Theodor Innitzer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

His Eminence

Theodor Innitzer
Cardinal, Archbishop of Vienna
Theodor Kardinal Innitzer -001-.jpg
Appointed19 September 1932
Installed16 October 1932
Term ended9 October 1955
PredecessorFriedrich Gustav Piffl
SuccessorFranz König
Other post(s)Cardinal-Priest of San Crisogono
Ordination25 July 1902
Consecration16 October 1932
by Enrico Sibilia
Created cardinal13 March 1933
by Pius XI
Personal details
Born(1875-12-25)25 December 1875
Neugeschrei-Weipert, Kingdom of Bohemia, Austria-Hungary
Died9 December 1955(1955-12-09) (aged 79)
DenominationRoman Catholic
Coat of armsTheodor Innitzer's coat of arms

Theodor Innitzer (25 December 1875 – 9 October 1955) was Archbishop of Vienna and a cardinal of the Catholic Church.

Early life[edit]

Innitzer was born in Neugeschrei (Nové Zvolání), part of the town Weipert (Vejprty) in Bohemia, at that time Austria-Hungary, (now Czech Republic). He was the son of a passementier Wilhelm Innitzer in Vejprty, House Nr. 362, later a textile factory worker, and his wife Maria born Seidl, daughter of a mining clerk.[1] After completing the minimum mandatory school, Innitzer became an apprentice in a textile factory. The dean of his home parish supported the young Theodor, which allowed him to attend a gymnasium (1890–1892 Communal-Gymnasium), and Staatsgymnasium (1892–1898) in Kaaden (Kadaň).

Ecclesiastical career[edit]

Styles of
Theodor Innitzer
Coat of arms of Theodor Innitzer.svg
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal

Political activity and assessment[edit]

The Anschluss[edit]

Innitzer's role in early 20th century Austrian history remains disputed, because of his involvement in politics.[citation needed] Despite being intimidated into supporting the Anschluss after being assaulted by Nazi supporters,[2] Innitzer became a critic of the Nazis and was subject to further violent intimidation from them.[3][4]

This assessment stems from his cooperation with the Austro-fascist government of Engelbert Dollfuß and Kurt Schuschnigg from 1934 to 1938, which based many of its economic and social policies on the teachings of the Catholic Church. He and the other Austrian Catholic bishops signed a declaration endorsing the Anschluss, set up by Gauleiter Josef Bürckel, and signed by Innitzer with "Heil Hitler!". Without the bishops' consent the Nazi regime disseminated this statement throughout the German Reich. Upon hearing of this act, Pope Pius XI ordered Cardinal Innitzer to sign a clarification, which was then published in L'Osservatore Romano.[citation needed]

Vatican Radio had recently broadcast a vehement denunciation of the Nazi action, and Cardinal Pacelli (soon to become Pope Pius XII) ordered Innitzer to report to the Vatican. Before meeting with Pius XI, Innitzer met with Pacelli, who had been outraged by Innitzer's statement. He made it clear that Innitzer needed to retract and was made to sign a new statement, issued on behalf of all the Austrian bishops, which provided: "The solemn declaration of the Austrian bishops... was clearly not intended to be an approval of something that was not and is not compatible with God's law". The Vatican newspaper also reported that the bishops' earlier statement had been issued without the approval of the Holy See, with the fairly neutral Pope Pius XI disagreeing totally with Innitzer.[citation needed]

Nazi intimidation[edit]

In April 1938, in honour of Hitler's birthday, Cardinal Innitzer had ordered that all Austrian churches fly the swastika flag, ring bells, and pray for Hitler. Despite this Innitzer called a day of prayer in the Cathedral of St. Stephen of Vienna for 7 October 1938, which was attended by almost 9,000 parishioners, mostly young people. In the sermon Innitzer declared that "we must confess our faith in our Führer, for there is just one Führer: Jesus Christ", which greatly angered the Nazi leaders: about 100 Nazis, among them many older members of the Hitler Youth, ransacked the archbishop's residence the very next day.[5] In Britain, the Catholic Herald provided the following contemporary account on 14 October 1938:[4]

The invasion was a reply to a courageous sermon the Cardinal had preached in the Cathedral earlier in the evening, in which the Cardinal told his packed congregation that " in the last few months you have lost everything!' This sermon marked the end of Cardinal Innitzer's attempt to establish a religious peace with the Nazis. The attempt has failed. Cardinal Innitzer is now in line with his German brothers openly urging Catholics to resist anti-Catholic measures. [-] Nazi mobs have penetrated into the Archbishop's Palace on St. Stephen's Square in Vienna and have demolished part of the furniture. Other furniture, as well as files and documents were thrown through the windows and set on fire. Hostile cries like "down with the clergy," "send the Cardinal into a concentration camp," "traitor bishop" and so on were heard.

World War II[edit]

Innitzer's ambiguous relationship with the Nazi regime brought him a lot of criticism after World War II (he was referred to as the "Heil Hitler Cardinal").[6] During the War Innitzer was critical of the anti-Semitic and racist policies of the Nazis towards the Austrian Jews and also the Catholic gypsies of the Austrian countryside.[citation needed]

He openly, though moderately, supported the war effort against the Soviet Union, however. Years before, he had campaigned against Soviet policies. In 1933, based on data collected by undercover investigation and photographs, Innitzer sought to raise awareness in the West of the many deaths by hunger and even cases of cannibalism that were occurring in Ukraine and the North Caucasus at that time.[7]

In October 1944 Innitzer preached in the parish of Vienna-Reindorf, which also included members of the NSDAP local group who listened and wrote a report about it. In their report, they criticized that Innitzer's speech was "cleverly demoralized". Thereby, statements like the following are thought: “You don't know what will come. It is possible that Vienna will also become a theater of war.” However, Innitzer attributed the war to God directly; he saw it as a punishment for misconduct by the people. Innitzer also expressed his regret for the low participation in church life: children grow up without Communion and confession, have no religious instruction at school, there are no more seminaries, and only one sixth of the Catholics go to Holy Mass.  Such indications can also be understood as indirect criticism of the National Socialist government, since their measures have suppressed the church's influence.[8]


  • John the Baptist. Illustrated according to the scriptures and tradition. by Theodor Innitzer. Mayer, Vienna 1908.
  • Commentary on the Gospel of Healing Luke excluding the story of suffering. (Revised by Franz Xaver Pölzl. 2nd edition, especially by Theodor Innitzer.) Graz u. Vienna 1912.
  • Court Councilor Dr. Ms. X. Pölzl. Styria , Graz 1915.
  • Commentary on the Gospel of St. Mark excluding the history of suffering. (Founded by Franz Xaver Pölzl. 3rd revised edition, especially by Theodor Innitzer.) Graz u. Vienna 1916.
  • Brief commentary on the four holy gospels. (Founded by Franz Xaver Poelzl continued by Theodor Innitzer. 4 verb. Edition) Graz 1928.
  • The religion of the earth in detail. (Together with Fritz Wilke.) Leipzig u. Vienna 1929.
  • The Holy Year and Peace. In: Hermann Hoffmann: The Church and Peace. 1,933th
  • He is risen! Pictures by Josef von Führich. Statement by Theodor Innitzer. Bernina, Vienna 1949.
  • Faith letter. Herder, Vienna 1939–40
  • What are we doing ourselves? Cardinal Archbishop Theodor Innitzer u. Archbishop coadjutor Franz Jachym call for help f. young families. Catholic family work of the Archdiocese of Vienna, Vienna 1951.


Theodor Cardinal Innitzer died in Vienna, Austria on 9 October 1955.

Kardinal Innitzer Prize[edit]

The Archdiocese of Vienna annually awards the Kardinal-Innitzer-Preis to scientists and scholars, which is named in honor of Innitzer.

Cultural references[edit]

In the 1963 movie The Cardinal, Innitzer was played by Josef Meinrad in scenes interpreting the events of the Anschluss including the statement and the sacking of the residence.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Baptismal matrix of Vejprty
  2. ^ Krieger, Walter (1980). Kardinal Dr. Theodor Innitzer und der Nationalsozialismus (in German). pp. 7–8.
  3. ^ "Theodor Innitzer – Austrian cardinal". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Cardinal Innitzer May See Hitler". Catholic Herald Archive. 14 October 1938. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013.
  5. ^ Gajewski, Karol Jozef (November 1999). "Nazi Policy and the Catholic Church". Inside the Vatican. Catholic Education Resource Center. Archived from the original on 19 October 2013.
  6. ^ "US Holocaust Archives to cooperate with Vienna Diocese - Innitzer as Cardinal "Heil Hitler"". 11 April 2014. Retrieved 17 June 2022.
  7. ^ Starvation & Surplus, TIME Magazine, 22 January 1934
  8. ^ "Innitzer, Theodor". Religion Past and Present. doi:10.1163/1877-5888_rpp_sim_10439. Retrieved 21 January 2020.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Austrian Minister of Social Affairs
Succeeded by
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Archbishop of Vienna
Succeeded by