The movie Valkyrie (2008) introduced many to the 20 July 1944 Hitler assassination plot, led by Col. Claus von Stauffenberg. To be sure, Stauffenberg was never a huge fan of the Nazis, and is said to have remarked that the November, 1938 Kristallnacht “brought shame on Germany.” While he had been involved with the resistance movement as early as 1939—after the Polish campaign—it would not be until September, 1943 that he would be involved with an assassination plot in earnest.
As it happens, there were numerous attempts on Hitler’s life before the July plot, including Georg Elser’s near miss on 8 November 1939; diplomat Erich Kordt’s on 11 November 1939; a Paris plot in 1940 on the occasion of the victory parade; five or more attempts in 1943; and four more attempts in 1944 before Stauffenberg’s. Albert Speer testified at Nuremberg that he had planned to kill Hitler in early 1945 by dropping a canister of poison gas into the bunker’s air intake, although this claim has never been verified, and was viewed with much skepticism at the time.
But what about the Cardinal archbishop of Munich who opposed Hitler openly as early as 1923, and continued to do so? His early opposition contributed to the failure of Hitler’s Munich Beer Hall Putsch against the Weimar Republic.
His name is Michael von Faulhaber (March 3, 1869 – June 12, 1952), and if Stauffenberg—whose plot failed—is remembered as a hero, then Faulhaber is all the more a hero.
His Advent sermons of 1933, entitled “Judaism, Christianity, and Germany,” were delivered to standing room only crowds in the Cathedral of Munich, reminding them of the Jewish origins of Christianity. Emphasized also was the notion that the German tribes became civilized by Christianity, and that Christian values were central to German cultures. One famous quote, in response to Nazi racism was: “Let us not forget that we were saved not by German blood but by the blood of Christ!”
In protest to Nazi treatment of the Jews, Faulhaber ordered yellow armbands with the Star of David to be placed on all the statues of Jesus and Mary throughout his Archdiocese. Of course, this infuriated the Nazis but they did not risk any overt action against Faulhaber, owing to his tremendous local support. As such, Munich, birthplace of the Nazis became also the center of resistance to the Nazis.
Earlier in 1933 Faulhaber took on the new Nazi regime by saying: “A state based on right, which strives from the first for a peaceful solution, must win the victory over a state based on might, which seeks to gain right with bloody weapons.”
At least two attempts were made on Faulhaber’s life. One in 1934, and another in 1938, following his condemnation of Kristallnacht.
In 1934, Hitler ordered that he be sent to Dachau. Faulhaber presented himself to the SS, dressed in full church garb, and the soldiers were fearful of marching the popular prelate through the streets of Munich—thus the order was quickly rescinded. The Nazis never directly harassed him again.
In 1942, he smuggled out a detailed denunciation of Hitler’s “war against Christianity” to the Vatican. He continued his condemnation of Hitler’s regime until it fell in 1945, and then returned to his anti-Communism theme, that predated the Nazi takeover. A conservative to the core, he also criticized the occupying Americans for their attempts to liberalize the German educational system.
One of his last official acts was to ordain a priest named Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, on June 29, 1951.
Maybe they should make a movie about Michael Cardinal von Faulhaber.