German Bishops admit that their predecessors failed to oppose National Socialism
German Bishops acknowledged their complicity in the outbreak of World War II a few days before the 75th anniversary of its end. They issued a document in which they apologise for the omissions committed by their predecessors during the Third Reich. They aslo asked for forgiveness.
Last Wednesday, the German Bishops’ Conference published the document “German Bishops in the World War”. The text describes the omissions made by German hierarchs between 1933 and 1945.
The hierarchs admitted that it took a long time before a frank debate began in the German Church about the attitude of hierarchs during the period of the Third Reich. The Bishops emphasised that their predecessors did not vigorously oppose the crimes committed by the Wehrmacht.
As they recalled, it was only on the 19th of August 1943 that the episcopate issued a joint pastoral letter in which it emphasised the need for the state to “abide by God’s order and truth and defended the right to life and property.” On the other hand, even at that time, Bishops called on German soldiers to fulfil their duties of war.
“With all the internal distance to National Socialism and sometimes also open opposition, the Catholic Church in Germany was part of the war community,” concluded Bishop Heiner Wilmer of Hildesheim.