Third Reich and
in the Second World War
Mistrust and hostility toward churches, particularly due to their political influence, remained a constant feature of the Nazi regime’s foreign policy. Such attitude, characteristic of the Nazi interior policy, was greatly intensified during the war in all occupied territories, including the Balkans.
of German representatives in allied states or military and civilian occupation
authorities during the war in the European Southeast toward Orthodox churches
have been defined in accordance with specific German interests in each
territory. They have changed as required by political and military needs of
Interest in the possibility of using the cleverage of Orthodox churches for the expansion of influence in the European Southeast was intensified just before war spread into these territories. The idea was to strengthen anti-communist front, while eliminating British influence on the hierarchy of certain Orthodox churches, pursued largely via the Church of England. Even before the outbreak of the war, the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) was regarded in the Third Reich as an adverse factor, particularly due to its anti-Axis orientation, ties established with the Church of England and possible role in organizing and fostering anti-Nazi resistance.
the attempts to establish contacts with Balkan Orthodox churches, the German
Ministry of Foreign Affairs availed itself of the services of the
Since the beginning of occupation in April 1941, SPC was a serious political and intelligence-security problem for occupation authorities. Due to this, one of the goals in the first days of war was to arrest church dignitaries, particularly those who have been considered the most overt opponents of German politics, notably patriarch Gavrilo Dožić, bishops Nikolaj Velimirović and Irinej Đorđević.
year later, when circumstances dramatically changed following the attacks at
claimed that difficult situation of the Serbian Orthodox Church was a “natural
consequence” of patriarch Gavrilo Dožić’s anti-German policy, who has thus
“greatly contributed to the catastrophe of his country and church”. Pointing to
extremely difficult position of the SPC and its congregation in
at the head of the ally Bulgarian church,
1941 SPC was the target of brutal Ustashi measures the intention of which was
complete eradication of SPC in all territories under their control. During the
meeting with Hitler in
the time of spread of Serbian uprising in the Independent State of Croatia
(NDH), German ambassador in Zagreb Siegfried Kasche, reporting to Berlin about
talks with Pavelić and his close associate Eugen Kvaternik in late August –
early September 1941, recommended complete abandonment of the use of the term Serb
for “Orthodox population in Croatia” as one of the (“political”) instruments
for crushing the uprising. Since in his opinion it was “almost impossible” to
eradicate Orthodox Church in the NDH, he thought that it should be taken away
from the jurisdiction of the Serbian patriarch and placed under the control of
the Croatian state.
Kasche claimed that the SPC placed itself “entirely at the disposal of English
propaganda” and has itself woven the last threads of conspiracy that ultimately
led to German attack and complete collapse of the Yugoslav state.
Positions of one of the leaders of the Ustashi movement, Gustav Perčec, about
efforts of “
In evaluating the relationships between the Croatian Ustashi state and Catholic Church, their close ties and interrelationships have been emphasized as well. Hence, as “church-political threads are being spun toward the East and Southeast” it was proposed that “due to world-view and political reasons” their “…overseeing by SD bodies would be extremely necessary”.
corroborate the proposal for sending to Zagreb a special “kirchen-politischen
Sachbearbeiter” from among the closest circle around the chief of Der Sichercheitspolizei und des SD at
the end of September 1942, in an official document sent to Legationsrat Picot
it was pointed out that there are opponents to “New Europe” and
national-socialism among the leadership of the Catholic Church in NDH, while
the Catholic Church uses Croatia as a “specially suitable base for the
penetration into other parts of the Balkans, East and the German Reich”. It was
warned that due attention should be paid to the “radiation of Islam in the
Balkans and the entire East with its center in
A voluminous Abwehr document from the beginning of 1943 particularly discussed the role of confessional communities as a factor in the development of political ideas in the Yugoslav and (remaining) Balkan territories. This analysis was made, as its author, Sonderführer Dr. Barte specially emphasized, on the basis of captured Yugoslav documents that were in the possession of OKW. It was stressed that the Yugoslav idea emerged under the influence of pan-Slavism around the Croatian Catholic bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer while, on the other hand, Russian pan-Slavic policy found fertile ground particularly among the Serbs, Montenegrins and Bulgarians. This has later made it possible for communist ideas to be easier accepted, because they have been interpreted as a “Slavic form of life” and ultimately contributed that “…Balkan Slavic communities that have not been inclined to communism and ideologically distant gradually become interested in it”.
in addition to Orthodox South Slavic peoples, “whose inclination to
as it was stressed, was politically the most active of all Balkan Orthodox
churches. That was far from the situation in which it acted in ethnically and
“Eastern sin” of all Orthodox Balkan churches was their strong support to
national ideas and diligent participation in political struggles. According to
this German opinion, Serbian patriarch Gavrilo Dožić championed this cause. He
is claimed to have “played an exceptionally important role in the background of
the coup of 27 March 1941”, when he tried to influence Prince Regent Pavle to
give up the intention of joining the Tripartite Pact. One of the great faults
ascribed to him was establishment of close relations with the Church of England
in 1939 and 1940 and open support to the Greek church at the time of the
Italian attack on
Orthodox Church was accused of political instrumentalization in the
implementation of “Greater Serbian power policy” and of the spread of
“pan-Slavism”, which was “very strong in
Sonderkommando led by SS major Hinze arrested Serbian patriarch Gavrilo in the
Owing to intervention of Milan Aćimović, head of the Serbian collaborationist “Commissary Government”, the prison regime was somewhat mitigated. The leadership of the occupation administration was aware that unfavorable treatment or possible death of ill patriarch in prison could cause revolt among the people and this also contributed to the decision to transfer him into strict house arrest in the Rakovica monastery. Members of the Synod have not been allowed to visit the patriarch until 7th July 1941, when he was briefed about the situation in the Church.
Patriarch Gavrilo said to German investigators that he regarded the actions of the Yugoslav Government as the true cause of ensuing political coup. In the report for German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentropp on interrogation of patriarch Gavrilo it was emphasized that his statements, combined with captured Yugoslav documents, make it possible to get a picture about “…participation of Orthodox Church in foreign-policy intrigues of the former Yugoslav Government” Although SPC was less politically active than the Catholic Church (this position differs from the opinion of certain other German analysts of this problem), it became in Yugoslavia an important internal factor of anti-German course, i.e. “instrument of English imperialism”, primarily as the result of “English policy” pursued before the outbreak of war.
extremely negative attitude toward Dožić’s role, RSHA representative (officer
of the IV Administration in
from RSHA headquarters contained the position that further activities of
intelligence outposts in
entire operation of the SPC in
An attempt at the end of August to persuade the patriarch to make a proclamation for the Synod in which he will condemn communism did not succeed, and other attempted pressures from other sides failed as well. Aćimović’s “Commissary Government” demanded in August 1941 from Serbian episcopate and clergy to sign a public “appeal to the Serbian people”. Only 10 members of church hierarchy, clergy and professors of Theological Faculty responded (out of 420 signatories).
The pressure on SPC leadership in October 1941 by the minister of education in the new collaboration Government of general Nedić passed without the expected result. Nedić called on the representatives of the Synod to support him and his “Government” and help in fighting “communists, partisans and looters”. The answer of archbishop Josif was that the “Serbian Church … cannot get involved in any political combinations, particularly not the ones that are contrary to our evangelical and St. Sava’s principles”. The Church should not be embroiled in a fight in which “a brother has risen up against his brother, while the enemy is pushing them to mutual extermination”.
Followers of a small fascist movement “Zbor” and their “leader” Dimitrije Ljotić attacked the Church leadership because they did not clearly side with Nedić and condemned the armed resistance against the occupier. They accused the SPC that it has been rotting from within attacked by “red demonism”.
Synod demanded from occupation authorities to undertake measures to stop
Ustashi pogroms against the Serbs both those in Vojvodina and in Kosovo. During
1941 two memorandums with data on the suffering of people and churches in the
territories that were included within the borders of NDH were handed to German
military administrative commander.
Dr Miloš Sekulić brought copies of memorandums sent to general Danckelmann to
to German-Ustashi agreement reached at the conference in
special plenipotentiary for the Southeast Hermann Neubacher attempted in the
fall of 1943 to arrange for Gavrilo Dožić and Nikolaj Velimirović to be released
from captivity. He got consent from Ribbentropp and Himmler, but Hitler strongly
opposed his proposal. According to Neubacher’s words, Hitler answered that
“…Gavrilo is our enemy, which he had proved (at the time of) outbreak of
Nevertheless, an order by Kaltenbruner, chief of security police and SD dated 19 January 1944 prohibited taking any measures against the Serbian patriarch without his (Kaltenbruner’s) order. SS general Müler asked on 14 May 1944 for a report on the state of health of patriarch Gavrilo and Nikolaj Velimirović. Having in view their influence among Orthodox believers in the Balkans, it was considered that their possible death in German prison might have very bad propaganda effects. Their transfer from Serbia to Dachau concentration camp, where they stayed from mid-September until early December 1944, as well as intervention by Neubacher, eager to use SPC dignitaries for his own plans, are illustrative of great mistrust toward Dožić and Velimirović as well as of the desire to put their spiritual (and political) influence in one way or another in the service of German interests.
of the Russian patriarch,
to his estimate, the
The second were structures of the Orthodox Church, which after the exclusion of old political parties by more or less authoritarian domestic regimes “remained only untouched and legal organizations” and “owing to its strong and traditional deep-rooted position among the Balkan peasantry had the possibility to successfully issue political slogans”.
And “Tito’s resistance movement, due to discrediting Stalin’s patronage” clashed in Orthodox churches with serious religious hostility, which “should certainly come in handy to the main communists’ rival (general – M.R.) Mihailović. However, serious doubts have been expressed that one day hitherto opposing factions, with skillful steering from Kremlin, may become reconciled and thus “…the course of political development in the Balkans be irreversibly diverted from the course we hold desirable”.
It was unwillingly admitted that all German attempts
to mobilize Balkan Orthodox churches against “hypocritical
foothold for a change of German policy towards orthodoxy in the Balkans was
offered by the present differences between the Greek and Russian orthodoxy, as
the latter separated from
of scholarships for orthodox theology students from all Balkan countries and
opening of an orthodox theological department on one of the German universities
was proposed that these changes be carried out “… only under the foreign-policy
coordination (original emphasize) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
therefore with the exclusion of interior German departments … and only by church
means and persons” because Stalin and Anglo-Saxons “…are using … systematically
their church bodies”. A suitable German instrument would be Church Foreign
Office of the
Without German counter-action, Russian church policy could rapidly penetrate the “Byzantine space”. For the success of a “new German policy toward Balkan orthodoxy” this “purely foreign-policy and extremely sensitive complex must be protected from interference from the territory within the German church policy”. That would mean that criteria in the control of activities of churches and combating their influence in the Third Reich itself would not in its “hard…variant” be implemented toward Balkan churches as up until then. 
A German critic of this proposal thought that it would be wrong to avail itself of the services of the only expert available, bishop Heckel, head of the Foreign Policy Office of the German Evangelical Church, because according to Orthodox and Catholic canon law he was the holder of an “unfounded title”. It would not be easy for him in the mission in the Balkans to come in touch with Church structures, because it is clear that despite his title he is leading a political mission, the success of which can be doubted in advance.
 On this issue see: Gunther Heydemann und Lothar Kettenacker
(Hrsg.), Kirchen in der Diktatur. Drittes Reich und SED-Staat,
 Archive of the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs (=ASMIP) PA, 1960, DDR, 84/36, No. 431422, “Die Schande des Bonner Neokolonialismus und seines Kreuzritters Gerstenmaier”, Erklärung von St. Sekr. Winzer auf der Pressekonferenz des Ministeriums für Auswärtige Angelegenheiten der DDR am 4. November 1960. In the 1960s Gerstenmeier was the president of West German Bundestag.
 Ibid, Twardowski, Gesandsch. Belgrad, an Ausw. Amt, Pol IV Jugoslavien, 17. Juli 1940. In the 1930s Gerstenmeier was the president of the West German Bundestag.
 Ibid, Heckel, Deutsche Evang. Kirche, Kirchl. Aussenamt, A 2389, an Ausw. Amt , 21 August 1940.
 Ibid, Twardowski, Dt. Gesandsch. Belgrad, 30 Aug. 1941.
 Ibid, Dr. Habil. Gerstenmeier, Konsistorialrat, Betr. Ortodoxe Kirchen des Sudostens. Reisebericht September 1941.
 A. Hillgruber (Hrsg.),Staatsmäner und Diplomaten bei Hitler, Teil I, 1939-1941, 577.
 Politisches Archiv, Auswartiges Amt (=PAAA), Inland IIg Kroatien,
83- 60 E, Deutsche Gesandschaft Agram, Pol. 2 Nr.2-A430742,
 PAAA, Buro d. St. Sekretär, Kroatien, Bd. 2, Tel. Nr. 1102, Kasche, 2. IX 1942.
 W. Frauendienst, Jugoslawiens Weg zum Abgrund. Schriften des
deutsch. Instituts für Aussenpolitische Forschung,
 PAAA, Inland Iig Kroatien, 83-60E, Deutsche Gesandschaft Agram, Pol. 2 Nr. A430742, 20 July 1942.
 Supra n. 11, op.cit.
 PAAA, Inland IIg, Kroatien, 83 - 60 E, Bd. 1, Tatigkeit des SD, Der Chef der Sichercheitspolizei und des SD, IV B 3, 3207 42 gRs, an A.A. z. Hd. Von Legationsrat Picot, Berlin, 28. IX 1942.
 National Archives Washington (NAW), microfiche (Mf), T 71/ 5, OKW, Nr. 01055/ 43, I (D H). Amt Ausland, Abwehr - Amtsgruppe Ausland, Geheim!. Das politische Kräftespiel auf dem Balkan. Ergebnisse aus jugoslawischen Beutedokumenten, 398491..
 Ibid, p. 4.
 Ibid, 29.
 Radmila Radić, Verom protiv vere. Država i verske zajednice u Srbiji 1945-1953, [Faith against faith.
The State and Religious Communities in
 Bundes Archiv-Koblenz,(=BA), R 63 (Südosteuropa Geselschaft), von
Steinfurth, s. 58,
 Ibid, p. 130. W. Frauendienst also insists on the ties
between the SPC and
 BA, R 63, 214, Informationsbericht 26, Wien, 29. IV, 1944, s. 177-180, Bulgarische Politik.
 Radić, op.cit., 53.
 Nemačka obaveštajna služba [German Intelligence Service], vol.
 National Archives
 Nemačka obaveštajna služba [German Intelligence Service], vol. VIII-IX, 1956, 989, 990; R. Radić, op.cit., 55.
 R. Radić, op.cit., mentions that The Holy Synod of Bishops had to furnish a copy of the minutes of all its meetings to Gestapo, 60
 R. Radić, op.cit. 345, note 97.
 Ibid, 60, 64
 According to: R. Radić, op.cit., 56-58.
 Ibid, 59.
 Ibid, 46.
 On this see. B. Krizman, Jugoslovenske vlade u izbjeglištvu [Yugoslav Governments in Exile], 1, Belgrade/Zagreb, 1981, 22-27, 209-212, 223-226 and 252-276.
 R. Radić, op.cit. 61.
 According to: H. Neubacher, Sonderauftrag Sudost 1940-1945, Gottingen, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, 1956, 158.
 Nemačka obaveštajna služba [German Intelligence Service], vol. V,
 H. Neubacher, Sonderauftrag, 158.
 PA AA, Inland I- D, Kirche 1, Deutschland, Kirche . Aufzeichnung zur Frage der deutschen Politik gegenüber der Balkan-Ortodoxie, undated 1943.
 Ibid, 3.
 Ibid, 4.
 Ibid, 5
 Ibid, 11.
 Ibid, 11, 12.
 PAAA, R 61083, Aktivierung der Balkanortodoxie gegen den Bolschewismus, Dr. Six dem RAM, Berlin, 9 January 1945.
 Compare: Neubacher, Sonderauftrag...158. Patriarch Gavrilo and bishop
Nikolaj Velimirović were in Kitzbühl at the time of liberation. Patriarch returned