The Polish Catholic Church under German Occupation
The Reichsgau Wartheland, 1939-1945
Published by: Indiana University Press
When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, it aimed to destroy Polish national consciousness. As a symbol of Polish national identity and the religious faith of approximately two-thirds of Poland's population, the Roman Catholic Church was an obvious target of the Nazi regime's policies of ethnic, racial, and cultural Germanization.
Jonathan Huener reveals in The Polish Catholic Church under German Occupation that the persecution of the church was most severe in the Reichsgau Wartheland, a region of Poland annexed to Nazi Germany. Here Catholics witnessed the execution of priests, the incarceration of hundreds of clergymen and nuns in prisons and concentration camps, the closure of churches, the destruction and confiscation of church property, and countless restrictions on public expression of the Catholic faith. Huener also illustrates how some among the Nazi elite viewed this area as a testing ground for anti-church policies to be launched in the Reich after the successful completion of the war. Based on largely untapped sources from state and church archives, punctuated by vivid archival photographs, and marked by nuance and balance, The Polish Catholic Church under German Occupation exposes both the brutalities and the limitations of Nazi church policy.
The first English-language investigation of German policy toward the Catholic Church in occupied Poland, this compelling story also offers insight into the varied ways in which Catholics—from Pope Pius XII, to members of the Polish episcopate, to the Polish laity at the parish level—responded to the Nazi regime's repressive measures.
List of Abbreviations
List of Geographic Terms
List of Illustrations
List of Maps
Guide to Polish Pronunciation
1. Tannenberg: The Einsatzgruppen and the Polish Clergy, Fall 1939
2. Größte Härte: The Invasion of Poland: Ideology and Execution
3. Hetzkaplan: The Polish Church and the "Agitator Priest" in Nazi Ideology
4. Mustergau: The Reichsgau Wartheland as "Model Gau"
5. Dominselaktion: The "Cathedral Island Action"
6. Deportacja: The Deportation and Incarceration of the Clergy
7. Kult: Restrictions on Public Religious Life
8. Profanacja: Profanation and Plunder
9. Nationalitätenprinzip: National Segregation in Church Life
10. Dreizehn Punkte: From the "Thirteen Points" to the "September Decree"
11. Zerschlagung: The "Action for the Destruction of the Polish Clergy"
12. Dachau: Polish Clergy in the Concentration Camp Dachau
13. Nonnenlager: Women Religious in the Bojanowo Labor Camp
14. Späne: Kirchenpolitik in the Warthegau, 1942-1944
15. Parafia: Parish Life
16. Konspiracja: Resistance and Conspiracy
17. "Et papa tacet"? Pius XII and the Church in the Warthegau
18. Kurswechsel: A Change in Course
"This is the work of a respected scholar at the top of his game, and it is sure to be a foundational text for anyone interested in the religious policies of Nazism or their occupation regime in Eastern Europe. The idea that Catholicism is the primary bastion of Polishness, constantly under assault from the nation's enemies, is part of a cult of martyrology that dominates Polish historiography. Nowhere does that story of unrelenting suffering apply more than the territory annexed directly into the Nazi state after Poland's defeat, the so-called Wartheland. There is nothing about this book that will soften the image of Hitler's policies in that region, but we also learn about the haphazard development of the occupation policies and the lack of any predetermined end goal. Even if Nazi ideological objectives had been clear, the practical exigencies of the war required that at least a few Polish churches continued to operate. This despite the fact that the Vatican showed scandalously little concern for the fate of the Poles, as Professor Huener painstakingly demonstrates. Because of the meticulous detail and overwhelming archival evidence that this book presents, it becomes clear that improvisation and contradiction were more important in determining German policy than clear planning and consequential ideological ambitions."~Brian Porter-Szüc, author of Faith and Fatherland: Modernity, Catholicism, and Poland, Thurnau Professor of History at the University of Michigan, author of Faith and Fatherland: Modernity, Catholicism, and Poland, Thurnau Professor of History at
"A meticulous and refreshing examination of a neglected aspect of Nazi rule in Poland, The Polish Catholic Church under German Occupation should be of interest to any scholar of World War II in Europe. As he takes us from Berlin to Poznań to the small towns of the Warthegau, and from the archbishop's palace to the parish church and back, Jonathan Huener shows how changing Nazi policies and Polish resistance and accommodation together shaped the Polish experience of the war. Huener's book provides both a much-needed link in the study of the 20th century, and a way to situate Poland under occupation in relation to the rich literature on other cases across the continent."~Padraic Kenney, Associate Dean for Graduate Education and the Social and Historical Sciences, Indiana University
"This pathbreaking and richly-documented study opens up new perspectives on Nazi rule in occupied Poland. Jonathan Huener combines a sophisticated and nuanced interpretation of Nazi policies towards the Catholic Church in the 'Reichsgau Wartheland' with memorable and moving accounts of Polish responses to the violent onslaught on the Church's clergy and institutions."~Elizabeth Harvey, University of Nottingham
"Jonathan Huener, professor of history at the University of Vermont, has produced a definitive study of the Catholic Church in western Poland under German occupation"~Kevin P Spicer, C.S.C., Stonehill College, Contemporary Church History Quarterly
"Jonathan Huener's careful examination of the fate of the Catholic Church in western Poland—the Nazi German "Warthegau"—during World War II triangulates an impressive variety of sources in German and Polish to assess Nazi religious policy and the experience of Polish Catholics victimized by it. . . . This is essential reading for those interested in Nazi empire, Polish nationalism, or the history of the Catholic Church."~Jadwiga Biskupska, Sam Houston State University, H-Poland
"Huener's book is an impressive new contribution to scholarship on Nazi church policies and occupation policies and will be essential reading for all those working in these fields. Nicely complementing Catherine Epstein's biography of Arthur Greiser, it provides a meticulously researched and judicious account of Nazi rule in this pivotal German-Polish borderland."~Jim Bjork, King's College London, Central European History
"This impeccably researched study proffers an invaluable analysis and a first Anglophone synthesis of Polish, German, and Catholic sources, while it also assimilates an important secondary literature in Polish and German, including the recent, ground-breaking Polish historiography on the Holocaust."~Monika Rice, Lafayette College, Journal of Church and State
"The Polish Catholic Church under German Occupation by Jonathan Huener is an engaging study that asks important questions about the Nazi attitude towards the Catholic Church in general, and the Polish Catholic Church in particular. Interestingly, as Huener emphasizes, the Nazi policy towards the Catholic Church was neither consistent throughout the war nor uniform in all the Nazi-occupied territories. . . . The book is a fascinating addition to what we know about the way the Nazi regime operated. It is great work that will be beneficial to historians of Poland, the Second World Word, and Nazism. But it is also a great book for both undergraduate and graduate students."~Anna Mller, University of Michigan, Church History
"The Polish Catholic Church under German Occupation is a masterpiece of "thick description." Simply put this is one of the best-researched books that I've ever encountered. Huener has mined not only German and Polish state archives, Polish émigré collections, and documentation held by Yad Vashem and by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, but he has clearly traveled to all of the sites whose wartime fates he reconstructs in the book, and he has scavenged and read everywhere he could, from convents and seminaries to postwar collections of interviews gathered by Church officials and communists alike. Huener is also an elegant and eminently readable prose stylist. His book seamlessly interweaves rich portraits of individual and collective human suffering and heroism (without crossing over into martyrology), with some helpful and informative number-crunching, as well as cool-headed and insightful analysis of various institutional logics and ideological ambiguities."~Piotr H. Kosicki - University of Maryland, The Polish Review