The Reichskonkordat is a treaty
A treaty is an express agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law, namely sovereign states and international organizations. A treaty may also be known as an agreement, protocol, covenant, convention or exchange of letters, among other terms...

 that was agreed between the Holy See
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 and Nazi government, that guarantees the rights of the Catholic Church in Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. It was signed on July 20, 1933 by Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli (who later became Pope Pius XII) and Vice Chancellor Franz von Papen on behalf of Pope Pius XI and President Paul von Hindenburg respectively. The Holy See reported many violations of the agreement which began soon after it was ratified and culminated in the issuing of the papal encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge
Mit Brennender Sorge
Mit brennender Sorge is a Catholic Church encyclical of Pope Pius XI, published on 10 March 1937 . Written in German, not the usual Latin, it was read from the pulpits of all German Catholic churches on one of the Church's busiest Sundays,...

 in early 1937. The Reichskonkordat is the most controversial of several concordats agreed between various states and the Vatican during the reign of Pope Pius XI and is frequently discussed in works that deal with the rise of Hitler in the early 1930s and the Holocaust. The concordat has been described as giving moral legitimacy to the Nazi regime soon after Hitler had acquired dictatorial powers, having placed constraints on Catholics critical of the regime, leading to a muted response by the Church to the polices of the Nazis. From a Roman Catholic church perspective it has been argued that the concordat prevented even greater evils being unleashed against the Church. Though the German bishops were unenthusiastic, and the allied forces felt it was inappropriate, Pope Pius XII argued to keep the concordat at the end of World War II and the treaty is still in force today.


A "concordat" is the equivalent of a treaty when the agreement is between the Catholic Church and a state—"treaties," properly speaking, are between countries, 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. Pope Pius XI concluded concordats with twenty-one separate countries. These concordats were generally observed by the countries involved with the exception of Germany.

Accounts of twentieth century diplomatic relations between Germany and the Vatican commonly take as their start point the political scene in the late 19th century. Between 1871 and 1887 Bismarck
- People :* Bismarck family, a German noble family descending from Herebord von Bismarck* Otto von Bismarck , German statesman of the 19th century* Herbert von Bismarck , Secretary of State, son of Otto von Bismarck...

 sought to restrict the power of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, whom he regarded as “the enemy within”, through a “Kulturkampf
The German term refers to German policies in relation to secularity and the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, enacted from 1871 to 1878 by the Prime Minister of Prussia, Otto von Bismarck. The Kulturkampf did not extend to the other German states such as Bavaria...

” (cultural struggle) which included the disbanding of Catholic organisations, confiscation of church property, banishment or imprisonment of clergy and an ongoing feud with the Vatican. According to James Carroll the end of Kulturkampf signalled “that the Church had successfully resisted to his face the man [Bismarck] who, according to an admiring Henry Kissinger
Henry Kissinger
Heinz Alfred "Henry" Kissinger is a German-born American academic, political scientist, diplomat, and businessman. He is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He served as National Security Advisor and later concurrently as Secretary of State in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and...

, was 'outmanoeuvred' by nobody.”

The Catholic Church's firm resistance to Bismarck and Kulturkampf, including passive resistance by the Church in general and the excommunication of collaborating priests, has been used as benchmark for assessing the Church's response to the Nazis from the early 1930s through World War II.

A formal realignment of Church and state relationships was considered desirable in the aftermath of the political instability of 1918 and the adoption of the Weimar constitution for the Reich along with the new constitutions in the German states in 1919. Key issues that the Church hoped to resolve related to state subsidies to the Church, support for Catholic schools, the appointment of bishops and the legal position of the clergy. The Reich government, in turn, wished for reasons of foreign policy to have friendly relations with the Holy See as well as preventing new diocesan boundaries being established which would lend support to the claims of ceded German territories in the east such as Danzig and Upper Silesia. Negotiations relating to specific points, rather than a general concordat, took place between 1919 and 1922 but even after subsequent feelers were put out between the two parties the negotiations failed, primarily because both the Reichstag and Reichsrat were dominated by non-Catholic majorities who, for a variety of reasons, didn't want a formal pact with the Vatican. In the absence of an agreement relating to particular areas of concern with the Reich the Holy See concluded more wide-ranging concordats with three German states where Catholics were concentrated: Bavaria (1924), Prussia (1929) and Baden (1932). In October 1929 General Groener pushed the Foreign Ministry to resolve an issue with the Vatican regarding military chaplains who lacked the ability to administer the sacraments of baptism or matrimony without first obtaining the permission of the local priest or bishop. Groener wanted the military to have their own bishop rather than rely on local ordinaries and it was this particular issue that was to mark an important step in the discussions that would ultimately be realised in the concordat with the Vatican. In March 1930 the new Papal Secretary of State, Cardinal Pacelli, gave indications that the Vatican would be interested in a concordat with the Reich in the event of the any reforms of the Reich's constitution having an adverse effect on the validity of the concordats already agreed between the German states and the Vatican. Discussions between the two parties took place between 1931 and 1932 and at one point representatives of the Reich pointed out that Italy had an army Archbishop with Cardinal Pacelli indicating that that was because Italy had signed a comprehensive concordat with the Vatican. The German negotiators continued to discuss solely on the basis of particular points rather than a general concordat during 1931 but even these were felt to be unlikely to be passed by the Reichstag or the Reichsrat, no matter their political or theological leanings. In January 1933 Hitler became Chancellor and it was the passing of the Enabling Act on the 23rd March, giving Hitler dictatorial powers, that removed the Reichstag as an obstacle to concluding a concordat with the Vatican. In early 1933 Hitler told Herman Rauschning that Bismarck had been stupid in starting a Kulturkampf and outlined his own strategy for dealing with the clergy which would based initially on a policy of toleration:
We should trap the priests by their notorious greed and self indulgence. We shall thus be able to settle everything with them in perfect peace and harmony. I shall give them a few years reprieve. Why should we quarrel? They will swallow anything in order to keep their material advantages. Matters will never come to a head. They will recognise a firm will, and we need only show them once or twice who is the master. They will know which way the wind blows.

There was some thoughts that the Church was keen on coming to terms with Hitler as he represented a strong resistance against Communism: the Papal Nuncio in Berlin (Cesare Osenigo) is reported to have been “jubilant” about Hitler's rise to power and that the new government would soon be offering the same concessions to the Church that Mussolini thought necessary to do previously in Italy.

Negotiations with Hitler

The Catholic bishops in Germany had generally shown opposition to Hitler from the beginning of his rise to power. When Hitler's National Socialist Party polled six-million votes during the 14 September 1930 election campaign the Catholic hierarchy called on its people to examine their consciences. During the next two years, though there had been softening by some, the bishops continued to pronounce against unacceptable policies of the Nazi party. When Hitler was called by Hindenberg to assume power on 30 January 1933 the bishops maintained support for the Catholic Zentrum party who in turn refused to assent to a proposal that would allow Hitler to assume full power. On the 12th March 1933 the German Cardinal Faulhaber was received by Pope Pius XI in Rome. On his return he reported:
After my recent experience in Rome in the highest circles, which I cannot reveal here, I must say that I found, despite everything, a greater tolerance with regard to the new government...Let us meditate on the words of the Holy Father, who in a consistory, without mentioning his name, indicated before the whole world in Adolf Hitler the statesmen who first, after the Pope himself, has raised his voice against Bolshevism.

At a cabinet meeting on the 20th March 1933 Hitler "confidently reported" that the Catholic Zentrum party had now seen the necessity of the Enabling Act and that "the acceptance of the Enabling Act also by the Zentrum would signify a strengthening prestige with regard to foreign countries." Early in March 1933 the bishops recommended that Catholics vote for Zentrum in the elections scheduled for 5 March 1933. However, two weeks later there there was a reversal of previous policy and the bishops now allowed Zentrum and the Bavarian Catholic Party to vote for Hitler on the 23rd March thus giving him dictatorial powers through the Enabling Act
Enabling Act
The Enabling Act was passed by Germany's Reichstag and signed by President Paul von Hindenburg on 23 March 1933. It was the second major step, after the Reichstag Fire Decree, through which Chancellor Adolf Hitler legally obtained plenary powers and established his dictatorship...

. German Catholic theologian Robert Grosche described the Enabling Act in terms of the 1870 decree on the infallibility of the Pope, and that the Church had "anticipated on a higher level, that historical decision which is made today on the political level: for the Pope and against the sovereignty of the Council; for the Fuhrer and against the Parliament." On the 29th March 1933 Cardinal Pacelli sent word to the German Bishops to the effect that they must now change their position with regard to National Socialism. On the 28th March 1933 the bishops themselves now took up a position favourable to Hitler. According to Falconi (1966) the about-turn came through the influence and instructions of the Vatican. Pope Pius XI indicated in Mit brennender Sorge (1937) that it was the Germans who asked for the Concordat and Pope Pius XII affirmed this in 1945.

Falconi viewed the Church's realignment as motivated by the desire to avoid being left alone in opposition and to avert reprisals. After the leader of the Zentrum party, Monsignor Kass, had persuaded the party members to vote for Hitler and the Enabling Act he left immediately for Rome and on his return on the 31st March he was received by Hitler. He returned to Rome accompanied by the Catholic Vice-chancellor von Papen on the 7th April with a mandate from Hitler to sound-out a concordat with the Vatican. On the day they set out for Rome to prepare the way for the Concordat the first two anti-Semitic laws, excluding non-Aryans from public office and the legal profession, were issued in Germany but these did not impede the discussions. Papen recorded in his memoirs that on his arrival in Rome Pope Pius XI "greeted me with paternal affection, expressing his pleasure that at the head of the German State was a man like Hitler, on whose banner the uncompromising struggle against Communism and Nihilism was inscribed." In Falconi's opinion the Concordat was the price paid by Hitler in order to obtain the support of the German episcopate and the Catholic parties. Ian Kershaw
Ian Kershaw
Sir Ian Kershaw is a British historian of 20th-century Germany whose work has chiefly focused on the period of the Third Reich...

 viewed the loss of political Catholicism as the sacrifice needed to protect the position of the Catholic Church in Germany.

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” — the latter on the impression of the April boycott
Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses
The Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses in Germany took place on 1 April 1933, soon after Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor on 30 January 1933...

 outcome which was seen as a Nazi defeat.

On April 22, 1933 the British Minister to the Vatican recounted what the Vatican Under-Secretary of State had told him, "The Holy See is not interested in the Centre Party. We are more concerned with the mass of Catholic voters in Germany than in the Catholic deputies who represent them in the Reichstag." Previously, as part of the agreement surrounding the 1929 Lateran Treaty with the fascist's in Italy, the Vatican had consented to the dissolution of the Catholic political Parito Popolare party.

At an April 26, meeting with Bishop Wilhelm Berning of Osnabrück, representative of the German Bishops’ Conference, Hitler declared:The notes of the meeting do not record any response by Bishop Berning. In the opinion of Martin Rhonheimer
Martin Rhonheimer
Martin Rhonheimer is a Swiss academic philosopher and a priest of the Catholic personal prelature Opus Dei. He currently teaches at the Opus Dei-affiliated Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.-Life:...

, 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." Saul Friedländer
Saul Friedländer
Saul Friedländer is an award-winning Israeli historian and currently a professor of history at UCLA.-Biography:...

 interpreted Hitler's comments as an attempt to "blunt possible Catholic criticism of his anti-Jewish policies and to shift the burden of the arguments onto the Church itself.

Edith Stein
Edith Stein
Saint Teresia Benedicta of the Cross, sometimes also known as Saint Edith Stein , was a German Roman Catholic philosopher and nun, regarded as a martyr and saint of the Roman Catholic Church...

 wrote to Pius XI in April 1933 asking if he would issue an anti-anti-Semitism encyclical in view of "the indifference of Catholics to the growing vexations against the Jews." Pinchas Lapide thought that this wasn't actioned as the letter arrived when the Concordat negotiations were taking place. Edith Stein was later gassed in Auschwitz
Auschwitz concentration camp
Concentration camp Auschwitz was a network of Nazi concentration and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II...


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
Heinrich Brüning
Heinrich Brüning was Chancellor of Germany from 1930 to 1932, during the Weimar Republic. He was the longest serving Chancellor of the Weimar Republic, and remains a controversial figure in German politics....

 as chairman. At that time, the Centre party was subject to increasing pressure in the wake of the process of Gleichschaltung
Gleichschaltung , meaning "coordination", "making the same", "bringing into line", is a Nazi term for the process by which the Nazi regime successively established a system of totalitarian control and tight coordination over all aspects of society. The historian Richard J...

 and after all the other parties had dissolved (or were banned, like the SPD).
The Centre Party dissolved itself on the 5th July 1933 as the Concordat between the Vatican and the Nazis had dealt it a decisive blow by exchanging a ban on the political activities of priests for the continuation of Catholic education. The Concordat was initialled in Rome three days later by Cardinal Pacelli and von Papen, with signing taking place on the 20th July. On the 2nd of July the Vatican daily newspaper L'Osservatore Romano
L'Osservatore Romano
L'Osservatore Romano is the "semi-official" newspaper of the Holy See. It covers all the Pope's public activities, publishes editorials by important churchmen, and runs official documents after being released...

 insisted that the concordat wasn't an endorsement of Nazi teachings.

On the 13th July a British Minister had an interview with Cardinal Pacelli and reported, "His Eminence said that the Vatican really viewed with indifference the dissolution of the Centre Party."

At the 14th of July cabinet meeting Hitler brushed aside any debate on the details of the Concordat, expressing the view “that one should only consider it as a great achievement. The concordat gave Germany an opportunity and created an area of trust which was particularly significant in the developing struggle against international Jewry”. Saul Friedlander
Saul Friedländer
Saul Friedländer is an award-winning Israeli historian and currently a professor of history at UCLA.-Biography:...

 speculates that Hitler may have countenanced in this “area of trust” what he perceived as the Christian Church's traditional theological antipathy towards Jews, (see Hitler's comments above to Berning on 26 April), converging with Nazi aims. Hitler "underlined the triumph" that the Concordat meant for the Nazi regime. Only a short time earlier he had expressed doubts that "the church would be ready to commit the Bishops to this state. That this has happened, was without doubt an unreserved recognition of the present regime."

On the 22nd July 1933 von Papen attended a meeting of the Catholic Academic Union during which he first made the connection between the dissolution of the Centre Party and the concordat. He said the Pope was particularly pleased at the promised destruction of Bolshevism and that Pius XI had agreed to the treaty "in the recognition that the new Germany had fought a decisive battle against Bolshevism and the atheist movement." Papen noted that there was “an undeniable inner connection between the dissolution of the German Center party that has just taken place and the conclusion of the Concordat” and ended his speech with a call for German Catholicism to put away former resentments and to help build the Third Reich. Abbot Herwegen told the meeting:
What the liturgical movement is to the religious realm, fascism is to the political realm. The German stands and acts under authority, under leadership - whoever does not follow endangers society. Let us say 'yes' wholeheartedly to the new form of the total State, which is analogous throughout to the incarnation of the Church. The Church stands in the world as Germany stands in politics today."."

On the 23rd July a British Minister met Cardinal Pacelli who appeared "very satisfied" with the signing of the Concordat. The cardinal expressed the view that with the guarantees given relating to catholic education that this Concordat was an improvement over the 1929 agreement with Prussia. Cardinal Pacelli did sound a note of caution in that his satisfaction was based on the assumption that the German Government "remained true to its undertaking." but noted also that Hitler "was becoming increasingly moderate."

On the 24th of July Cardinal Faulhaber sent a handwritten letter to Hitler, noting that "For Germany's prestige in the East and the West and before the whole world, this handshake with the papacy, the greatest moral power in the history of the world, is a feat of immeasurable importance."

On the 4th August 1933 the British Minister reported "in conversations I have had with Cardinal Pacelli and Monsignor Pizzardo, neither gave me the feeling of the slightest regret at the eclipse of the Centre [Zentrum Party], and its consequent loss of influence in German politics." On the 19th August Kirkpatrick had a further discussion with Cardinal Pacelli in which he expressed his "disgust and abhorrence" at Hitler's reign of terror to the diplomat. Pacelli said "I had to choose between an agreement on their lines and the virtual elimination of the Catholic Church in the Reich". Pacelli also told Kirkpatrick that he deplored the persecution of the Jews, but a pistol had been held to his head and that he had no alternative, being given only one week to decide. Pinchas Lapide notes that whilst negotiations for Concordat were taking place, pressure had been put on the Vatican by the arrest of ninety-two priests, the searching of Catholic youth club premises and the closing down nine Catholic publications.
The Nazi newspaper Völkischer Beobachter
Völkischer Beobachter
The Völkischer Beobachter was the newspaper of the National Socialist German Workers' Party from 1920. It first appeared weekly, then daily from February 8, 1923...

 wrote "By her signature the Catholic Church has recognised National Socialism in the most solemn manner..This fact constitutes an enormous moral strengthening of our government and it's prestige."

The Concordat was ratified on the 20th September 1933 and Cardinal Pacelli took the opportunity to send a note to the Germans raising the social and economic condition of Jews who had converted to Catholicism but not Jews in general.

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. 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. A large part, especially of the Protestant leadership opposing their respective regulations (Bekennende Kirche), were later interned and executed in the Holocaust.

Church leaders were realistic about the Concordat’s supposed protections. Cardinal Faulhaber is reported to have said "With the concordat we are hanged, without the concordat we are hanged, drawn and quartered." After the signing of the Concordat the Papal nuncio exhorted the German bishops to support Hitler's regime. The bishops told their flocks to try and get along with the Nazi regime. According to Michael Phayer it was the Concordat which prevented Pius XI from speaking out against the Nazi Nuremburg Laws in 1935, and though he did intend to speak out after the national pogrom of 1938 he was dissuaded by Cardinal Pacelli

On the 20th August 1935 the Catholic Bishops conference at Fulda reminded Hitler that Pius XI had:
exchanged the handshake of trust with you through the concordat - the first foreign sovereign to do so..Pope Pius spoke high praise of you...Millions in foreign countries, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, have overcome their original mistrust because of this expression of papal trust, and have placed their trust in your regime."

In a sermon given in Munich during 1937 Cardinal Faulhaber declared:
At a when the heads of the major nations in the world faced the new Germany with reserve and considerable suspicion, the Catholic Church, the greatest moral power on earth, through the Concordat, expressed its confidence in the new German government. This was a deed of immeasurable significance for the reputation of the new government abroad.

Terms of the concordat

On July 22, 1933 the text of the Concordat was released and began with a preamble that set out the common desire of both parties for friendly relations set-out in a solemn agreement.
  • Article 1 guaranteed “freedom of profession and public practice of the Catholic religion” along with the right of the Church “to regulate and manage her own affairs independently within the limits of law applicable to all and to issue – within the framework of her own competence – laws and ordinances binding on her members.” The vagueness of the article would later lead to contradictory interpretations.
  • Article 2 affirms that the state concordats, Landerkonkordate’s, with Bavaria
    Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

     (1924), Prussia
    Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

     (1929), and Baden
    Baden is a historical state on the east bank of the Rhine in the southwest of Germany, now the western part of the Baden-Württemberg of Germany....

     (1932) remain valid.
  • Article 3 confirms the arrangement of the Vatican having a Papal Nuncio in Berlin and the German government having an ambassador in Rome.
  • Article 4 assures the Holy See of full freedom to communicate with the German clergy and for the German bishops to communicate with the laity “in all matters of their pastoral office.” The words of qualification in this clause would later be interpreted by the Nazis in its most narrow meaning to limit the Church communications to worship and ritual only.
  • Articles 5-10 dealt with the status of the clergy under German law. Priest were given protection against any interference in their spiritual activities as well as protection against malicious slander or misuse of clerical dress. Exemption from jury service, and like obligations, was guaranteed and the secrecy of the confessional guaranteed. Members of the clergy could only accept a state appointment so long as the bishop approved and that this permission could be withdrawn at any time for important reasons.
  • Articles 11-12 specified that diocesan boundaries had to be made subject to government approval and that ecclesiastical offices could be established if no state funding was involved.
  • Article 13 gave to parishes, Episcopal sees, religious orders etc. juridical personality and granted the same rights as any other publicly recognised body “in accordance with the general law as applicable to all” which subjected the church’s prerogatives’ to legal regulation under civil law. Guenter Lewy
    Guenter Lewy
    Guenter Lewy is an author and political scientist who is a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts. His works span several topics, but he is most often associated with his 1978 book on the Vietnam War, America in Vietnam, and several controversial works that deal with the...

     viewed this qualification as establishing “a pandora’s box of troubles” when the law was effectively in the hands of a regime who wanted to control the church.
  • Article 14 specified that the appointment of a bishop by the Pope was subject to the regimes confirmation that no political impediment existed.
  • Article 15 guaranteed religious orders freedom for pastoral, charitable and educational work.
  • Article 16 specified that Bishops must take an oath of loyalty and respect the government whilst ensuring their clergy did the same.
  • Article 17 guaranteed, according to the common law, the properties of the church.
  • Article 18 assured the Church that it would be consulted should the Nazi regime try to discontinue its subsidies to the German Catholic church.
  • Articles 19-25 gave protection to the Catholic educational system (Hitler in due course would disregard them).
  • Article 26 allowed that a church wedding could precede a civil marriage ceremony.
  • Article 27 regulated the appointment of military chaplains.
  • Article 28 assured the Church the right to pastoral care in hospitals, prisons and like institutions, which would be violated later by the Nazi regime when it refused the Church’s request to carry out services in concentration camps.
  • Article 29 granted the same rights to national minorities, with respect to the use of the mother tongue in divine services, as were enjoyed by the German population in the corresponding foreign state.
  • Articles 31-32 relate to the issue of Catholic organizations “devoted exclusively to religious, cultural and charitable purposes” and allowed for the Reich government and German episcopate to “determine, by mutual agreement , the organizations and associations which fall within the provisions of this article.” Organizations that had any political aims no longer had any place in the new Germany so are not even mentioned in these clauses. Article 32 gave to Hitler one of his principle objectives: the exclusion of the clergy from politics such that “the Holy See will issue ordinances by which the clergy and the religious will be forbidden to be members of political parties or to be active on their behalf.”
  • Article 33 makes provision for settling any difficulties in interpretation of the concordat through "amicable solution by mutual agreement."
  • Article 34 calls for the speedy ratification of the concordat.

A secret annexe to the concordat was finalised some months later, but not published, that granted Catholic clergy certain exemptions from any future universal army conscription call-ups. As the Treaty of Versailles
Treaty of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles was one of the peace treaties at the end of World War I. It ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers. It was signed on 28 June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The other Central Powers on the German side of...

 had forbidden Germany from raising a large army this provision, which broke the agreement, may have been seen by Hitler as the Vatican giving it's tacit approval to German rearmament. Papen wrote to Hitler regarding this secret provision and concluded his brief with "I hope this agreement will therefore be pleasing to you". The provisions of the annexe were inserted at the request of the German Bishops Fulda Conference and the contents were kept so secret that Ernst von Weizsacker, State Secretary in the Foreign Ministry from 1938, did not know of it until informed by the Papal Nuncio Orsenigo in 1939.


Criticism of the Concordat was initially from those countries who viewed Germany as a potential threat. Le Temps
Le Temps
Founded in 1998, Le Temps is a Swiss newspaper edited in French. Le Temps consists of a daily newspaper , several supplements , thematic special editions, a performing website and digital applications.Le Temps is the...

 wrote "This is a triumph for the National Socialist government. It took Mussolini five years to achieve this; Germany has done it in a week." L'Ere Nouvelle wrote "The contradiction of a system preaching universalism making an agreement with a highly nationalistic state has been repeated throughout Vatican history..The Church never attacks existing institutions, even if they are bad. It prefers to wait for their collapse, hoping for the emergence of a higher morality. The Polish newspaper Kurjer Poranny wrote on the 19th July 1933 "Once again we see the methods of the Vatican - intransigent with the passive and amenable, but accommodating with the high-handed and ruthless. In the last century it rewarded it's persecutor, Bismarck, with the highest Papal decoration, the Order of Christ...The Centre Party, which most courageously resisted the Nazis, has been disowned by the Vatican. Ex-Chancellor Bruning reported that 300 Protestant pastors who had been on the verge of joining the Catholic Church on account of the stand it had taken against the Nazis abandoned the plan after the signing of the Concordat. On the 24th July the Nazi newspaper Völkischer Beobachter
Völkischer Beobachter
The Völkischer Beobachter was the newspaper of the National Socialist German Workers' Party from 1920. It first appeared weekly, then daily from February 8, 1923...

The provocative agitation which for years was conducted against the NSDAP because of its alleged hostility to religion has now been refuted by the Church itself. This fact signifies a tremendous moral strengthening of the National Socialist government of the Reich and its reputation.

On the July 26 and 27 1933 the Vatican daily newspaper L'Osservatore Romano
L'Osservatore Romano
L'Osservatore Romano is the "semi-official" newspaper of the Holy See. It covers all the Pope's public activities, publishes editorials by important churchmen, and runs official documents after being released...

 stressed the advantages gained by the Church through the Concordat but also insisted that the Church had not given up her traditional neutrality towards different forms of political government nor did it endorse a “specific trend of political doctrines or ideas.” The Nazis replied through the German press on July 30 by correcting perceived false interpretations of the Concordat and “reminding the Vatican” that the Concordat had been signed with the German Reich which “as Rome should know, is completely dominated by the National Socialist trend” and therefore “the de facto and de jure recognition of the National Socialist government” was signaled by the Concordat. The Vatican demanded that the German government dissociate itself from these remarks but agreed eventually to forget its complaints so long as the German press refrained from any further “harping on the great victory” achieved by Nazi Germany.


When the Nazi government violated the concordat (in particular Article 31), the bishops and the Papacy protested against these violations. Pius XI considered terminating the concordat, but his secretary of state and members of the curia, who feared the impact upon German Catholics, dissuaded him, as they believed it would result in the loss of a protective shield. Cardinal Pacelli acknowledged his role in its retention after the war.

After World War II

Pius XII put a high priority on preserving the Concordat from the Nazi era, although the bishops were unenthusiastic about it and the allies considered the request inappropriate. After the war the Concordat remained in place and the Church was restored to its previous position.

When Lower Saxony
Lower Saxony
Lower Saxony is a German state situated in north-western Germany and is second in area and fourth in population among the sixteen states of Germany...

 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
Federal Constitutional Court of Germany
The Federal Constitutional Court is a special court established by the Grundgesetz, the German basic law...

 (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 fact that the Basic Law
Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany
The Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany is the constitution of Germany. It was formally approved on 8 May 1949, and, with the signature of the Allies of World War II on 12 May, came into effect on 23 May, as the constitution of those states of West Germany that were initially included...

 grants authority in school matters to the states
States of Germany
Germany is made up of sixteen which are partly sovereign constituent states of the Federal Republic of Germany. Land literally translates as "country", and constitutionally speaking, they are constituent countries...

, 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 in all areas as it lacks legal authority to do so.

Critics also allege that the concordat undermined the separation of church and state. The Weimar constitution
Weimar constitution
The Constitution of the German Reich , usually known as the Weimar Constitution was the constitution that governed Germany during the Weimar Republic...

 (some of whose regulations, namely articles 136-139 and 141 have been included into today's Basic Law
Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany
The Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany is the constitution of Germany. It was formally approved on 8 May 1949, and, with the signature of the Allies of World War II on 12 May, came into effect on 23 May, as the constitution of those states of West Germany that were initially included...

 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.


Anthony Rhodes
Anthony Rhodes
Anthony Rhodes was a British writer of memoirs, novels, travelogues, reviews and histories.Rhodes was born in Plymouth, England and was the eldest of three sons of Dorothy and Colonel George Rhodes CBE. His early years were later spent at Lucknow and Delhi in India where his father served in the...

 regarded Hitler's desire for a Concordat with the Vatican as being driven principally by the prestige and respectability it brought to his regime abroad whilst at the same time eliminating the opposition of the Centre party. Rhodes took the view that if the survival of Catholic education and youth organisations was taken to be the principle aim of Papal diplomacy during this period then the signing of the Concordat to prevent greater evils was justified. Many of the Centre party deputies were priests who had not been afraid to raise their voices in the past and would almost certainly have voted against Hitler's assumption of dictatorial powers. The voluntary dissolution of the Centre Party removed that obstacle and Hitler now had absolute power and brought respectability to the state: "within six months of its birth, the Third Reich had been given full approval by the highest spiritual power on earth". Ian Kershaw
Ian Kershaw
Sir Ian Kershaw is a British historian of 20th-century Germany whose work has chiefly focused on the period of the Third Reich...

 considered the role of the Centre party in Hitler's removal of almost all constitutional restraints as "particularly ignominious." John Cornwell
John Cornwell (writer)
John Cornwell is an English journalist and author, and a Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge. He is best known for various books on the papacy, most notably Hitler's Pope; investigative journalism; memoir; and the public understanding of science and philosophy. More recently he has been concerned...

 views Cardinal Pacelli as being an example of a "fellow traveller" of the Nazi's who, through the Concordat, was willing to accept the generosity of Hitler in the educational sphere (more schools, teachers and pupil places), so long as the Church withdrew from the social and political sphere, at the same time as Jews were being dismissed from universities and Jewish pupil places were being reduced. He argues that the Catholic Centre Party vote was decisive in the adoption of dictatorial powers by Hitler and that the party's subsequent dissolution was at Pacelli's prompting. Michael Phayer
Michael Phayer
Michael Phayer, born 1935, is a historian and professor emeritus at Marquette University in Milwaukee and has written on 19th and 20th century European history and the Holocaust....

 is of the opinion that the Concordat conditioned German bishops to avoid speaking out against anything that was not strictly related to church matters, leading to a muted response to the attacks on Mosaic Jews. Carlo Falconi described the Concordat as "The Devils Pact with Hitler". Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

 in private conversation relating to the Concordat said "Since when can one make a pact with Christ and Satan at the same time?" Daniel Goldhagen
Daniel Goldhagen
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen is an American author and former Associate Professor of Political Science and Social Studies at Harvard University. Goldhagen reached international attention and broad criticism as the author of two controversial books about the Holocaust, Hitler's Willing Executioners and...

 recalled how Hitler had said “To attain our aim we should stop at nothing even if we must join forces with the devil.” and that, in Goldhagen's view, is what Hitler did in agreeing the Concordat with the Church. Gordon Zahn felt that though the signing of the Concordat was distasteful for Cardinal Pacelli it had spared the Church in Germany from greater hardship and persecution.

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