Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Monday, July 6, 2015


Upon learning of Hitler’s death, Cardinal Bertram in the first days of May 1945 ordered that in all the churches of his archdiocese a special requiem, namely “a solemn requiem mass be held in commemoration of the Fuhrer…” so that his and Hitler’s flock could pray to the Almighty, in accord with Requim’s liturgy, that the Almighty’s son, Hitler be admitted to paradise.

- Daniel Jonah Goldhagen in "Hitler's Willing Executioners", 1997, p. 454 and "A Moral Reckoning", 2002, p. 266

70 years ago on this date, July 6, 1945, Adolf Cardinal Bertram passed away. We will post information about this controversial archbishop during Nazi Germany from Wikipedia and other links.

His Eminence
Adolf Bertram
Cardinal-Priest of S. Agnese fuori le mura
Archbishop of Breslau (1930-1945)

Adolf Cardinal Bertram

25 May 1914 – 6 July 1945
Capitular Vicar Ferdinand Piontek (as of 16 July 1945, since 1 September restricted to the East German archdiocesan area)
Administrator Karol Milik (as of 1 September 1945, competent in the Wrocław district of the Polish archdiocesan area)
Other posts
Previously Priest of Hildesheim
Bishop of Hildesheim (1906-1914)
Prince-Bishop of Breslau (1914-1930)
Created Cardinal
4 December 1916 In pectore
5 December 1919 published
Personal details
6 July 1945 (aged 86)
Schloß Johannesberg, Jauernig, Czechoslovakia

Adolf Cardinal Bertram (14 March 1859 – 6 July 1945) was archbishop of Breslau and a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.

Early life

Adolf Bertram was born in Hildesheim, Royal Prussian Province of Hanover (now Lower Saxony), Germany. He studied theology at the University of Munich, the University of Innsbruck, and the University of Würzburg, where he obtained a doctorate in theology, and at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where he earned a doctorate in canon law in 1884. He was ordained a Roman Catholic diocesan priest in 1881. On 26 April 1906 he was elected bishop of Hildesheim, an election that received papal confirmation on 12 June 1906.

Eight years later, on 8 September 1914, the Pope confirmed his election by the cathedral chapter of Breslau as bishop of that see, and he took possession of it on 28 October. Since 1824 the title Prince-Bishop of Breslau was a merely honorific title granted to the incumbents of the see, however, without a prince-bishopric of secular rule wielded by the incumbent, but granting a seat in the Prussian House of Lords and in the Austrian House of Lords. This, however, was abolished when Austria and Prussia became republican after 1918. Bertram continued to use the title of prince-bishop also thereafter until he was ranked Archbishop of Breslau on 13 August 1930.

Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church

On 4 December 1916 Bertram was created a cardinal, but only in pectore, for fear of provoking a negative reaction against the Church on the part of the Allies, especially from the Italian side.

In the years 1918 to 1933

After hostilities ceased, his appointment was published on 5 December 1919 and he was assigned the titular church of Sant'Agnese fuori le mura on 18 December 1919. From 1919 until his death, Cardinal Bertram was also Chairman of the Fulda Conference of Catholic Bishops and thus the highest representative of the Catholic Church in Germany.

Silesian uprisings

Throughout the Polish Uprisings against Germany in parts of Upper Silesia he underlined his pro-German attitude. This was in line of his previous declaration of being a "German bishop" and attachment to German state, which evoked controversy and criticism by Poles. Throughout the upheaval he tried to influence the Vatican on behalf of Germany. In turn he was called a "German chauvinist" and accused of being "anti-Polish" as he removed Polish priests and replaced them with Germans in Upper Silesia during the events. He forbade Polish priests from taking part in Polish cultural and political activities while allowing German ones to participate in political agitation When Pope Benedict XV issued a decree ordering Bertram to withhold from visiting Upper Silesia during the Upper Silesia plebiscite, he disagreed, calling it "the result of Polish intrigue" by August Hlond, a personal friend of Benedict XV.

Order of 21 November 1920

On 21 November 1920, four months before the Silesian Plebiscite, Bertram issued an order that made political activity of local priests dependent on the agreement by the local provost, and supported by threat of severe church sanctions if broken. Since 75%-80% of provosts were of German ethnicity while local priests were regularly Polish Jesuit priests immigrated from Little Poland this was seen as direct intervention against the Polish side while giving support for the German one in the plebiscite, and the Polish public reacted with anger. Wincenty Witos accused Bertram that if not for his order three-quarters of Upper Silesian population would allegedly vote for Poland. In the end almost 60% of the Upper Silesians voted for Germany. The Polish government protested the decision by Cardinal Bertram to the Vatican and the Polish Foreign Ministry began actions opposing the decree.

Conflict with Polish members of the clergy

A special committee of 91 priests from Upper Silesia issued a declaration to Holy See, in which they warned of consequences of Bertram's actions and growing "bitterness" among the population that will harm the Catholic Church in the long term. They called for boycott of his order while declaring loyalty to Vatican. Soon the priests were supported by high members of Polish clergy. On 30 November, at the residence of cardinal Aleksander Kakowski, cardinal Dalbor and bishop Bilczewski, Sapieha, Teodorowicz, Fulman and Przeździecki issued a letter to Pope warning him that Bertram engages in political activity on behalf of German side and threatened to break relations between Vatican and Polish state as well as Polish nation. In the face of this danger they pleaded with the pope to revoke Bertram's order.

As the consequences of Bertram's order became known, the Polish parliament debated on breaking up relations with the Vatican, or removing the Polish ambassador to the Vatican. Eventually the Polish government decided to issue a protest note, and the Vatican revoked its delegate to Poland: Achille Ratti, who would later become Pope Pius XI.

On 7 November 1922 Bertram lost his episcopal competence in those parishes of Breslau diocese having become part of Poland, namely in the prior Austro-Hungarian, now Polish eastern Cieszyn Silesia (Polish acquired 1918/1919), and the prior German East Upper Silesia (seized by Poland on 20 June 1922). On 17 December the Holy See established for these areas an exempt Apostolic Administration, which it elevated as the new Diocese of Katowice on 28 October 1925 by the bull Vixdum Poloniae Unitas. The parishes in northwesterly Czechoslovak Cieszyn Silesia (Zaolzie) remained under Bertram's jurisdiction of Breslau.

During the last years of Weimar Republic

By his bull "Pastoralis officii nostri" Pope Pius XI elevated Bertram to Archbishop of Breslau on 13 August 1930, carrying out the stipulations of the concordat between the Free State of Prussia and the Holy See. Bertram then supervised three suffragans within Breslau's new Eastern German Ecclesiastical Province, the dioceses of Berlin and Ermland as well as the Territorial Prelature of Schneidemühl.

In 1930 he refused a religious funeral for a well-known Nazi official on the grounds that the principles of National Socialism were incompatible with the Catholic faith.

In a widely publicized statement, he criticized as a grave error the one-sided glorification of the Nordic race and the contempt for divine revelation that was increasingly taught throughout Germany. He warned against the ambiguity of the concept of "positive Christianity", a highly nationalistic religion that the Nazis were encouraging. Such a religion, he said, "for us Catholics cannot have a satisfactory meaning since everyone interprets it in the way he pleases".

In 1932 he sought the permission of Rome regarding about joining the Nazi Party but this was refused as the Church didn't want any involvement with politics.

During the Nazi dictatorship

In March 1933 the President of an inter-faith group asked for Bertram's aid in protesting against the boycott of Jewish business organised by the Nazis but this was refused as he regarded it as purely an economic matter and because, in his opinion, the Jewish press had kept silent about the persecution of Catholics. On the eve of the Second World War Nazi Germany, and, to a much less extent, Poland annexed parts of Czechoslovakia, Sudetenland and Zaolžje/Zaolzie, whose northern part was a component of Bertram's diocese. After the Polish takeover of Zaolžje, never internationally recognised, the Polish government requested the Holy See to depose Bertram from jurisdiction in this newly Polish annexed area. The Holy See complied and Pope Pius XI then subjected the Catholic parishes in Zaolžje to an apostolic administration under Stanisław Adamski, Bishop of Katowice, who wielded that administration until 31 December 1939.

Adolf Cardinal Bertram
World War II

He ordered Church celebrations upon Nazi Germany's victory over Poland and France, with order to ring bells all across Reich upon the news of Nazi capture of Warsaw in 1939. With his knowledge the diocese of Breslau issued a statement calling the war with Poland a "holy war" that is fought in order to enforce God's orders how to live and regain "German lost land".

Bertram as ex officio head of the German episcopate sent Hitler birthday greetings in 1939 in the name of all German Catholic bishops, an act that angered bishop Konrad von Preysing; Bertram was the leading advocate of accommodation as well as the leader of the German church, a combination that reigned in other would-be opponents of Nazism.

Throughout most of World War II Cardinal Bertram remained in Breslau. Bertram opposed what he called the immorality and "neopaganism" of the Nazi Party. On 23 December 1939 Cesare Orsenigo, Nuncio to Germany, appointed – with effect of 1 January 1940 – Bertram – and Olomouc' Archbishop Leopold Prečan – as apostolic administrators for exactly those Catholic parishes of Zaolžje, where Pius XI had deposed them in 1938.

In 1940 Cardinal Bertram condemned the propaganda and planning for Operation Lebensborn and Nazi vitalism and insemination plans as "immoral", saying that the Lebensborn programme was institutionalized "adultery".

A few months after his death, Time magazine wrote about Cardinal Bertram:

Died. Adolf Cardinal Bertram, 86, outspoken anti-Nazi Archbishop of Breslau and dean of the German Catholic hierarchy, whose tireless resistance to Hitler's "neopaganism" was climaxed last March in his defiance of orders to evacuate Breslau before the advancing Russians; presumably in Breslau. His death left the College of Cardinals with 40 members - the fewest in 144 years.

In early 1941 Bertram as metropolitan bishop of the Eastern German Ecclesiastical Province and speaker of the Fulda Conference of Bishops, rejected Carl Maria Splett's request to admit the Danzig diocese as member in his ecclesiastical province and at the conference. Any arguments that the Free City of Danzig had been annexed to Nazi Germany, did not impress him since Danzig's annexation lacked international recognition.
It has been claimed that Bertram scheduled a Requiem Mass upon Hitler's death. However, this claim has been disputed by Ronald Rychlak:

In point of fact, this is what we know: Bertram was elderly and ill when the war ended. When he died (just weeks later), his papers included a handwritten order scheduling a Requiem Mass for all Germans who died in the war, including Hitler (who was originally reported to have died while fighting the Red Army), and for the protection of the Catholic Church in Germany. This order was never sent, and the Mass was never held. Bertam's personal secretary later reported being unaware of this paper or any such proposed order. In fact, the order itself was crossed through with two broad strokes.

In 1945, during the so-called Siege of Breslau, he resisted pressure from the Nazi government to leave the city, until much of the population was evacuated in the wake of the Soviet assault (Festung Breslau). Bertram finally decided to leave the city in late February or early March 1945 and spent the rest of the war at his summer residence at Castle Johannesberg in Jauernig (Czechoslovak part of Breslau diocese, Sudetenland), where he died on 6 July 1945 at the age of 86. He was buried at the local cemetery in Ves Javorník (Oberjauernig). His body was exhumed in 1991 and was reburied in the metropolitan cathedral in Wrocław (Breslau), now in Poland. He was succeeded as Chairman of the Fulda Conference of Catholic Bishops by Josef Frings.


No comments:

Post a Comment