German actors recall 1933 papal pact with Nazis in pre-visit protest

September 21, 2011

(German performance artists Wolfram P. Kastner (R) and Linus Heilig wearing costumes depicting the pope and Adolf Hitler pose for pictures, to bring attention to a historical agreement between the Vatican and the Third Reich, in Berlin, September 21, 2011/Thomas Peter)

As part of the protests planned in Germany against the visit of Pope Benedict starting on Thursday, two German humanists dressed up as Hitler and Pope Pius XI and strolled through the streets of Berlin to draw attention to the 1933 Reichskonkordat treaty the Vatican signed with the Third Reich. The concordat secured the position of the Roman Catholic Church under Hitler, but at the cost of barring all priests from political activity and limiting Church organisations to religious, cultural and charity work. Historians say the treaty weakened the Church, which could have been a centre of opposition to the Nazis, and gave the new Nazi regime a certain legitimacy outside of Germany.

The Nazis did not keep their promises and, after a few years, limited Church publications and then began harrassing and jailing priests who criticised them. Many Catholic priests died in concentration camps, especially Dachau near Munich.

Wolfram Kastner, who disguised himself as the then pope, told Reuters Television: “I’m an artist. I try to make pictures. Pictures that have to do with current times, living pictures. I think this is a living picture that can illustrate the scandal of this failure to separate Church and State.”

by Kolja Seibold in Berlin


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