AUSTRIA AND THE VATICAN
Austria has been one of the most Catholic countries in Europe—a country where Catholicism penetrated, very deeply, its social, economic, cultural, and political structure. This was symbolized by the most intimate co-operation of the Church and the Austrian Dynasty, each supporting the other throughout the centuries. After the close of the Thirty Years' War, the main responsibility for which lies on the shoulders of the most Catholic Hapsburg, that dynasty became the champion of Catholicism. A special measure of privilege, protection, and support was given to the Catholic Church, which in return continued to bestow all her blessing on the absolute, theocratic dynasty. All her anathemas and moral or religious weapons were employed to fight any potential enemy threatening the Imperial House, such as Secularism and Liberalism during the last century, and Socialism in the first two decades of the twentieth.
Notwithstanding such close collaboration, the Church and the Monarchy did not always walk hand in hand along the road of history. The Monarchy very often followed an independent path when political aims were at stake; the Hapsburg insisted on the control of the State over the Church. That was not all. In the course of time the absolutism and reaction of both the Austrian rulers and the Catholic Church became so close that the Austrian Emperor could openly and officially interfere in the very election of the Popes. He had, in fact, acquired the right of "veto," by virtue of which the Austrian ruler could suggest or forbid to the cardinals assembled in Conclave any candidate for the Papacy.
The last example occurred just before the First World War. After the death of Leo XIII, while the cardinals were praying to the Holy Ghost for guidance in the election of the new Pope, Francis Joseph charged a cardinal— Cardinal Puzyna—to tell his colleagues that the potential candidate to be elected, Cardinal Rampolla, must not become Pope.
The Emperor had his way. The cardinals who were voting in favor of Rampolla did not know that one of them, Cardinal Puzyna, had the imperial veto in his pocket. At last, just when Cardinal Rampolla seemed on the brink of obtaining the necessary two-thirds majority vote, Cardinal Puzyna read the veto. In spite of the consternation the Emperor was obeyed. Rampolla never became Pope, the good-hearted but reactionary Patriarch of Venice being elected as Pius X.
During the first and second part of the last century Austria was an amalgamation of nationalities, races, and religions grouped together under the Emperor, who ruled as absolutely as a mediaeval monarch. The Jesuits were all-powerful and were dominant in the educational and, indirectly, in the political field. Austria at that period might well be described as a solid bloc, impregnable to any idea of progressive social or political changes, thanks to the close alliance and supreme rule of the Hapsburg and the Catholic Church. Austria, in fact, was ruled in both higher and lower spheres by the trinity of Aristrocracy, Bureaucracy, and the Catholic Church, linked together by ties of rank, of religion, and of tradition.
Nevertheless, the ideals of the French Revolution had not spread in vain over Europe. Unrest came to life in Austria as well as in other parts of the Continent. Revolutions broke out which were suppressed with the ferocity characteristic of the pious Hapsburg. Gradually, however, Liberal principles took hold of Austria and began to permeate the social, educational, and political life. We cannot relate this interesting process here: it suffices to say that in the 'seventies the Taafe Government, which was to last fourteen years, fought with all its might against the hesesy of Liberalism, which daily was making new conquests. The Catholic Church was the mainspring of this hostility.
This was the natural sequel to the struggle fought by Catholicism, especially after the revolutions of 1848, when it tried to strengthen its own fervor as an antidote against the democratic spirit then beginning to penetrate into Austria. A Concordat was concluded with the Vatican, and the Catholic Church added new privileges to all those she already possessed. What the Vatican really sought, however, by signing the Concordat was to counteract and destroy the democratic and Liberal ideas which threatened to captivate youth. Thus, in virtue of this Concordat, the whole educational system was handed over to the Catholic Church, which charged the religious Orders and the village priests to carry on the new counter-revolution.
Although Catholicism has been an integral part of Austrian everyday life, especially among the rural population, the Concordat was received by a considerable part of the population with great hostility. It aroused widespread anti-clerical feeling which had been unknown before Liberalism. The challenge of the Catholic Church was taken up and its absolutism contested in all spheres, and thus anti-clericalism, to the large masses of the populace, became the one attractive thing in Liberalism.
In Vienna anti-clericalism took deep root, became widespread, and remained so until the end of the last century. For decades priests hardly dared to address public meetings in Vienna, but eventually political Catholicism began to enter on the scene in its modern shape. The Concordat, however, was denounced at the beginning of the Liberal era. In spite of all the efforts of the Catholic Church and of the ruling castes of Austria, Liberalism and democratic ideals gained ground. The Catholic Church decided to enter directly into the political arena and fight her enemies on their own ground. A Catholic political movement was initiated.
The Austrian Catholic Party, in order to have a popular appeal, began with a most rabid anti-Semitism. Karl Lueger, the most outstanding man in Austrian political Catholicism, stated that Catholicism, especially in Vienna, could be made into a political movement only through an intermediary stage of mass anti-Semitism. This might sound surprising to modern ears, used to hearing the Vatican speak in favor of the Jews. Yet this is not the only instance of this kind we shall encounter. Lueger's group for a long time, in fact, called itself simply "anti-Semitic." Later on it was rebaptized "The Christian Social Party," and under this name the Party subsisted until 1934. Lueger created a cult firmly rooted in deep veneration of the Church and of the Imperial House.
The Socialists meanwhile had begun to increase in number and influence. At the instigation of the Socialist Party the workers began to organize and develop trade unions. The result was that the Socialist trade unions drove out the organizations of the Catholics and Nationalists and soon won a practical monopoly of organized labor.
Owing chiefly to the rise of the Socialists, universal suffrage was introduced, which gave the vote to the workers in 1906. A big group of Socialists appeared in Parliament. Gradually they began to acquire power in local administration as well as in the State machinery. The Socialists, owing to their organization and also to the weakness of the tottering Empire, built almost a State within a State. They succeeded in organizing the workers, not only politically and industrially, but also in all other spare-time activities. They got hold of the worker from the cradle to the grave, nursing him, caring for him, and trying to supply all his moral, spiritual and material needs.
There existed workers' organizations for gymnastics, for hiking and climbing, as well as for many other sports. Artistic and educational pursuits were not forgotten—for instance, choral singing, listening to music, playing chess, and the provision of book clubs and lectures. Many of these clubs granted to their members substantial financial advantages. Furthermore, the Socialists, by means of the democratic vote, controlled an increasing number of sick- relief insurance funds and similar institutions and, after the First World War, won control of 47 per cent of the municipalities. The municipalities, when once in the hands of the Socialists, carried out large-scale relief work; the effect of this, when combined with the efforts of the various Socialist clubs, being to keep the workers linked up to the Socialist Party in every aspect of their lives.
The Socialist worker generally wanted to have his children born in a municipality ruled by Socialist administration, because there the poorer families enjoyed some financial help at the time of birth. A Socialist town council usually launched an extensive scheme of kindergarten, run on Socialist principles of education, after which the pupil, boy or girl, would enter a preparatory school still under the supervision of a Socialist town council. A boy or girl on leaving school would join a Socialistic youth organization. Such youth organizations would reject all the teaching and practice of Catholicism and carry out an equivalent initiation rite of their own, in place of confirmation.
The Socialists extended their influence, teaching, and practices in all spheres of life and throughout the worker's life until his death, when he was buried through the care of a Socialist burial insurance fund, to which he had contributed during his life. All this was strongly opposed by the Catholic Church, which saw that the Socialists were trespassing with the greatest impudence on those spheres hitherto considered her own. Socialistic practice was rapidly being substituted for the principles and practice of Catholicism.
The Catholic Church had fought Socialism from its beginning, and with its continuing increase she deemed it necessary to come out and fight in the open. She declared the Socialist faith to be sinful, condemned Socialist ideas, boycotted Socialist organizations, and preached against anything the Socialists were doing. As a result the workers began to regard the Church as their enemy. The working class became anti-Catholic and Atheistic, while the organizations of the Freethinkers became one of their strongest branches. The fight against Catholicism developed into one of the most powerful assets of Austrian Socialism for winning the masses.
This state of affairs, since long before the First World War, was due to the fact that, as we have hinted already, Catholicism, in Austria more than anywhere else, has been always a strongly political affair. It had always been closely connected with the Monarchy, and all its care of social problems was consistently subordinated to the interests of the Catholic Church and of the Monarchy. The Catholic Church was identified with the dynasty and was, in fact, an integral part of the ruling classes. The Socialists and all their principles were abhorred by the Catholic Church, and in addition they were considered as a non-loyalist element. In consequence, the fight between the Church and the Socialists in Austria attained such bitterness as it had never reached in Germany.
In their dealings with their adversaries, however, the Austrian Socialists were not totalitarian. They had always been strong and convinced democrats. For them a democratic policy was not a matter of tactics, but of deep conviction.
Immediately after the First World War only two forces remained in the field, the Catholic and the Socialist. Their strength was about equal. The Catholic Party, in 1919, enjoyed the complete confidence of the peasants, although a good number of agricultural laborers had voted for the Socialists.
The Socialists organized the whole working class, and within the next few years increased their membership to the fantastic figure of 700,000 in a country of only 6,500,000 inhabitants. The Austrian Socialist Party, during the years after the First World War, was the strongest Socialist Party in the world, both in its political influence at home and in the proportion of the total population absorbed in its ranks.
A reaction to this Socialist power began to take shape. It was led by the Catholic Church with its Hierarchy, supported by the Catholic peasants, the whole bourgeoisie, Jewish and Aryan, and the old aristocracy.
From the day of the formation of the Republic the Socialists had co-operated with the Catholics in a coalition Government. This Government, at first, had been strongly under Socialist influence, but, after the fall of the neighboring Hungarian Soviet Republic, had been reconstructed to the advantage of the Catholics. The masses grew uneasy at the participation of the Socialists in a Government dominated by the Catholics. In 1920 the Socialists finally left the Government.
But in so doing they did not break with the administration. Much of the power of the State was vested in the provincial Governments and in the municipalities and here the Socialists were strong. They completely dominated the provincial Government of Vienna, where they polled more than two-thirds of the vote.
The Socialists made use of the municipal administration for carrying out extensive social reforms. During their ten years of power a great amount of social work was done, including the creation of an efficient hygiene department, a home for consumptives, and the like.
They municipalized housing. The Viennese Socialists constructed large municipal buildings which earned the admiration of conservative reformers all over the world. This great energy in providing healthy and cheap housing for the working class in Vienna was regarded by the Catholics, and all other anti-Socialists, as the best proof of "creeping Bolshevism." So much was this so that when, later on, the Catholics again took over the administration of Vienna, their first proceeding was to discontinue this building programme, which had not yet been completed.
But the most remarkable feature of the Socialist administration in Austria, and especially in Vienna, was that they did not in any sense persecute the Catholic Church, although considering her to be their political enemy. Never were they accused of anything in the nature of "Red outrages." This was in contrast to the behavior of the Most Catholic Government, which dealt most barbarously with its critics by mass hanging, as we shall see presently.
Meanwhile, the Catholics and all other reactionary elements became active openly and underground. There were rumors that they might try to break the power of the Socialists by undemocratic means, seeing that, as long as democracy existed, the Socialists were bound to become stronger and stronger. To forestall this the Socialists had formed the "Republican Defence Corps"—a strong and well-disciplined armed guard, ready to fight in defence of democracy and the Socialist Party.
Further, parallel to the closing of the ranks of the reactionary forces at home, reactionary forces abroad had begun to seize power, building up Fascist and semi-Fascist States in many parts of Europe. Affairs were already indicating the direction in which Austria, and indeed the whole of Europe, was going.
Soon after the First World War, Prelate Ignaz Seipel, a theologian, had attained the leadership of the Catholic Party. Minister in the last Imperial Government, and unchallenged head of the clerical party, he set before himself, as his life's goal, the restoration of political power to the Catholic Church and also to the Hapsburgs.
He was a man of great personal integrity and asceticism, although he possessed a special talent for intrigue designed to further the political interests of the Catholic Church. He ate, prayed, and slept in two little monastic rooms in the Convent of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; throughout his years as Chancellor, Seipel allowed no political stress to curb his religious duties. Daily at six o'clock in the morning he said Mass in the Convent Chapel. He continued to act as the Superior of this Congregation of nuns despite the demands of his office.
Although not a member of the Society of Jesus, Seipel had all the characteristics popularly attributed to the Jesuits. It was im -possible, for instance, to tie him down to a clear "yes" or "no." He had an intense hatred of the Socialists or anything connected with their ideas. Equally repugnant to him were Secularism, Modernism, and Liberalism. His second objective, besides that of furthering the power of the Catholic Church, was the crushing of the Social Democratic Party, which he hated as "the Red Antichrist." The Socialists called him "The Cardinal without Mercy"—"Der Keine Milde Kardinal." Twice he was almost killed by the infuriated mob.
Before proceeding farther, let us see what were the ideas and aims of Seipel in the domestic and foreign fields. These are most important, for they continued extensively to guide the Austrian Governments till the end of Austria, especially in the domestic sphere. Their importance is further enhanced when it is remembered that they drew their inspiration from the Catholic Church itself, and were not only approved, but fostered, by the Vatican. It must be borne in mind that Seipel, throughout his life, was in the closest contact with the Pope and his Secretary of State and that he moulded his policy according to the dictates of the Vatican.
The outstanding characteristic of his policy was the subordination of political, economic, and social matters to ecclesiastical interests. To him the interests of the Catholic Church were identified with the existing social order; or, to be more correct, with the social order of pre-war times. He was bitterly hostile to any widespread movement of social reform. He hated the Socialist unions. Once, when arguing with a French Jesuit who had emphasized the necessity for widespread social reforms, he replied: "More capitalistico vivit ecclesia catholica"—"the Catholic Church lives in the form of capitalism."
He took his cue in economic matters from the bankers and industrialists, whose aims coincided with his. To him the ideal state of society for which he was striving was closely identified with the resuscitation of the old hierarchical structure of society, and especially of the power of the clergy. On more than one occasion he openly confessed that he found it impossible to tolerate the limitations imposed upon the power of the Catholic Church within the Republic. We said, before, that the main asset of the Socialists was their anti-clericalism, which, as soon as they took over the administration of Vienna in 1918, increased greatly. The Party fomented sentiments of anti-clericalism and religious indifference.
According to Seipel, the political power of the Socialists was the chief obstruction to the control of the Church over souls. Therefore he set out to crush their power—a task which was accomplished after his death. Seipel formed a close alliance with all the bitterest enemies of Socialism. He hated the Socialists because they were against the Catholic Church, the industrialists, and all other sections of society, and because of the heavy taxation they imposed upon these sections. Seipel and the Catholic Party identified themselves wholly and without reserve with the cause of big business.
Seipel's ideas of how society should be constructed were typically ultra-Catholic, and were mainly inspired by the various dicta of the Popes which we have examined in the previous part of this book. His antipathy to Socialism, and his conviction that it was essential to offer the masses a Catholic conception of social order dependent on the resurrection of the mediaeval Guilds or Corporations, was highly esteemed at the Vatican. Accordingly he was asked by the Pope himself to help in drafting that very encyclical which announced officially the Vatican policy sponsoring the creation of the Corporate State in the modern world. Seipel became, in fact, the Pope's "adviser," if it is permissible to use the term, and was largely successful in inserting his ideas into the political doctrines of international Catholicism.
Seipel defended industry, capitalism, the banks and their owners. Any obstacle opposed to their economic independence was considered an attempt against the natural order of things. The Seipel Stände, or social grades, were not instruments of social order, but aimed primarily at political domination. According to Seipel, Stände had to elect the representatives to Parliament. They had to counteract the domination of sheer numbers in democratic elections. In short, they were to be created in order to break the strength of the Socialists. By gradually introducing these ideas into the machinery of the State, Seipel succeeded in crushing democracy and the Socialists, but in so doing he paved the way to the most blatant Fascism, which, in its turn, crushed political Catholicism.
In harmony with, and closely related to, this social policy Seipel had also a well-defined foreign policy, similarly endorsed by the Vatican. This foreign policy later on promoted, as we shall see, the disintegration of Czechoslovakia. Seipel was, in fact, dreaming of the creation of a new Holy Roman Empire. Simply stated, this po -litical entity would have consisted in a union of those States, and parts of States, professing the Catholic Faith and belonging to the old Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Vienna was to be the capital and Austria was to form the centre.
From Yugoslavia, Seipel proposed to take the Catholic Croatia, constituting one-third of its territory, this region being antagonized in the religious sphere by the Central Government. Czechoslovakia was to be divided into two, the Catholic Slovakia being taken away from the Hussite heretics and the free-thinking Czechs and united with that part of Hungary placed under Rumania. In Hungary Seipel would have installed a Catholic ruler, possibly a scion of the Hapsburgs, thus preventing Calvinists like the Hungarian Regent and Count Bethlen from ruling a Catholic population. That was not all. If circumstances allowed, the plan was to include Bavaria, which France had tried to separate from Berlin, and Alsace-Lorraine. It must be a Catholic Empire—a Papal Federation—where the Pope might even find a defender and a seat if the worst should happen at the hands of the International Socialists and Red Russia.
Seipel's project was to work towards the gradual completion of this plan by building a Danubian Confederation, by consolidating a series of friendships and tariff pacts, and by a gradual welding together of a new nation to restore peace in Central Europe under the aegis of the Catholic Church. He prepared his plans to this end in detail, great and small. He had even selected the future Most Catholic Emperor. This was to be the son of the deposed Empress Zita, the young Otto, whose early training had been received at the Benedictine Abbey of St. Maurice in Clervaux, Luxembourg. He allied himself with the legitimists in Hungary and, at the Vatican, influenced the appointment of Dr. Justinian Seredi as Primate of Hungary. That is another instance of the Pope's participation in the plan.
Such were the conceptions of the Catholic Prelate Seipel, who was carrying on his policy in the closest contact with the Vatican. Now let us consider very briefly how he carried it out.
We have already seen how the reactionary forces, led by the Catholics, had begun to take counter-measures to arrest the power of the "Atheistic Socialist." These counter-measures were embodied in the gradual emergence of armed, secret, anti-Socialist groupings, who began the systematic killing of prominent Socialists in the small provincial towns.
Early in 1927 a Vienna jury, consisting mostly of anti-Socialists, acquitted Heimwehr men who, for political reasons, had committed several murders. Already, in numerous other cases, anti-Socialists had been acquitted in similar circumstances. The workers thus became convinced that the Law Courts no longer afforded any protection against political murder. A spontaneous mass-demonstration swept the streets of Vienna on the morning of July 15, 1927. Clashes with the police occurred. The infuriated crowds attacked the building of the Supreme Court and burnt it down as a symbol of legal injustice. The leader of the Socialists sent the "Republican Defence Corps" to disperse the masses and save the building, thereby depriving the Catholics of an excuse for using more force. But the Government had already prepared to send troops, who arrived suddenly and began to fire upon the masses, who were completely disarmed. Fighting continued, here and there, for two days. There were over ninety dead and over one thousand wounded.
The political balance was quickly upset. Seipel declared publicly: "Do not ask mildness from me at this moment." A tremendous wave of political passion took possession of the working-class districts. Within the next five months, over twenty-one thousand people officially left the Catholic Church as a protest against the priest who had said "No mildness."
As a consequence of this tragic event the Socialists lost their last influence in the Army and Police, which by now were instruments of the Government. Furthermore, the Catholic, anti-Socialist, and semi- Fascist movement, which had been preparing itself with varying fortunes, came suddenly into the open. This movement arose chiefly among the peasants. The Catholic peasants, influenced by their priests and by their fear of having their lands confiscated by the Reds, had hated "Red Vienna" since 1919. On July 15 they thought that Vienna had become the victim of a "Bolshevik" rising.
Thus the Heimwehren suddenly reappeared on the political scene. The Heimwehren, mainly a peasant organization, were led by the upper class of the villages and small towns. Their appeal was made to Catholics and enlisted numerous priests, who declared the city government of Vienna to be the work of Lenin, the devil, and Antichrist.
The Heimwehren had one definite aim only—to smash the Reds. Seipel, who had helped them, speedily employed them as an instrument to overthrow democracy. He shaped the ideas of this body and directed it not only against the Reds, but against democracy as such. His slogans assumed the tune of "Away with Parliament" and "We need an authoritarian State." Such slogans, of course, were in opposition to the Catholic Party, of which Seipel was the leader, as well as the Socialist Party. But there was no contradiction in the now openly declared policy. The same sequence of events which had occurred in Italy was now occurring in Austria—namely, the liquidation of the Catholic Party as a political instrument and the substitution of a more powerful instrument to further Catholic policy. This instrument was Fascism, embodied in this case in the Heimwehr. The policy of the Vatican, to sacrifice a Catholic Party if thereby dictatorship could be attained, had again triumphed.
The Heimwehr, however, remained always under strength. Its battalions were recruited mainly from the peasants, who are not generally available for political action outside their own region or beyond their immediate interests. If Italian Fascism, and Nazism, had relied solely on the Catholic peasants and on anti-Socialistic sentiment, they could never have triumphed. They relied mainly on the middle stratum of the urban population, the lower middle classes. This stratum in Austria was actively Fascist, but it was very small. The Fascist Heimwehr could never find compensation for the absence of the middle classes as an aid to Fascism and Nazism.
In the October that followed, Seipel instructed the Heimwehr to organize under his banner, giving an assurance of protection from State action, of immunity from interference by foreign Governments, of enough money for uniforms and weapons and of wages when necessary. A year later the ex-Chancellor, believing the time to be ripe for his return to power on the crest of the Fascist wave, openly proclaimed himself a Fascist. (Seldes, The Vatican: Yesterday—Today—Tomorrow.) Owing to this support and to the support of the Catholics and other reactionary elements, coupled with the encouragement of the Vatican as well as that of Mussolini, the Heimwehren were strong enough to attack the Socialists and democracy four times in the following autumn.
Subsequent history shows that the following years of the Republic pivoted mainly on these attacks. The first attempt was planned in imitation of Mussolini's march on Rome. In October 1928 the Heimwehren organized a big demonstration, gathering armed troops from all over Austria to meet in an industrial area south of Vienna. The workers, who also possessed arms, prepared themselves to fight. Nothing, however, happened.
By now the military aristocratic elements had given more uniformity to the Heimwehren. With the help of these armed forces, Seipel, who had resigned early in the spring of that year, compelled his successor to resign. Schober, the Chief of Police, who had ordered the troops to fire on the Socialists in 1927, became Prime Minister.
Seipel was to receive two major blows. First, Schober expelled Seipel's right-hand man in the Heimwehr, Major Waldemar Pabst. Pabst was a professional counter-revolutionist, implicated in political assassinations in Germany and a go-between of Hitler and Prince Stahremberg, the chief of the Heimwehr. The second blow to Seipel's political plan was the election of a Labor Government in England.
Ramsay MacDonald and Arthur Henderson were close friends of the Viennese Socialists. Henderson, when informed of the arming of the Heimwehr, caused an interpellation in the House of Commons. The charge was that the Peace Treaty had been broken, that a secret army was being organized, and that the secret army was being supplied from Government sources. The British Government demanded that the Heimwehr should disarm. The French Government made the same demand. This intervention from the two Governments saved Austria from imminent civil war between the Heimwehr and the Socialist Republican Army and led to the retirement for the time being of Monsignor Seipel.
The Heimwehr meanwhile, having seen their direct attack fail, tried indirect methods. With the help of the Catholic Karl Vaugoin, the Vice-Chancellor, an attempt was made to break the Socialist control of the railwaymen. The Government was split on the issue of selecting the man appointed to break down the Socialist resistance, and resigned. Vaugoin was appointed Chancellor, and his first act was to dissolve Parliament. In this he was passionately supported by the Heimwehr, which pronounced for dictatorship. The Government itself stated that from now on it would govern only by "authoritarian" methods. Seipel, in the meantime, resigned the chairmanship of the Catholic Party, a move full of meaning so far as the use of the Catholic Political Party to the Catholic Church was concerned. He next entered Vaugoin's Government as Foreign Minister. Of the two Heimwehr leaders, Prince Stahremberg became Home Secretary and Dr. Hueber went to the Board of Trade. Dr. Hueber was an outspoken Nazi, who later on was to become a member of the four- days' Nazi Government of 1938, which handed over Austria to Germany. Prince von Stahremberg openly boasted of his alliance with Hitler, who by that time was marching quickly towards absolutism.
The Socialists, however, made it clear that if the election should be cancelled, or if the New House were to meet, they would fight resolutely. In the election the Vaugoin-Seipel and Stahremberg group failed to secure a majority. Meanwhile, England and France clearly stated that they expected Austria to produce a constitutional Government. The three would-be dictators resigned.
After these resignations the Heimwehr rapidly disintegrated. In Germany Hitler had now become a political power, through the general election of 1930. The Austrian election at the same time had not given the Nazis a single seat. Nazism began to exert a strong attraction for the members of the defeated Heimwehr. They approached Hitler, who propounded to them three conditions: no restoration of the Hapsburgs, but Anschluss; absolute opposition to parliamentarianism; unquestioning acceptance of his personal rule. What was left of the Heimwehr split on these three conditions. Stahremberg supported Monarchism, but the Styrian Heimwehren joined the Nazis. On September 13, 1931, they attempted a military rising, which, however, was quickly suppressed.
Parliament continued to drag on very uneasily, the Catholic Government striving to rule with a minority. In the end a new Cabinet was formed under Dr. Dollfuss, with a one-vote majority in Parliament.
Dollfuss was the illegitimate son of a peasant. He had been destined for the ecclesiastical profession, and had been educated in a seminary with the assistance of an ecclesiastical grant. At the age of nineteen, however, he changed his mind. After the War he gradually became an important official of the various Catholic organizations, first among the students, and later among the peasants. He started as an outspoken member of the democratic wing of the Catholic Party, but afterwards he became a member of the "Authoritarian" faction. He assumed power shortly after Seipel's death on September 2, 1932, and can be regarded as the executor of the political testament of that prelate.
Relations with the Catholics in power became every day more strained, and also with the Socialists. Once more Dollfuss sought to strengthen the discredited Heimwehr. Simultaneously he declared his intention of transforming Austria into a "Corporate Authoritarian State." The State, he said, would resemble that of Fascist Italy, but would take its guidance from the instructions issued by the Pope himself to Catholics throughout the world. These instructions were embodied in the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, issued in 1931, in which Pius XI called upon Catholics to set up a Corporate State wherever they could. Dollfuss was continuously in intimate contact with the Catholic authorities, the Hierarchy and the Vatican, from whom he often took advice.
On January 30, 1933, Hitler assumed power in Berlin. A little incident which developed into an international issue meanwhile occurred. Railway trade unionists discovered that an armament factory at Hinterberg, in Lower Austria, was producing rifles, not, as was believed, for the Austrian Army, but for reactionary Hungary. Important officials of the Government were helping in the smuggling of such armament. Furthermore, it was discovered that the officials involved were mostly Catholics of semi-Fascist or even openly Fascist sympathies. One such official, knowing that a certain railwayman had knowledge of what was going on, with the consent of Dollfuss offered him a large sum of money as the price of his silence. The man refused, and this double secret was made known by the newspaper of the Socialist Party.
The scandal made a sensation; but that was not enough. The issue became wider. The rifles were not for Hungary, but for Fascist Italy. They had not been ordered for the Hungarians, but were directed to Hungary only as a temporary store-house. They were destined for the Catholic Hapsburg monarchists in Croatia, who were plotting a rising in order to detach themselves from Yugoslavia ( Seipel's "planning for a Catholic Federation" is to be remembered).
The Hinterberg plot was part of an international plan, which culminated in the assassination of King Alexander of Yugoslavia and of the French Foreign Minister by a Croatian partisan of the Hapsburgs, in 1931. At that time Fascist Italy was in bitter enmity with Yugoslavia, and Mussolini was seriously contemplating intervention with force. The aspiration of the Catholic Monarchists for the detachment of Croatia from Yugoslavia suited him well. In this project Mussolini, the semi-Fascist Hungarian Government, the leaders of the Heimwehr, and Dollfuss were alike implicated. More than that, the Vatican had knowledge of the whole affair. Several years afterwards Count Grandi, Fascist Ambassador in London, stated that Dollfuss as well as Mussolini had approached the Pope regarding the plan. The Pope, while not encouraging it, expressed the wish that when Croatia had been detached from "schismatic Yugoslavia" the rights of the Catholic Church should be restored. He promised to ask the Catholic clergy in Croatia to support the movement, and said that he would certainly have the aid of numerous Catholic countries in the League of Nations if the matter were now on a serious footing.
Thus the Socialists, by their discovery of a serious Catholic Monarchist plot, involving Croatia, Hungary, and Austria, had obstructed the path of the Catholic Dollfuss, of the Vatican, and of Mussolini. From that day onwards Catholics in Austria were sworn to destroy the Socialists. Dollfuss promised Mussolini, who was eager for the immediate crushing of the Socialists, that he would do everything in his power to annihilate them. "The Socialist watch-dog had to be suppressed." Dollfuss turned openly Fascist. Within ten days he had formed his anti-Socialist Cabinet, comprising members of the Catholic Party, the Farmer Party (Catholic), and of the Heimwehr. The Social Democrats, constituting the largest and most compact party in the country, were not even consulted.
The first act of Dollfuss was the abolition of Parliament. Then he proclaimed that Austria had gone over to Fascism on the Italian model. He concentrated into his own hands the most vital portfolios, namely those of the Army, Police, Gendarmerie, Foreign Affairs, and Agriculture. He decided that all parties must disappear, including the Catholic Party, whose disappearance, as he well knew, was in accordance with the wishes of the Vatican. The new dictatorship would rule in accordance with Seipel's conception of the Corporate State, based on the stände. Anti-Semitism received official recognition, the Press was muzzled, opposition suppressed, and concentration camps were opened. Trade unions were gradually dissolved. Dollfuss proposed to create Catholic unions, himself nominating their leaders.
During the year 1933, after the suppression of Parliament, Dollfuss issued over three hundred illegal and unconstitutional decrees. He used his power mainly to diminish the social and economic rights of the workers and to increase the value of property and the security of its owners. The peasants, his followers, were subsidized at the expense of the Socialist workers in the towns. He restricted the right of trial by jury, destroyed the freedom of the Press, and abolished the right of assembly. He ordained that the secrecy hitherto observed by the Postal Service was no longer to be inviolable. He abolished almost all the cultural and sporting organizations that were not Catholic, dissolved the Republican Defence Corps, and at the same time armed, so far as he could, the Catholic and Fascist Heimwehr. Then he established "Lightning Courts," and restored the death penalty, although the only persons to be hanged were invariably Socialists accused of resistance to the Heimwehr. These steps he initiated, significantly enough, after a visit paid to Mussolini and the Vatican.
All these measures were later, in 1934, to be crowned by a Concordat between the Vatican and the Austrian Government by which Rome made into a reality his slogan "A Catholic Austria." The principles of the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno were enforced, wherever possible, with more care than before. The Concordat established the Catholic Church in a legal, official position, which she began to use to the fullest extent. The Catholic religion became the religion of the State, education was directly and indirectly subject to her, and all traces of non-Catholic influences were systematically destroyed. The clergy became a privileged section of society and an enormous volume of Catholic literature, in the form of books and newspapers, extolled the blessings of the Corporate authoritarian State as expounded by the Pope and as adopted by Mussolini and the Austrian State. The various Evangelical and Protestant Churches began to suffer systematic persecution, and their ministers were boycotted, arrested, and imprisoned.
This persecution was due to a feeling of resentment experienced by the Catholic Church; and this feeling of resentment was aroused by the fact that, notwithstanding the Church's enormous political power and her hold on the life of the nation, thousands of Austrians began to join Protestant Churches, especially the Evangelical Church. The converts took this step as a protest against the religious, social, and political tyranny of the Catholic Church. Within a few months, in fact, over 23,000 Austrian Catholics had sought membership of the Evangelical Church alone. In addition to that astonishing figure, in Vienna alone another 16,000 persons abandoned Catholicism. Within a very brief time the number in that city who had repudiated the Catholic Church amounted to over 100,000. The middle classes, significantly enough, provided the greatest number of converts. (Churches Under Trial.)
Dollfuss thought that the Nazis would become more friendly with him after he had destroyed "those cursed Social Democrats." The Nazis, however, behaved in a manner which did not promise any closer collaboration. Thus the policy of Dollfuss at this time was the devotion of all efforts towards putting new life into Austrian patriotism. Although he desired a Fascist State, he wanted totalitarian Austria to be independent. Many sections of the population supported him. The leading groups of Catholic politicians had always disliked the idea of the Anschluss. The clergy were opposed to it. So much was this the case that there was a time before Dollfuss, and even after, when the bishops proclaimed from their pulpits, and the village priests in sermons and in private conversation strongly impressed upon their flocks, that Nazism aimed at destroying Austrian independence. Furthermore, they proclaimed—and this was most important—that Nazism was the sworn foe of the Catholic Church. An important contributory cause to hostility against union with Germany was the hatred of Prussia innate in all Austrians, and a dislike for the North and, above all, for Protestantism. The Catholic Hierarchy, hoping at this time to establish a totalitarian State in Austria, were opposed to the Anschluss. If the Anschluss had come into being, they would never have been able to form a "Catholic Austria" under Hitler, remembering the stronghold which Protestantism was obtaining in the life of Austria. This last consideration was now so powerful that when Catholics acknowledged their attachment to National Socialism in the confessional, the priests condemned it as a sin.
Dollfuss began to organize a Heimwehr State, transforming his storm troops into a Totalitarian Party. This step was desired by Stahremberg and Mussolini. Once more the Heimwehr was well provided with funds. Dollfuss and the Catholic Party were, however, well aware that a full-fledged Heimwehr Fascism would incur the hostility of at least 90 per cent of the population, besides the Socialists, the Nazis, and even a section of the Catholics.
Arms were not enough to support a dictatorship. The Catholic leaders decided not to rely entirely on the guns of the Heimwehr, but to utilize another element which they thought was very strong —namely, the Austrian clergy. Thus it was decided, after obtaining the consent of the Vatican, to make the Catholic clergy the backbone of the new dictatorship in the political field, as the Heimwehr was in the military field. The higher ranks of the Austrian clergy had meanwhile received instructions from Rome to support whole-heartedly the Dollfuss régime, and to strengthen it to the best of their ability. From them instructions went out to the whole Austrian clergy in every village and parish to become pillars of the new Catholic authoritarian State. In the end, however, the Catholic Church failed, and that decided the fate of Austria.
In Austria, as we have seen, the Catholic Church had identified herself continuously with a political reactionary régime, usually disliked by the masses. The average Austrian peasant, although a Catholic, disliked the intrusion of the clergy into what he rightly considered secular affairs. The priest, concerned with the religious needs of his parish, ought not to aim at political leadership. Dollfuss was striving to make the Catholic Church the ruler of Austria. Besides this, the Catholic Church and Dollfuss were sponsoring the resuscitation of the Hapsburgs and the traditions of the aristocracy, and although in certain parts of Austria this idea was not unpopular, it was distasteful to the great majority of Austrians.
The revolt of the peasants against the Church, the continually multiplying adherences to Nazism, and the staggering number of conversions to Protestantism, filled the Catholic Church with ever- increasing alarm. The bishops asked Dollfuss to act, and to forbid these transferences of allegiance. Dollfuss started to sentence persons spreading Nazi propaganda, which in the case of most of them assumed the form of conversion to Protestantism. Such measures, of course, strengthened the spirit of rebellion. While this process was going on in the countryside, Dollfuss continued the destruction of Socialism and the building up of his own dictatorship. He proceeded gradually by taking away the rights of the Socialists one by one, but under continuous pressure from the Hierarchy, the Heimwehr, and from Mussolini.
When at last, on February 11, 1934, the Dollfuss police occupied the Socialist Party headquarters at Linz, the Socialists began to fight at Linz, in Vienna, and in other districts. The fight lasted four days, and in some parts even longer. Dollfuss allowed to a Heimwehr leader a repetition of "the joyous hangings of war-time." He gave orders that every prisoner should be court-martialled and hanged. Dollfuss said that there were only 137 "rebels" killed. One man severely wounded was carried on a stretcher to execution. After the seventh hanging, Major Fey was compelled to stop, owing to the protest of a Foreign Power and to the indignation of every civilized community, though, significantly enough, not a single word of mercy or of protest came from the Vatican. Dollfuss had lied. At a conservative estimate there were between 1,500 and 1,600 Socialists killed and 5,000 wounded; 1,188 were imprisoned, and eleven were hanged. ( Osterreich, 1934.)
The attitude and methods of the Catholic régime towards its adversaries should be compared with the methods of the Socialists, who, during their revolution of 1919 and during their years of power in Vienna, had not "hurt a hair of anybody's head," as one historian says.
The Socialist Party was dissolved, the union closed, and a Commissar took over the administration of Vienna. Many Socialist leaders had to flee abroad. The official Socialist Party was driven underground and those daring to support it were sent to jail. By the end of 1934 there were over 19,051 Socialists in the Austrian jails, imprisoned without trial. They were treated with the utmost brutality. Some journalists, desiring to investigate their conditions, were not allowed to visit them. Furthermore, the Catholic clergy compelled Dollfuss to refuse relief funds from abroad in order "to force those in distress to apply to Catholic Organizations" (Annual Register). We shall see presently how Dollfuss's successor followed the same line.
The most appalling religious persecution of the Socialists and all enemies of the Catholic Church ensued. The splendid system of education, being totally absorbed by the Catholic Church, was completely destroyed and the economic position so deteriorated that millions again became semi-starved. The great building scheme, which had edified Europe, was entirely stopped. The Vatican was pleased, and so were Dollfuss and Mussolini, but most pleased of all was Hitler, who saw a tremendous increase in the number of his adherents all over Austria, consequent on "the suppression of the Socialist watchdog."
The Vatican authorities, meanwhile, were playing a double game with Dollfuss and Hitler. They were watching and waiting. Pope Pius XI had given Hitler to understand that if he adhered to his word regarding the treatment and privileges granted to the Catholic Church in Germany, then the Church would help him to "achieve his political aims" in Austria. By doing this the Vatican hoped to compel Hitler to observe the clauses of the Concordat, some of which he was already beginning to forget. In addition to that, the Vatican wanted to see whether the Catholic victory was likely to last or whether the danger of "revolutions" was still present. In the latter case it was of paramount importance to the Vatican to ensure that "the Red danger" should be kept underground by an even stronger hand, and that stronger hand would eventually have been that of Hitler. To achieve its aim the Vatican had to make still further sacrifices. Besides the sacrifice of the Austrian Catholic Party, the Vatican would have to sacrifice the Austrian Catholic régime and its dreams of "Papal Confederations" envisaged by Seipel.
Meanwhile, Dollfuss candidly believed that his great service to Hitler, in destroying the Socialist Party, would render Hitler more amenable. Hitler hoped that it would be easier for him to secure his aims now that the Socialists had been removed. Dollfuss was ready to admit Nazis to his Cabinet, but he desired Austria's independence. The Nazis wanted the Anschluss and the rule of Hitler. Negotiations broke down and the Nazis began a campaign of bomb- throwing. Dollfuss proclaimed martial law, and finally the death penalty was instituted for the illegal possession of dynamite. But, significantly enough, not a single death sentence was carried out.
At the same time serious dissensions concerning the demands of Hitler were threatening to disrupt the Dollfuss Government. Major Fey was accused of actually conspiring with the Nazis. Anton Rintelen, the second man in the Catholic Party and until a few months before Governor of Styria, was won over to them. On July 25, 1934, the Nazis attempted to seize power. A group of Nazis entered the Chancellery, attempting to seize the Government. Only Dollfuss and Major Fey were captured. Dollfuss was mortally wounded and died shortly afterwards. Troops were called out and proved reliable. Mussolini, seeing that his dream of being overlord of Austria and Hungary was in danger, sent two divisions to the Brenner Pass. Hitler, who was not yet ready for a fight, left the conspirators to their fate. Had the plot succeeded, no danger of international war would have arisen.
Then Herr von Papen, the Chamberlain of the Papal Court, was sent to Vienna in order to effect a conciliation.
Dollfuss was followed by Herr von Schuschnigg. He was a Catholic of the deepest religious feelings. He had received a thorough education from the Jesuits, and even in bearing he had the air of a studious priest rather than of a politician. Schuschnigg wanted an "authoritarian" Austria, but on milder lines than those laid down by Dollfuss. His task was rendered easier by the changed policy of Hitler, who, seeing the alarm he had created in Europe, was compelled to apply the soft pedal to his moves. All Europe, in fact, seemed to unite against German aggression. The result was the Conference of Stresa.
At first the new régime varied little from that of Dollfuss. Gradually, however, Schuschnigg realized that to obtain popular support he must relax the dictatorship which weighed so heavily on the people, and especially on the working class. Thus he began gradually to grant modest concessions now and then, but promising more in the future. He slowly rid himself of the most hated and notorious extremists in his Government— Major Fey and Stahremberg, the leaders of the Heimwehr. Then he incorporated the Heimwehr itself with the military organization of the Government.
The Catholic Church, which at first had retired into the background, again sought to exert strong pressure on the political life of the country. She continued to fear the "Red danger and the dangerous ideas of Protestantism and of religious indifference." The Church wanted to get some degree of control over all the workers, whether they were Socialist, Atheist, or Bolshevik. The Law and the Army, which had driven them underground, were not enough. The Catholic Hierarchy wanted to obtain an even tighter hold of them by compelling them to come under its direct control.
Negotiations with the Government continued for some time, until at last agreement was reached. Schuschnigg passed a law requiring every citizen to be a member of a Church. The political character of this move was received with the greatest hostility in many quarters, not only among the workers, and what happened under Dollfuss was repeated on a larger scale. A mass movement from the ranks of the Catholic Church ensued. Thousands of Roman Catholics, workers and people of the middle classes, began in disgust to enter the Protestant Churches, where their votes were not dictated by the religious body to which they belonged. During this period the number of Protestants reached the figure, unheard of in Catholic Austria, of 340,000—a happening which overwhelmed the few Protestant pastors still left at liberty. (Churches Under Trial.)
Matters went on fairly quietly for some time, and the internal situation seemed to be reasonably stable. Although the Catholic Church was continuing to press the Government for more drastic measures against "the Red peril which was rumbling underground," there was no internal trouble for Austria. But then disquiet recurred, and once more it started from abroad. The Abyssinian War broke out. Fascist Italy, seeking German friendship, would no longer support Austria and advised Schuschnigg to deal directly with Hitler. Austria thereupon signed a treaty with Nazi Germany ( July 1936). Austria promised to subordinate her foreign policy to that of Hitler, and further undertook that, should war break out, Austria would side with Germany.
In Austria the prohibition of the Nazi Party continued, but Nazis were allowed to gather unmolested. A Nazi leader became Home Secretary. The truce with Nazism lasted about eighteen months. Meanwhile, Germany had become stronger in the international field, the Axis firmer, and her armament had seriously increased. Owing to these factors and to the bogy of the Red peril, whose recrudescence seemed imminent, the Austrian Hierarchy, instructed by the Vatican, decided to strike a bargain with Hitler. Only by his iron hand could the Red be utterly destroyed. If Hitler had promised to respect the Church's rights in Germany as well as in Austria, his co-operation with the Catholic Hierarchy would have been possible. Hitler, aware of this new attitude, began to act by starting a persecution in Germany of the Catholic Church. There were strong domestic reasons for Hitler to act thus, as we have had occasion to see, but his Austrian aims provided an additional reason of no mean order. He made it known to the Vatican that the persecution would be discontinued provided that the Vatican instructed the Austrian Hier archy and leading Catholics to support the Anschluss. Once that was done, he would respect the rights of the Church, not only in Germany, but also in Austria.
The Vatican consented. Through the agency of von Papen and Cardinal Innitzer, negotiations were continued with the aim of persuading Schuschnigg to hand over Austria. Schuschnigg, however, was opposed to the Anschluss, knowing that it would have been the end of Austria. He stubbornly refused. Hitler summoned him to Berchtesgaden and ordered him to hand over the Home Office to a most devout Catholic, a fervent Nazi, Dr. von Seyss-Inquart. Hitler showed Schuschnigg the marching-orders to be given to the German troops should he decline. Schuschnigg had to obey. Seyss-Inquart had had many secret interviews with von Papen and the Cardinal before this happened. Seyss-Inquart, of course, accepted, knowing who was supporting him inside Austria.
Seyss-Inquart was a Viennese barrister who, after the First World War, had opened a modest office in Vienna without attaining any success. His connection with the Catholic Party was very close. This was due chiefly to the fact that he was a supporter of many Catholic organizations of all kinds. He had become an ardent Catholic propagandist and he was frequently heard in Vienna as a lecturer propounding Catholic principles. He was very pious and, with his family, was assiduous in frequenting the services of the Church. His zealous and sincere efforts to serve the Catholic cause brought him into personal contact with the Chancellor, Dollfuss, and from that moment his advance was rapid. Even after he had become a political figure, and Hitler had made him Reich Commissar for Austria, he continued to go almost daily to church.
Schuschnigg returned from Berchtesgaden, having learned many things, amongst which were several closely connected with the Vatican. This led him to a reshaping of his policy towards the Socialists. He wanted their friendship, counting on their support to preserve the independence of Austria.
At that time the situation still presented a three-cornered contest between Catholics, Nazis, and Socialists. In the days of Dollfuss the Government had tried to join forces with the Nazis in order to crush the Socialists. After him the new Government tried simultaneously to subjugate both parties, yet to make friends with them. But, when the decisive hour came, Schuschnigg saw that he could rely neither on the Nazis nor on the Catholics. The main support came from the Socialists. After his interview with Hitler, Schuschnigg reshuffled his Government. Besides the Nazi Seyss-Inquart, he included a representative of the democratic elements as well as of the Socialists. He next negotiated with the workers in the factories, and soon he began to grant concessions. Before the end the workers organized a great meeting unmolested, for the first time in many years, by the police. At this conference the Socialists pledged themselves to defend Austria's independence. In doing so, the Socialists acted not only from hatred of Nazism, but because they thought they were winning back their own independence. This was the most open confession of the failure and bankruptcy of the policy of Seipel and Dollfuss. It was clear that at the last and gravest moment of Austria's independence the Catholic Government could rely only on the Labor Movement, which it had so consistently persecuted.
Having made these many concessions, the Government began to hesitate. Catholics inside and outside the Government, the influence of the Catholic Church, of the Austrian Hierarchy, and even of the Vatican were strongly opposed to these concessions. "What, so many fights, so much bloodshed, so many risks, in order to go back again to democracy and thus let the Reds come out in the open? Never!" Thus every measure was delayed. In spite of continuous promises, Labor received no real concession; the workers were never allowed even to have a single newspaper under their own control.
Throughout this time Cardinal Innitzer continued to press Schuschnigg and the Government to favor complete submission to Hitler. "The Anschluss is inevitable," was his advice. He told Schuschnigg that the Vatican desired the Austrian Government to adopt this policy. Schuschnigg, after much doubt and hesitation, stood firm, but several Catholics who knew what was going on behind the scenes became bitter. These continued to oppose fusion with Germany, desiring their country's independence. They saw clearly that the Government could not count upon the support of the Church, for whom it had done so much.
In Vienna popular feeling and enthusiasm reached a high pitch. It was thought that Nazism had been defeated, and the ideal of fighting for Austrian independence had become very popular with the masses owing to the leniency extended to them by the Government. Hence the workers, formerly eager for the Anschluss so long as it was conceived as a democratic measure implying great regional rights for Austria, were bitterly opposed to it now that the Nazis were in power. Thus, paradoxically, they supported the Catholic Schuschnigg hoping thereby that they would return to democracy and liberty. In Vienna, great mass-demonstrations clamored for Austrian liberty, shouting and singing the old Socialist slogans. Socialists, Communists, Monarchists, and even many Catholics, marched side by side for days. Austria had risen to its feet ready to fight. Never had the Nazis seemed so weak as at that moment. Hitler, as well as Schuschnigg and Cardinal Innitzer, became alarmed, for no one could tell where that mass movement would lead. It was felt that even if all that enthusiasm did not lead to "Bolshevism," it might perhaps result in a mass drive against Fascism. If such a popular and formidable demonstration against Fascism had occurred, it might not have been confined to Austria alone.
The Government meanwhile was preparing. The plans for action were complete and the troops were ready to march. The Austrian Government was determined to fight for its independence. Schuschnigg, hoping to avoid bloodshed, played his last card. He announced that, if the Austrian people really desired the Anschluss, the Austrian people should show its will by a plebiscite.
This decision went against the plans of the Vatican. Accordingly, Cardinal Innitzer, who was already in direct touch with Hitler, once more opened up negotiations with him. The Cardinal well knew that a plebiscite would reject the Anschluss, in which case the Reds might get out of control. The Church could not allow this to happen. Before promising the unstinted help of the Catholic Church in Austria and of the Vatican, Cardinal Innitzer required a promise that once Hitler had incorporated Austria he would respect the rights of the Church. ( The Universe, MARCH 1, 1946.)
Hitler was fully aware that if the plebiscite preceded his entry into Austria, the Austrian people would reject the Anschluss. He therefore proposed this incredible plan to the Cardinal—that not the Austrians, but the German people, should decide whether the Austrians were to become Germans or not. That a cardinal should even have listened to a proposition so cynical sounds incredible. Yet the Cardinal not only acquiesced, but promised that he would do everything in his power to secure that the Austrian people should welcome Hitler and give him their votes.
The ninth day of March had been announced as the date of the Austrian plebiscite, which, however, did not take place, as Hitler forbade Schuschnigg to carry it out. During the afternoon of March 11 almost all the population of Vienna was demonstrating against Nazism and Fascism, hailing political freedom and national independence and singing Socialist songs. At seven o'clock that very evening the Nazi storm-troopers suddenly appeared in Vienna. Herr von Schuschnigg had resigned without a blow. Within an hour the Austrian police were wearing the swastika. Vienna was flooded with Nazi troops. Cardinal Innitzer welcomed the Nazis with swastikas in the churches and with the ringing of bells. He ordered his priests to do likewise. Not content with this, he ordered all Austrians to submit to the man "whose struggle against Bolshevism and for the power, honor, and unity of Germany corresponds to the voice of Divine Providence."
Then, a few days later (March 15), he went to see Hitler again, and once more asked for his assurance that he would respect the rights of the Catholic Church. That was not all. The Cardinal and his bishops, with the exception of the Bishop of Linz, after having talked about the "voice" of the blood urged all Austrians to vote for Hitler at the plebiscite. Under his own signature he then wrote the sacred formula "Heil Hitler."
Thus ended Austria.
CZECHOSLOVAKIA AND THE VATICAN
Within a few weeks of the absorption of Austria into the greater Reich, Hitler was employing the same tactics towards the Catholics of the little republic of Czechoslovakia.
One would have thought that the Catholics in the various countries bordering on Nazi Germany would have learned their lesson from the fate meted out to Austria and, above all, to the Austrian Church. That was not the case. Soon they were co-operating with Hitler whole-heartedly, as if nothing had happened. The Vatican, of course, was in the background, for, as we shall have occasion to see, the Catholic movement aiding Hitler to disrupt the Republic was led by a most devout Catholic prelate, a miniature of Mgr. Seipel.
Before proceeding farther, let us review concisely the background of the disruption of the Republic.
The Catholic Church has hated Bohemia ever since the days of John Huss, the great "heretic," who was burnt by the Church owing to his daring ideas. During the Thirty Years' War the Catholic armies destroyed and pillaged the country in such manner that, at the end of hostilities, it was reduced to the utmost misery and despair. Yet this country had formerly been one of the most flourishing in mediaeval Europe. Its population, once estimated at over 3,000,000, was reduced to 780,000 people. Its rich villages and towns, once numbering 30,000, were reduced to 6,000 only. The remainder had been destroyed, burned, or left deserted by the slaughter of the inhabitants. After this holocaust, plague did the rest. A hundred thousand people were carried off by it, and many thousands of Bohemians were dispersed as refugees throughout Europe. The once prosperous Kingdom of Bohemia ceased to exist. It passed under Catholic Austria and became an appendage of the Hapsburgs.
Thus the birth of the Catholic Reformation and Catholic political control coincided with the disappearance of the politically independent life of the territories of the Czech Crown. For three centuries preceding the First World War the Czechs were attached to the Austro-Hungarian Empire under the Hapsburg Dynasty.
We have already noted that the Hapsburg House was devoutly Catholic, and the part it played in furthering Catholicism in lands subject to its rule. Under the Hapsburgs the Catholic Church regained completely the position she had lost in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and even the seventeeth centuries. In this part of the Empire, as well as in Austria, the Church and the despotic Hapsburg ruler made a pact of mutual assistance and interest, which they strove to maintain and strengthen. On more than one occasion the Church became the political instrument of the Hapsburgs—and vice versa. As a result the Nationalists, and allied elements in the Czech nation with a longing for liberty, railed against the community of interest subsisting between the Catholic Church and the detested Hapsburg régime. They objected to the discrepancy between the interests of the nation and the Church. These elements were to be found among the rank and file of those who were opposed to the Church. Their opposition was aroused because in the Church they perceived a bulwark of the Hapsburg despotism, constituting a reactionary brand of social, political, and national administration which the Church did her best to support on all occasions.
Futhermore, under the Austro-Hungarian régime all currents of thought and all ideas or principles not in harmony with the Catholic religion were to a great extent penalized and boycotted. This censorship assumed, at one and the same time, the double aspect of a religious and a political persecution. Catholicism was favored, not only because the dynasty was deeply Catholic, but also because
Catholicism was, as the rulers saw, an appropriate weapon for keeping the people thoroughly tamed.
Catholicism reigned supreme in the land of the Czechs, and although certain other Churches were granted State recognition, non-Catholics were to a great extent penalized. Free-thought was tolerated, but the public services, with the teaching and other professions, were open only to Church members. In consequence only 13,000 persons dared to register themselves as Freethinkers. It is not surprising, therefore, that the liberation of the Czechs and Slovakians from Austro-Hungarian domination after the First World War was followed 'by a strong movement "away from Rome" and directed against the Church. The Church had too closely identified herself with the Hapsburg dynasty and the main instrument of Hapsburg domination, political Catholicism.
Even before the First World War, but chiefly in the year following the establishment of the Czechoslovakian Republic, reforms were introduced to give the Church a specifically national character. The Czechoslovak tongue was to be the liturgical language, and a patriarchate was to be created for the territory of the Republic, enjoying the same independence as the Greek Catholic Church. That portion of the clergy of Czechoslovakia which had endorsed these endeavors only with much hesitation abandoned the thought of any further development of the scheme as soon as the disapproval of the Vatican became apparent. Only a very small group of clerics, who also aimed at abolishing the rule of celibacy, insisted on these reforms and finally went so far as to lay the foundations of "the Church of Czechoslovakia." This Church, in a very short time, lost any internal connection with the Catholic Church. The disapproval of the Vatican arose not only from religious, but also from political issues.
Between 1918 and 1930 about 1,900,000 people (mostly Czechs) changed their religion, the majority being deserters from the Roman Catholic Church. Some 800,000 of these, all of them being Czechs, formed themselves into a new Czechoslovak Church. This Church represented a kind of reformed Catholicism, and, being independent of Rome, was untainted by memories of the hated Hapsburg connection. About 150,000 became Protestants of one kind or another, and the remainder, close on 854,000 in number, openly declared themselves Agnostics. The overwhelming majority of the citizens of the new Republic, however, equivalent to 73.54 per cent, remained Catholics, although many of them were Catholics in name only. Strong anti-Catholic movements nevertheless continued their activities directed to the separation of Church and State and to compulsory civil ratification of marriage.
The State continued neutral in religious matters and its Constitution guaranteed complete liberty of conscience and religious profession. All religious professions were declared to be on an equal footing in the eyes of the law, and none was recognized as the State Church. Every Church complying with the Law received official recognition. Thus the State, giving a guarantee not to interfere in religious matters, was justified in demanding a reciprocal guarantee from the Churches—they must not interfere in political problems, which were the sphere of the State.
Owing to this understanding in the years following the creation of the Republic, the Holy See accepted the fait accompli and in 1918 recognized the State. The State therefore had no ground of contention with the Roman Catholic Church except with regard to the provisions of the Land Reform Law. This law affected, among others, the large estates owned by Roman Catholic dignitaries and religious Orders. The matter had since been compromised on a basis of quid pro quo.
The Vatican, on the other hand, hoped that Catholicism would easily reap great social and political advantages from the freedom granted to the Church by the democratic spirit of the Republic. Thus a kind of mutual agreement was reached by the Vatican and the Republic. The State was to grant certain prerogatives in the religious field claimed by the Church as her right, and the Catholic Church was to exercise her religious freedom. In exchange the Vatican ordered all Catholic elements working either for the restoration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire or for disruptive reforms to cease their activities.
At that time the Vatican had good reasons for this action. First, the mass-exodus of Catholic Czechs from the Church, as recorded above, was alarming; secondly, the suspicion and dislike felt for the Catholic Church in the minds of many was on the increase. Thirdly, there was the hope that with the Church's newly guaranteed freedom she would be able to reconsolidate her position. In this way the diplomacy of the Vatican did its utmost to cement the bonds of unity between the Eastern and the Western Slavs, despite religious disputes in sub-Carpathian Ruthenia.
The ratification of this Modus Vivendi was justifiably regarded as a political event of premier importance. Unsolved problems, promising to cause recurrent difficulties, seemed to have been settled once and for all. Relations between the Republic and the Vatican were secured. In 1935 a Eucharistic Congress was held in Prague. Cardinal Verdier, the French Archbishop of Paris, went to Prague as the Papal Legate. In November 1935 Archbishop Kaspar of Prague was nominated Cardinal.
This state of apparent cordiality between Church and State began in 1917 under the auspices of Edward Benes. He realized the importance of Catholicism in Czechoslovakia, in the new Republic, and as an international factor, and therefore he tried to establish relations with the Vatican. Normal diplomatic relations with the Vatican were re-established immediately after the First World War. A Czechoslovak Legation at the Vatican was created without delay and a Papal Nuncio was nominated to Prague.
A short time after this, Dr. Benes, in his capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Republic, opened negotiations dealing with a number of politico-ecclesiastical questions. The negotiations began in the year 1921 with the Cardinal-Secretary of State, Gaspari, and Cardinal Ceretti, and they were continued in 1923 on the occasion of a later visit by Dr. Benes to Rome.
Any Church or religious denomination other than the Catholic Church would have appreciated such behavior in a secular Republic, like the Czechoslovak Republic, as perfect, and endeavor would have been made to co-operate with the State in the development and furthering of such cordial relationship. With the Catholic Church it was otherwise. The Catholic Church demanded one right after another, and in her demands displayed that intransigence which is her peculiar characteristic. The most typical example occurred in 1925, when the Czech Republic planned a great national ceremony to commemorate the country's hero, John Huss. It happened, however, that the Church had condemned John Huss, in his time, as a heretic, a spreader of errors, and an enemy of Catholicism. The Vatican therefore requested the Czech Government not to celebrate these festivities, lest offence be given to the Church and the Czech Catholics by the glorification of a "heretic" who had dared to disobey the Vatican.
Naturally, the answer of the Czech Government was what it had to be. The festivities would take place with or without the approval of the Vatican. The Vatican ordered the Czechs, and particularly the Slovak Catholics, to initiate a campaign of protest against such a commemoration. This order was duly obeyed. The Catholic Press and the Hierarchy wrote and preached against the Government and against John Huss until the issue became one of great importance, not only in its religious aspect, but also socially and politically. The Vatican, perceiving that all its efforts to prevent the celebrations were unavailing, ordered the Papal Nuncio in Prague to protest "against the offence given to the Catholic Church by the honoring of a heretic." The Vatican instructed the Papal Nuncio to leave Prague after uttering his protest, and on July 6, 1925, he left the capital. Diplomatic relations between the Republic and the Vatican were suspended.
The reader should note that, during these events, the Czech Republic was still granting one demand after another to the Vatican; the rôle which the Catholic Church, in alliance with the hated Hapsburgs, had played during three centuries of suppressing Czech national aspirations was forgotten. After holding the commemoration, the Czech Republic continued the attempt to cultivate the friendship of the Vatican and succeeded in re-establishing relations with Rome. Thus the young Republic pursued the course of friendship with the Catholic Church, allowing her complete freedom.
True to her principles, the Church produced complaints of another character purely social and political. Three were outstanding: First, that Slovakia, although pre-eminently Catholic, did not enjoy that freedom which a Catholic population had the right to enjoy; Prague kept the people under a "Hussite" yoke. Secondly, that the very principles of religious and political freedom enunciated by the Republic were increasing the spread of "Bolshevism." Thirdly, that the Republic was on too close and friendly terms with "Atheistic Bolshevik Russia."
For years the Vatican, acting through diplomatic channels, the local Catholics, and the Hierarchy, tried directly and indirectly to influence the Republic to yield to "the desire of the Church" on these issues. But the Republic, although acting impartially to the Church, was also impartial in its principles and political interests, and therefore pursued the policy best adapted to its own welfare. That is to say, the Republic treated the ultra-Catholic Slovak on the same footing as any other citizen. Political freedom was allowed to the Catholic as well as to the Communist, and friendship with Soviet Russia was cultivated increasingly as a safeguard against the enemies of the Republic, especially Germany.
The main pillar of the Czechoslovak Republic's foreign policy had been the building up of a close and secure friendship and alliance with Soviet Russia, for obvious reasons. It is sufficient to glance at the map of Europe, displaying the position of Czechoslovakiavis-à-vis Germany, to understand why the Czechs desired Russia's friendship. Owing to this Czecho-Russian alliance, the young Republic stood like a mid-European Gibraltar on Nazi Germany's path to the Ukraine, which Hitler had repeatedly declared he would annex, especially in his Mein Kampf. Catholics in Czechoslovakia and elsewhere, as well as the Vatican, never ceased to complain of this alliance. On more than one occasion the Czech Government was actually accused of being a "Bolshevik Agent" in Europe. It is remarkable that the most bitter and vociferous critics were Catholics.
The principles of democracy and the friendship with Russia were responsible, according to the Vatican and the Catholics, for the disproportionate increase of the Socialists and Communists within the Republic: they were a danger. At the last election in the Republic the Socialists and Communists did, in fact, poll well over 1,700,000 votes. Finally the Slovaks wanted to be separated from the body of the Republic on the claim that they were all Catholics. They wanted a Catholic State where the Catholic religion would be supreme, and, as was said before, they disliked the rule of "Hussite Heretics"—meaning, of course, the Liberal Czechs.
The Vatican, which claims never to interfere in politics, began to exert political pressure on the Republic in its ever-recurrent manner. On this occasion, having perceived that all its approaches to the Central Government regarding the abandonment of the Czech friendship with Soviet Russia and the civil liberties allowed to Socialists and Communists had been in vain, it started to exert a kind of political blackmail against the Central Government. This was done by confronting the Czech Republic with the threat that unless it radically changed its domestic and foreign policy the Church would resort to the kind of pressure to which the Government was most sensitive—namely, support of the Separatist movement of the Catholic Slovaks. This the Vatican did, and for a period of several years gave its patronage to the Separatist movement in Slovakia with a degree of success varying according to its influence upon the successive Central Governments. It should be remembered that, although many racial, political, and economic causes were involved in the Separatist agitation, the religious issue was not unimportant; far from it, the movement was in the hands of zealous Catholics, and indeed the leaders themselves were Catholic priests.
This pressure on Prague, exerted over several years, was more or less indirect; but matters were coming to a head. The climax was reached when the Papal Nuncio interfered so openly in Czechoslovakian affairs that the very tolerant Government was compelled to intervene. The Papal Nuncio dared to publish a letter in which he encouraged and supported the Catholic Slovak claims, and his expulsion from the territory of the Republic became essential. The Vatican, of course, protested. In addition to exerting pressure on the Czech Government through its Catholic adherents within the Republic, it appealed to the French Hierarchy, and even to certain French political authorities. This happened during 1934 and 1935— dates which should be remembered in connection with the chapter on France. As we shall see, when dealing with that country, strong Catholic elements in France were already at work aiming at the creation of domestic and international Authoritarianism throughout Europe. Their two main objectives were anti-Bolshevism and a Society built on Catholic principles.
The French Government, backed by zealous Catholics, co-operated with the Vatican and the Catholic Czechs in rebuffing the Central Government by organizing, in 1935, a monster demonstration in Prague. The Primate of France, Cardinal Verdier, was present as Papal Legate, and Polish and Austrian Catholics took a prominent part. The Prague demonstration, organized by the Vatican, was an act of open defiance as well as a threat to the Czech Government.
From that time onwards events marched fast. The Vatican, in co- operation with other European elements—mainly Polish and Austrian Catholics, Hitler, and French reactionaries—began to work for the disintegration of the "Hussite Republic."
Before proceeding with the events which brought about the disintegration of the Republic, let us glance briefly at some characteristic elements within the body of the State, which contributed in no mean way to its ultimate fate.
In the Czechoslovak Republic there were several political parties at this time. One of the principal reactionary parties was the Agrarian, which not only encouraged the formation of the Sudeten German Party, but actually helped it in numerous ways. This Sudeten Party, led by the Catholic Henlein, agitated for the abandonment of the Czech Republic's defensive pact with the Soviet Union and ardently advocated a policy of compromise with the Third Reich.
Another important party was the Czechoslovak People's Party, a Catholic party founded under the Austro-Hungarian régime. This Party remained loyal to Catholic Austria until shortly before the revolution. It then decided to exert its influence on the side of the Czech National movement, and made its appeal to the Catholic sentiments of the workers with varied success.
In Slovakia there was the Slovak Populist Party, essentially a Catholic party. Originally it tended to work side by side with its Czech counterpart, but, with the passing of time, it transformed itself into a Slovak Nationalist Party. This party was led by a Catholic priest, Mgr. Hlinka, and represented the strong opposition to unification which had existed in certain circles since the foundation of the Republic. It acted as spokesman for Catholicism as well as for Conservatism throughout Slovakia. Its main complaint was that Slovakia had not obtained full autonomy and similar rights. Among other things, it was felt by the Catholic priesthood that the improved educational facilities placed by the Republic at the disposal of the Slovak people were "a very serious menace" to the privileged position of the Catholic Church. We have already hinted that education in Czechoslovakia was secular and non- sectarian, although the Government subventioned the teaching of religions in schools. This subvention, however, was irrespective of any particular religious denomination—an arrangement which the Catholic Church condemned.
The Czech Republic had made giant steps so far as public education was concerned, and in this field was one of the most progressive countries in Europe. It would be of interest to glance at a few figures in regard to the Slovaks, who complained of the treatment meted out to them by "the Hussite tyrannical Czechs."
In 1918, 2,000,000 Slovak people had only 390 Slovak teachers for their children, only 276 Slovak elementary schools, and no other Slovak educational establishment. The situation in sub-Carpathian Ruthenia was still worse, for there were no schools at all. By 1930 the Czech Republic had provided Slovakia with 2,652 elementary schools, 39 secondary schools, 13 technical colleges, and a university. All this within twelve years. The State and local governments built, on an average, 100 new schools each year, and during the first fourteen years of the Republic's life they built 1,381 new elementary schools, and a further 2,623 were enlarged and modernized. During the same period the Republic built two new universities, nine new technical colleges, and 45 new secondary schools.
This is the record of the young Republic in Catholic Slovakia, whose motto "Slovakia for the Slovaks" was based, among other things, on anti-Semitism and on the resolve to arrest and reverse the racial integration of the Czech Republic. The Party on numerous occasions refused requests to join the Central Government.
In addition to the parties mentioned above there existed the "National Union"—a movement of distinctly reactionary tendency, founded in 1935. It was divided into two groups, based on Fascist principles, the National Front and the National League..
This, then, was the background of the events which we are about, very succinctly, to relate.
In the chapter dealing with Germany we have already related the plans discussed between the Vatican and Hitler before and after the Anschluss, when it became obvious that the next victim had to be Czechoslovakia. Once more Hitler, with the co-operation of the Vatican, employed Catholic tools to achieve his aims. Of course, he did not work with the Vatican in order to further religion; nor did the Vatican work with Hitler in order to further the particular type of Totalitarianism of the new Germany. Each one co-operated with the other in order to achieve its particular aim.
We have already said that the Vatican, having for years exerted pressure on the Republic, began to work for the ruin of the Czech State after the expulsion of the Papal Nuncio. It accomplished this end by internal pressure on the Catholic population and by bargaining with Hitler.
The Catholic Slovaks, led by Father Hlinka, continued their agitation during the time when the Republic was confronted with the menacing advance of Nazi Germany. Hitler had no need of Slovakia for his first steps towards the rape of the Republic; but he did need an excuse to justify his invasion designed to protect the Sudeten Germans. He had not long to search. A ready and easy tool was at hand, the very conscientious Catholic, Henlein, who began an agitation bent on furthering Hitler's aims.
How could any sane person, unless blinded by fanatical political hatred, have failed to learn the lesson of the Catholic Austrians, whose betrayal had occurred a few months before? Yet many Catholics rallied to the support of Henlein and the plans of Hitler. It is true that a great number of Catholics objected, but their objection was based, not on political grounds, but rather on the apprehension that Hitler would treat the Catholic religion in their country as he had done in Austria. On this point Hitler gave his solemn word of honor to the Catholic Henlein, who had conveyed to the Fuehrer the objections of the Sudeten Catholics. Hitler promised that he would respect all the rights and privileges of the Catholic Faith among the Sudeten population.
To convince the Sudeten Catholics, and above all the Western Powers, Mussolini was employed in the plot. He published an open letter stating that private conversations with Hitler had convinced him that Germany wanted only to shear off the German fringe of Czechoslovakia. Thus Henlein and his Catholic followers continued their agitation with increased violence, supported directly and indirectly by the Catholic Slovaks, who deemed it untrue that they were seriously embarrassing the Central Government and bringing about the first step in the disintegration of the hated Republic.
Came Munich, with all the international complications it involved and the evil omen it portended for the future. It is not the task of this book to enter into the controversy whether it was or was not advisable for the Western democracies to surrender to Nazi Germany. We wish, however, to emphasize an important fact related to the problem we are studying—namely, the indirect but decisive influence of the Vatican in this fateful international problem.
First, it is to be noted that the Catholic Church in Slovakia was the primary cause of the disintegration of the Republic, at a time when its unity was most essential. Secondly, when Hitler made his first cut into the body of the Republic, severing the Sudeten lands from Czechoslovakia, the tool employed was Henlein, a Catholic, like his supporters and followers, with the exception of Nazis and fanatical German Nationalists. Thirdly, that Great Power which had given its pledge to stand by its treaty with the Czech Republic failed to keep that promise, France having left Czechoslovakia to her fate.
This third point leads directly to a very controversial field where we should be involved in international discussions too wide for this book and too foreign to its design. It need only be remembered that there were already in France strong Fascist elements, very powerful behind the scenes. These were working for the setting up of primarily a French, and more remotely a European, system of Totalitarianism. It should further be remarked that these Fascist elements consisted of zealous Catholics, no matter whether their constituents originated from the industrial, financial, land-owning, or official caste. All had the same dreadful fear of Soviet Russia and Communism as possessed the Vatican. Indeed, their alliance with the Vatican was designed to take measures to destroy this danger. (See Chapter 16, " France and the Vatican.")
It is remarkable that France left her friend in the lurch, whereas Soviet Russia declared clearly, precisely, and on numerous occasions, a readiness to fight if France should honor her word. Czechoslovakia has already been described as a kind of mid-European Gibraltar and fortress on the Communistic highway, and so it appeared to the minds of the Catholic Church and of many reactionary French elements; it was chiefly for this reason that they desired her liquidation.
We shall see in greater detail what forces were at work in France, acting in this case in accord with the policy of the Vatican. For the present it is sufficient to say that Hitler achieved his ends, notwithstanding the adverse opinion of his own generals.
Hitler, however, did not dare to occupy the whole of the Czech Republic, deeming it more advisable to accomplish his task by degrees, the first and most important step—namely, the severance of the Sudeten land from the body of Czechoslovakia—having been made. His aim being to get possession of the whole of Czechoslovakia without precipitating a European war before he was ready, he had to work for the disruption of the Republic from within, and, once again having thought of the Catholics, he turned his eyes towards Slovakia, where he found the immediate and whole-hearted co- operation of the Catholic Church.
So long as Father Hlinka led the Catholic Party in Slovakia, he restrained his followers, and on several occasions even the Vatican, from going to the extreme. His policy was to achieve autonomy for Slovakia, but not separation. When the Papal Nuncio had given him to understand that an independent Catholic Slovak State would be to the advantage of the Church, and that therefore the Slovaks should strive for their separation from the Republic, Father Hlinka was honest enought to answer that he did not think that this, in the long run, would be beneficial to Slovakia. At the same time he reminded the Nuncio that he had sworn allegiance to the Czech Republic.
Father Hlinka died in 1938, still urging the Catholics to be content with autonomy and not to endanger the Republic by pressing for a complete separation. But then another priest—namely, Tiso —who had been one of his most zealous followers, came into prominence and power. While negotiations were proceeding, and Father Hlinka was being subjected to pressure by the Vatican and the most extreme of the Slovak Catholics, Tiso had distinguished himself by his docility to the Papal Nuncio and the suggestions of Rome. The Vatican speedily recognized his services and Tiso was made a Monsignor.
Immediately he became Premier of Slovakia. Tiso's first action was to raise the cry for independence. This was done in complete accord with the Vatican and Hitler, who knew how the plan would eventually work out. The President of the Czech Republic—to whom, by the way, Mgr. Tiso had taken the oath of loyalty—deposed him.
What did Tiso do? He fled immediately to Nazi Germany, the country of his supporter and friend Hitler. It was a detail of some significance that Hitler's close and continuous contact with Mgr. Tiso had been maintained through the agency of another Catholic, Seyss-Inquart of Austria. As go-between in the shaping of the conspiracy between Hitler and Mgr. Tiso, Seyss-Inquart had played his part. Hitler ordered Seyss-Inquart to proceed with a plane to convey Mgr. Tiso to Berlin.
Having received a more than cordial reception in Berlin, Mgr. Tiso entered into close consultation with Hitler and Ribbentrop, keeping at the same time in even closer touch with the representative of the Vatican. At this time the Secretary of State to the Vatican, who for so many years had shaped the policy of the Catholic Church, was crowned the new Pope, taking Pius XII as his designation. He had been so much occupied during the days preceding the fall of the Czech Republic that, as his biographer records, he could take a few days' rest only. His pontificate, indeed, had started with two great problems requiring very careful handling. These were the invasion of Albania by Mussolini and the rape of Czechoslovakia by Hitler.
We posses few details as to the instruction given to Mgr. Tiso by the new Pope, but we do know that Mgr. Tiso and Ribbentrop were consulting with the Vatican, not only through the usual channels, but also through the Fascist Government. On more than one occasion during this crisis the Fascist Government acted on behalf of both Hitler and Mgr. Tiso in negotiations with the Pope.
A few days after the arrival of Mgr. Tiso in Berlin the Nazi Press began to circulate accounts of the horrors inflicted by Czech rule on Catholic Slovakia. Tiso telephoned to his Catholic friends in Slovakia that Hitler had given him a promise to support the Catholic Slovak cause if they were to make a declaration of independence. Meanwhile the Hungarians were also enticed to take a hand in the game. The Hungarian Catholic Primate, who communicated directly with the Vatican and with whom Tiso had been in touch, now reaped his reward. The Hungarian Government, which shared the hatred of Hitler and others against the Bolshevik Czech Republic, demanded Ruthenia from the Czechoslovak Government. Catholic Poland also was asking for the liquidation of the Hussite Republic as being the friend of Bolshevik Russia. Thus Catholic Poland sided openly with Hitler in demanding the dismemberment of the Czech nation.
In such manner the tragedy was enacted. Hitler summoned the President of the Republic to Berlin, where he arrived on March 15, at one o'clock in the morning. He was ordered to sign away his country, with the alternative that, if he did not sign, seven hundred Nazi bombers would flatten Prague, the Czech capital, within four hours.
President Hacha signed, and the fate of the Czech Republic was sealed. The "twilight of liberty in Central Europe," as the New York Times said, had begun. Nazi troops occupied Prague and the rest of the country. Bohemia and Moravia became, in the language of Nazism, "Protectorates," whereat Catholic Slovakia was promoted to the status of an independent country as a reward for the help given to Hitler. The Czechoslovak Republic had ceased to exist.
Thus another stepping-stone towards the attainment of the Vatican's grand plan had been successfully laid down. A Republic whose internal policy allowed the spread of Bolshevism and did not allow a full Catholic State to take shape, a Republic that was friendly with Atheistic Soviet Russia, had disappeared. On its grave a new Catholic State was built entirely conforming to the principles expounded in the Papal Bull Quadragesimo Anno, and soon this State was incorporated in the fabric of the newly emerging Catholic Christian Fascist Europe.
Immediately after the birth of the new Catholic State of Slovakia, Mgr. Tiso, who had naturally become Premier, began to shape it according to the new totalitarian, anti-democratic, anti-secular and anti-Socialist principles preached by Mussolini, Hitler, and the Catholic Church.
At first consideration of Mgr. Tiso was to find a new motto for the new Catholic State. He decided—"For God and the Fatherland." Then he ordained a new coinage bearing the portraits of the great Slavonic saints Cyril and Methodius. He naturally exchanged official representatives with the Vatican. He passed laws against Communism, Socialism, Liberalism, Secularism, and the like, suppressing their papers and organizations. Free opinion, freedom of the Press, and freedom of speech alike disappeared. The State was reorganized on the Fascist model. Youth was regimented on the Hitler Youth plan and schools conformed to the principles of the Catholic Church. Even the storm-troops were copied from the Nazis, and a legion of Catholic volunteers was recruited and sent to fight side by side with the Nazi armies against Russia.
While occupied with all these activities, Mgr. Tiso and almost all the members of his Cabinet, together with many Members of Parliament, made a regular retreat of three full days each Lent. They frequented the services of the Church with the utmost zeal, and Mgr. Tiso himself never allowed the cares of his new office to interfere with his priestly duties. Every week, like Mgr. Seipel, he relinquished for a time the care of the State to act as the simple parish priest of the Banovce Parish.
The new social structure of the State, as already hinted, was based on the corporate system, as enunciated by the Popes. Trade unions were therefore abolished because, as Mgr. Tiso explained, "they came under the all-pervading influence of Liberalism and Individualism; to prevent these elements of decomposition from wreaking destruction we had to unify professional organizations and organize our whole country on a corporate basis, as taught by the Catholic Church" ( April 17, 1943). "Slovak workers may rest assured that they need not dream of a so-called Bolshevik Paradise, or expect a more just order from Eastern foreigners. The principles of religion will teach them what a just social order means."
Next in importance to the corporate system came the laws for the protection of the family, as taught by the doctrines of the Catholic Church and of Fascism. These were a replica of the Fascist laws, and everything was done to see that the family undertook the earliest teaching of religion, obedience, and Totalitarianism to the younger generation.
Then Tiso organized the Catholic Slovak youth on the model of the Nazi youth. He created the Hlinka Guards and the Hlinka Youth. In addition to this he organized the Slovak Labor Service copied from the Nazi model, and the Hlinka Slovak People's Party. All of these organizations were, of course, 100 per cent totalitarian, except that in certain matters there was a blend of Italian Fascism. In all other respects Nazi Fascism was the model adopted in Slovakia, and both were cemented by the spirit and the slogans of the Catholic Church.
In the programme of his Government Mgr. Tiso preached from Hitler's texts; he demanded discipline and blind obedience. He introduced religious instruction in the schools and granted privileges to the Church. Only those who showed themselves to be zealous Catholics could hope for employment in the State, the schools, and the Civil Service. All those who were suspected of Socialist or Communist sympathies were boycotted. Gradually the jails filled with political criminals.
Again in imitation of Hitler, Tiso created special political schools, in which the students were taught the fundamental principles of Catholic Totalitarianism. He imitiated the Nazis even in their persecution of the Jews. To certain Catholics who questioned the righteousness of this. Mgr. Tiso replied:—
As regards the Jewish question, people ask if what we do is Christian and humane. I ask that too; is it Christian if the Slovaks want to rid themselves of their eternal enemies the Jews? Love for oneself is God's command, and His love makes it imperative for me to remove anything harming me ( Tiso's speech, August 28, 1942).
Tiso made himself the head of the Slovak Army. Addressing young officers, he frequently repeated to them: "The Slovak nation wants to live its own life as a national and Catholic State." ( May 25, 1944).
Apart from the democracies, the main hatred of Mgr. Tiso and his Catholic State was, of course, directed against Liberalism, Socialism, and Bolshevism, and hence against Soviet Russia. He spared no effort to make the Slovak Catholics good Bolshevik haters. The Catholic clergy were entirely on his side and co-operated with him in raising the Slovak Catholic legions which were sent to the Eastern Front.
The Bolshevik plans for predominance make it clear that Slovaks must fight, not only for their own survival, but also for the salvation and protection of European culture and Christian civilization against the forces of Bolshevik barbarism and brutality ( May 25, 1944).
Apocalyptic Bolshevism unleashed by Capitalists is wreaking death and destruction. We Slovaks are Catholics and have always striven for the furtherance of the interests of man ( Tiso's Christmas message, 1944).
Not content with words, Tiso sent a legion to fight Bolshevism and more than once personally visited the legionaries on the Eastern Front ( November 6, 1941). He spoke against the Western Powers as the chief enemy that the Slovak had to fight: "We cannot doubt that Allied victory would mean for our people a most horrible defeat of our national ideals and deliver our people to the tyranny of the Bolsheviks. Slovakia will hold out on the side of the Tripartite Pact Power until the final victory" ( September 27, 1944).
The progress of the war, however, was not in accord with the wishes of Hitler and Mgr. Tiso. The Soviet armies invaded Germany as well as the territory of the former Czechoslovak Republic.
When in 1944, President Benes went to Moscow and signed a pact with Soviet Russia, Mgr. Tiso and the Catholic Slovaks screamed to Heaven of the monstrous crime of the "Hussite Benes" in selling the Slovaks to the "Godless Bolsheviks." Tiso was not alone: the Catholic bishops and clergy of the "Protectorates of Bohemia and Moravia" echoed his words. They preached against Benes and his Government, then in London. They actually went so far as to issue a pastoral letter directed against the Czech Government in London. The letter was never published, as by this time the Vatican was working hand in hand with the Allies, realizing that the defeat of Germany was certain. The advance of Soviet Russia also stirred the Vatican to a cautious supervision of the utterances of Catholics dwelling on the Russian border. The bishops received orders not "officially to compromise themselves." Thereupon the bishops issued stern warnings "telling people of the danger from the East." This was after Benes had signed the pact with Moscow.
Such was the new Catholic corporate State of Slovakia as desired by the Catholic Church. The structure did not last very long, for it crumbled with the defeat of Nazi military might. But the failure of the plan does not exonerate those religious and political institutions, or individual men, who had been responsible for the disappearance of the gallant Czech Republic. By their ambition to establish a totalitarian Fascist State they hastened the outbreak of the Second World War, the Slovak State having become the supporter and close partner of that Nazism which was to drench mankind in a sea of blood.
POLAND AND THE VATICAN
The Second World War broke out when Hitler attacked Poland on September 1, 1939, only a few months after Czechoslovakia had disappeared. Poland fought bravely but hopelessly against the armored divisions of Germany, and after about forty days she lost her independence to two powerful countries: Nazi Germany and Communist Russia. Throughout the Second World War Polish armies continued to fight Nazi Germany; while in the political field one disaster seemed to follow another in the internal as well as the external policy vis-à-vis several great Powers, especially Soviet Russia.
Poland, the classic martyr-nation of Europe, was following her unenviable past. But behind all her heroism in defending herself against Nazi Germany, and in her struggle for independence, the situation at the outbreak of the Second World War was not so simple as it appeared. Long-range political, racial, and religious interests were shaping the policy of Poland, which eventually made her the easy victim of Hitler's aggression. Only by glancing at the background against which Poland conducted her internal and external policy is it possible to understand, even superficially, the reasons for the disasters which overtook the nation.
Before proceeding farther we would like to stress the fact that this is not the place to enter into the complex social, racial, territorial, and political causes which moulded Poland, especially in the period between the two world wars. We can only try to examine the Polish tragedy in that aspect of it which interests us here—namely, the religious. And, naturally, the Vatican enters the picture, for it must be remembered that Poland is an extremely Catholic country. In fact, one might even say that, in its blind fanaticism and piety, Poland, as a nation, is the most Catholic country in the whole of Europe.
In Northern Europe, for centuries, one country alone remained loyal to the Vatican—Catholic Poland. And from the time when her French King returned to France ( 1754), "taking with him the crown diamonds and leaving behind him the Jesuits," as Michelet says so picturesquely, Poland has remained a bulwark of Catholicism.
It has been said with reason that Catholic Poland was in the past the Ireland of Northern Europe. She resisted the brutal oppression of the Russian Czar and his attempts to eradicate the people's love for their nation and their religion. Owing to her loss of national liberty, and to many other factors, Poland, on the eve of the First World War, was still a very backward country in all fields of human endeavor. All through this period, and in spite of persistent and cruel persecution, the Catholic Church was the dominant factor in the country. The Polish workers were the poorest paid and the worst- housed workers in the whole of Europe (see Spivak, Europe Under Terror).
Poland's second characteristic was her piety. The Poles, in fact, were so intensely religious that their display of piety in the streets of their towns was greater than could be found even in the most backward villages of Chile and Peru (see Revue des deux Mondes, FEBRUARY 1, 1933). This latter characteristic of the Poles would not have been mentioned here if it stopped at that: we relate it in order to show how great must have been the influence of the Catholic Church over the population. Such piety was not found in any lesser degree amongst the upper classes, who, since Poland recovered her political independence, have been the most devout followers of the Vatican in social as well as in political matters.
This was because the Polish upper classes consisted of the most reactionary elements (chiefly great landowners) to be found in that part of Europe. The interests of these reactionary sections were, of course, parallel to those of the Catholic Church. Their policy hung on one main hinge: intense hatred of Russia as a country and even more intense hatred of Russia as the centre of Bolshevism. In this the Polish reactionary elements and the Catholic Church were in complete accord. The Poles, therefore, as Poles and as Catholics shaped their policy on the persistent boycott of Soviet Russia, and although, as an independent nation, she had reason to fear a reawakened Germany, Poland nevertheless concentrated all her hatred on her other neighbor.
To carry out their mutual policy, the Catholic Poles and the Vatican had first to strengthen their position inside the country. For inside Poland there were problems to settle which, on a small scale, were the same great problems which Catholic Poland and, above all, the Vatican wanted to solve on the stage of European politics. This internal policy was that of maintaining the status quo of the rich landowners and the aristocracy in the social sphere, of "Polonizing" all foreign elements, and of converting to Catholicism all who did not belong to the true religion. The practical aims of this policy were to prevent the spread of Socialism and Communism and, if possible, to crush them both, to oppress all minorities, especially the Ukrainians, and make them all "Poles," at the same time eradicating the Orthodox religion and substituting for it the Catholic.
So far as the internal affairs of Poland were concerned, the Vatican, although having the same aims, had vaster goals, which it planned to achieve with the aid of Catholic Poland, one of its many partners. It planned to destroy the Atheist country of Soviet Russia, also to wipe out the Orthodox religion and supplant it by Catholicism. We shall see how the Vatican tried to carry out these plans with Lenin after the Russian Revolution—plans which were further enhanced by the desires of the Polish Nationalists, who were never tired of dreaming of territorial expansion at the expense of Soviet Russia. This dream had begun immediately after Poland was resurrected by the Treaty of Versailles, and in such a desire Poland had several allies who, like her, intensely hated Bolshevism.
Paderewski was sent to France, and with very little persuasion he induced the French to strengthen the enemy of Bolshevism— namely, the new Poland—by detaching two large provinces from Russia and giving them to Poland, and at the same time to weaken Germany by taking from her a slice of Silesia through a fraudulent plebiscite.
It is interesting that the Catholic Poles, who for centuries had been subjected to foreign servitude, once free, adopted the most undemocratic methods to satisfy their nationalistic as well as their religious aspirations. In the case of Silesia, part of that region was so essentially German that even those responsible for the Treaty of Versailles hesitated to give it to Poland: they decided that a plebiscite should be held. French and Italian troops were sent to the province to safeguard the liberty of the voters. But the Poles, and particularly the Catholic Hierarchy, began a most violent and widespread campaign of intimidation comparable only to that used later by Fascism and Nazism in their "free plebiscites." (See the French Catholic writer, René Martel, in La France et la Pologne.) It is significant that at the head of this campaign of political terror there was a Catholic High Prelate, the Bishop of Posen. The Poles got what they wanted most—namely, five-sixths of the mines and several large towns which had voted for Germany. But that was not all. After having incorporated two provinces into their territory, they dreamed of something else—the extension of their boundaries at the expense of Soviet Russia.
Of course, the Poles were not alone in desiring the destruction of Bolshevism. Far from it. Powerful forces in the West had decided to annihilate the Reds by force of arms. The victorious Allies, in fact, went so far as to organize a military expedition in alliance with the White Russians in order to bring about the downfall of the Bolshevik régime. In this first anti-Red crusade the most enthusiastic who joined the venture were the Poles. It should be remembered that at that time the representative of the Vatican in Warsaw was Mgr. Ratti, the great enemy of Communism, who was later elected Pope Pius XI.
Pilsudski, in course of time, was swept back to the very gates of Warsaw under the impact of the Red armies, while (what must have seemed very strange to the super-Catholic Poles) the Pope was courting Lenin. This courting, however, having failed, the Vatican's hopes of furthering its plans in Soviet Russia went wrong. By 1925 the Soviet Government had forbidden the Vatican representative to enter the country. It was from then onwards that the real Catholic campaign against "Soviet Atrocities against Religion" began to flood the whole world. This campaign was substantiated by the fact that many Catholic priests were imprisoned and shot; but what Catholic propaganda never told was that practically all of them were sentenced, not because of their religious faith, but because they were political agents of the Polish Government, which never ceased to plot against its "Atheistic neighbor." From that period the hatred of Soviet Russia, aroused by historical, national, and racial causes, was infinitely magnified by the religious incentive.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Poles, having been hampered in their plan to destroy the Soviet Union, began to exterminate all those elements inside the new Poland which might have the same ideas as the Reds. Democracy, Liberalism, Socialism, and Communism were all loathed by the Poles and the Church. Polish Socialists, during the first years of the Republic, were outraged at the tyrannical behaviour of the Government, and especially at the crimes against the minorities and at the religious persecution begun by the Catholic reactionaries. In 1923, after a large crowd had gathered before the Greek Cathedral at Leopol in protest against religious persecution, Polish troops dispersed them with rifles and swords. The Socialist representatives in Parliament were so indignant about this outrage that they vociferously protested at the Sejm and Senate.
Both Catholic reactionaries and the Catholic Church grew alarmed lest their plans should go wrong because of the Socialist interference. Means of preventing this were studied by both, and one day Pilsudski, with the warmest support of the Vatican and the Polish Hierarchy, extinguished parliamentary government, imprisoned the Socialists, destroyed any vestige of democracy or freedom, and set himself up as a dictator. Thus Catholic Poland was one of the first countries in Europe, after the First World War, to become a dictatorship. From that time the great plans of the nationalist and reactionary Catholic Poles and the Catholic Church advanced rapidly.
We have already said that after the First World War Poland cut off large slices of Russia as well as Germany, to which in all justice she had no right. In these lands were large populations which were anything but Polish. There were over 1,000,000 Germans (almost all Protestants), and between 7,000,000 and 8,000,000 White Russians and Ukrainians, of which about half belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church. There were also about 1,000,000 Catholic Poles, 1,000,000 Jews, 4,000,000 Greek Uniates (who, although practising Greek rites, acknowledge the Pope), and over 4,000,000 anti-Papal Orthodox Catholics.
Before and after the annexation of these territories (which Russia was later to take back from Poland during the Second World War) the Poles gave solemn pledges to the Great Powers that they would respect the racial, social, political, and religious rights of these minorities. But from the very beginning the Catholic Poles carried out a ruthless double campaign, sponsored by intense nationalism and religious fanaticism, to "Polonize" the Ukrainians completely and to destroy the Orthodox Church. They began to take away from the Ukrainians their liberties, one by one, with brutal force; they tried to suppress their national habits and institutions, and even their language. Parallel with this, they tried to convert them to the "only and true religion of God." The Vatican instructed the Polish Hierarchy and the ultra-Catholic Polish Government that the "conversion" should be brought about, not so much by pressing it on the peasants, but by "eliminating" the clergy of the Orthodox Church. In a comparatively short time more than one thousand Orthodox priests had been arrested; in one jail alone 200 of them were crowded with 2,000 political prisoners (mostly democrats and Socialists ) .
The jailers received special instructions to maltreat the clergy. There were thousands of executions amongst the Ukrainians. "Whole villages were depopulated by massacre." (See Les Atrocités Polonaises en Galicie Ukrainienne, by V. Tennytski and J. Bouratch). The Catholic Church approved. Indeed, one of its high dignitaries, a bishop, was appointed to the Council set up to accomplish this plan. In 1930 there were over 200,000 Ukrainians in jail. The most appalling tortures were employed by the Catholic Poles: tortures which would be not an iota less compared with those that occurred in Nazi concentration camps later on. When a military expedition was sent to punish the "rebel Ukrainians," Catholic priests accompanied every regiment of Polish soldiers, who, while being very pious, hearing Mass regularly, going to church frequently, and carrying holy images with them, did not hesitate to commit the hideous crimes of torturing and raping, of burning Orthodox churches and executing thousands upon thousands. "Most of the Greek churches are plundered by Polish soldiers and used as stables for their horses, and even as latrines." (See Atrocities in the Ukraine, edited by Emil Revyuk).
These facts may be new to most readers and may cause them to raise their eyebrows. But in addition to many impartial documentary books there is also the testimony of well-known newspapers which related these horrors and persecutions, such as the Manchester Guardian, Chicago Daily News, New York Herald Tribune, as well as the impartial book written by a French Catholic, already quoted: La France et la Pologne ( 1931) by René Martel.
This persecution lasted for over fifteen years, and began to be relaxed only when Nazi Germany showed her aggressive intentions in Europe.
At this point it should be noted that the Polish Government accused the Ukrainians of being "rebels." This is important in studying the religious side of the issue, in so far as these minorities were considered "rebels" not only because they refused to surrender their national institutions, but, above all, because they refused to abandon their Orthodox faith, the Polish Catholic authorities, and behind them the Vatican, pressing for the surrender of their religion more bitterly than the political and nationalistic forces had ever done.
The Polish bishops were the leaders of this religious persecution, and Polish lay Catholics and Catholic institutions organized campaigns and raised funds in order that it might be carried out as thoroughly as possible. In addition to this, dozens of official visitors from the Vatican came regularly to Poland to examine the progress made; ecclesiastical inspectors were constantly going to and coming from Rome, carrying full reports and statistics of the campaign. The Papal Nuncio in Warsaw, who was there from the very beginning, was closely connected with the Polish Hierarchy and worked hand in hand with it, besides being in close touch with certain Catholic French generals, particularly with General Weygand, who fought against Bolshevism for the Poles. We shall have occasion to mention him again, when dealing with France.
We have pictured the background of Polish political and religious activities in order to emphasize points which bear a close relation to the international events leading to the outbreak of the Second World War, especially with regard to the Vatican, which launched a persistent campaign against Atheist Russia and Communism in general, flooding the world with innumerable stories of cruelty, horrors, and injustices perpetrated against religion, the object being to arouse the deep hatred of countries, especially Catholic countries, the world over against a régime which did not allow religious liberty. This was done while the Vatican knew what was going on in Poland; indeed, while the Vatican was the main agent behind all the religious persecution in that country.
To every impartial observer of her foreign policy, Poland's position during the period between the two world wars was a very delicate one; in fact, so delicate that the object of her politicians should have been only to pursue a policy which would be in the interests of their country—a policy uninfluenced by any ideological or religious hatreds.
When Nazism came to power, and when it was made obvious, by a colossal building up of military machinery, what the Nazis' intentions were, it should have been the concern of Poland to make a close ally of Russia, for, owing to Poland's geographical position only Russia would have been able to give her immediate help had she been attacked. Poland instead, pursued the entirely opposite policy of continued intense hatred towards Russia and always closer friendship with Nazism.
It is true that, in the first years of Nazism, Poland was the first country to ask France to intervene against Hitler on the occupation of the Rhineland. That was understandable, for Poland was a young nation who feared that Germany might renew claims upon her. But, after that, Poland hitched herself to Hitler's chariot. In internal affairs she became more and more Fascist and totalitarian in the strictest sense of the word, whilst in the foreign field she became a faithful ally of Nazi Germany. Indeed, she even helped Germany to carry out her aggression against Czechoslovakia. Not only did she support Nazi Germany throughout that crisis, but joined her voice with Hitler's, and was one of the first nations to ask for a share of the Czechoslovak kill.
Even before Munich, Poland had become a real Nazi Germany in miniature. Besides following Hitler in his raping, she began to shout and agitate the sabre, in true Hitlerian fashion, repeating the very slogans of the Nazis. She began to talk of lebensraum for Poles, first in Europe and then in Africa; she wanted colonies, she said, and if colonies were not given to her, she would get them all the same. Hitler, at that time, was shouting exactly the same words, and when Poland proclaimed that she would get colonies, she meant, of course, that she would get them after they had been conquered by Hitler. She sneered openly at democracy, and even menaced Soviet Russia on many occasions, hinting that in Russia, too, there was enough lebensraum for the surplus Poles and enough raw material for her industries.
In short, and as the Polish Foreign Minister said later, the Poles had struck a real alliance with Nazi Germany ( Colonel Beck, January 1940). Whence had the inspiration come? In the internal field, from the causes already shown; in the international sphere, from the Western Powers and from the Vatican, all of whom hoped that Hitler might turn against Russia.
We have already related the events preliminary to the break of the Second World War, with particular regard to the situation of the Vatican, Hitler, and Poland, the agreement reached by Pius XII and Hitler about the temporary character of the German occupation of that country, the grandiose plan which lay behind it all, and the grand strategy of the Vatican, having for its main goal the attack on Soviet Russia, in which Poland was seen as an instrument conducive to this ultimate goal. As we shall come across the subject when dealing with France and the Vatican, we shall content ourselves here with quoting the words of a man who knew, perhaps, more than any other the extent of the Vatican's responsibility for the Polish tragedy—namely, Poland's Foreign Secretary, Colonel Beck, at one time a great friend of Goering and Hitler, who led Polish foreign policy in the wake of Nazism in the years before the war. After Germany and Russia had occupied his country, and Colonel Beck had to flee abroad, disillusioned and ill, he uttered the following significant words, which put in a nutshell the part played by the Catholic Church in steering the policy of that nation:—
One of those mainly responsible for the tragedy of my country is the Vatican. Too late do I realize we have pursued a foreign policy for the Catholic Church's own ends. We should have followed a policy of friendship with Soviet Russia, and not one of support of Hitler. (Excerpt from a letter addressed to Mussolini by the Fascist Ambassador in Bucharest ( February 1940), who stated he was one of those to whom Colonel Beck spoke.)
Could there be a more striking indictment of the interference of the Catholic Church in the life of a modern nation? Yet those individuals and parties who, after Poland's occupation, formed a Polish Government in London, owing to a sum of racial, social, political, and religious factors, continued to behave exactly as their predecessors had behaved, so far as their relations with the Vatican and Soviet Russia, now Poland's ally, were concerned. From 1940 until the very end of the war, in 1945, interminable intrigues with the Vatican and the Allies continued to be spun in London by the exiled Poles, who, while directing their main efforts to expelling the Nazis from Polish territory and raising armies to fight side by side with those of the Western Powers, never lost an opportunity to antagonize Soviet Russia. This policy culminated in the pitiful and tragic rising of Warsaw in 1944, when thousands of lives were sacrificed uselessly. The rising had been planned in order to prevent the Soviets, who were approaching the capital, from occupying it. The Catholic Poles thought that thus they would have the right to reject "any political interference from the Russians."
At the beginning of 1945 Poland had her "fifth partition," as it was called, by which a certain portion of the former Poland was handed back to Russia. It is not for us to pass judgment on whether this partition was right or wrong, or on whether or not a victorious Soviet Russia imitated Hitler in dealing with smaller neighbors. The fact remains that Poland, after twenty years of relentless hostility, could not expect her Eastern neighbors—mainly thanks to whose exertions Poland was freed—not to take precautions to ensure that the past would not be repeated.
The disavowal, by Moscow, of the exiled Polish Government in London, and the formation of a new Left-Wing Government in battered Poland in the spring of 1945, were more than moves by Soviet Russia to ensure the future. Although meant to hamper the efforts of the reactionary elements which had ruled Poland between the two world wars, they were directed mainly against the great rival, the Vatican. For Moscow, as well as the Vatican, knows very well that, in the future, Poland is bound to become once again an instrument in the hands of whoever controls its domestic and foreign policy, to be employed in a wider battle whose prize is the conquest, not of a single country, but of a whole continent.
BELGIUM AND THE VATICAN
When, in the spring of 1940, Nazi Germany turned away from the East in order to destroy the military power of the Western Allies, the small countries lying between her and France—namely, Denmark, Holland, and Belgium—were overrun and occupied.
We shall not deal with Denmark, whose Catholic population is minute; nor with Holland, which cannot be considered a Catholic country, for, although one-third of her population is Catholic, such a minority at this time did not exert a great influence. It suffices to state that the Dutch Catholics, although they produced certain pro-Nazi elements, behaved on the whole as did the majority of the Dutch population, the Hierarchy adopting a policy of obedience to Nazi authorities, but expressing neither condemnation nor support of their actions. Occasional protests were raised only when certain laws, such as that enforcing labor recruitment, endangered the morals and faith of the Catholic workers or violated the principles of the Church; or when the Nazi régime dissolved Catholic associations, reduced the subsidies of Catholic schools, commandeered ecclesiastical buildings, suppressed Catholic newspapers, banned public collections, reduced the salaries of re -ligious teachers, or adopted a system of centralization as regards workers and youth, and so on.
On the other hand, although it is true that the Catholic Hierarchy gave in general neither support nor condemnation to the Nazis, it co-operated whole-heartedly with them in destroying the Socialists and Communists. As when, for instance, on January 27, 1941, it forbade any Catholic to become or remain a member of the Communist Party, the disobedient being threatened with excommunication.
Lack of space forbids any detailed relation of the part played by the Catholic Church in Holland. We must pass on to Belgium, for in that country the Catholic Church played an important part in shaping social, political, and even military events up to the time of occupation by the Nazis. While surveying the part played by the Church there, the reader should remember that Belgium, like other countries, was but a part of the Vatican's vast plan for establishing Totalitarianism wherever possible. As we have already seen, the Vatican worked on two planes. First, it tried to create totalitarian political movements within the selected country, taking advantage of economic, political, social, or racial characteristics of general or local origin. Secondly, in the case of small countries, they were gradually trained for enticement into the orbit of Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy.
Before proceeding farther, let us glance briefly at the position of the Belgian Catholic Church, for thus will be explained the influence exercised by the Church, not only over matters purely religious, but extending to the social and political field.
Practically the whole population of Belgium is, nominally at least, Catholic. The Catholic Church as a religious, social, and political institution is, perhaps, the most influential organization in the country. As evidence of the overwhelming numerical superiority of the Catholics over the adherents of other Churches it is sufficient to quote the following figures illustrating the proportion of clergy serving the various religious denominations in Belgium in the year 1937: The Roman Catholic Church possessed 6,474 priests; the ministers of Protestant denominations numbered 32; Rabbis of the Jewish faith numbered 17; and the Anglican Church was represented by 9 clergy. Of all Catholic countries, Belgium had relatively the greatest number of convents, and the number of Belgian nuns approached 7,000.
The Belgian Constitution guaranteed religious freedom, and no subject was compelled to take part in religious observances. Every creed enjoyed complete liberty. The State disclaimed any right to intervene in ecclesiastical matters and was not concerned in the appointment of Church dignitaries or of authorities in the universities.
This degree of religious liberty in a country overwhelmingly Catholic resulted from compromise between the Catholics and the Liberals. The struggle between the Catholic Church and the Liberals had formerly been as fierce as in other countries, but the Church was compelled to compromise. She well knew that the liberty granted to her by the State would compensate for any loss involved in such compromise. Through a network of institutions—educational, social, political, and charitable—the Church was able to influence the life of the nation. These channels of influence widened yearly, thanks to the principles of freedom of association, of education, and of the Press. This mutual tolerance between Church and State enabled Belgium to maintain close diplomatic relations with the Holy See.
Ever since Belgium became independent, the education of Belgian youth had been a subject of bitter controversy between the Church and the champions of the secular State education system. La Lutte Scolaire, as it had come to be known, the struggle for the control of youth, was still unresolved in principle in May 1940, although some degree of compromise had been reached in practice. The Constitution provided that education should be free and that the cost of maintaining schools should be borne by the State. But the principle of liberty in education permitted the foundation of schools by private organizations and individuals, and the Catholic Church in particular made use of this privilege. Whether the State should be responsible for the cost of education in schools thus privately established was the next question to arise and for a long time caused bitter dispute. The Catholic Church claimed that the State should provide a part of the funds necessary to support her schools.
Religious instruction in the schools likewise produced a difficult issue. In their own schools Catholics could, of course, ensure that their children were educated in accordance with Catholic principles. In schools controlled by public authorities, the Liberals, and later the Socialists, maintained that education should be placed on a purely secular basis. They considered that religious instruction should be given outside school hours and only with the parents' consent. The Church fought these contentions with the utmost ferocity, claiming that Catholic teaching should be given in all schools and at the State's expense. All children should be brought up as Catholics, irrespective of their parents' wishes.
To demonstrate the intolerant spirit animating the Catholic Church, even in a State where superficially it seemed that an understanding with the Church had been reached, two small but significant illustrations may be given. The State, being truly democratic and Liberal, had enacted that Catholic instruction should be imparted in those schools where Catholic scholars formed the majority. This especially affected Communal schools. But when the State applied a corresponding rule to communal schools where Catholics were in a minority, that religious instruction inapplicable to the majority should not be given, the Church protested vigorously and accused the State of intolerance and hostility to the Church.
As in many other countries, so also in Belgium, a fierce antagonism persisted between the Church and such progressive parties as the Liberals and the Socialists. The Church consistently opposed anything tending to secularize the State and the national life. Without recapitulating the motives which urged the Church to fight against the secular State and Liberalism, it suffices to say that the Church in Belgium conducted the same campaign as she had done in Italy, Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and elsewhere. During the first fifty years of independence the fight was directed against the Liberals, and the influence of the Church on education and on the political life of the country was the main cause of strife. The Catholics, of course, supported the Church, while the Liberals and Progressives advocated a secular State.
From 1884 to 1914, owing to various circumstances and social as well as economic and political events, the Catholics governed the country alone. After the First World War the Catholics and the Socialists, who meantime had grown enormously in number and power, possessed equal strength, but the Liberals gradually lost ground, with the result that the Catholic Party and the Catholic working-class movement entered upon their inevitable struggle with the Socialists. This struggle was based mainly on social questions.
In 1925 the first two Communists were elected to the Chamber. In Belgium, as elsewhere, Socialist and Communist movements were increasingly gaining ground, to the dismay of those sections of Belgian society which had reason to fear them. These sections, of course, found a close ally in the Catholic Church, with whose concurrence a fight against the Socialists was initiated. This fight assumed various forms and experienced various fortunes, the description of which lies beyond the scope of this book. It suffices to say that Hitler's accession to power in 1933 afforded encouragement to the Belgian reactionary forces and stimulated them towards a successful resistance of their enemies.
Only two years after the rise to power of Nazism, a Fascist movement appeared in Belgium. This Fascist—or rather Nazi—movement adopted the programme, ideas, and slogans of Hitler and Mussolini, modified to the special requirements of Belgian nationality. The party and its leader declared themselves allies of Hitler and Mussolini and backed their interference in the internal affairs of Belgium.
From what springs did the New Belgian Fascism flow? Who were the chief instigators of this anti-democratic force?
Its instigators were fervent adherents of the Catholic Church, and in their special spheres were indeed the outstanding figures of Catholicism. The leader of this faction was the director of the most important Catholic publishing firm, and the institution on which the movement depended for support was the Catholic Church. The movement and its leaders boasted the support of the influential Catholic section of Belgium and its close allies, the industrial, financial, and social reactionary elements throughout the country.
The Belgian Fascist Party, created in 1935, was led by a group of young Catholics, of whom the chieftain was Degrelle, the director of the Catholic publishing firm "Rex" (the abbreviated form of Christus Rex). Degrelle started his career as a propagandist of the Catholic Party, his chief mission being to flood Belgium with Catholic religious publications. The soul of the Child in Catholicism and miracles of all kinds, especially the apparition of the Virgin at Beauraing, formed his chief subject-matter. When the new party was founded, these young Catholics opened a campaign on two fronts. First, their animosity was directed against the high financial and industrial section of the Catholic Party and the undue influence of high finance within it. Secondly, they made a formal declaration of war against anything that savored of democracy or Socialism, and against all elements hostile to the Catholic Church. These campaigns were mainly directed against the Socialists, the Communists, the secular State, and, significantly enough, against that solid, stable, and influential section of Catholic Belgium— namely, the leaders themselves of the Catholic Party. Does not the situation strike the reader as very similar to that which had been created in other countries? And does not the creation of the Catholic Fascist Party strike one as in perfect accordance with the general policy of the Church at that time? This policy, it is suggested, involved the supplanting of the old Catholic Party or even its complete destruction; in its place was to be substituted a party new, vigorous, and unscrupulous. All this happened at a time when the Socialists and especially the Communists in Belgium were increasing in number and power. As a consequence the middle class, which in other countries formed the backbone of Fascism and Nazism, was becoming restless and demanding strong measures. In short, the Church chose the right time for launching yet another Fascist party. The move was most cleverly timed from another point of view. Serious scandals had occurred among the Catholics exercising the greatest influence, causing the middle and lower middle classes to rebel against this state of affairs. The Catholic Party had, in fact, been accused by Catholics as well as non-Catholics of gross misdeeds, in that the Church "had embarked upon sordid speculations" so as to "increase its strength and enrich some of its members" ( Revue de Deux Mondes, JUNE 15, 1936). Owing to these considerations, the Catholic Fascist Party had every advantage leading to success, with or without the support of the old Catholic Party. Thus the Fascist Degrelle, leaving Catholics of the old stamp in the lurch, ensured the advancement of his own faction. At the election of 1936 the new Fascist Party, now designated Rexism, secured twenty-one seats in the Chamber—a very good start. The Communists advanced from two seats, in 1925, to nine seats. The new Fascist Party, however, although indirectly supported by the Vatican, became too violent and exceeded the instructions of Rome as regards its relationship with the old Catholic Party. Degrelle was too enthusiastic and inexperienced. Rexism was next in collusion with Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, and the popularity of the movement began to wane. The old Catholic Party in Belgium gave the Vatican to understand that they were too influential in the life of the country to be thus cavalierly treated. They asked that the Church should repudiate Rexism as it was then constituted. They assured the Vatican that, exercising due precaution, they would themselves in time ensure the "liquidation" of Socialism and Communism. An important test case was fought in 1937, when Brussels elected to send Degrelle himself to the polls in opposition to Mr. Van Zealand, an independent Catholic, then Prime Minister. Degrelle had the support of the Rexists and the Catholic Flemish Nationalists. The Catholic Church took this occasion to repudiate the doctrine of Rexism as being "incompatible with good Catholicism." The result of the election was the polling by Degrelle of 69,000 votes only, against the 275,000 votes for his opponent. The old Catholic Party had scored a success with the Vatican, but Rexism survived, using all the slogans and methods of Fascism and Nazism with varying fortunes. Since the Vatican had given it the cold shoulder and, above all, being opposed by the influential rich Catholics, it could not force Degrelle on the Catholic population. Accordingly, in 1939, Rexism lost almost all its seats in Parliament, registering only four. Then war broke out, and the same intrigues as had been woven between the reactionary section of France, the Vatican, and Hitler were repeated in Belgium. That is to say, an influential Catholic section in Belgium, composed mainly of industrialists and financiers, sought to keep Belgium neutral and even to come to terms with Hitler. The Vatican was at the bottom of all these plans and negotiations. Of course, the Vatican was not the only interested party; powerful interests, social, economic, and financial, were at work, in close connection with their counterparts in France. We shall enter into greater detail when dealing with France. It is sufficient here to record that a French general of Belgian origin and devoutly Catholic was implicated in these various proceedings and was a link between the Belgian and French sections desiring to "come to terms with Hitler." His name was General Weygand. The Papal representative in Belgium was in intimate contact with various influential persons in the King's entourage. He was also in contact, significantly enough, with those Flemish Catholic Nationalists who, claiming independence, saw in Hitler's intervention a God-sent opportunity for creating a new Flemish Catholic State. These Flemish Catholics desired separation on racial and historic grounds, but it is noteworthy that they were most fervent Catholics and their main objective was the creation of an authoritarian State. This State was to be founded on Nazism and the Fascist Corporate System. In the years preceding 1940 the Flemish Nationalists had changed the form of their party. The Front Party had given way to the Vlaamsch National Verbond, an organization on an authoritarian basis. After the invasion of Poland the parlous position of Belgium as vis-à-vis Germany was clear enough. Nevertheless, the intrigues continued and reached such a stage that King Leopold and his advisers refused to join the French and British experts in devising plans until it was too late. In acting thus, King Leopold neglected the advice of his military leaders. This delay was due to the fact that the Belgian Catholics, or rather the few concerned in these intrigues, were aware of the Vatican's plan regarding Poland, Belgium, and France. They knew, to speak more accurately, that the Vatican had promised Hitler the support of the Catholic Church in the West in return for his promised attack on the great Bolshevik enemy. Hitler, in turn, promised to respect the Church wherever his armies "were forced to go." He would "crush all the Socialists and Communists," and when once that was done "he would turn East." King Leopold was well known to be under the influence of the clergy and, not possessing great political acumen, he may or may not have known what his actions portended. Besides the decision of the King, the onus in this matter falls particularly on two men, and these two men were the Papal Delegate in Belgium and the Belgian Primate. They conducted secret negotiations with several prominent Catholic industrialists and politicians and more than once had private audience with King Leopold. King Leopold and his entourage were also under pressure from the Fascist Government in Rome, which had been charged by Hitler to persuade the King to follow a certain line. This side of the negotiations was conducted through the House of Savoy, in the person of the wife of the Italian Crown Prince, Umberto, who was King Leopold's sister. This colossal plan will be considered in greater detail in the next chapter. It suffices to say here that Belgium was a part of the France-Vatican-Hitlerite plan, with which the small Catholic industrialist clique, the King, and others, consented to work in harmony. As already suggested, the King, in accordance with this scheme, prevented the Allies from preparing their plans. Consequently, when Hitler invaded Belgium his armies reached the sea, and King Leopold was advised by his Catholic counsellors, including the Papal Delegate and the Belgian Primate, to surrender. This course was contrary to the opinion and the will of the Government, which refused to surrender; so Catholic Leopold, flouting the Constitution which he had sworn to respect, personally surrendered the Belgian Army to the Nazis. King Leopold later stated that he had sent due warning to the Allies. It is certain that they never received this warning and were confronted by the gravest danger. Immediately after the surrender, and before the country had been informed, Cardinal van Roey had an extremely private interview with the King, lasting for more than an hour and a half. It should be noted that the King, in spite of pressing military problems, had previously had a private meeting with the Papal Nuncio. The surrender immediately followed this meeting.
Of what transpired at the meeting of the King and Cardinal van Roey we know nothing, except that the Cardinal discussed what message should be given, and how it should be given, to the Belgian people, most of whom wished to continue the struggle. The King had surrendered unwillingly, as he wished to be in accord with his Government. After the surrender he was apprehensive of the judgment of his people, but the Cardinal undertook to defend his action to the Belgians.
It was in these circumstances, and employing Cardinal van Roey as his mouthpiece, that the King announced the capitulation of May 28, 1940, to his people. He further published the text of his letters addressed to President Roosevelt and—significantly enough—to the Pope. Belgium had become an occupied country and a satellite of the Nazi New Order.
The outstanding characteristics of occupied Belgium were twofold. First, Liberalism, Socialism, Communism, and all democratic insti tutions, being inimical to the Catholic Church and incidentally to Nazism, were destroyed or otherwise thoroughly overhauled. Secondly, the organizations of the Catholic Church enjoyed unexampled freedom and the Church exercised unsurpassed influence in the country, thanks to the power granted to her by the Nazis themselves.
All political parties were dissolved except two, the ultra-Catholic Fascist Rexists and the ultra-Catholic Flemish Nationalist Party. The Socialist and Communist papers were suppressed or changed hands. Only Catholic papers were allowed to be published and, except for military censorship, to circulate freely.
All other activities and organizations—economic, social, cultural, or political—were either suppressed, hampered, or handed over to the Belgian Fascists or the Nazis. Only Catholic institutions, societies, and activities were left free. The only authorities to maintain their power and prestige, or rather to acquire more of both, were the Catholic clergy. And last but not least, the Cardinal became the most powerful political personage in the country.
We have seen that Hitler disliked Catholicism and the Vatican, only bargaining with them when he had something important to gain. How, then, can anyone explain the fact that his first proceeding in Belgium was to make the Catholic Fascist parties and the Catholic Church all-powerful?
This state of affairs continued for a considerable time after the occupation. Of all institutions, the Catholic Church longest escaped German oppression and suffered least from the occupation. Catholic social organizations, unlike those of Socialistic and other non- Catholic origin, continued their work as before. The Catholic Youth organization, the Catholic Boy Scouts, the Peasants' Guilds, and the Women's organizations, not only remained unmolested, but flourished more than ever before, owing to the protection of the Germans and the all-powerful Higher Clergy. The Catholic Party and the Catholic trade unions were, however, "suspended" in accordance with the instructions of the Vatican and of Hitler. The Nazi New Order required a new Catholic party and Rexism supplied the need, and the Corporate System, among others, supplanted the Catholic trade unions.
Although the University of Brussels was closed, the University of
Louvain, controlled by the Vatican, remained open, and students from all over Belgium were asked to go there.
The great majority of the Belgians were, to say the least, critical of the King's action, and to a great extent this criticism included the Church. The Cardinal and his bishops thereupon instituted a campaign to convince the Belgian people of the wisdom of the King's action, hoping to secure a continuance of their loyalty to the Throne. Loyalty to the King became a primary consideration with the Belgian bishops, and was repeatedly stressed in their pastoral letters.
The Cardinal and bishops never spoke adversely of Fascism and Nazism, and when they referred to totalitarian régimes their criticism was confined to matters in which "the authoritarian State might endanger the Catholic Church." Nevertheless, they urged the Belgians to submit to Nazism. In unmistakable terms they told them to accept it, and to co-operate with the Nazis: "In the present circumstances they should recognize the de facto authority of the occupying Power and obey it so far as International Law required" (first collective Pastoral Letter of the Belgian Bishops, October 7, 1940). Then, as the fortune of war went against the Nazis and their victory looked less assured, and still more after the liberation of Belgium, the Belgian Hierarchy began to boast of the protests they had presented to the Nazis.
But what, in truth, had happened? It is true that the bishops and the Cardinal, after two or three years of occupation, had made protests to the Nazis, but what had been the basis of these protests? Was the inhumanity of Nazism, and the bath of blood in which Germany was continuing to plunge the world, the subject of their protests? By no means. They protested because the Nazis compelled the Belgian miners to work on Sundays. This was the first of a series of protests, and it is significant. It occurred on April 9, 1942. Van Roey and the bishops, writing to Von Falkenhausen on May 1, 1942, denounced this imposition as being contrary to Article 46 of The Hague Convention, which obliges an occupying Power to respect "the religious convictions and practice" of the occupied country. Von Falkenhausen, the Nazi Commander, concluded his reply with the significant words: "Finally, I tender my most heartfelt thanks to your Eminence for the solicitude you have been good enough to show for the interest which I represent."
Another main ground of complaint by the Cardinal and bishops consisted in the removal of church bells by the Nazis, the prohibition of the practice of taking a collection on behalf of the Church at funerals, and other like matters.
Meanwhile the various Fascist Catholic groups were organizing an anti-Bolshevik campaign and recruiting anti-Communist legions, destined to fight Russia. It is noteworthy that almost all such volunteers were fervent Catholics. The most notorious unit was the Flemish Anti-Bolshevik Legion, which was incorporated in the S.S. Legion in Flanders. Degrelle himself went to Russia as a private soldier.
The Rexist Party, however, encountered hostility and unpopularity and shrank almost to nothing. Many Catholics were strongly opposed to it, and this gave occasion to an unpleasant episode within the Catholic ranks. This little incident is worth relating. Degrelle, while at Bouillon, assaulted the local dean and locked him up in a cellar, whence he was rescued by German soldiers. For this offence he was excommunicated by the Bishop of Namur, and in November he was sent back to the Eastern Front.
But the excommunication of the leader of one of the Catholic parties was not approved by the Vatican, and so, by one of those moves so typical of the Catholic Church, Degrelle was granted absolution and was enabled to re-enter the Catholic Church. This was engineered through a German priest while Degrelle was on the Eastern Front, and the Bishop of Namur, who had issued the excommunication, was forced to acknowledge its nullification by decree in December 1943, although it was in strict accord with Canon Law, which rules that any Catholic laying violent hands on a priest is ipso facto excommunicated.
But, as always. Catholics of the rank and file were not too slavishly following the Hierarchy, and very often rebelled. Accordingly, numerous Catholics, and even members of the lower clergy, were active in the underground movement and fought heroically against the Nazis.
After the liberation of Belgium by the Allies, the Cardinal and his bishops declared that they fought against Nazism. What their protests amounted to we have already related; and although the Cardinal now wanted to persuade the people that he had fought the Nazis as such, he could not conceal the real motives which had called forth his protests. He declared how glad he was that Nazism had been defeated, and explained his happiness by saying: "If Nazism had triumphed in Belgium, it would have entailed the complete suffocation of the Catholic religion"; forgetting that the Nazis had co-operated most heartily with him and the Church and had given the widest liberty to the Church compatible with the occupation. This was confirmed by the Cardinal himself when, in a later sentence, he stated: "During the occupation religious feeling has increased and the cultural, philanthropic, and social organizations of the Church have flourished more than ever." After which the Cardinal and his bishops declared that they fought the Nazi "each day, for our principles."
What these principles were was not stated; or rather they were described in such manner as to sound very unlike principles, to the impartial listener. We again quote the words of the Cardinal: "We had to fight and to condemn the Germans, for they, besides looting blessed and sacred objects from the churches, took away more than thirty-two thousand tons of bronze church-bells to use as war material" ( Cardinal van Roey to a Reuter's correspondent, December 1944—see Catholic Herald).
It might well be said that this was the only strong and genuine protest made to the Nazis by the Catholic Church in Belgium. With regard to the relationship between the Vatican and the Belgian nation, no amount of explanation will ever serve to absolve the Catholic Church of its share of responsibility for the fateful events just described. For the following facts, now well established, bear witness against her. First, that even before the Nazi invasion of Belgium the Catholic Church was busily paving the way for Nazism through the creation of a Fascist party; secondly, that during the hostilities the Church used her influence to secure that Belgium should surrender rather than fight; thirdly, that during the occupation the Church never condemned Nazism, but extended to it silent co-operation; and finally, that the Vatican strove hard to fit Belgium within that great framework which had been fabricated in Rome as a secure foundation on which to establish Fascism throughout the world.
16 FRANCE AND THE VATICAN The history of the diplomatic, political, and social relationship between France and the Vatican is a remarkable one, and should be borne in mind by every reader concerned with the influence exercised by the Vatican in shaping modern history. For in few countries has the Catholic Church been so powerful and yet so weak; in few countries has it had to recur to such subtle and unscrupulous means in order to assert, preserve, and even strengthen, its authority in a nation in which its influence has waned from year to year. The climax of the Vatican's machinations in France was reached in the decade preceding the Second World War and during the four years of Nazi occupation. This we shall relate concisely later. But before examining the important rôle that the Vatican played in the downfall of the Third Republic, and in the installation of a semi- Fascist, semi-Nazi Catholic authoritarian State, it is necessary to study, even if briefly, the historical background to the relations between France and the Vatican, and thus see in their true perspective the events which we shall relate. As is well known, the Catholic Church has exercised an enormous influence in the political and social life of France for centuries, and until the French Revolution it enjoyed a privileged position in the country. It had supported the Monarchy since the early Middle Ages. The Crown, in return, had granted important prerogatives of all kinds to the clergy, who, in fact, constituted the first of the three estates of the realm. The Church had possessed vast lands and enormous wealth, and had exercised a virtual monopoly of education. All this ended, however, with the outbreak of the French Revolution, through whose agency the Church suffered a very serious setback. Church and State were separated, the religious Orders were suppressed, the status of the clergy disappeared, the Church's lands were declared national property, and the control of education was transferred to the State. The Catholic Church, of course, was bitterly hostile to the French Revolution and fought its principles with all her might, not in France only, but throughout Europe. With the rise of Napoleon the relations of Church and State began to improve, and although there were many bitter controversies between the Emperor and the Pope, the Vatican on the whole maintained fairly good relations with the French dictator. So much so that Napoleon, when pressed by socio- political considerations, concluded a Concordat with the Papacy— as later did two other dictators, Hitler and Mussolini. Since the Revolution France has never been sincerely Catholic. Not only did the ideas of the Revolution remain deeply ingrained, but the attitude of the Church, after the fall of Napoleon, instigated Frenchmen to detach themselves from allegiance to it. The Holy Alliance placed on the throne of France a dynasty of monarchs whose main concern appeared to be the bludgeoning of the people into submission to the Pope; and the means employed were those known to-day as the "White Terror." When that dynasty fell, France ceased to be wholly Catholic; indeed, the Church has rapidly and consistently lost ground. With the establishment of the Third Republic, in 1870, the co- operation initiated by Napoleon came to an end. We have already seen the reasons which induced the Catholic Church to support monarchies, dictatorships, and the like, and to wage war against any form of popular government. These motives came into play then in the social and political fields of European life as they have done since, up to our own day. It would be interesting to compare the diatribes of the Pope, the French cardinals, and the clergy against the Republic with the invective they have used during the last thirty years against Socialism, Communism, and Soviet Russia. Then, as now, the Church proclaimed "a holy crusade against the Godless Republic," and the duty of opposition to "the Atheist Government" seeking to deprive the Church of "her inalienable rights." But the most striking feature of that period, closely resembling the happenings of our own times, was the birth of the Commune and the Church's reaction thereto. The Paris Commune of the last century was, in miniature, the forerunner of Soviet Russia in the twentieth century. Both were a bogy to the Catholic Church and to all other reactionary sections of society. It is, of course, a comparison of small things with great to compare the Commune with the achievement and duration of the Soviet Revolution; nevertheless, the Commune gave to the world a foretaste of how the Catholic Church would behave when similar circumstances were repeated, as they have been. Naturally, the Catholic Church did everything in her power to "sabotage" the Commune. The clergy of France, with Catholics in general, were called upon to destroy it. The Vatican pronounced anathemas against its spirit, its principles, and its leaders both during its existence and ever since. Above all, the Vatican took this opportunity to launch a moral crusade against the ideas inspiring the Commune by emphasizing to the middle class its inherent dangers to them. The warning included all other reactionary classes of society and all persons who had reason to fear the "Communards" of 1871. The Church and reactionary thought have always been close allies. Their intimate partnership in this fight aimed at setting up reaction once the Communards had been crushed. A period of reaction duly followed the Commune. For a few years France again became more Catholic. In 1875 it was estimated that in a French population of 36,000,000, about 30,000,000 described themselves as Catholics. This total was chiefly due to the fact that France was then a very poorly industrialized country and the ignorant agricultural classes were much under the sway of the bourgeois politician and, above all, the clergy. The Church was granted great privileges, and for a time she seemed to have triumphed over the laws passed against her at the beginning of the Third Republic. But once the scare of the Communards had passed, the artificial fear, fostered by the Church and other interested sections, disappeared; before 1880 France once again almost ceased to be a Catholic country. The Church in France, directed by the Vatican, now increased her attacks on the Republic. Accordingly, the Republic retaliated by passing successive laws calculated to hinder the power of the Church over the social and political life of the nation. At every hostile measure the Church and the Vatican invoked the curse of God and the help of all Catholics to destroy the Republic for daring to give free education to the people, for insisting on civil marriage, and for confining the teaching in State schools to State-classified teachers. Fulminations came weekly from the Vatican, the cardinals and the clergy mobilizing the Faithful against the Government and Republican institutions of all kinds. Their aim was to compass the complete downfall of the Republic. The Vatican, in fact, preached incessantly to the French people that the Government they had elected must be destroyed, otherwise their eternal salvation was imperilled. For over twenty years the Vatican stubbornly refused to recognize the existence of a Republic in France. Then suddenly the Vatican, which was the true source of all this hatred, changed its policy. It did so because realization had come at last that the Republic would last and that it was wiser, from the Vatican's point of view, to make such terms as were possible. This course the Vatican now determined to follow. The "New Spirit" bore fruit in the administrative and legislative fields. But unity in the Catholic ranks was essential to success, and incredible fanaticism, dissensions, and hatred prevented unity; when a farsighted Catholic, Jacques Piou, organized the Action Liberale in 1902 it was too late. In July 1904 diplomatic relations between France and the Vatican were finally broken and the Act of Separation, in 1905, brought the conflict to a climax. The Act guaranteed freedom of conscience and the free exercise of public worship, but religion was not to be recognized by, nor to receive financial support from, the State. The Vatican pronounced anathema on the Republic for daring to deny the supremacy of the Catholic Church and for putting all religious creeds on the same footing. But that was not all. The Republic, having denied the control and monopoly of religion in France to the Vatican, had decreed that the edifices of all religious bodies, Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish, should be transferred to associations cultuelles, associations dealing with public worship, and that these were to be self-supporting. The Vatican, vaunting the peculiar claims of the Catholic Church, forbade Catholics throughout France to obey the Republic and thus again intruded on the domestic life of the nation. French Catholics were strictly forbidden by the Pope to be parties to any such association, under penalty of grave punishment in the next world.
During and after the First World War, owing to factors of various kinds, relations between Church and State improved. The devoted war-time services of the clergy and the return of Alsace- Lorraine, with its large practising Catholic population, constituted two of these factors. One of the results of the Act of Separation had been the impoverishment of many of the clergy, and the consequent reduction in their standard of living brought them nearer to those among whom they worked. Before depicting further the background of the relationship between the Vatican and the Republic during the Second World War, let us investigate the strength of the Church in France over a period extending roughly between the two wars. As said before, notwithstanding the anti-Catholic and anti-clerical spirit prevailing in France during the last hundred years, France remains traditionally a Catholic country. In 1936 it was estimated that 34,000,000 Frenchmen, equivalent to 80 per cent of the population, were nominally Catholic. Almost three-quarters of these limited their Catholicism to baptism, marriage, and burial by the Church. Otherwise they took no part, active or passive, in the life of the Church, and a large proportion were even hostile. The practising Catholics, attending Mass and Confession more or less frequently, were computed by the Catholic authorities themselves to have amounted to between 20 and 23 per cent of the total French population—clearly an insignificant minority.
Both class and region have an important bearing on the proportion of practising Catholics. This should be borne in mind when we come to deal with the events leading to the signing of the Armistice and with the Government which co-operated with the Nazis. The most fervent Catholics are to be found among the aristocrats, the landed gentry, the military caste, and the wealthy or well-to-do classes. Among the lower middle class (petite bourgeoisie) probably one-third are practising Catholics. Most are indifferent to religious issues and a small minority is actively anti-clerical. As in all nominally Catholic countries, in France the industrial proletariat is the least Catholic element. In a few districts, and notably in the region of Lille, a small minority only of the workers in heavy industries, such as textiles, and on the railways is actively Catholic. The ratio is higher, however, among the employees of light industry and small business. It should also be noted that the Church is more deeply rooted in country districts than in towns. Notwithstanding the general indifference of the population, the Church has a vast organization throughout France, co-ordinated by a Catholic machinery disproportionate to the real sentiment of the nation. To begin with the inferior clergy of the Catholic Church. Before 1940 the ordinary priesthood was estimated at 52,000 individuals, of whom 30,000 were secular priests and the remainder regulars. Ruling this army of ordinary priests are the bishops, about seventy in number, not including twenty-six bishops without sees. The bishops, in turn, are subject to the archbishops, each of whom presides over an archdiocese containing four or five dioceses, each in the charge of a bishop. There are three cardinals, the Archbishops of Paris and Lyons and the Bishop of Lille. The archbishops and bishops are the immediate assistants of the Pope, who directly supervises some of the French bishoprics endowed with high political importance, such as the Bishoprics of Strasbourg and Metz. The bishops are in charge of education within their sees, and each diocese has a directeur, who supervises the schools controlled by the Church.
All these dignitaries of the Church are directly responsible to the Pope's own representative, the Papal nuncio. The Church is subject to his authority, when there is a nuncio accredited to the French Government. The primary duties of the nuncio are, of course, diplomatic; he is the centre from which radiate the Vatican's diplomatic and political negotiations. There are so many hundreds of religious Orders in France that it is impossible accurately to give a general account of their organization. Each Order of monks, friars, or nuns has its own administration and maintains its particular relationship with the episcopate. Some Orders are virtually independent of the bishops and are responsible only to the Holy See. Others co-operate closely with the bishops, especially teaching Orders. Orders of Nuns also accept the bishops' direction. The Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, Benedictines, Oratorians, and Cistercians constitute a few of the most important Orders.
For centuries the Jesuits have been the most influential Order in France, despite persecution. Their great influence, before and during the war, arose from the fact that they are a teaching Order, laying great emphasis on cultural and intellectual standards. The Jesuits in France, as elsewhere, have specialized in educating, and thereby obtaining a permanent hold over, the aristocracy, the Army, and the leading classes generally. Thus they have trained thousands of officers, subsequently attaining high rank, at the Ecole Sainte Genevieve at Versailles, which is a preparatory school for Saint Cyr, whence the regular Army officer used to be drawn. The upper and middle bourgeoisie also send their sons to the Jesuit colleges, and the Jesuits, too, train boys for leadership in the Catholic Youth movement and the like. We have seen that the Church in France, in spite of her vast organization, was losing her members—to Secularism and Liberalism in the nineteenth century, and in the twentieth century to Socialism and Communism. During the last century the Church lost one-fourth only of her adherents, whereas the present century has witnessed a loss of six-sevenths of her flock. In spite of this the Church in France has not lost influence in proportion to her loss in numerical strength; indeed, in the period between the two wars, she has proceeded from strength to strength. How can that be explained? The explanation lies in the fact that the Church in France, as elsewhere, no longer relied on the conversion of the masses for her influence; she relied, rather, on power acquired and exerted behind the scenes. This was quite obvious after the First World War, when the Republic, although still based on the former principles and inspired by the liberal spirit, was not only flirting with the Church, but also, on occasion, co-operating with her—an attitude not due to change of heart on the part of the Republic, but to solid social and political considerations, which the Vatican cleverly exploited to its own advantage. Of course, many other factors were at work in effecting this volte face, but the exertions of the Vatican to obtain control of the country from above, and thereby to check apostasy en masse, constituted the decisive factor. Thus the Vatican, although fighting a losing battle against Socialism, Communism, and other hostile forces, held its own by cultivating the friendship of the Republic. This dual campaign became much accentuated during the twenty years intervening between the two world wars. The first decade was characterized by the Church's success in exploiting the Government over political and national issues. During the second decade the Church sponsored, fostered, and blessed various Fascist parties and organizations, whose goal was to establish a Fascist France, to crush the Socialists, and to give power to the Church. This is not the place for an over-detailed dissection of France in the period intervening between the two world wars. It suffices to give some examples of the two methods by which the Church sought to acquire influence in that country; in the first decade by exerting political pressure on the weak side of French nationalism, and in the second decade by encouraging Fascist movements in conjunction with the reactionary section of French society. After the Conference of Versailles had laid down the law for the post-war world, the Vatican began to gain influence in France. This was accomplished by playing on French nationalistic susceptibilities. The immediate occasion of this was the return of Alsace- Lorraine to France. This reincorporation was becoming a source of anxiety to the Republic, for it seemed that the returned province would not readily settle down under French rule. The reincorporation of Alsace-Lorraine in France was a matter of prestige, national pride, and sentiment.
But, and here enters the Vatican, Alsace-Lorraine was solidly Catholic. The Vatican, speaking through the French Hierarchy, pronounced that if "the French Government had shown more understanding towards the situation of the Catholic Church in the Republic," it would have "tried to exert its not inconsiderable influence upon Catholic Alsace-Lorraine for the establishment of a better understanding between the new Province and the Republic." In short, the Vatican here followed its old policy, oft repeated through the centuries, which was once shrewdly characterized by Napoleon in his description of the clergy as "a spiritual gendarmerie." This policy can be summed up thus: if a given province whose population is Catholic, when newly annexed, becomes seditious, the Vatican invariably tries to strike a bargain with the annexing Power. The official biographer of Leo XIII frankly shows how the Church, under his rule, followed this policy—with Great Britain regarding Ireland, with Germany regarding Poland in the nineteenth century, with Austria regarding the Croats, and in other instances. Thus Alsace-Lorraine provided the Vatican with the desired opportunity. In 1919, very soon after the First World War, the Provinces began to stir dangerously against France and to confront the Republic with serious trouble. In addition, the new Provinces sent such a number of Catholic deputies to Parliament as France had not seen since 1880. The Vatican used this powerful weapon against the Republic without hesitation in furtherance of its political and religious interests. The two were able to reach an agreement In plain words, this was the bargain struck. The Vatican undertook to keep the Alsatian rebels in check by ordering the local Hierarchy and the Catholic organizations to follow a certain course. In return the French Government was to cease its hostility to the Church, to resume diplomatic relations with the Vatican, and to grant any other privileges that might be possible. The deal was effected, and France, the least Catholic country in Europe, whose population was indifferent or hostile to the Church, whose statesmen were mainly Agnostic, dropped the anti-clerical ardor of former times. The laws inimical to the Church were repealed, or, when abrogated, were not enforced, and the religious Orders which had been expelled, especially the Jesuits, returned. That was not all. The Vatican insisted that the French Government should appoint to it an ambassador and should receive, in return, a nuncio in Paris. Thus it came about that the Republic, denounced for more than forty years by the Vatican as "a Government of Atheists, Jews, and Freemasons" against which all good Catholics should rebel, appointed an ambassador to the Vatican and welcomed a Papal nuncio in Paris. It is significant that a French Minister—Cuval—visited the Vatican for the first time within the memory of living Frenchmen. To complete the bargain the canonization of Joan of Arc was proclaimed. This was an astute move on the part of the Vatican, anxious to take full advantage of French patriotic sentiment in its pursuit of further religious gains. The Government, represented by its sceptical statesmen, took part in the religious ceremonies. The radical elements in France protested bitterly against this casting off of the Republican liberal spirit, and especially against the reception of the Papal nuncio. They raised a storm in Parliament, and the House was on the brink of accepting radical advice. But just at this juncture the Vatican instructed the Hierarchy in Alsace-Lorraine to impress upon the Alsatian Catholic deputies that their duty in the House was "to safeguard the paramount interest of the Church." In other words, the Alsatian deputies threatened the Government with secession if diplomatic relations with the Vatican were to be interrupted. The Government was compelled to yield.
The second and most important reason for the Vatican's disproportionate power in France was, once again, the menace of Bolshevism. The policy of appeasement in Alsace-Lorraine had already united the bishops with the bankers and industrialists, a combination highly advantageous to both parties. It should be remembered that Lorraine contains the second largest deposit of iron ore in the world, and Alsace had a great wealth of potash in addition to her agricultural prosperity. The alliance between the Church and all the reactionary sections of French society became enormously intensified. On that union depended the issues of life and death for them, for in Bolshevism they perceived a mortal threat to their particular world. Nothing else could have intensified so profoundly the alliance already existing between the Church and reaction, social, economic, and political. The famous utterance of Henri IV, "Paris is worth a Mass," became the watchword of an influential section of French anti-clericalism, yoked to the Vatican through fear of Bolshevism. Many sections of liberal and secular Frenchmen at this juncture, urged by the fear of Communism, rejected Gambetta's cry, "Clericalism is the enemy." The cry which had resounded throughout France for forty years was replaced by "the Church is now our ally." The bankers and big industrialists did not, of course, join hands with the Vatican in order to further Catholicism. Undoubtedly many of them had two goals in view. First came their private interest, and secondly the interests of the Church, so long as these were compatible with their own. The famous "two hundred families," who possessed the greatest wealth in France, were for the most part devout Catholics. As years passed, and chiefly through this unholy alliance, an organized campaign against Bolshevism swept through France, waxing and waning periodically. This campaign was fought on two levels in French life. In the first place, popular and would-be popular movements appeared, one after another. In the second place, the higher political, financial, and social planes were involved behind the scenes; here the Vatican garnered its most notable successes.
Some ten years after the First World War—about 1930—these anti-Bolshevik organizations began to appear, growing rapidly bolder and bolder. At one time it seemed possible that they would start civil war and make a bid for power. These movements displayed definite characteristics. All were anti-Bolshevik and resolved to stamp out Socialism and Communism wherever found. They opposed the influence of Soviet Russia in the concert of nations. They were modelled on the classical Fascist and Nazi pattern, with similar insignia and slogans. They were armed formations, preaching violence and practising terrorism. They clamored for an immediate dictatorship. Their assumption of power would have been marked by the destruction of democracy and political liberty. Last, but not least, both the leaders and the members were fervent Catholics. Nationalism and class interest inspired these movements, all of which were cemented by religion. Such societies were innumerable. The majority of them had, in secret, large armaments of all kinds and were supplied with money through "secret" channels. They began to march through the streets of Paris, breaking up Socialist and Communist meetings. They organized armed demonstrations and assaulted their opponents. They acted, in short, exactly as their earlier counterparts in Italy and Germany had done so successfully. The most notorious and influential reactionary Fascist and semi- Fascist parties in France, before the outbreak of the Second World War, are here enumerated. The Union République Démocratique.—This party, backed by the wealthiest section of France, was the backbone of French Conservative opinion. Its main task was to defend the interests of capital and of industrial and agricultural "feudalism." Its secondary task was to harass the Left-wing parties as far as possible and to fight the "Bolshevik dragon." In 1936 it attempted to consolidate all
Right-wing elements into a National Front in opposition to the Front Populaire. It was pre-eminently the party of Big Business, and most of its members were privately or openly in sympathy with Nazism, much as were the reactionary forces in pre-HitlerGermany. The Union was essentially Catholic, and its goal, ranking next after the defence of capital, was the furtherance of the interests of the Catholic Church. It eagerly supported the idea that the Church should control education throughout the nation, and preached, in accordance with Catholic doctrine, the importance of the family and the undesirability of State interference in social matters. The Union embraced many important industrial, social, financial, political, and religious personalities. The Action Française.—The Action Francaise was a violently reactionary party which sought to destroy the Republic and to establish a Monarchy, with the help and blessing of the Catholic Church. It preached violence and resistance for many years, and its fanaticism and ultra-Catholicism often embarrassed the plans of the Vatican itself. The Vatican, on many occasions, tried to align the policy of the Action Francaise with its own policy and failed; hence the Pope was compelled to pronounce a ban on this party. The ban was pronounced in 1914, but for political reasons had never been published until, in 1926, the Herriot Government was superseded. The Vatican was chiefly responsible for this supersession, and friendly relations were again established between State and Church. Accordingly, the ban was made public and the Royalist movement, led by Maurras and Daudet, began to decline. For years it had been attracting numerous priests and the Fascist element of young Frenchmen. This ban gave such grave offence to the French Hierarchy, who were supporting this movement, that a cardinal, Louis Billot, returned his red hat to the Pope. This was the first resignation of a cardinal for one hundred years. The Action Française had a military organization, which often led to bloody riots, such as the riots of 1934. Here the Camelots du Roy played the leading rôle.
During the Front Populaire, the Action Francaise openly demanded the death of the Prime Minister, Blum. Actually an attempt on the Prime Minister's life was made by a fervent Nationalist Catholic. It also openly supported Fascist Italy in the Abyssinian War, Franco in the Spanish War, and the Axis Powers during the Munich crisis. Another movement, closely connected with the Action Francaise, was the ultra-Catholic League d'Action Francaise, whose main objective was the destruction of the Republic. This was the oath of the members: "I pledge myself to fight against all Republican régimes. The Republican spirit favors religious influences hostile to traditional Catholicism." Another movement, modelled entirely on Nazi lines, was entitled the Jeunesse Patriote. This body enjoyed the support of the capitalists, who provided funds, and its Catholic and nationalist membership endowed it with prestige. Its members preached open violence to all opponents of themselves and of the Church, especially regarding the Communists as enemies. Bagarre, or street- fighting, was their chief method of procedure, and their vanguard consisted of fifty men, divided into three sections, known as the Groupes Mobiles. The Soldarité Française was another Catholic party, founded by François Coty, of perfume and newspaper fame. Le Croix de Feu was a movement recruited from the wealthy classes to oppose Parliament and democracy. Its members clamored for an authoritarian State forbidding freedom of political thought, of speech, and of the Press. From this body originated the violent and terrorist Fascist movement entitled Les Cagoulards.
These various movements and parties strove hard for power—but, from various causes, without success. However, the realization of failure only inspired them to greater activity behind the scenes, and here their influence was great. As has been seen, these forces were closely allied with the Catholic Church, and from her some of them drew their support. The Vatican also, perceiving its failure in open political contest, concentrated its attention on the schemes which were in hand behind the facade of the Republic. While France was torn by conflicting interests, Germany was advancing from one victory to another. An analysis of French politics at that period cannot here be attempted, but one or two points of capital importance stand out from the background of those years. It is clear that the same classes sponsored Fascism and Nazism in France as had already done so in Germany and Italy; also that the Catholic Church again played an important part in encouraging such movements. It is clear, too, that the principal objective was the destruction of Socialism and Communism. Efforts to this end were not confined within the internal life of the nation, but formed a part of France's foreign policy. This hostility to Communism, when translated into political activity, displayed itself as a restless and active sabotaging of the Republic's efforts to maintain a close alliance with Soviet Russia.
The reactionaries were not concerned only with harassing the policy of the Republic; they also pursued a policy of their own— the installation of Fascism in France. In the existing state in France they saw no hope of doing so, except by help from abroad. That help could only come from Nazi Germany. To this policy national pride and sentiment offered an apparently insurmountable obstacle. "Anything rather than a Red France" became their watchword. This determination was reinforced by the belief that if victory rewarded France's entry into the war, the position of the Reds would be greatly strengthened, to the peril of the capitalists, the would-be Fascists, and the Catholic Church. The defeat of their country and the sacrifice of their national pride would have spelt their personal advantage through defeat of the Reds. This was the ultimate issue of their policy, as we shall see presently. We have examined the reactionary political background in France in the decade preceding the Second World War. A vast population was indifferent or hostile to the Church. There was a vast Catholic machinery knitting all France, yet with no hold on the masses, and therefore working, as it were, in a vacuum. There was a persistent campaign, both above and below ground, against Bolshevism and Soviet Russia, and there were movements in imitation of Fascism and Nazism, largely inspired by the Catholic Church.
In close alliance with these agencies there were small but powerful sections of the country inspired by as deep a hatred for Bolshevism as was the Church. The nightmare pursued them that their social and financial world would disappear if Socialist and Communist principles were allowed to spread freely. They planned to put a check on Bolshevism, at home in the first place, and secondly abroad; hence their organization and financing of parties to establish Fascism in France as a counterblast to Communism. These two powerful factors in France united to achieve their common aim of setting up a Fascist dictatorship and crushing the Bolshevik enemy; but they failed to accomplish what Mussolini had accomplished in Italy and Hitler in Germany. With mingled fear and hope they watched the spread of Atheism and Bolshevism and the birth of régimes which successfully, and one by one, crushed the Communist dragons. Both the Church and the reactionary classes in France, in fact, hailed with enthusiasm the dictatorship of De Rivera in Spain; then that of Mussolini and his alliance with the Vatican; then the dictatorship of Franco, and on many occasions even that of Hitler. One particular section of those classes which were "obsessed by the fear of Communism" was the class of regular officers. This class was noted for its reactionary attitude to almost all issues and for its devotion to the Church. Many officers of high rank had been notorious for their hatred of Bolshevism, contempt of democracy, and advocacy of "strong forms of government," Pétain, Weygand, and Giraud among them. We select only these three, as being destined to play such important rôles in subsequent years. These officers were devout Catholics and were deeply interested in the Church, not only as a religious institution, but also in the Vatican's policy toward social and political matters. Many officers and politicians who followed closely the political moves of the Vatican, were deeply impressed by a particular encyclical, the Quadragesimo Anno, published in 1931. This encyclical, which we have frequently mentioned, advocated the setting up of a Corporate State as an antidote to Communism and Socialism. We have already seen what that meant. In plain words, it meant Fascism on the Italian model and that every Catholic was officially forbidden to embrace or to help Socialism.
Could any man doubt where his duty lay? As devout members of the Church, as loyal scions of a caste, as patriots who could only conceive of a France built on a time-honored pattern, Pétain and others began to move. Very soon the effect of the encyclical on the political field, in France as in several other Catholic countries, became visible. Of course, it was not the Pope's words alone that set in motion the vast machinery of reactionary Fascism in France. Vast interests, which had little or no relation to the Church, were at work, but the cumulative power of the Church at this juncture gave a tremendous impetus to these forces. By 1934 armed bodies of the blossoming French Fascist Party were not only formed, but were rioting in the streets of Paris. We have already described the "Fiery Cross," the "Hooded Men," and similar societies, with their demand for a Corporate State, for the grant of privileges to the Church, and for Totalitarianism. It was at this time that Pétain, inspired by the words of the Pope and his own hatred of democracy and Bolshevism, decided to be active and not to "confine himself to mere words." Not without ambition, he had been fuming for several years at his comparative obscurity. The forcible acquisition of power by Mussolini, Hitler, and others had fired him and his associates "with a new hope." ( Letter of Pétain to a friend, September 30, 1933.) Pétain "collected about himself a small clique of political friends," leaders of the reactionary parties. As a first step in their programme they issued a pamphlet entitled We Want Pétain. What was their plan? To abolish the revolutionary spirit which was threatening to destroy France and to set up "an authoritarian régime, which should deal drastically with all the disruptive elements that were threatening to destroy the country, the family, the Church, and all that had rendered France great." Pétain thought to repeat the feat of the youthful Bonaparte, who in 1797 had swept the last traces of the Revolution out of Paris with "a whiff of grapeshot." Pétain and his friends did not stop at publishing the pamphlet; they made preparations for coming into power. Pétain, in fact, "was closely involved in preparations for civil war," and he was intimately connected, very secretly, with the terroristic movements described above. While concerned with these activities, he "watched closely the progress of Nazism with great sympathy." With the passing of time, and the consolidation of Nazism, he began to fraternize with the German Nazis, and especially with Goering in Berlin, as also did Laval.
Several years before the outbreak of the Second World War, Pétain had come to the conclusion that Fascism could not become a power in France by internal means alone. Here he was in agreement with all the other reactionary leaders, and together they began to look and to work abroad with the intention of introducing Fascism at the first opportune occasion. Pétain, with his friends, sought openings in this foreign field. He secured his appointment as Ambassador in Madrid at a time when the Fascist and Nazi arms, the English and the French noninterventionists, were busy in putting Fascist Franco in power. Simultaneously, another influential Catholic politician, Laval, was approached by Pétain. Together and in secret they began to work for their common goal. In Madrid Pétain made contact with Hitler and the Vatican, authorities whom he could count on for help in his plans. He made contact, very secretly, with the Vatican through the intermediation of Franco and, above all, through the Papal representative in Spain. Contact with Hitler was made through the good offices of the German Ambassador in Madrid, Herr Von Stohrer. While his plans were developing, Pétain kept in close touch with Laval, who was working in France to the same ends, in alliance with powerful military, financial, and industrial magnates.
What were these plans? The general ground plan was very simple—"the creation of favorable ground for the establishment of Fascism in France, which would lead to a European bloc of Totalitarians all over the Continent. The success of this depends entirely on the sabotaging of all efforts to co-operate in, or support in any form, Bolshevism at home and especially abroad." ( Letter of Fascist Ambassador in Madrid to Mussolini, March 29, 1939.) In other words, Soviet Russia's political influence with various European States, particularly Czechoslovakia and France, had to be boycotted. Hitler, by "supporting" Pétain and all other Fascist groups in France, would have given them the same assistance in "attaining power" as he had already given to Franco in Spain. He would also have come to their aid in the international field if serious complications had arisen. In the event of European war, "Pétain and his friends would have done all in their power to prevent France from entering with those who would oppose German aspirations." One of their chief tasks, during this last period, was to disrupt the alliance with Bolshevik Russia. In regard to the Czech problem, this had already been successfully done. If war had broken out (at the time of the Munich crisis), and Pétain and his associates had been unable to prevent the involvement of France, they would have secured that "the might of armed France should not be employed against the Third Reich." Pope Pius XI and his Secretary of State had given their benediction to the entire project. The fear of another great war was their only objection. Pacelli made it known to Hitler that the Vatican would prefer "the settling of national and international problems without the risk of loosing another great war on the world." He asked Hitler to find means to help "France in establishing a sane and friendly Government which would co-operate with Germany in the rebuilding of a Christian Europe." ( Cardinal Seredi, April 6, 1940.) The main protagonists throughout this scheming were the Papal delegate in Spain, the German Ambassador to Spain, General Franco, Pétain, and, in France, Laval. The activities of Pétain and his friends, and their contacts with the Vatican and with Hitler, leaked through to the ears of the French Government. Most of the Pétain activities were reported in writing to the French Premier, Daladier. To the amazement of those reporting these proceedings, Daladier stated that he was aware of what was going on but "he could do nothing." The war broke out, and Pétain with his confederates continued their plotting more than ever. In the chapter dealing with Germany we have related the discussions between the Vatican and Hitler concerning France. The Vatican was in close touch with Pétain and his friends, and the assurance which the Pope was able to convey to Hitler concerning France was derived from them. Pétain, on the other hand, relied on information received from Herr von Stohrer, and especially the Papal delegate, that Germany would prove dependable towards him. He was still uncertain whether "suffering defeat in the military field" was not too big a price to pay for Germany's support.
The activities of Pétain and another pious general, Weygand, together with the activities of Laval and other confederates, increased a hundredfold at the entry of France into the war. For years Pétain and others had been contriving the promotion to key positions, in the Army, of officers certain to be useful to them at the critical moment. Almost all these officers were Catholics, inspired by the same hatred for democracy and the Republic as that felt by the veteran Maréchal; unobtrusively their promotion to key positions had continued.
Now that France had entered into the war, Pétain desired to complete the building of his plans on the foundations so long and so successfully in preparation. In his pursuit of a closer and more frequent contact with those sections which shared his designs, he returned to Paris. Here he canvassed members of the Government, asking them to obtain a sanction for him to divide his time and activities. Half his time he proposed to spend in Madrid (where he had international contacts) and half in France (to maintain contact with his agents, charged with the execution of his military and political plans). This request was flatly refused: the old Maréchal had already incurred the suspicion of the Premier and of other politicians. Pétain became embittered, and in a moment of anger he uttered a phrase which betrayed, more than anything else, what was going on behind the scenes. He used the pregnant words: "They will need me in the second fortnight in May." In the second fortnight of May Germany invaded France. Pétain, the Papal Secretary of State, and Hitler, had all their plans ready and knew the date on which Nazi Germany would launch her offensive in the West. (See Ci-devant 1941, by the French Minister, Anatole De Monzie.) On May 19, 1940, Pétain was summoned to Office in Paris. We cannot deal here with the moves which brought him to power. Was it a mere blunder of Reynaud? Was it due to the intrigues of those who surrounded him? Was it the work of Laval, the tireless plotter? Perhaps all these causes contributed. The fact remains that Pétain's prophecy of several months before had proved true. Reynaud appointed him Vice-Premier. Pétain used his newly acquired influence to procure the appointment of the ultra-Catholic, plotting, and reactionary General Weygand as Commander-in-Chief. Two other Catholic leaders, Baudouin and Prouvost, were included in the new Cabinet. Weygand, the accomplice of Pétain, had paid frequent visits to the Papal representative in Paris, in the most private manner and for weeks on end, just before the invasion of France. "Like Marshal Pétain, Weygand was a bigoted clerical and an enemy of the Republican Constitution," says the impartial Annual Register. He was a Belgian of noble origin, notorious for his outspoken hatred of the Republican régime and of "the Godless Socialists and Bolsheviks." His first performance was officially to inform the Government that the defence of France was hopeless, and Pétain, of course, supported him. In the political field Laval echoed the words of his friends. Hosts of persons interested in the immediate cessation of hostilities sup -ported his clamor that those who wanted to continue the fight, although Weygand and Pétain pronounced that German victory was certain, were parties to the murder of innocent Frenchmen. Laval was a politician of very dubious character. His various activities do not interest us here. It suffices to say that he was a Catholic and, like Von Papen, a Knight of the Papal Court. In a certain sense he was the leading Catholic layman in France, and he was very popular at the Vatican. He was the first Minister of the Third Republic, indeed the first Minister since 1865, to visit the Vatican. It was he who introduced high dignitaries of the Church to increasing influence behind the scenes of French political life. Laval's great intimacy with the Vatican began in 1935, when he and Mussolini were plotting a scheme to allow the Fascist Italian invasion of Abyssinia without provoking international conflict. This is how the intimacy started:— His Holiness expressed his joy that after seventy years a representative of the French Government had come, not merely to convey a personal visit of courtesy, but to restore the homage of the French nation. M. Laval was wearing the Order of Pius IX conferred on him by Pius XI. The Pope also gave a rosary of gold and coral to M. Laval's daughter. As a return of gifts, M. Laval handed his Holiness three exquisitely bound books ... ( Le Temps, JANUARY 11, 1935). At the supreme crisis of France that we are relating, and during a long period before, Laval, like Weygand, was holding numerous and very secret conferences with the Papal representative in Paris. While he was still Vice-Premier, Pétain, as well as his associates, went about Paris saying:— France needs defeat. Defeat is necessary for her regeneration. Victory would strengthen the political régime which has brought her to moral ruin. Anything is preferable to the continuation of a régime so abominable. Defeat followed by a rapid peace will perhaps cost France a province, a few ports, some colonies. What are they in comparison with her imperative regeneration? (Elie Bois, in Truth on the Tragedy of France.) Complications, however, had arisen for Pétain and his associates. Mussolini, with whom Pétain and Laval had come in contact through Franco, had increased his demands on France. In addition to his demand for Nice, Savoy, and Tunisia, he wanted to enter into the war and to march into Paris. He desired that his Fascist Army should conquer and destroy "the French plutocracy, riddled with Freemasons, Jews, and Bolsheviks." The intentions of Mussolini to enter into the war had begun to leak out at the beginning of 1940, and were confirmed when Count Ciano told the Papal nuncio to Italy, Archbishop Borgongini-Duca, that Germany was preparing to attack France:— I have the impression that a great offensive is about to break out on the French front, and I foresee that, in this case, Germany will make the maximum effort to get us into the war ( February 29, 1940). This was the first warning to Pétain, Weygand, and Laval of Mussolini's intentions. They remonstrated to the Pope, asking him to do his best to "restrain Italy from making it even more difficult for France to come out of the impasse." The Pope approached Mussolini on various occasions, through the good auspices of Fr. Tacchi-Venturi, who was a go-between for the Vatican and Mussolini. But Mussolini seemed to become more and more stubborn about his intentions. The Pope appealed to Hitler, asking him to intervene and restrain Mussolini. Hitler promised he would do his best, but could not "prevent Italy from entering the course which Mussolini considered in the interest of the new Europe." When Ribbentrop, in March, at last went to see the Pope, to ensure that the plan for France's surrender to Germany would work out as arranged, his pourparlers with the Pope, and with the Frenchmen who were working behind the scenes in co-operation with the Vatican, went so well that the Nazi Foreign Minister, in a moment of optimism, declared:— France and Germany will seek and find peace within this year. A New France will become the great partner of the Third Reich in rebuilding the New Europe. This is the firm conviction of all Germans ( Ribbentrop, March 12, 1940). Meanwhile, the French plotters ( Pétain, Weygand, and Laval) impressed upon the Pope that "French honor and national interest" could not be "allowed to suffer the humiliation of an Italian occupation of French territory," and that "the whole plan so labori ously worked out for the rapprochement of France and Germany would be greatly imperilled" if Mussolini declared war on France. Seeing that Mussolini did not respond to his requests, the Pope began a peace drive in Italy. The Fascist Ambassador to the Vatican, Alfieri, remonstrated to the Pope against such Church manifestations in favor of peace "in Italy." Meanwhile, as the date fixed by Hitler for the attack on France was approaching, and as the French wanted assurances that Mussolini would not attack their country, the Pope sent a personal letter to Mussolini, written by his own hand, in which amongst other things, he said:— May Europe be saved from more ruins and mournings, and especially may our and your beloved country be spared from the vast calamity. In reply, Mussolini wrote:— I desire to assure you, most Holy Father, that if to-morrow Italy enters the field, this would mean in an unmistakable manner that the honor, interest, and future of the country render this absolutely necessary. Finally, Mussolini made it known to the Pope, through the Italian Under-Secretary of State, Guidi, who gave the news to the Archbishop Borgongini-Duca, that Italy had definitely decided to enter the war ( May 22, 1940). This Count Ciano confirmed to the Pope on May 28. Pétain and Weygand asked Hitler to stop his colleague dictator. Hitler answered that he could not "restrain Mussolini" from entering the struggle. In desperation Pétain and Laval once more asked the Vatican for assistance, again acting through the Papal representative in Madrid, "the whole future of Catholic France having been endangered by Mussolini's decision." The Pope answered that after Mussolini had made known his intention of entering the war, and seeing how Mussolini was determined to act, he (the Pope) had tried to persuade the Italian dictator "to be moderate at this critical juncture." Pétain and Weygand hesitated to submit; Laval counselled them to do so, asking the Pope to impress upon them both the necessity of the situation. The Pope went so far as to send a personal message to Pétain, asking France to "bow to the situation ... with fortitude and realism," and assuring him that he would in the meantime "continue to make personal appeals to Hitler and Mussolini to formulate their terms with moderation and the absence of vindictiveness." Pétain, Weygand, Laval, and Baudouin (a fanatical convert to Catholicism) decided upon the course they would follow. The Nazi armies had invaded Belgium and Holland; King Leopold, on the advice of Weygand and his other Catholic advisers, and on direct instructions from the Vatican, after having prevented the Allies from co-ordinating their plans, had surrendered without even letting his Allies know about it. The Nazi legions had inyaded France and were steadily advancing towards Paris. While all this was happening, and as the final disaster was fast approaching, the Pope and his Secretary of State had several very private meetings with the French Ambassador, to whom the Pope accorded a final interview on June 9, 1940, the day before Mussolini's "stab in the back." What the Pope told the Ambassador and what the Ambassador told the Pope is not yet known. But the coincidence of the date, which was no coincidence at all, is significant and should be borne in mind, in view of the sequel. The following day Fascist Italy declared war on France and Great Britain. Fascist troops entered French territory and, after very little fighting, achieved their first objectives of Mentone and Nice. But while the above events took place in Rome, and while the Nazi armies were occupying France, Pétain, Weygand, Laval and the other plotters were playing their cards to achieve their plans. Pétain, who meanwhile had become Premier, tendered his resignation, with the full agreement of Laval and Weygand, thus at this critical moment greatly embarrassing the French Prime Minister, to whom the Marshal sent a letter which, among other things, contained the following ominous lines:— The gravity of the situation convinces me that hostilities must immediately be brought to an end. This is the only step which can save the country (letter found amongst the Marshal's documents which he brought from Germany after his arrest in the summer, 1945). This was written at a time when some Ministers wanted to continue the fight from North Africa. President Lebrun and Premier Reynaud continued in vain to try to persuade Pétain to go on with the fight. They asked him not to resign, but to await a reply from England. But what became known later was that the letter was not written by Pétain himself, but was written and sent to the Premier by somebody else. This Pétain declared to the High Court Commission of Inquiry, June 1945: "I was not there when the letter was drawn up. My thought had been interpreted." By whom? By his associates, General Weygand and Laval, who wrote it to bring about the downfall of the Government and thus gain the opportunity of assuming power themselves, which was all part of the intrigues, bribery, and deceit they plotted. Long before the Nazi armies reached Paris, Pétain had decided that France should capitulate. When Mr. Churchill flew to France to consult the French Government, he attended a dinner party at Briare, south of Paris ( June 1940). Trying to be optimistic, he said to Marshal Pétain: "We had difficult days in 1918—we came through. We shall yet come through." To which Pétain retorted: "In 1918 I gave forty French divisions, which saved the British Army. Where are your forty divisions to save us now?" During the Cabinet Meeting, held on the same night, the atmosphere became tense with defeatism, two persons being mainly responsible by advising the Premier to surrender—namely, Mme. Helen de Portes and, above all, the fanatically Catholic-minded M. Paul Baudouin, M. Reynaud's Under-Secretary. Marshal Pétain and General Weygand—who at that fateful period was the French Commander-in-Chief—went to see M. Reynaud every day at 11 a.m. But on June 10, the day on which Mussolini declared war, Weygand arrived without having been summoned. The first thing he did was to read a note in which he asked the French Government to surrender. Reynaud refused. During the night, accompanied by General de Gaulle, he left by car for Orléans. The following morning, however, General Weygand, who had been in constant touch with Laval and Pétain, telephoned Reynaud and told him that he, Weygand, had asked Mr. Churchill to come to his headquarters at Briare, so that the situation might be explained to him. Meanwhile, many members of the Government were determined to go on with the fight, and urged the Premier not to follow the advice of either Pétain or Weygand. On June 12, George Mandel, then Minister of the Interior, Edouard Herriot, President of the Chamber of Deputies, Jules Jeanneney, President of the Senate, and General de Gaulle, persuaded the Premier to continue waging the war. France would go on fighting from North Africa. Plans were ready to be put into operation by which about half a million specialized soldiers could be evacuated from all ports available—mainly from Brest and Nice—and transported to Africa. The Premier gave a written order to General Weygand to carry out the plan. But Weygand, seeing that the chance for which he and his Catholic friends had been waiting would thus be lost, did not carry out the order:— On June 12 we tried to encourage M. Reynaud. I got out of him a written order to General Weygand for the execution of measures already planned for withdrawal to North Africa of two reserve classes still in training, specialists from motorized divisions, from Belgium, from Alpine divisions, etc., comprising some 500,000 men. They would have been evacuated from all ports from Brest to Nice. But General Weygand did not carry out the order ( General de Gaulle, Paris, June 18, 1945). Meanwhile the plotters were worried about Britain. They wanted to be sure that she would surrender as France would do. They had, therefore, to persuade Churchill to do what Pétain wanted to do, so when, on June 13, the British Premier arrived at Tours, they tried to persuade him to surrender. This task was undertaken by the ultra-Catholic Baudouin. Reynaud, however, stated that he would telephone Roosevelt before taking any step.
Seeing that the French Government did not want to surrender and thus give way to a new Government headed by Pétain, the plotters conceived another plan which, in addition to scaring the French Government, would greatly influence conservative England: they brought to the fore the Nazi and Catholic bogy of Communism. Pétain, Weygand, and Laval decided to act immediately. Pétain would try to overthrow the French Government by an open attack against it. Should that not succeed, Weygand would solemnly announce that the Bolsheviks had captured Paris and that all the horrors of anarchy had begun to paralyse the city. We quote the words of General de Gaulle:— At a Cabinet Meeting held at the Château de Cange on the same day, Marshal Pétain opened the attack against M. Reynaud. General Weygand announced that Paris was in the hands of the Communists. We telephoned M. Roger Langeron, Prefect of the Paris Police, who denied this report ( General de Gaulle, Paris, June 18, 1945).
The trick did not succeed just then. The following day Reynaud left for Bordeaux. De Gaulle and others asked him whether he would continue to fight, and he gave assurances that he would. Thus the French Government was transferred from Paris to Bordeaux, where Marquet, another prominent Catholic and friend of Laval, was Mayor. Laval, who was not yet in the Government, used threats and promises to persuade a majority of the Deputies to agree to surrender. Once more Reynaud advised them to go on with the fight, if necessary from Africa. In this he continued to be supported by Jeanneney, President of the Senate, and Herriot, President of the Chamber. Daladier, Mandel and others actually sailed from Bordeaux in order to establish the Government in North Africa, but through the machinations of Laval the voyage was not completed. Pétain ordered the ship to be stopped, and those who were trying to escape were arrested. The intrigues of Laval, financed by his own and by German money, eventually secured the nomination of Pétain, through whom he hoped to rule the country once he could procure the dissolution of Parliament. Meanwhile de Gaulle had come to Britain and was making plans to secure the necessary shipping to transport the French Government and troops to North Africa. But Reynaud resigned, Pétain became Premier, and on June 17, 1940, at 1 p.m., Churchill and de Gaulle learned that Pétain had asked for an Armistice. Some time later Laval, who continued to work behind the scenes, saw to it that Pétain should take full control of the State. At the joint meeting of the French Chamber and Senate, which met at the National Assembly on July 10, 1940, full powers were delegated to Pétain. On the same day a mission headed by Paul Boncour urged him to become a dictator. In the words of Pétain himself:—
Paul Boncour paid me a visit on July 10. He told me he wanted to see the full powers of a Roman dictator offered to me. I refused, and said I was not a Caesar and did not want to become one (Petain before the High Court Commission of Inquiry, June 16, 1945). The whole manoeuvre had been managed by Laval and Weygand. When asked (at the same High Court Commission of Inquiry) how he was able to assume power, Pétain declared: "The whole affair was managed by Laval, and I myself was not even present [at the National Assembly of July 10, 1940]." On becoming head of the new State, Pétain's first action was to sign the Armistice, after which he disposed of all who wanted to go on fighting the Nazis. He arrested, imprisoned, and persecuted them. An unofficial war against the Communists was begun by this new Catholic reactionary dictatorship. By this time the Nazis had occupied Paris and almost half of France. The French Army, Navy, and Air Force had surrendered. The members of the old Government were either in flight or in prison, and Pétain, backed by his close associates, was at last where he wanted to be: at the head of a new Government.
Thus ended the Third Republic. The Vatican, besides giving its blessing and encouragement to Pétain, Weygand, and their confederates, dared to express its enthusiasm in no dubious terms on more than one occasion. In July 1940 the Pope wrote a letter to the French bishops. Did the Pope bid them repel the invader and disobey the orders of a foreign Power? Did he call on them to preach rebellion to the Catholics, as was the case when he ordered the Spanish and Mexican bishops to fight their democratic Government, or when he had exhorted the Slovaks and the Austrians to "undermine" those forces which were unwilling to co-operate with Hitler? Far from it. On this occasion the Pope bade the bishops work harder, for now at last they had a chance to "bring about a reawakening of the entire nation," as the "conditions for greater spiritual labor" were so good. Here are his actual words:— These very misfortunes with which God has to-day visited your people give assurance, we feel certain, of conditions for greater spiritual labor favorable to bringing about a reawakening of the entire nation.
When the new French Ambassador to the Holy See presented his credentials, Pius XII assured him that the Church would co-operate and give whole-hearted support to "the work of moral recovery" which France had undertaken (Havas). That was not all. The official organ of the Vatican, the Osservatore Romano, published an article on July 9, 1940, in which Marshal Pétain was highly praised and his efforts to save France were lauded. The article told, in enthusiastic terms, of "the good Marshal who more than any other man seems to personify the best traditions of his race." It ended by talking of the "dawn of a new radiant day, not only for France, but for Europe and the world" ( Catholic Herald, JULY 12, 1940). These praises elicited protests to the Vatican from all quarters, especially from Great Britain and America. So much was this the case that the Vatican was compelled to call on one of the cardinals to explain matters. The reader should recall the case of Cardinal Innitzer. This time Cardinal Hinsley was selected. His position as the British Cardinal gave him the ear of the English-speaking Catholics, and he was made responsible for reassuring Britons and Americans as to the Vatican's open support of a Fascist régime and of the Germans. Cardinal Hinsley, "on Vatican authority," made the lame excuse that such utterances, especially those of the said article, were in no way officially inspired or sanctioned. The article, he explained, had been written in reply to the French Catholic Youth Organization, which had publicly pledged the support of the Catholic Youth of France to Pétain and his new Government. Once at the head of the new France, Pétain early declared his intention of abolishing the slogan of revolutionary France, "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity." In its stead he would substitute a slogan sponsored by himself and the Church: "Work, Family, and Country." In his exhortations to the French people the words "discipline" and "obedience" were perpetually reiterated. He declared that the new France would free itself from all traditional friendships (namely with Great Britain) and enmìties (with Germany and Italy), announcing at the same time that he had asked Hitler's permission to act as Nazi Germany's colleague in creating and maintaining the New Order in Europe. Pétain and the Church in France had a twofold programme: to rebuild a new society in the domestic field, according to the prin -ciples enunciated by the Popes, and to create a bloc of Catholic countries in the foreign field. We shall deal with the latter presently. On the home front the Pétain Government began to destroy many tenets and laws of the Third Republic, supplanting them with laws inspired by the Catholic Church. Pétain was determined to abolish Socialism and Communism; he desired to build in France a Corporate State on the lines elaborated by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Quadragesimo Anno. We have seen that this meant a Fascist State, as in Italy. Trade unions would be replaced by "corporations." All industrial measures were to conform closely with the Papal encyclicals, and with Fascist ideology. Pétain preached the ideal of the large family, as Hitler and Mussolini had done. He organized the French Youth in quasi- military formations, on the model of the Hitler Youth. He abolished those laws of the Third Republic which limited the powers of the Church, and he ordained religious instruction in the schools, permitting in them the teaching of priests. In everything he imitated Hitler and Mussolini, except that he surpassed both in the unheard- of power he granted to the Church. Of course Pétain immediately adopted education as an instrument to shape the mind of all the youth of France to the New Catholic Fascist pattern. He introduced compulsory religious instruction in schools. He created a special commission to exercise censorship over the books used in secondary schools, and the teaching of history was especially modified. Emphasis was laid on France before the French Revolution. Chapters referring to recent history underlined the iniquities of the Third Republic, and the benefits accruing to discipline, obedience, and respect for the authority of the Church were given prominence. Pétain's educational policy was reactionary and ecclesiastical, and was further characterized by a desire to restrict intellectual training to the fortunate few. Youth, for the most part, was destined to agricultural and industrial pursuits, having the ability to read, to write, to be obedient, and no more. Anti-Semitism was introduced, and history-books by Jewish authors were interdicted. In short, French youth was being trained on lines closely akin to National Socialism. The Pétain régime was busily removing the influences, the principles, and the methods of the Third Republic in every department of the nation's life. To recapitulate every change is impossible here, and we believe that those just enumerated suffice to give an idea of the reforms which were being initiated, in spite of the hostility of the French people in general. The tide was turning as persistently as in all other totalitarian régimes. The relations of the Pétain régime and the Church were not wholly unruffled, for the same trouble that had disturbed Nazi and Fascist Totalitarianism began in France; and the trouble arose from the same eternal problem—youth. The Church, although well satisfied in general, complained that the régime tended, in educational matters, to concentrate too greatly on patriotic, at the expense of Catholic, principles. So much was this the case that at one time the clergy themselves were opposed to religious instruction in schools on the ground that, the teachers being anti-clerical, the education offered was not one hundred per cent Catholic. But apart from that, and cognate problems similar to those encountered by the Church in Italy and Germany, Pétain and the Church were in full harmony. Together they began to draw up a Concordat which would have given to the Church almost unprecedented privileges, only comparable to those she enjoyed before the Revolution in the eighteenth century. What was the Catholic Church's attitude to the authoritarian régime set up by Pétain? From what we have just examined, it is obvious that the Catholic Church was not only favorable to the régime, but helped and sustained it with all its might, openly and indirectly, and—what should never be forgotten—as long as this policy did not harm its interests in other parts of the world. We have already seen how the Vatican intervened to bring about the change in the internal affairs of France which would create a favorable situation for spiritual and political dominion by the Catholic Church. That the Vatican ordered the French Hierarchy to side with Pétain there is no doubt. The best proof lies in the fact that the French Hierarchy, with notably few exceptions, supported the new Government very warmly from the beginning. It was only later that French bishops and even the Vatican (if rarely) addressed some protests occasionally; but such protests were never against Hitler, never against the new Fascist Government, never against the Nazi system as such. They were made only if the Nazis, Pétain, or Hitler did not keep their promises to the Church, if they conflicted with the Church's interests in matters concerning education, spiritual welfare of workers, or if they trespassed on what the Church considered its sphere. From the very beginning not a single French prelate of importance protested against the Nazis or Pétain. It was with the passing of time and the realization of French resentment and hatred against the Nazis and Pétain, and growing French patriotism and the French Resistance movement, that the Church began to retreat here and there, and allowed some French bishops or cardinals to complain. In spite of that, however, relations between the Church and Pétain remained always very cordial. The higher ranks of the clergy spoke openly in favor of the ideals of the National Revolution, as they understood it in the early days after the fall of France, and their attitude can be summed up in the words of Cardinal Suhard in October 1942: "Politics are no business of ours. The Roman Catholic Church in France is an intellectual reservoir which will some day help in the building up of the new France." If the Church of France was pro-Pétain, it was not pro-German. How could it be when the majority of Frenchmen had only one aim— the expulsion of the Nazis from their country? That would have been too difficult, even for the Church. Yet, if the French Hierarchy as a whole had to restrain itself, many prominent French cardinals and bishops were openly and actively pro-Nazi. Suffice it to mention a few: Cardinal Baudrillart, Recteur of the Catholic Institute, who, because of his extreme horror of Bolshevism, joined the "Groupe Collaboration"; Cardinal Suhard, Archbishop of Paris, of the Abbé Bergey, who, in his Catholic paper Suotanes de France, became notorious for the violence and even vulgarity of his tirades; the Archbishop of Cambrai; Gounod, Primate of Tunisie; Gerlier, the Archbishop of Lyons; and many others. The lower ranks of the clergy, at the beginning, followed the Pétainist lead given to them by their superiors, but later they cooled off, no doubt because they were in close touch with the people and their daily misfortunes. Many Catholic papers were collaborationist and pro- Pétain. The most notorious were: La Croix, the biggest Catholic paper, which after the liberation of France had to face legal proceedings on a charge of having supported the policy of collaboration; and the super-Catholic Action Française, which frequently attacked the Resistance movement amongst Catholics. It continually gave examples of the attitude of the Curés, especially those responsible for the guidance of youth, and demanded their removal from Office. This campaign of denunciation reached its height when the Action Française ( June 26, 1943) reproduced, from the clandestine paper Courier Français du Temoignage Chrétien, an article by a priest who desired to remain incognito, questioning the legitimacy of the Vichy Government, and asserting that in the circumstances the question of a citizen's duty towards such a Government, which is a Government in name only, must be restated in new terms; the citizen is bound by no duty of obedience in civil or political matters; the right to serve—if his conscience demands it—the dissident authorities can be denied to no one. A storm of abuse followed, the lower clergy being accused of every crime in the collaborationist calendar, from inciting the youth of the country to revolt or to join the "Maquis," to the very serious question of the legitimacy of the Government. This tendency on the part of the lower clergy alarmed the Vatican and the higher French Hierarchy, which took steps to prevent them from taking active part in the Resistance movement. The issue was discussed at the General Assembly of the Cardinals and Archbishops of France, in October 1943. They made a statement repudiating the theory and reiterating their loyalty to Pétain and their support of his Government, which they considered perfectly legitimate. It is to be noted that this statement was issued as late as 1943 when the higher clergy seemed to have lost almost entirely the confidence of the French people and even of the lower clergy. After the attack on Russia an intense campaign was initiated against the Reds, and often the most outspoken propagandists against Russia were the French Hierarchy. The following are a few typical instances:— Numerous French Catholics believe in all sincerity that Bolshevism is a bogy invented or exaggerated by the agents of Hitler. These Catholics have forgotten that this is not so. They should remember that "Communism is the complete ruin of the human society," as Pope Pius IX said. Communism is a deadly pestilence, as Pope Leo XIII declared. Communism is savage and inhuman, in such a degree that it is impossible to believe of what it is capable, as Pope Pius XI stated. After reading such statements, is it surprising that so many French Catholics became Fascists and made the anti-Communist, anti-Russian slogan their main policy? Or that numerous Catholics formed themselves into military groups and went, side by side with Hitler's legions, to invade and fight Russia? The reasons for such behavior are obvious, but it might not be amiss to put them in a nutshell by quoting the words of the French Archbishop of Auch, who declared:— The Hierarchy are undoubtedly afraid of civil war.... Let us be French above all. Let us draw together around our flag and around him who bears it. Or of the Bishop of Brieuc, who put it even more bluntly:— Should anarchy (e.g. Communism) come, we should be its first victims. We should like at this stage to quote the sentiments expressed by one of the moderate French high clergy. We say "moderate" because he was considered so in the Vatican and in French Catholic circles. This Church dignitary, Cardinal Gerlier, stated that in one of the most tragic hours of our history Providence has provided France with a chief round whom we are happy and proud to gather. My priests will remember what I told them. We pray God to bless the Marshal, and to enlist us as his collaborators, especially those of us whose task is difficult. The Church, therefore, continues to have confidence in the Marshal and to give him her loving veneration. To the objections of several dissident bishops and many of the lower clergy, that the Marshal was a Fascist and was co-operating with Hitler, and that he wanted to build a totalitarian State, which had already, as in Germany, begun to enter the Church's fields, the Cardinal replied:— Nothing has changed or will change our support of the Marshal; Catholics will not make him responsible for the happenings of which the Church disapproves. In further statements the Cardinal went so far as to declare that Catholics were not, and should not be, hostile to Laval. All this, the reader should remember, was said as late as June 16, 1943. On November 23, 1943, Mgr. Piquet declared:— For me and for some others like me, Marshal Pétain is the head of the French State because God Himself, and not a mediocre assembly of men who have resigned, wished him to become head of the French State. And I say that if all Catholics of France—I say all of them: bishops, priests, doctors, laity, etc.—if they had all followed him religiously, blindly, and fanatically, before and after the Armistice, approving him and listening to him, the fate of France would have been different. This was the Catholic Church's attitude to the Nazi-sponsored Pétain Government, and to his social, economic, and political programme based on Fascist principles. The policy of collaboration as dictated by the Vatican and the French Assembly was not supported by the whole Catholic body, which found itself at variance with the higher ecclesiastical authorities. As a French dignitary put it:— The theologians in Paris, Lyons, Lille, are making efforts to obey the orders of the bishops, but they are giving to the faithful inscrutable reasons which should tell them why they should not accept the situation in which France finds itself. The cardinals and bishops have not been able to disregard them or to minimize their influence ( Abbé Daniel Pezeril, 1944). What was the grand plan envisaged by the Vatican? We know it already. To set up a concert of authoritarian States, possibly Catholic, which would be based on the Catholic conception of how a modern society should be built. That was the general aim of the Vatican. But what rôle did it play in the particular case of France, and, above all, what was the particular plan of the French high Hierarchy and all other reactionary strata of French society which worked hand in hand with it? The plans of such sections of society were, of course, in full harmony with the Vatican's plan, which was of a double nature: internal and external. France, after the anticipated Nazi victory, would have to be rebuilt on the lines of the Pétain régime. It had to become an authoritarian State, based on the Corporate system. Socialism and Communism would, of course, be entirely abolished: the Church would be the great power in the life of the nation. Besides this internal plan, there was the external one. Both were an integral part of a greater scheme and had to fit into the Vatican's world-wide programme. The French plan was purely Continental, and the Vatican, although it might not have subscribed to it in its entirety or in the particular form in which it was envisaged by the French and the Catholics of other countries, nevertheless gave it its blessing. What was its general line? Curiously enough, it was a replica— although, of course, in a larger and more up-to-date form—of the plan for a great bloc of Catholic States as envisaged by an Austrian statesman. The one great difference was that whereas Mgr. Seipel wanted the formation of a big bloc of Catholic States in Central Europe which would have been formed mainly by the former Austrian and Hungarian provinces, this new plan was for a bloc composed mainly by the Latin peoples. It was to be the union of all the European Catholic Latin countries, and would have included Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and, curiously enough, the Catholic Southern German States. How the last-named could have been included, had Hitler won the war, is a mystery. Of course, the States concerned would have had to rid themselves of democratic parliamentarian government, and would all have been based on the principles of the Corporate system as enunciated by the Catholic Church. The system would have been a mixture of Salazar's Portugal, Franco's Spain, Mussolini's Fascist Italy, and Pétain's France, the whole cemented by the ties and influence of the Catholic Church. That Hitler had knowledge of this scheme has been proved by the fact that he himself made a solemn pledge to Pétain, when the latter was still in Spain and plotting with the Nazis, that he would permit the formation of "a solid bloc of Catholic countries, co-operating with the Greater Reich to the building of the New European and World Order" (quoted from a letter, dated August 1939, from the Italian Fascist Ambassador in Madrid). This scheme was at that time seriously studied by a good many people, and supported by powerful personalities of the Right-wing Catholic elements in France, as well as in Portugal and Spain. The fact that not a few of those who supported it did so, not to further Catholicism, but for non-religious interests, is immaterial. Many were keen on the scheme through fear that an isolated France might become a mere vassal of the Greater Germany, whereas a France in the Latin bloc would become the centre of the new system. The only alternative to this would be to fight Hitler. But if Hitler and Nazi Germany were destroyed, the tide of Communism would then sweep over France; whereas with an ex-Soviet Russia under Germany, Hitler would have been only too glad to let France and the new bloc become consolidated.
To what extent Hitler personally supported this plan no one knows. But one thing is certain: he promised Pétain, Laval, and Cardinal Suhard that once the war was over he would improve his relationships with the Catholic Church throughout Europe. This was in accordance with his promise to the Pope that, at the end of hostilities, he would sign a new Concordat with the Vatican. Cardinal Suhard, Salazar and other prominent Portuguese politicians, Franco, and the Secretary of the Fascist Party in Italy, all hinted at the plan on several occasions, and the German wireless elaborated on it, painting alluring pictures of a new Christian Europe, formed by Catholic States and by "the victorious Germany," who together would bring about "the complete restoration of a Christian Europe, the prosperity of the Catholic peoples"; a restoration which would have been achieved with no "tyrannical interference from Judaic usurers in London and New York." This, then, was the long-range plan which the various Catholic and Right-wing elements in France had in mind when collaborating with Pétain and Hitler. And this explains, if not entirely, at least to a great extent, the otherwise inexplicable policy pursued by the French high Hierarchy, who were perfectly aware of the unpopularity of their actions. Of course, the plan was the secret of the privileged: the great majority of Catholics, including bishops and the lower clergy, knew nothing of it, which also explains their occasional protests and actions when they did what they considered in accordance with the welfare of France, and nothing more.
This great plan, envisaged by the Vatican and the French Hierarchy, never materialized, except for the first stage—namely, the creation of an authoritarian French State. And although it is true that the Latin countries were Fascist and based on the Corporate system as expounded by the Church, the linking together of these countries depended, not only on the permission of Hitler, but also on how the war ended. The military victory of the Allies decided the matter, and the great scheme fell with the routed Nazi armies.
The Vatican had suffered another set-back in its titanic efforts to create and consolidate an authoritarian Catholic Europe, a programme which it had begun immediately after the First World War. The blow was particularly painful, considering that all such efforts seemed to be on the brink of being finally crowned with success. The scheme had miscarried. But does that acquit the Vatican and all the other forces which worked with it from the severe judgment which history will pass upon them? We leave the answer to the reader. When the Germans were expelled from France, and that country found herself under the provisional French Government headed by de Gaulle, the position of the Church, or rather of the French Hierarchy, was not an enviable one. The Papal nuncio was cold- shouldered, and was asked in no ambiguous terms to leave France. The head of the French Hierarchy, Cardinal Suhard, was "confined to his palace" and was forbidden from taking part in the first great religious ceremonies in Notre-Dame, where the new Government and all Paris went for a solemn thanksgiving for the liberation of the city. Several bishops were actually arrested, the most notorious of them being the Bishop of Arras. It seemed as if the liberated French would punish without discrimination all who had collaborated with Pétain and the Germans. Courts were set up, internment camps became crowded, trials started, condemnations began to fall on many a French collaborationist, heavy sentences, including the death penalty, were passed on journalists, broadcasters, officials of the Pétain régime, and leaders of the various Fascist French Parties. [Doriot and ex-Premier Laval were among those judged and executed after the liberation (autumn 1945); Pétain was sentenced to life imprisonment.]
But although severe measures were taken against the high Catholic Hierarchy, time passed and not a cardinal or a bishop ever appeared in court or was condemned. The matter had been dropped very quietly. De Gaulle himself, although a good Catholic, on his return to France asked the Vatican for permission to bring to justice Cardinal Suhard and other high ecclesiastical prelates, but nothing happened in the long run. Or, rather, what happened was that the very cardinals who had supported, and who had asked all Frenchmen to support, Pétain from the very beginning until the old Marshal left France with the retreating Nazi armies, now began to speak in favor of the new Authority and to ask Frenchmen to support it. Few days had gone by since the new Authority came to Paris, before Cardinal Gerlier, Archbishop of Lyons, made a broadcast in which amongst other things, he said:—
We will practise towards this Government, to which the support of all good citizens is indispensable, the loyalty of free men, in conformity with the traditional doctrines of the Church.... Of the ceaseless growing adherence of the country to the new Authority, the only Government capable at present of ensuring order ... Cardinal Suhard himself, when he was allowed to appear and speak in public again, began to praise the new Authority and to ask Frenchmen to support it. While this was going on, the Papal nuncio in Paris, Valéry, had left France and a new Papal nuncio with a clean record was accredited to the city; Pétain's Ambassador to the Vatican was asked to resign, which he did when Pétain left France, a new Ambassador from the "new Authority" taking his place. At the same time, a cardinal, Mgr. Tisserant, had a long meeting with de Gaulle, after having seen General Catroux and the North African bishops.
A nation-wide campaign had begun to show the great rôle that had been played by the Catholic Church in helping the forces of resistance. The rôle of the individual Catholic and of the humble parish priest was rightly exalted. General de Gaulle and other members of the Government attended Mass weekly. The trials such as that planned against the super-Catholic newspaper La Croix were dropped. While numerous laws passed by Pétain were being abolished, those granting privileges to the Church were maintained. What had happened? The Church, having lost one round, had begun on another. It was once again operating its traditional policy of courting and making an ally of the successful. In other words, now that Pétain was of no use, it was in the interests of the Church to support the new Government.
In this case the Church had strong cards to play. The head of the new Government was himself a Catholic. It is true that while he was an exile the Church had not recognized him, but had rebuffed him and his followers on many occasions; but that was past. Then, many Catholics had helped in the liberation of France, and thus no one could accuse the Church of not having played its part in the national recovery. De Gaulle, in his quality of a good Catholic, was asked "not to persecute or in any way disparage the Church at this grave hour of responsibility, by casting hasty accusations against her dignitaries." Such a promise was easily obtained, in spite of protestations and pressure from many French quarters, especially those of the Resistance movement.
The most compromised cardinals kept their silence, while those who had ever dared to speak against Pétain or the Germans now spoke far and wide. The accusations of collaboration were gradually withdrawn from Government quarters, and were maintained only by the Socialist, Communist, and Radical elements. The Church, which, immediately after the German retreat seemed to be about to suffer for its policy, after only a few months was at ease as much with the new Government as it had been with Pétain's. The Vatican had very successfully begun a new chapter.
[ Continue to Ch.17 ]