WASHINGTON (Jul. 31)
The National Catholic Welfare Conference today took issue with assertions that the Catholic church was condoning Nazi action against Jews. “Far from condoning the outrages against the Jews under Nazi Germany, the Catholic church took a strong part against such acts,” a statement disseminated by the NCWC Bureau of Information said.
Emphasizing that “Catholic groups were among the few agencies that opposed the Nazis’ efforts to exterminate Jews,” the Bureau of Information statement declared:
“Chief among these opposing groups was the relief organization set up for the purpose by the late Bishop Konrad von Preysing of Berlin, Headed by Viktor Engelhardt, it included Catholic workers of Jewish parentage. The relief agency provided Catholics and non-Catholics of Jewish descent with funds and gave them clothing and other necessary supplies. Through underground contacts with Nazi government officials the agency warned of impending measures against Jews. When efforts to hide Jews and their families or to help them flee the country failed, agency members visited their homes to give moral and spiritual comfort, and priests were notified to enable them to give the sacraments secretly to Catholic Jews.”
The statement stressed that the agency obtained emigration visas for thousands of Jews when emigration was still possible. “Brazil made 3,000 entry permits available to Jews through the Holy See, but the project was thwarted when the Nazis stopped all Jewish departures,” the statement said. “Earlier many Jewish children were sent to England through the agency’s contacts. Switzerland and Sweden were among other countries that cooperated.
“Frequently Jews drafted for forced labor in war industries got better Jobs through the agency’s efforts, in plants where the owners or foremen were known to be humane persons,” the statement continued. “The agency also obtained positions for Jews in which they could be classified as indispensable for the war effort. These relief measures were personally supervised by Bishop (later Cardinal) von Preysing. Moreover, he refused to approve the segregation of Catholic Jews from other Catholics in public or private worship or in dispensation of the sacraments. Often he confirmed individual Jewish Catholics in his own home and aided many with private funds.”
The statement pointed out that among Biship Preysing’s closest associates was Msgr. Lichtenberg who later was put in a concentration camp where he died of ill treatment. Another was Gertrud Luckner, also arrested and tortured in a concentration camp. She is now on the staff of the Central Association of German Catholic Charities in Freiburgim-Breisgau. Recently she was honored by the Israeli government for saving many lives,” the statement said. It noted that the Jewish community of Berlin acknowledged Cardinal von Preysing in a memorial resolution as “a protector and bulwark, a true friend of humanity.”