University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


  • The Churches

    The Churches

    The Churches

    Conference of representatives of the Inner Mission and the Landeshauptmann at the Landes-haus in Wiesbaden on 19th October 1937, 22nd October 1937

    In 1935 the welfare system institutions of both the Inner Mission of the Protestant Church and the Caritas of the Catholic Church were already exposed to massive attacks from the state. The exemplary "institutional welfare service" in the province of HesseNassau which also reached the republic of Hesse meant subjection of the clerical institutions to the "Fuhrer principle", i.e. to guidance by the state, deterioration of the situation in the institutions and forced transfer of inmates or, very often, the closure of the institution. In the years 1937 and 1938 the state interventions reached their peak. Although Landeshauptmann Traupel was prepared to face strong opposition from the Catholic Church, he tried to negotiate with the Inner Mission, represented by the Central Committee. The result of the debates on 10th October 1937 was that the Inner Mission remained opposed to the subjection of their institutions to the "Führer principle", but was willing to accept two "experiments" to be carried out in the institutions Scheuern (educational sanatorium) and Rengshausen (Burschen-heim Beiserhaus).

    Educational Sanatorium and Nursing Home
    Scheuern near Nassau, no date

    On 29th May 1937 Landeshauptmann Traupel explained to the staff of the institution that children under public welfare care and foster children would be allowed to enter an institution not owned by the district agency only if both the care and the education corresponded to the principles of the Nazi state and if the district agency of Nassau had the absolute authority of direction in accordance with the "Führer principle". Nonobedience would result in the transfer of 505 of the 778 foster-children. On 25th August 1937, the amendment to the statutes made the institution come under the "guidance" of the Oberpräsident (senior executive), represented by Landesrat Bernotat, as sole member of the board. In 1941, this amendment made it possible that the institution of the Inner Mission became an "interim institution" for Hadamar. In consequence of the "transfers" to Hadamar, the number of foster children in Scheuern was reduced to 350. Numerous houses were also used as military hospitals.

    Report of the head of the institutions Hephata zu Treysa concerning the disputes with the Landeshauptmann, 15th November 1919

    In 1936, on request of the Landeshauptmann, the allowances for care services in the Hephata institutions of the Inner Mission near Treysa were reduced; (before 1933, these institutions included an educational and nursing institution for mentally feeble minded children and adolescents, a cripples' home, a public hospital, an educational and absorption home for children under the public welfare system, and a home for psychopaths and the unemployed). The same year, school children brought up under the public welfare system were transferred to the "Karlshof" public educational institution in Wabern. In the summer of 1937, the institution had to decide whether it agreed with the "Fuhrer principle" or to have the inmates transferred. Rector Happich in his function of head of the institution refused to adhere to the "principle of the Führer", but agreed to a "circular exchange": 52 men were transferred to the Haina mental hospital white Hephata took over 28 male and 14 female foster children from the catholic St. Antoniusheim in Fulda. The following year, the fight over the transfers started again. All negotiations and even a "memorandum" sent to the head of the Reich government and the party did not bring any change. Until the end of June 1938, 388 inmates of the home had been "transferred" to state-operated institutions.

    Rector Friedrich Happich, in the thirties

    Friedrich Happich (1883-1951) was in charge of the Hephata institutions from 1923. In the twenties Happich already expressed himself in favor of eugenic sterilization and was a member of the "Standing Committee for issues concerning racial hygiene and racial nursing of the Inner Mission" (...). In 1934, upon his request, the institution obtained the authorization to execute forced sterilization. Later, looking back to these years, Happich said: "One thing was seriously painful for him and this he was obliged to express in public. Before the turn, the Hephata institutions, together with the Bruderhaus, were considered to be a stronghold of opposition and struggle against Marxism. Together with the physicians of the institution, he (Happich) had fought for a law of sterilization for many years and had often been attacked for this. Of all bigger institutions of the Inner Mission of Germany, it was his institution that was subject to conditions touching the core of life. Happich would not have been surprised if people who had a different opinion before 1933, had said to him: 'This is how they pay you back!"'

    Playing children in front of the girls' home Bethanien in Hephata near Treysa, before 1933

    St. Antoniusheim in Fulda, no date

    On 10th June 1937, the Oberpräsident in Kassel gave orders to the catholic St. Antoniusheim in Fulda that 52 children had to be transferred to Hephata, 26 men to Haina and 25 women to Merxhausen. It was forbidden to inform the parents of this transfer in order to "avoid unrest".

    Until the beginning of the war, 1,250 people had been transferred from Hessian institutions of the German Caritas Association to state-operated facilities. The homes concerned were, among others, the home of the Barmherzige Brüder in Montabaur, the St. Valentinshaus in Kiedrich, the St. Vinzenzstift in Aulhausen and the St. Josefsanstalt in Hadamar.

    Opinion of the Bishop of Fulda concerning the transfer of foster children of the Antoniusheirn Fulda to Weilmünster, 15th September 1941

    The access of the state to foster children in private and clerical institutions did not come to an end with the transfers of the years 1935-1939. Under the "Euthanasia Programme" further deliveries of inmates were requested. The Bishop of Fulda refused to co-operate in the "extermination of life unworthy of life". He had already presented a petition on the former transfers to the Reich Minister of the Interior. On 11th August 1940, the Bishop's Conference of Fulda sent an official note to the Reich Chancellery, protesting against the killing of so-called mentally sick individuals, "unworthy of life", and the life-threatening experiments on new therapies involving other sick people.

    Bishop Johannes Baptista Dietz of Fulda, no date
    Johannes Baptista Dietz (1879-1959) became Bishop of Fulda in 1939.

    Letter of the Bishop of Limburg to the Reich Minister of justice regarding the killings of patients In Hadamar, 1941

    The letter especially reflects the clearly expressed observations and fears of the population. Hilfrich also expressed his view within his diocese.

    Antonius Hilfrich, no date

    Dr. Antonius Hilfrich (1873-1947) became Bishop of Limburg in 1930.

    Clemens August Graf von Galen, no date.

    On 3rd August 1941, bishop Clemens Graf von Galen (1878-1946) from Munster held a sensational sermon against "euthanasia" in the Lambertikirche in Munster; its written reproduction had a large-scale distribution. Von Galen called the "euthanasia programme" 'pure murder" and declared he would bring a charge against those responsible for this crime on the grounds of an offence against section 211 (murder) of the German Penal Code. He ended the sermon with the words: Do you, do I have the right to live only as long as we are productive, as long as others acknowledge that we are productive?"

    Owing to von Galen's reputation, he could go on exercising his function as bishop, but only under constant observation of the Gestapo.