy Father in a recent public utterance. At the other end of France, the Bishop of Arras, Henri Dutoit, urged obedience to “the revered leader whom Providence had put at the head of our country in these difficult times.” In a pastoral letter the previous year, Bishop Dutoit had said, “Collaboration is no slavery.” When the Vatican defended Bishop Dutoit in 1944, Sir David Osborne, British emissary to the Holy See, thought the pope must have been greatly misinformed. At the liberation in 1945, Bishop Dutoit was put in an internment camp and finally removed from office.
Because Italians traveling with German troops in Poland expressed horror at the public beatings and shootings that they frequently saw on railroad platforms, German authorities ordered trains with Italian passengers to stop at stations only briefly. As the screed in De Misthoorn was ranting, the Nazi weekly Volk en Vaderland reported that German authorities in Holland had been forced to take several Catholic priests and aldermen as hostages. In Poland, a visiting Italian woman was interrogated by Gestapo agents on suspicion of being a Vatican spy. An organized band of Nazi terrorists, the Sonderdienst (special troops), began menacing and shooting priests and reserve officers without trial.
In Westminster, Cardinal Hinsley condemned anti-Semitism in a statement he signed along with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Moderators of the Church of Scotland, and the Free Church Federal Council, and the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Empire. The Republic of Ireland, invoking independence and neutrality, did not join this public expression. Fifty-three years later, Taoiseach John Bruton would apologize for such wartime policies, and in 2003, Justice Minister Michael McDowell would publicly regret the “culture of muted anti-Semitism” that denied entrance to Jewish refugees. In the interest of not exacerbating the Axis powers, Eire censorship forbade publication in the Free State of news that a kinsman of Blessed (canonized a saint in 1975) Oliver Plunkett in the British Army (5th Brigade of the 1st South African Irish Regiment), Lance-Corporal Oliver Grice Holroyd-Smith, had been captured in Italy. Cardinal Tisserant was arguing the officer’s case on the grounds that he was a citizen of a neutral state.
Anticipating the maxim of our contemporary community organizers that you should never waste a crisis, an English Evangelical, A. J. Ferris, sold the 100,000th copy of his pamphlet claiming that Churchill’s “V” sign for victory actually represented the handwriting on the wall in the book of Daniel, Chapter V. He saw in this the finger of God demanding, “How will the millions of Roman Catholics in the British Commonwealth and the United States come out of Babylon and become Protestant scriptural Christians?” The pamphlet was not translated into Dutch, French, Italian, and decidedly not Polish.


  • Fr. George W. Rutler

    Fr. George W. Rutler is a contributing editor to Crisis and pastor of St. Michael’s church in New York City. A four-volume anthology of his best spiritual writings, A Year with Fr. Rutler, is available now from the Sophia Institute Press.

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