Shortly before World War II began, a clergyman around 60 years of age would be registered by the office of Chancellor Adolf Hitler as the Nazi government’s most dangerous enemy.
Many would call that man the lion of Münster, the German city he shepherded as a Catholic bishop. Yet this foe dreaded by Hitler nearly wasn’t consecrated bishop at all. The position came to him only after other nominees had turned it down.
One could hardly blame them. In January of that year, Hitler had been appointed chancellor. In March, the National Socialist party had gained an absolute majority in federal elections, and the newly elected Reichstag legislators had passed the Enabling Act, which gave Hitler the power to make laws, set budgets, and pass treaties.
German democracy died that month in 1933, and Hitler’s dictatorship began...