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from issue no. 01/02 - 2005

That meeting in Munster

The letter we print documents the meeting, in November 1943, between the acknowledged leader of the civilian dissent Carl Goerdeler and the bishop of Münster Clemens August von Galen. The meeting occurred in the crucial phase of the preparations for the historical attempt on 20 July 1944

by Stefania Falasca

Münster 26 June 1946
Melcherstrasse 24
Dr. Hermann Pünder2

Reverend monsignor,

I have lately learned from the dean of the city, Berghaus, that you are intent on compiling a biography of our lord cardinal of Münster.
I believe I can give you a very interesting contribution to your work, of which only I, among those still alive, have knowledge.
You certainly know that that good soul the lord cardinal and myself were very united in life. That acquaintance went back to the time spent together in Berlin, when the Graf von Galen was devoting himself to the care of souls in West Berlin and I had my work on the Wilhelmastrasse. We met again with pleasure in Münster, when I went to visit my parish priest as newly appointed prefect and parishioner of Saint Lambert’s.
Also when, in the following year, the Graf von Galen was nominated bishop, we continued our close relations, albeit, in the nature of things, we no longer met very often. But each of us knew what the other was thinking. And above all in the difficult time of Nazism. This premise is necessary for an understanding of what follows. One of my good acquaintances was the former mayor of Leipzig and commissioner of the Reich for the overseeing of prices, doctor Carl Goerdeler. He was notoriously the civilian center of the events of the historic 20 July 1944.
I was, in a certain sense, acquainted with those facts, I was indeed arrested on the night following 20 July, I found myself before the Volksgerichtshof (People’s Tribunal) charged with high treason, and, after having suffered the most serious ordeals in the most varied concentration camps, my life was saved only by a rescue that had something miraculous about it.
Herr Goerdeler had, in November 1943, come to visit me in Münster, as he maintained relations with his circle of friends only verbally, because of the grave danger.
On this visit he also expressed the desire of meeting our lord bishop. I then went first to visit the Graf von Galen, informing him of the personality of the visitor. On the basis of my recommendation, the bishop declared himself very ready to receive him. The interview took place that same afternoon, and it was face to face.
I then spoke with both gentlemen: with doctor Goerdeler the same evening, given that he was my guest so as not to have to sign the hotel register. I spoke with the lord bishop a few days later. The two gentlemen were very contented with the acquaintance made. Doctor Goerdeler was happy to have found in the bishop of Münster a person warmly sympathetic to the resistance movement led by him.
I must, however, observe that, in this first stage, no word was yet concretely said concerning the carrying out of future attempts. All those involved were obviously held to silence. But doctor Goerdeler unfortunately broke this silence after my capture. I do not intend by that to rebuke him, all the more so since he is no longer among the living and since I know the terrorist methods of the Gestapo. But my own personal via crucis had, in this fact, its only cause, as I know, in statements by doctor Goerdeler that were thrust in my face during interrogations.
From one of these protocols it also emerged that, on the occasion of a visit to Münster to former secretary of state Pünder, Goerdeler had also paid a visit to the bishop of Münster, Graf von Galen. While, as far as I know, all the other friends and acquaintances that doctor Goerdeler had visited in that period of preparation were captured like me by the Gestapo, and dragged before the Volksgerichtshof (People’s Tribunal) for high treason because of this admission by doctor Goerdeler, nobody has dared, as is known, to use this treatment toward the lord bishop.
But during my agonizing interrogations the hatred of the Gestapo thugs for our bishop nevertheless blazed forth.
During all this period I was left in uncertainty about the fate of our bishop. Only a long time later did I learn that, thanks be to God, nothing had happened him.
I don’t know whether it is known to you that our lord bishop was very busy with the occupying powers, immediately after the collapse of the regime, to get me immediately released and that, after my happy return home at the beginning of August last year, he kindly invited me, one Sunday afternoon, for coffee.
On that occasion we naturally dwelt deeply on the facts of November 1943, known by then only to us two.
The lord bishop greatly deplored, as I did, the violent death of doctor Carl Goerdeler, whom he had met then as a righteous German and a truly Christian man.
I leave to you, very reverend monsignor, with the greatest devotion, the decision to make use of this letter as you like, in extracts or in its entirety, in the work you have conceived.
With best wishes, I am your very devoted

Dr Hermann Pünder
Secretary of State a/ D
First mayor of the city of Cologne

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