Catholic Church lists its 5,900 forced labourers under Nazis

Other News Materials 8 April 2008 18:09 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - The Catholic Church issued Tuesday an exhaustive list of 5,900 people who were forced by the Nazis to work as gardeners, grave-diggers and hospital orderlies at Catholic facilities in Germany during World War II.

The German church has already paid token compensation of 1.5 million euros (2.4 million dollars) to 587 survivors since their ordeal was made public several years ago.

Nazi Germany press-ganged huge numbers of East Europeans to do factory or farm work at low pay, replacing millions of men conscripted into its armed forces. Where the employers are still in existence, they have contributed to compensation trusts.

The church decided to expose its own guilt in greater detail, commissioning a 700-page historical study of the 4,829 press-ganged labourers and 1,075 prisoners of war it had obtained from the Nazi labour office.

The main historian, Karl-Joseph Hummel, said only a limited number of Catholic facilities had used forced labour. It had not been typical. At the same time the Nazis had been persecuting the church.

Most labourers did not work in churches, but typically in Catholic hospitals and cemeteries, on farms run by monasteries or in domestic service. Most hailed from Poland, Ukraine and the Soviet Union, according to the study.

In a radio interview, Hummel said said the Church had failed by not speaking out forthrightly against Naziism. "It should have clearly said how its interpretation of loyalty, honour and the fatherland was not the same as the Nazis' view," he said.

The German Catholic Bishops' Conference said it had also spent 2.71 million euros on 200 reconciliation projects in eastern Europe.

Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz said the report was not aimed at achieving closure. More reconciliation efforts were planned.

"It's a burden of history that our church will keep facing up to in the future," he said.