Towards a new 'educational peace' : the negotiations between cardinal Van Roey and the German occupier on the future of free Catholic education in Belgium, 1942-1943
Faculty of Arts. History
Belgisch tijdschrift voor nieuwste geschiedenis / Jan Dhondt Stichting. - Gent, 1969, currens
, p. 603-643
University of Antwerp
The attitude of the Catholic Church in Belgium during the Second World War has been thoroughly studied. Current historiography has conceived the relations between the Catholic Church and the German occupier as static and reserved. Furthermore, the Church-state discussions about the future of the Catholic education network has been largely neglected. However, a thorough examination of the negotiations between the occupier and the Belgian episcopate reveals a more dynamic relation. During the Second World War the German occupier, in an attempt to get a grip on the field of education, contested the catholic schooling monopoly. However, the Germans were confronted with the interdiction of the highest religious authority, Cardinal Van Roey, for pupils, parents and teachers of catholic schools to apply for membership in extremist organizations. The unwillingness of the cardinal to take care of the representation of catholic schools in the Commission for the Revision of School Manuals reinforced the German perception of catholic hostility. As a consequence the Germans proceeded to take measures in August 1942 in order to restrain the development of the free school network. At first, the Church succeeded in fending off the German influence in catholic education. But due to the regulations being tightened up in November 1942, it was forced to reposition its relations with the German occupier. Particularly when the complete revocation of the restrictive German measures seemed impossible, the Church tried to negotiate with the occupier in order to secure its educational interests. These negotiation politics were determined by war conditions and their consequences for catholic education. Due to the November 1942 regulation, the situation in the schools worsened. This caused the episcopate to request for a swift solution for the problems. In addition, the Church feared that, after the war, the government would seize upon the dismantlement of the catholic education network to strengthen the official school network. This, however, conflicted with the episcopacy's ambition to appoint itself upholder of the freedom of education after the war.