Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Weiße Rose and Spekpater: Remember the Dutch Priest who saved ethnic Germans after WW2

It's The Netherlands v Old Man Germany tonight in Euro 2012, another bitter footballing rivalry coming right off the back the hotly contested Poland v Russia game last night. Hopefully there will be no trouble, the links between history, nationalism, war and sport sometimes get a little mixed up. Especially between The Dutch and The Germans. 

However, it's worth recalling some of the people who have worked towards peace and reconciliation between these two nations. One such man is Father Werenfried van Straaten.  Father van Straaten was a Catholic priest from Mijdrecht in the Netherlands. In 1947 he appealed to all faithful to help the fourteen million German civilians displaced from the east at the end of World War II, six million of whom were Roman Catholics. These refugees and expellees resided in very primitive camps, mostly former Nazi concentration camps or Allied POW camps located in the western occupation zones of Germany and - for a minority - in the Netherlands and Belgium, and suffered from malnutrition and lack of medical care.
The response to the article of Van Straaten was unexpectedly generous, proving charity still existed and hatred was lessening towards the former enemies.
He earned his nickname, "Bacon Priest" (Dutch: Spekpater) due to his appeals to Flemish farmers for contributions of food for the German refugees, appeals which met with considerable amounts of meat being donated.
This initial work led to the formation of Aid to the Church in Need (Kirche in Not), centered in Königstein, Germany. In later years he was active in demonstrating and speaking out against abortion in Western Europe and the United States.He died in 2003 at Bad Soden in Germany at the age of 90 years old. 

What I like about Father Van Straaten is the fact that he appeals to our Catholic identity first and foremost not our national identity. He draws upon the strong links between Catholics from all around the Rhine area. He himself is a Dutch Priest asking the Catholic farmers of Flanders to help the Germans. 

Similarly, Willi Graf who was a member of the White Rose (Weiße Rose) resistance group in Nazi Germany came from a strong Catholic family from Euskirchen in North Rhine-Westphalia. Willi Graf could never be brainwashed by Nazi ideology because like Father Van Straaten he put his Catholic identity first. And the reason his Catholic identity was so strong was because at the age of eleven he joined the Bund Neudeutschland, a Catholic youth movement for young men in schools of higher learning, which was banned after Hitler and the Nazis came to power in 1933. In 1934, Graf joined the Grauer Orden ("Grey Order"), another Catholic movement which became known for its anti-Nazi rhetoric. It, too, was banned and for this reason.  Willi Graf was beheaded by the Nazis on 12 October 1943 in Munich, after six months of solitary confinement

The primary focus of this blog is on authentic German, Dutch and Flemish Christian Democratic politics. The blog also explores Working Mens societies, movements, guilds, youth movements and cultural identity. (see post on Kopling and Social Clubs). Van Straaten and Graf are excellent examples of how such a strong culture can save us from giving ourselves over to the folly of ultra-Nationalism.  Having said that, good luck to Germany tonight ;) 

Below is a good wee video about Fr Van Straaten

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