Father Titus Brandsma, a Carmelite friar and prominent Dutch scholar, was one of the over 1,000 Catholic priests who perished in the concentration camp of Dachau, near Munich (Bavaria, Germany). It is thought that Brandsma, who had been interned in Dachau for several months, was executed exactly 75 years ago today, on July 26, 1942.
On that Sunday, Brandsma’s sacrifice was united to the holy One he had celebrated so many times at Holy Mass. On that Sunday, the 9th Sunday after Pentecost, new waves of persecution would be launched in his native Netherlands due to the reading from pulpits across the nation of the Pastoral Letter of the national episcopate (see previous post).
Why had Brandsma been detained and sent to Dachau? He had been under strict surveillance by the German forces of occupation and their local National Socialist collaborators for some time. He was a great master of Carmelite spirituality, but that was not the problem for the occupation forces – the problem was the influence the former Rector of the Catholic University of Nijmegen had with Abp. de Jong, Metropolitan Archbishop of Utrecht.
Catholic periodicals had always blocked the publication of Socialist and Communist propaganda – they should not, and could not, print National-Socialist propaganda either. Abp. de Jong published the following note, drafted by Brandsma:
Circular of the Archbishop of Utrecht in the name of the Episcopate to the directors and editors-in-chief of Catholic periodicals16 January 1942We are completely aware of the most difficult position in which the Catholic press finds itself as well as of the big economic interests that are at stake. We would also greatly deplore if the Catholic press, which has been built through so many efforts and sacrifices, and which have done so much good, were to disappear. But there are limits and we could not recognize papers as Catholic that propagate a view of life that is in conflict with the Catholic view. These [papers] would be of even greater danger to Catholics than neutral or National-Socialist papers, as the faithful take a reserved stand towards these, whereas they would believe that the Socialistic view of life would be acceptable to them if it were propagated in papers with an otherwise Catholic position. Also, it would cause scandal if Catholic journalists were allowed to propagate National-Socialism, which is prohibited to others.Therefore this reverend Episcopate declares explicitly that the admission of advertisements of the N.S.B. [Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging – Dutch National Socialist Movement] in your papers, as well as the admission of articles that tend to promote the N.S.B. in whole or partly (unless they are, in relation to this matter, effectively improved, corrected or cut down), deprives your paper of its Catholic character and that the public will be notified of this. Concerning the admission of those National-Socialist messages and reports whose publication is obligatory, their source must be made clear. The reverend Episcopate also declares that disregard for these norms must in general be considered as a sign of significant support to the NSB and that those responsible for it also fall under the sanctions that are hereby applied.In order to achieve a unanimous attitude, the reverend Episcopate would mostly appreciate the receipt of a written declaration – via the Spiritual Advisor [of the Chancery], Prof. Dr. T. Brandsma – that you, as a director or editor-in-chief, are willing to follow these norms.
Bl. Father Bradsma would be detained days after the publication of this note.