Franz Justus Rarkowski

Franz Justus Rarkowski, S.M. (June 8, 1873 – February 9, 1950[1]) was the Catholic military bishop of Nazi Germany. The existence of such a role was provided for by the Reichskonkordat (1933), and Rarkowski had been acting head of the military chaplaincy since 1929, before he was officially consecrated on February 29, 1938 as episcopus castrensis.[2][3] Rarkowski's title was translated into English as "Field Bishop of the German Army".[4]

The first draft of the Apostolic Brief to regulate the military chaplaincy was given to the German government on June 26, 1934.[3] The brief was issued on September 19, 1935.[5]

Franz Justus Rarkowski,

Field Bishop of the German Army
SeeMilitary Vicariate of Germany
AppointedJanuary 7, 1938
Term endedFebruary 1, 1945
PredecessorHeinrich Joeppen
SuccessorJoseph Wendel
Other postsTitular Bishop of Hierocaesarea
OrdinationJanuary 9, 1898
ConsecrationFebruary 20, 1938
by Cesare Orsenigo
Personal details
BornJune 8, 1873
Allenstein, East Prussia (today Olsztyn, Poland)
DiedFebruary 9, 1950 (aged 76)
Munich, Bavaria
DenominationRoman Catholic


Rarkowski was born in Allenstein, East Prussia (today Olsztyn, Poland).[1] He was a former associate of President Paul von Hindenburg, and Ambassador Diego von Bergen was informed in July 1935 that he was the favored candidate of the Nazi Party.[5] Rarkowski had not graduated from high school, but was admitted to study theology for the priesthood in Switzerland, where he left his religious order.[5] According to historian Guenter Lewy, the German bishops' opposition to Rarkowski's candidacy "stemmed from the episcopate's feeling that he was their inferior and a threat to their status rather than from the unacceptability of his political ideas".[5] Nuncio Cesare Orsenigo argued that Rarkowski, at 62, was too old for the post, but raised no other objections.[6] Rarkowski was named acting army bishop in August 1936.[6] He was consecrated by Orsenigo, assisted by Konrad von Preysing and Clemens August Graf von Galen.[6]

The Catholic bishops in Nazi Germany had long opposed the existence of such a role, while Hitler's government demanded that the military chaplaincy be exempt from the episcopal jurisdiction of the diocesan bishops.[2] Once the hierarchy consented to Rarkowski's consecration, he was excluded from the meetings of the Fulda Conference except when military matters were discussed.[2] His office was in the defense ministry in Berlin.[2]

Rarkowski was a public and vocal supporter of the Nazi regime, known especially for his nationalistic and militaristic speeches and writings.[2] On the eve of the 1939 invasion of Poland, Rarkowski told soldiers: "Comrades, the issue is your homeland and your people! Be manly and strong!".[7][8] In an October 4, 1940 pastoral letter, Rarkowski argued that Germany was "waging a just war" and praised German Catholic soldiers for the "Christian attitude they have maintained on the field of battle".[4] Rarkowski continued:

"The German Nation has a great duty to fulfill in the face of the Eternal Almighty. Abroad and at home the Fuehrer has thanked God that his plea for His blessing for our good and just cause was expressed more than once, and was understood. Certainly, other nations opposed to us pray to God and beg Him to grant them victory. God is, in the same manner, Father of all nations, but He is not, in the same manner, arbiter of justice and injustice, of honesty and mendacity. From reports of field chaplains who were with you on all fronts during the past year, I was able to observe how naturally and joyfully you participated in religious services and received the sacraments, not only immediately before battle, but also in the many months when the fronts were quiet. Your Christian faith was everywhere where you, as soldiers, often had to achieve the superhuman, and was a valuable part of your spiritual and moral equipment."[4]

There were 560 Catholic military chaplains in Nazi Germany at the outbreak of World War II.[3] Hermann Göring had forbidden such chaplain in the air force, but the other branches of the military were generally supportive of the institution.[3]

After the remilitarisation of West Germany in 1955, when the military vicarate was re-established, it was independent of the army authorities; Pius XII appointed Cardinal Josef Wendel of Munich as new military ordinariate for West Germany.[2] In communist East Germany there was no established military chaplaincy.


  1. ^ a b Catholic-Hierarchy. "Bishop Franz Justus Rarkowski, S.M. †".
  2. ^ a b c d e f Barry, 1969, p. 218.
  3. ^ a b c d Lewy, 2000, p. 236.
  4. ^ a b c New York Times. October 5, 1940. "Catholic Bishop Says Nazis Wage 'Just War'." p. 4.
  5. ^ a b c d Lewy, 2000, p. 237.
  6. ^ a b c Lewy, 2000, p. 238.
  7. ^ Franziskus Justus Rarkowski, "Heimatgru[Beta] an alle katholischen Wehrmachtangehorigen," Verordnungsblatt, no. 3 (18 October 1939): 10, AKM Bonn.
  8. ^ Doris L. Bergen. 2001. "German Military Chaplains in World War II and the Dilemmas of Legitimacy". Church History, 70(2): p. 232.


  • Barry, Colman James. (1969). American Nuncio: Cardinal Aloisius Muench. Collegeville, MN: Saint John’s University Press, 1969.
  • Lewy, Guenter (2000). The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80931-1.
Catholic Church titles
Title last held by
Heinrich Joeppen (1918)
Field Bishop of the German Army
1938 – 1945
Title next held by
Josef Wendel (1956)
Preceded by
John Marie Laval
Titular Bishop of Hierocaesarea
1938 – 1950
Succeeded by
Timothy Phelim O'Shea
1873 in Germany

Events from the year 1873 in Germany.


1950 (MCML)

was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar, the 1950th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 950th year of the 2nd millennium, the 50th year of the 20th century, and the 1st year of the 1950s decade.


Hierocaesarea, from the Greek for "sacred" and the Latin for "Caesar's" was a town and bishopric in the late Roman province of Lydia, the metropolitan see of which was Sardis.

Military Ordinariate of Germany

The Military Ordinariate of Germany (German: Katholische Militärseelsorge; Deutsches Militärordinariat) is a military ordinariate of the Roman Catholic Church. Immediately subject to the Holy See, it provides pastoral care to Roman Catholics serving in the German Armed Forces and their families.

Franz-Josef Overbeck, who was appointed Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Essen by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, was also appointed Military Ordinary for Germany on 24 February 2011.

Military chaplain

A military chaplain ministers to military personnel and, in most cases, their families and civilians working for the military. In some cases they will also work with local civilians within a military area of operations.

Although the term chaplain originally had Christian roots, it is generally used today in military organizations to describe all professionals specially trained to serve any spiritual need, regardless of religious affiliation. In addition to offering pastoral care to individuals, and supporting their religious rights and needs, military chaplains may also advise the executive on issues of religion, and ethics, morale and morals as affected by religion. They may also liaise with local religious leaders in an effort to understand the role of religion as a factor both in hostility and war and in reconciliation and peace.Military chaplains normally represent a religion or faith group but work with military personnel of all faiths and none. Some countries, like the Netherlands and Belgium, also employ humanist chaplains who offer a non-religious approach to chaplain support.

Nazism and the Wehrmacht

The relationship between the Wehrmacht, the regular combined armed forces of Nazi Germany, and the regime it served has been the subject of a voluminous historiographical debate. Broadly speaking, there have been two camps. The myth of the Clean Wehrmacht claims that the Wehrmacht had minimal participation in war crimes and genocide. More recently, scholarship has emerged demonstrating that the Wehrmacht was complicit in the Holocaust.


Olsztyn ([ˈɔlʂtɨn] (listen); German: Allenstein (listen); Old Polish: Holstin; Old Prussian: Alnāsteini or Alnestabs; Lithuanian: Olštynas) is a city on the Łyna River in northeastern Poland. Olsztyn is the capital of the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, and is a city with county rights. The population of the city was estimated at 173,070 residents in 2017.

Founded as Allenstein in the 14th century, Olsztyn was under the control and influence of the Teutonic Order until 1466, when it was incorporated into the Polish Crown. For centuries the city was an important centre of trade, crafts, science and administration in the Warmia region linking Warsaw with Königsberg. Following the First Partition of Poland in 1772 Warmia was annexed by Prussia and ceased to be the property of the clergy. In the 19th century the city changed its status completely, becoming the most prominent economic hub of the southern part of Eastern Prussia. The construction of a railway and early industrialization greatly contributed to Olsztyn's significance. Following World War II, the city returned to Poland in accordance with the Potsdam Agreement.

Since 1999 Olsztyn has been the capital city of the Warmia-Masuria. In the same year, the University of Warmia and Masuria was founded from the fusion of three other local universities. Today, the Castle of Warmian Bishops houses a museum and is a venue for concerts, art exhibitions, film shows and other cultural events, which make Olsztyn a popular tourist destination.The most important sights of the city include the medieval Old Town and the Olsztyn Cathedral, which dates back more than 600 years. The picturesque market square is part of the European Route of Brick Gothic and the cathedral is regarded as one of the greatest monuments of Gothic architecture in Poland.Olsztyn, for a number of years, has been ranked very highly in quality of life, income, employment and safety. It currently is one of the best places in Poland to live and work. It is also one of the happiest cities in the country.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.