Bertram, Adolf

(1859-1945)
   Archbishop and Cardinal; leader of the German Catholic Church during the Republic and the Third Reich. Born to modest circumstances in Hildesheim (his father owned a fabric shop), he studied outside of Prussian territory to escape Bismarck's Kulturkampfagainst Cathol-icism. After pursuing theology during 1877-1881, he attended seminary in Mu-nich and entered the priesthood in 1883. Evolving into a distinguished church administrator, he was named Bishop in 1906 of his home city, Hildesheim. Advanced to Archbishop of Breslau in 1914, he received a Cardinal's cap in 1916. As tradition dictated, he became Chairman of the Conference of German Bishops at the death in 1919 of Felix Cardinal von Hartmann; he retained the position until his own death.
   As Breslau was in eastern Silesia, Bertram was sensitive to the church's ex-posure resulting from the severe Polish-German tension of the 1920s. Although he was respected in the Weimar era for his pastoral skills, his strict political neutrality—he punished both German and Polish clerics who became outspo-kenly nationalistic—was little appreciated. However, the Bishops' Conference profited from his energy, his encyclopedic knowledge, and his diplomatic skill; he helped negotiate the Vatican's 1929 concordat with Prussia.* In 1930 he issued an exhortation asking that Catholics* rebuff fanaticism and distance them-selves from racism. Under his guidance the conference issued a 1932 prohibition on joining the NSDAP.
   Old enough to sustain wounds from the Kulturkampf, Bertram was horrified when Hitler* seized power. He had once denounced the idea of an Aryanized church, but he revised his maxim to avoid endangering Catholicism. He insisted on patience and compromise (he habitually sent Hitler birthday greetings), and his posture seriously damaged his reputation. When he learned of Hitler's death in April 1945, he held a requiem mass for the Nazi leader.
   REFERENCES:Balfour, Withstanding Hitler; Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Lewy, Catholic Church; Volk, "Adolf Kardinal Bertram."

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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