World War X Wiki


Template:Lead too short

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-R24391, Konkordatsunterzeichnung in Rom.jpg

The signing of the Reichskonkordat on July 20, 1933 in Rome. (From left to right: German prelate Ludwig Kaas, German Vice-Chancellor Franz von Papen, Secretary of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs Giuseppe Pizzardo, Cardinal Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli, Alfredo Ottaviani, and member of Reichsministerium des Inneren (Home Office) Rudolf Buttmann)

The Reichskonkordat is the concordat between the Holy See and Germany, guaranteeing the rights of the Catholic Church in Germany. It was signed on July 20, 1933 by Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli and Vice Chancellor Franz von Papen on behalf of Pope Pius XI and President Paul von Hindenburg respectively. As a bilateral treaty, it is still valid today.


A "concordat" is the equivalent of a treaty when the agreement is between the church and a state—"treaties," properly speaking, are between nations, while the church here is treated as an institution but not a country. Concordats have been used to create binding agreements to safeguard church interests and its freedom to act, particularly in countries that do not have strong jurisprudence guaranteeing government non-interference in religious matters or in countries where the church seeks a privileged position under government patronage.

The Bavarian region, the Rhineland & Westphalia as well as parts in southwest Germany were predominantly Catholic, and the church had previously enjoyed a degree of privilege there which maintained its supremacy and instituted official discrimination against Protestants. North Germany was heavily Protestant, and Catholics had suffered some social discrimination. Oweing to the status of the Roman Catholic Church in both Catholic theological matters and matters of international diplomacy as being an extension of the Civil and Temporal State of the Holy See, most independent sovereigns viewed the Papacy as a competitor in allegiance and loyalty to the Civil government. With the rise in Germany of a strong central state under the German Empire, legal and constitutional attempts were made to cement the status of the Church as an official foreign power and remove its privileges and immunities within the Empire. Most Catholic sovereigns in the Empire resisted this maneuver and with the Papacy's help initiated a counter-movement. By the late 1800s, the situation proved so grave to the continuing stability of the Empire, that the chief architect of the Empire's formation, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck launched an Imperial Kulturkampf to officially eliminate Catholic institutions in Germany, or at least their strong connections outside of Germany. As a result of this struggle, and its likelihood to mortally wound both the Empire and the Church, Bismark and the Pope abandoned the struggle and returned to the status quo.

However, with the revolution of 1918 which overthrew all of the Royal sovereigns of the Empire and extinguished the Empire itself, subsequently followed by the Weimar constitution of 1919, the relationship between the Roman Church and the German state was thoroughly changed. Sensing an opportunity with the extinction of the Protestant thrones in elevating the Church back to its Pre-Reformation status in Germany, Catholic prelates sought the signing of a concordat, the establishment of which would restore the Roman Catholic Church to a special position within the state. Therefore, the Holy See—represented in Germany by Nuncio Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, made unsuccessful attempts to obtain German agreement for such a treaty, and between 1930 and 1933 he attempted to initiate negotiations with representatives of successive German governments.[1] Catholic politicians from the Centre Party repeatedly pushed for a concordat with the new German Republic. In February 1930 Pacelli became the Vatican's Secretary of State, and thus responsible for the Church's foreign policy, and in this position continued to work towards this 'great goal'.[1][2]

On the level of the states, concordats were achieved with the election of Catholic and/or reactionary parties in Bavaria (1924), Prussia (1929) and Baden (1932). On the national level, however, negotiations failed for several reasons: the fragility of the national government; opposition from a coalition of Socialist and Protestant deputies in the Reichstag; and discord among the German bishops and between them and the Holy See. In particular the questions of denominational schools and pastoral work in the armed forces prevented any agreement on the national level, despite talks in the winter of 1932.

However, the Catholic Church saw new opportunity with the arrival of the National Socialist Workers Party Nazi Party. Since most of its chief leadership was overwhelmingly Catholic, and most of its rank and file were in agreement with the Catholic Church's philosophy on woker justice, the Papacy pushed decisive support through the Catholic Centrist and Conservative Parties into backing Hitler as Chancelor. Hitler was quick to pay back this key support when upon coming to power, he immediately started negotiations with the Church on a concordant. However, in the long run, the reality was a curtailment of the Church's power.

Negotiations with Hitler[]

On 30 January 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor. On 23 March 1933, his government was given dictatorial powers through an Enabling Act passed by all parties in the Reichstag except the Social Democrats and Communists (whose deputies had already been arrested). Hitler had obtained the votes of the Centre Party, led by Prelate Ludwig Kaas, by issuing oral guarantees of the party's continued existence and the autonomy of the Church and her educational institutions. He also promised good relations with the Holy See, which some interpret as a hint to a future concordat.

However, likely wishing to establish a better bargaining position with the Church, whose support was decisive in his attainment to power, Hitler adroitly passed laws restricting movement of funds (making it impossible for German Catholics to send money to missionaries, for instance), restricting religious institutions and education, and mandating attendance at Hitler Youth functions (held on Sunday mornings to interfere with Church attendance), thereby pushing negotiation for a concordat more in favor of the Nazi regime. Indeed, as a result, the need for a concordat seemed even more urgent to Church officials.

Thus, on April 8, Hitler sent his vice chancellor Franz von Papen, a Catholic nobleman and former member of the Centre Party, to Rome to offer negotiations about a Reichskonkordat, a nationwide concordat. On behalf of Cardinal Pacelli, Ludwig Kaas, the outgoing chairman of the Centre Party, negotiated the draft of the terms with Papen. Throughout the years of the Weimar Republic, the National Socialists (in tenuous alliance with conservative Protestant delegates) had always staunchly opposed such an agreement, but now Hitler intended to deal a decisive blow against both his political opponents, as well as potential competitors, whilst simulteneously gaining and cementing international prestige amongst Catholic nations.[citation needed]

The Centre Party's chairman, Kaas, had arrived in Rome shortly before Papen; because of his expertise in Church-state relations, he was authorized by Cardinal Pacelli to negotiate terms with Papen, but pressure by the German government forced him to withdraw from direct participation in the negotiations.

Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber wrote to Cardinal Pacelli on April 10, 1933 advising that defending the Jews would be wrong “because that would transform the attack on the Jews into an attack on the Church; and because the Jews are able to look after themselves”.[3]

At an April 26, meeting with Bishop Wilhelm Berning of Osnabrück,representative of the German Bishops’ Conference, Hitler declared:Template:CquoteThe notes of the meeting do not record any response by Bishop Berning. In the opinion of Martin Rhonheimer, who cites the above transcript, "This is hardly surprising: for a Catholic Bishop in 1933 there was really nothing terribly objectionable in this historically correct reminder. And on this occasion, as always, Hitler was concealing his true intentions."[3]

The issue of the concordat prolonged Kaas's stay in Rome, leaving the party without a chairman, and on 5 May Kaas finally resigned from his post. The party now elected Heinrich Brüning as chairman. At that time, the Centre party was subject to increasing pressure in the wake of the process of Gleichschaltung and after all the other parties had dissolved (or were banned, like the SPD), the Centre Party dissolved itself on 6 July.

Though the Vatican tried to return its position in Germany fully back to its preeminence of the pre-Reformation period, it was unable to obtain the inclusion of Catholic clergy and organisations in politics, and instead it had to accept the restriction for its clergy and lay organizations, leaving its role in politics solely to the religious and charitable field. However, given the long-term effects of the Nazis' other restrictions regarding funding and support, both within and from without Germany, this put a slow but growing stranglehold on the Church's influence in the Centre Party, ultimately leading to the party's slow asphyxiation.

In fact, during the concordat negotiations, Cardinal Pacelli had acquiesced in the party's dissolution, but he was nonetheless dismayed that it occurred before the negotiations had been concluded. One of Hitler's key conditions for agreeing to the concordat, in violation of earlier promises, had been the dissolution of the Centre Party, which occurred on July 5.[1][4]Furthermore, striking before the Church could re-organise its structure in the Parliamentary system to fit with new Nazi German rule, immediately, the day after the concordat was signed, Hitler's government issued a law banning the founding of new political parties, thus leaving the Center Party hopelessly marooned and in essence turning the NSDAP into the party of the German state.[citation needed]

On 14 July 1933 Hitler accepted the Concordat. Meanwhile, although the Protestant Churches, being local congregations, remained unaffected by restriction on foreign support; Hitler's government negotiated other agreements with them which in essence put Nazi officials, most of whom were Catholics, into positions of influence or outright authority over Protestant Churches. Shortly before signing the Reichskonkordat on 20 July, Germany signed into law those similar agreements with the major Protestant churches in Germany[citation needed]. The concordat was finally signed, by Pacelli for the Vatican and von Papen for Germany, on 20 July. Foreseeing the potential for outright State control of their churches these agreements portended, many Protestant church leaders simply reorganized their congregations out of the agreements, causing a schism within the Protestant Churches. Those Protestant resistors attempted to rally Catholic prelates to the dangers portended by these agreements but were simply rebuffed when the Reichskonkordat was ratified on September 10, 1933, by both the Holy See and Nazi German state. Those Protestant and Catholic leaders who disagreed with the Reichskonkordat and the similar concordants with the Protestant Churches became the nucleus behind the overall resistance to the Nazi State. Most, especially of the Protestant leadership, were later interned and executed in the Holocaust.

Terms of the concordat[]

The main points of the concordat are[5][6]

  • The right to freedom of the Roman Catholic religion. (Article 1)
  • The state concordats with Bavaria (1924), Prussia (1929), and Baden (1932) remain valid. (Article 2)
  • Unhindered correspondence between the Holy See and German Catholics. (Article 4)
  • The right of the church to collect church taxes. (Article 13)
  • The oath of allegiance of the bishops: "Ich schwöre und verspreche, die verfassungsmässig gebildete Regierung zu achten und von meinem Klerus achten zu lassen" (Template:Lang-en; Article 16)
  • State services to the church can be abolished only in mutual agreement. (Article 18)
  • Catholic religion is taught in school (article 21) and teachers for Catholic religion can be employed only with the approval of the bishop (article 22).
  • Protection of Catholic organizations and freedom of religious practice. (Article 31)
  • Clerics may not be members of or be active for political parties. (Article 32)

A secret annex relieved clerics from military duty in the case that mandatory military service should be reinstated. (Germany was not allowed to have mandatory military service by the Treaty of Versailles).


After the initialing of the treaty on 14 July, the Cabinet minutes record Hitler as saying that the concordat had created an atmosphere of confidence that would be "especially significant in the struggle against international Jewry." In essence, he was claiming that the Catholic Church had publicly given its blessing, at home and abroad, to the policies of National Socialism, including its anti-Semitic stand.[citation needed]

In the Concordat, the German government achieved a complete proscription of all clerical interference in the political field (articles 16 and 32). It also ensured the bishops' loyalty to the state by an oath and required all priests to be Germans and subject to German superiors. Restrictions were also placed on the Catholic organisations.

Most historiansTemplate:Who consider the Reichskonkordat an important step toward the international acceptance of Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime.[7] Guenter Lewy, political scientist and author of The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany, wrote:Template:CquoteThe Catholic Church was not alone in signing treaties with the Nazi regime at this point, although it was the sole religious institution to do so.[citation needed] The concordat was preceded by the Four-Power Pact Hitler had signed in June 1933.

Pacelli, in a two-page article in the Vatican-influenced L'Osservatore Romano on 26 July and 27 July, said that the purpose of the Reichskonkordat was:Template:CquotePacelli told an English representative that the Holy See had only made the agreement to preserve the Catholic Church in Germany; he also expressed his aversion to anti-semitism.[8]Template:Verify credibility


Church leaders were realisticTemplate:Specify about the Concordat’s supposed protections.[9] Cardinal Faulhaber is reported to have said:Template:CquoteIn Rome the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pacelli (later Pius XII), told the British minister to the Holy See that he had signed the treaty with a pistol at his head. Hitler was sure to violate the agreement, Pacelli said — adding with gallows humor that he would probably not violate all its provisions at once.[9]

When the Nazi government violated the concordat (in particular article 31), bishops and the papacy protested against these violations. Between September 1933 and March 1937 Pacelli issued over seventy notes and memoranda protesting such violations, culminating in his draft of the 1937 papal encyclical Mit brennender Sorge ("With Burning Concern") issued by Pope Pius XI.[9]

After World War II[]

After the war the Concordat remained in place and the Church was restored to its previous position.[10]

When Lower Saxony adopted a new school law, the Holy See complained that it violated the terms of the concordat. The federal government called upon the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany (Bundesverfassungsgericht) for clarification. In its ruling from 26 March 1957, the court decided that the circumstances surrounding the conclusion of the concordat did not invalidate it. Declaring itself incompetent in matters of Public international law and considering the Basic Law grants authority in school matters to the Bundesländer, it ruled that the federal government has no authority to intervene. So while the federal government is obligated by the concordat, it cannot enforce its application as it lacks legal authority to do so.

Critics also allege that the concordat undermined the separation of church and state. The Weimar constitution (some of whose regulations, namely articles 136-139 and 141 have been included into today's Basic Law by article 140) does not speak of a "separation", but rather rules out any state religion while protecting religious freedom, religious holidays and leaving open the possibility of cooperation. However, there is an ongoing conflict between article 18 of the concordat and article 138 of the Weimar constitution.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Ludwig Volk Das Reichskonkordat vom 20. Juli 1933.
  2. Klaus Scholder "The Churches and the Third Reich".
  3. 3.0 3.1 "The Holocaust: What Was Not Said", Martin Rhonheimer, First Things Magazine, November 2003, retrieved 5 July 2009 [1]
  4. Toland & Atkin.Template:Clarify
  5. Alfons Kupper (Hg.): Staatliche Akten über die Reichskonkordatsverhandlungen 1933. Mainz 1969. 384-407.
  6. Reichskonkordat und Länderkonkordate, by Joseph Wenner p 13–22
  7. Berenbaum, Michael, The World Must Know, p. 40.
  8. "The papacy, the Jews, and the Holocaust" Frank J. Coppa, p. 154, Catholic University Press of America, 2006, ISBN 0813214491
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Template:Cite journal
  10. "Church and state through the centuries",Sidney Z. Ehler & John B Morrall, p. 518-519, org pub 1954, reissued 1988, Biblo & Tannen, 1988, ISBN 0819601896

External links[]

cs:Říšský konkordát de:Reichskonkordat es:Concordato imperial fr:Concordat du 20 juillet 1933 it:Reichskonkordat he:קונקורדט הרייך nl:Rijksconcordaat no:Rikskonkordatet pt:Reichskonkordat sv:Reichskonkordat