For five years Dachau was home to the largest religious community in the world. 2,771
clerics were fenced up in this immense concentration camp. More than a thousand died
By the end of 1940 Himmler decided that all preachers, priests and other clerics
had to be brought together in one camp: Dachau. They were housed in cell blocks 26
and 28. The Poles, who were the majority in cell block 26, the rest in cell block
2,580 Roman Catholic priests and seminarians were there, from 38 countries. In addition,
109 preachers, 30 orthodox clerics and 2 Islamic imams.
These numbers are for Dachau only. They do not take into consideration the preachers
and clerics who were tortured, or murdered in prisons or in the street. In Poland
alone 700 priests were killed by the Nazis; in Dachau, the Poles were the ones who
had to suffer the most. They wound up in punishment details or were exposed to medical
In February the Gestapo arrested 62 priests and transported them to Dachau. Only
41 of them made it to the camp. The rest succumbed during the journey.
Although the clerics had a hard time, they also had some privileges. It was possible
to hold small, improvised religious services in the barracks. But just as important
was the fact that the inhabitants of cell blocks 26 and 28, could receive packets
with groceries, unlike most others.
Amongst the clerics in Dachau were a few hundred Dutchmen, protestant preachers and
Roman Catholic priests. Amongst them was Professor Doctor Titus Brandsma of the Carmelite
order, who was the rector of Nijmegen Catholic University.
Brandsma was born in Friesland in 1881, studied Philosophy and Sociology at the University
of Nijmegen and was named professor at the newly established Nijmegen University.
There he taught Philosophy and History of Religion, more specifically Dutch mysticism.
In 1935 the archbishop of Utrecht named him spiritual advisor to the Roman Catholic
journalistic society. A lot of his teachings were devoted to the troubling aspects
of the national socialistic world views. In 1941 he made a journey to all directors
and editors or the catholic press to warn them about the dangers of the national
socialist movement. On January 19, 1942 he was arrested and imprisoned in Scheveningen
“Der Pater Titus Brandsma (Nimwegen) ist wegen planmässiger Vorbereitung einer gegen
die Deutschen Besatzungsbehörden regichteten oppositionellen Bewegung umgehend zu
verhaften und in einem Konzentrationslager zuzuführen”.
“Father Titus Brandsma (Nijmegen), due to deliberate planning of a movement against
the German occupation, has been arrested and will be transported to a concentration
Through Vught, he arrived at Dachau, where he died the summer of that same year.
After long deliberations between the `s Hertogenbosch bishopric and Rome, he was
declared a saint in 1957. In his cell in the prison in Scheveningen, Brandsma wrote