Abstract

The Nazi occupation of Poland was one of the most destructive events in European history. This study will analyze the effect that this occupation had on the institution of the Catholic Church in Poland, as well as contextualize the nature of the Nazi persecution of the Polish Catholic Church. Due to the close association which had been built up by Polish nationalists in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Polish Catholic Church was tied to the idea of Polish nationalism. As a result of this, the Nazis targeted them for destruction as a part of their campaign of cultural and physical annihilation against the Poles. As evidenced by the seldom cited Cardinal August Hlond the Primate of Poland, this led to the widespread murder of clergy, the confiscations of nearly all Church property in Poland, and the exile, imprisonment, or execution of most of Poland’s Catholic hierarchy. The ultimate goal of which was the complete Germanization of the German annexed Polish lands through the extermination of Poles, and the forced kidnapping, brainwashing, and sterilization of Poland’s youth. Because of this intense persecution the Polish Catholic Church cannot be said to have had an institutional existence during the occupation, as there was little ability for communication, no resources to support Church function, and little in the way of leadership due to the mass arrest and execution of all levels of clergy.

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