Tuesday 19 January 2010

Fathers Alfred Delp and Hermann Wehrle - martyr-priests murdered by the Nazis

Rev Dr Alfred Delp SJ and Rev Dr Hermann Wehrle SJ were both dragged before the Nazi People's Court on trumped up charges and martyred chiefly for being Catholic priests.

Fr Wehrle had merely heard the confession of a German cavalry officer, Major Ludwig Freiherr (Baron) von Leonrod, who was not even part of the 20th July plot to overthrow Hitler. He had declined to get involved.

Baron Leonrod was nevertheless condemned to death for not revealing what he knew about the plot, which was, in any case, very little.

Fr Wehrle knew even less but Baron Leonrod came to him for spiritual counsel and confession. Fr Wehrle gave him him open spiritual counsel and told him that tyrannicide was moral if the tyrant had no legal right to be leader.

Outspoken opposition to the Nazis by individual Jesuits resulted in harsh response from government officials, including imprisonment of priests in concentration camps.

The government takeover of church property, "Klostersturm", resulted in the loss of valuable properties such as that of Stimmen der Zeit, the Jesuit newspaper, and limited the work of the Jesuits in Germany. The Jesuit provincial, Rev Fr Augustin Rösch SJ, Father Delp's superior in Munich, became active in the underground resistance to Hitler.

It was Augustin Rösch who introduced Delp to the Kreisau Circle. As of 1942, Delp met regularly with the clandestine group around Helmuth James, Count von Moltke to develop a model for a new social order after the Third Reich came to an end. Delp's role was to explain Catholic social teaching to the group, and to arrange contacts between Moltke and Catholic leaders, including Archbishop (later Cardinal) Preysing of Berlin.

Rev Dr Augustin Roesch SJ, the Munich Jesuit Provincial
who clandestinely opposed Hitler and the Nazis

This was the difficulty for German Christians. Hitler had been voted in constitutionally. Was his government legitimate? Seemingly, then, yes. But then he had also usurped power as Chancellor but creating himself Fuehrer or "Leader" which was not a constitutionally recognised post. He had done so through the Ermaechtigungsgesetz or "Enabling" or "Empowering" Acts which purported to be constitutional but, in reality, could hardly be called so.

True, Chancellor Bruening (a Catholic) had persuaded President von Hindenburg to sign over to him the emergency powers under Article 34 of the Weimar Constitution but that was all legal and only temporary. This seemed different. But, on the other hand, the Weimar Constitution had only come in, after World War I, and in duress. Was it the last word on the subject?

All these debates, the 20th July plotters repeatedly considered, anxious to ensure that they behaved with impeccably correct morals and justice.

It is easy for us to sit back in our armchairs and say "what was the problem?". But we were not there and called upon to risk our lives. The issue is still live. As Catholics we are taught to obey the legitimately constituted government and not to seek to overthrow it unlawfully just because we do not like it. We do not have the right to impose upon others our own dislike of the government.

These distinctions were lost on a brutish thug like Roland Freisler, the ex-Communist then fanatical Nazi, President of the Nazi People's Court.

Newly released footage below shows the eloquent defence of Fr Hermann Wehrle and others and their ill treatment at the hands of the odious Freisler.

Rev Dr Hermann Josef Wehrle SJ
curate at Holy Blood Church, Munich,
martyred for the Faith in 1944

Freisler acts as both prosecutor and judge in a blatant breach of elementary natural justice and then, with all the venom he can muster, he screeches and screams at the victims earning himself the clandestine sobriquet "raving Roland".

He ensured that his victims, the false accused, were further humiliated by having them dressed in old ragged clothes, often without any belt to keep their trousers up, so that they appeared before this Nazi kangaroo court looking shabby, scruffy and humiliated, particularly those who had been generals or high officials.

Major Ludwig Freiherr (Baron) von Leonrod
German cavalry officer and devout Catholic aristocrat
martyred for the Faith in 1944

In these clips he finds Baron von Leonrod and Fr Wehrle, guilty of knowing of the 20 July 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler, and of following Catholic theology in considering themselves not bound to reveal their knowledge (clearly because of Hitler's tyranny).

He then condemns them to death, to be hanged by wire, suspended from meat hooks, in the cells of Ploetzensee prison as "enemies of the Reich" but, in reality and in the eyes of God, as deeply heroic Christian martyrs.

We salute their courage in standing firm before the odious treachery, heathen villainy and pagan devilishness of the National Socialist German Worker's Party and its atrocious, diabolical leadership who, with their symbol of a cross with arms broken, the satanic swastika, declared war on the old, royal, noble and Catholic Germany of men like Colonel Count Claus von Stauffenberg, Baron Ludwig von Leonrod and Fathers Delp and Wehrle.

See, in these clips, how these Catholic heroes had to explain their innermost thoughts to the brutal, insensitive Freisler who was wholly incapable of understanding the careful moral reasoning of men like Fr Wehrle.

He screams at them and then declares, in solemn tones: "Sie werden mit dem Tode bestraft", "they shall be punished with death!".

Freisler, who had been a Communist in his youth, had been sent to the Soviet Union to learn how they conducted their show trials of dissidents. He learned his evil trade well at the hands of the equally brutal Soviet prosecutors and judges.

Freisler himself was killed in a bombing raid not long after the 20 July plot trials when the court building was struck by a direct hit. He was found with a file in his hands about to persecute yet another victim of the "People's Court".

His victims are now commemorated in modern Germany as national heroes.

Yet there are still bigots like the "Reverend" Ray Dubuque and others who pretend that the Nazi leaders were really a "Catholic men's movement like the Knights of Columbus".

May we draw strength from the courageous stand against evil of these noble Catholic men. Consider what a singular honour it will be to spend eternity in heaven with men such as these. Are we worthy of the company of these gentle giants?

God give us the strength to learn from them and live as they did!

Christian martyrs of the old, once Catholic, Germany,
pray for us!

Maiorem hac dilectionem nemo habet ut animam suam quis ponat pro amicis suis.

Greater love than this no man hath, that he lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13



umblepie said...

Inspiring and humbling. All you holy martys, pray for us.

Clotilde Frazier said...

I stumbled into the topic, found the videos and a reference to the book,
The Pink Swastika. I am three-quarter through it and am stunned by the amount of documentation showing how much of the Nazi machine was under the control of pederasts and homosexuals.

No one who wants to understand the force behind the inhumanity that drove the brownshirts or SA should go without this book. Thank you for the thought provoking article on Just War.