Bishop von Galen

Nazi Germany, Personalities, Resistance and Opposition

Bishop Clemens August von Galen was a leading Catholic opponent of Nazi policies. Bishop von Galen spoke out against Euthenasia; the methods used by the Gestapo and the abuse of the Catholic Church by the Nazi State. He served as Bishop of Munster from 1933 until his death in 1946. von Galen’s resistance to the Nazi State and firm beliefs have led him to be beatified by the Catholic Church: one step down from being recognised as a saint.


Bishop von Galen
Bishop von Galen

Bishop von Galen’s resistance to the Nazi Regime:

1933 – Refuses to follow the instructions of the Nazi school superintendent to amend the Religious Education lessons in Catholic Schools.

1934 – Begins preaching in opposition to Nazi racial ideological beliefs.

1934 – Sermon denouncing Rosenberg’s ideology. This results in the SS visiting von Galen to pressure him into preaching in favour of the ideas. Instead, von Galen denounces the Nazi Party when questioned.

1936 – von Galen leads public demonstrations against the Nazi decision to remove the Crucifix from all schools.

1937 – Along with Bishop Preysing, von Galen writes the draft of the Papal Epipliscal, “With burning Anxiety”

1937 – With Burning Anxiety (Mit brennender Sorge) read in all Catholic Churches in Germany.

1941 – Denounces the Euthenasia program and the actions against the Church in the East. A series of powerful sermons earns him the nickname “The Lion of Munster”

1941 – Nazi leaders and officials discuss methods of dealing with von Galen. Suggestions included execution and forced removal from office. Due to his popularity with the people of Westphalia, he was not arrested as the leadership feared unrest in a heavily Catholic area if he was deposed.

1941 – Copies of von Galen’s sermons – which refer to murderous policies – are circulated throughout the Reich and occupied territoies. They are known to have reached the front lines on the Eastern Front and Karol Wojtyla (who later became Pope John Paul II) is said to have read them whilst a young man living in Krakow.

von Galen’s sermons inspired other resistance. The Lubneck Martyrs were said to be inspired by his sermon. The first pamphlet distributed in Munich by the White Rose Movement was a copy of one of his sermons.

The above is a rather brief run through of the main ways in which von Galen resisted the regime. He was made a Cardinal shortly after the end of the war.

Kardinal von Galen