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Among the most courageous demonstrations of opposition inside Germany were the 1941 sermons of Bishop August von Galen of Münster.Nevertheless, wrote Alan Bullock "[n]either the Catholic Church nor the Evangelical Church...

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Vatican Radio and other media spoke out against atrocities.From that year, the Nazis gathered priest-dissidents in a dedicated clergy barracks at Dachau, where 95 percent of its 2,720 inmates were Catholic (mostly Poles, and 411 Germans) and 1,034 priests died there.Expropriation of church properties surged from 1941.Hitler’s invasion of predominantly Catholic Poland ignited the conflict in 1939.Here, especially in the areas of Poland annexed to the Reich—as in other annexed regions of Slovenia and Austria—Nazi persecution of the church was intense. Through his links to the German Resistance, Pope Pius XII warned the Allies of the planned Nazi invasion of the Low Countries in 1940.Catholic lay leaders were targeted in the Night of the Long Knives purge.

The Church hierarchy attempted to co-operate with the new government, but in 1937, the Papal Encyclical ‘’Mit brennender Sorge’’ accused the government of "fundamental hostility" to the church.

His first encyclical, Summi Pontificatus, called the invasion of Poland an "hour of darkness", his 1942 Christmas address denounced race murders and his Mystici corporis Christi encyclical (1943) denounced the murder of the handicapped.

In the 1930s, Catholics constituted a third of the population of Germany and "Political Catholicism" was a major force in the interwar Weimar Republic.

When president Hindenberg died in August 1934, the Nazis claimed jurisdiction over all levels of government and a referendum confirmed Hitler as sole Führer (leader) of Germany.

A Nazi program known as Gleichschaltung sought control of all collective and social activity and interfered with Catholic schooling, youth groups, workers and cultural groups.

In early 1933, following Nazi successes in the 1932 elections, lay Catholic monarchist Franz von Papen, and acting Chancellor and Presidential advisor, General Kurt von Schleicher, assisted Adolf Hitler's appointment as Reich Chancellor by President Paul von Hindenburg.