Generous Orthodoxy  

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Roman Catholic martyrs during Nazi period

In our politically correct times when no one is supposed to say anything mean about anybody, the Roman Catholic church remains an open target for intense criticism and scorn. They are strong enough to take it; but today, as we lament the murder of a nun doing humanitarian work in Somalia, it is vital that we remember the heroism of many Catholics, little noted in the midst of the continuing barrage of criticism. For instance, a story appeared in The New York Times today about a bishop who spoke out in a sermon and three priests who acted with superhuman courage under conditions that few of us can imagine.

Here is the story:

HADAMAR, Germany, is a small, picturesque town not far from the fabled medieval storybook town of Limburg....For many years before the advent of the Third Reich, it had housed a large church with a psychiatric hospital attached.

When the Nazis took power, on the direct orders of Hitler, Hadamar’s mission was changed. It became a T-4, a euthanasia center. Persons with mental diseases, with retardation, with vaguely defined “antisocial tendencies,” which could include being divorced too often, changing jobs too often, drinking too much, or, of course, being Jewish or “Negro” or Gypsy, were sent to Hadamar in buses with curtains over the windows.

Once there, they were perfunctorily examined by doctors and nurses, photographed, stripped, dressed in old army uniforms, then taken down a grim flight of stairs...About 80 human beings were jammed into [a] room, roughly 25 by 15 feet. The doors were locked tightly, and then a doctor (it was strictly ordered that only a medical doctor, usually a psychiatrist, was to do the job) would turn on a valve that would release lethal clouds of carbon monoxide into the room.

In 20 minutes, all of the victims were dead. Most were dragged out to be cremated. The crematoria ovens were running 24 hours a day for close to two years, from late September of 1939 to mid-1941, belching smoke over the pretty little town of Hadamar, not more than a few hundred yards from the room where the killings took place...

I [Ben Stein, the reporter] was shown around this ghastly place by a careful, articulate woman, Uta George, who is the curator. She explained to me that while there was a racial purity goal involved here — in the sense that the Nazis were trying to create an “Aryan utopia”... [an additional factor was that according to supposedly] good, sensible Nazi economic policies, the “unfit” could be “controlled” and the available food could feed the blond gods and goddesses of the Thousand Year Reich...

Hadamar was closed in 1941 as a euthanasia center because of protests from a nearby Catholic bishop. Three of his priests were beheaded for passing out copies of his sermon.

But then shortly thereafter, it was reopened for other nauseating killing purposes, one of which was to murder half-Jewish children who had one parent at a concentration camp and one at labor or at war....
[one can imagine that by then there were no courageous priests left to protest]

To read the whole article go to