The Archbishop and the Concentration Camp

Tuesday, August 17, AD 2010

Retired Archbishop Philip. M. Hannan of New Orleans, still alive at the age of 97, discusses his service in the video above, made in 2007, with the 505th parachute infantry regiment of the 82nd Airborne in World War II.  Ordained at the North American College in Rome on December 8, 1939, he served with the 82nd Airborne as a chaplain from 1942-46, and was known as the Jumping Padre.  He was assigned to be the chaplain of the 505th Regiment with the rank of Captain shortly after the Battle of the Bulge in 1944.  He had many adventures during his time with the 505th, but perhaps the most poignant was what happened to him on May 5th, 1945, in the final days of the War in Europe.

On May 5, 1945, the 505th overran a concentration camp near Wobbelin in Germany.  Captain Hannan and his assistant James Ospital hurried to the camp to see what they could do to help.  A scene of complete horror awaited them.  Corpses were sprawled everywhere.  Dying prisoners lay in filthy bunks crudely made out of branches.  All the prisoners looked like skeletons, both the dead and the living.  The camp reeked of the smells of a charnel house and a sewer.

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10 Responses to The Archbishop and the Concentration Camp

  • Now this is a story worth posting! Thanks!

  • Stories such as these keep me returning to The American Catholic daily. Thanks so much for this many other posts!

  • Thanks for the kind remarks. The Church has a great story to tell and I like to do what I can to tell a minute portion of it.

  • Thank you for writing this tribute to Archbishop Hannan. I did not know about this WWII experience. Archbishop in Combat Boots shares a similar title with the canonizable Father Emil Kapaun’s biography: Shepherd in Combat Boots. Interesting aside: I read in Michael Davies book on Pope John’s Council that the outspoken Hannan made a statement to the press during the Council to this effect — the best thing that could happen to Vatican II is that it ends.

  • “I read in Michael Davies book on Pope John’s Council that the outspoken Hannan made a statement to the press during the Council to this effect — the best thing that could happen to Vatican II is that it ends.”

    I could imagine him saying that. The main hallmark of the Archbishop’s career has been courage and an unclerical willingess to call a spade a bloody shovel.

  • Hannan has had his memoir recently published, I think. Probably worth the read.

    The citizens of Ludwigslust were forced to dig the graves. Also per Eisenhower’s standing order, all adult citizens of Ludwigslust were required to take a tour of the concentration camp.

    An interesting punishment but I wonder if there aren’t some moral problems with “forcing” and requiring the citizens to do it. Is there anything in just war doctrine about this kind of stuff that anybody has?

  • It would be interesting if we as casual bystanders to the grave atrocity of abortion would be forced to dig graves for our dead and tour the grounds of the abortion mills

  • I wonder why Ike is not posthumously, indicted, prosecuted, convicted, disinterred and properly dishonored for his “crimes and lack of sensitivity”?

    God help us.

  • MD,
    I think you are working “Just War”, just a bit too hard. Just war is primarily about the decision enter into or to accept combat and the limitations to be placed upon the subsequent use of force. I know you want to disapprove of a US General’s handling of an issue, but the corpses posed a public health risk, and that primarily to the German populace. Having permitted, even encouraged their government to inititiate a global war on humanity, the German population had seen their dreams of world conquest come to naught, and themselves abandoned to the control of their defeated government’s conquerers. The graves needed to be dug, the martial administrators were under no obligation to provide the labor force, or to pay for it.
    Eisenhower also ordered every Allied General officer (and all senior field grades who could be spared) in Europe to visit at least one concentration or death camp.
    this was necessary to ensure that once they started coming out of the woodwork, Holocaust Deniers like Mel Gibson’s father would be immediately and universally known for the psychopathic liars they are.

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