takeover would follow the Liberation. But one group of French priests, in a last open letter to German Catholics in 1944, painted a different picture. They pointed out that France had suffered terribly in the previous three years, both physically and mentally, Christian patriots had endured all manner of tribulations because of their resistance. Although the Germans had a right to punish them, they should not be branded as terrorists or Communists. Indeed, many genuine Communists had died because they loved their country. 'You cannot expect us to disown them.' The document continued, 'Perhaps we also must learn how you have suffered so that we can forgive each other.'90 Thus a first gesture of possible reconciliation with German Christians was made.
Reconciliation with nazism was of course impossible for Christians. For Nazis it was a clash of ideologies. Their misconception of the French Church had been total. They sought to play 'clericals' off against 'secularists' in order to neutralise its influence. Their handling of Christians was at first done gingerly--except in Alsace-Lorraine--but soon with increasing fury at what they saw as the Church's ingratitude. Were they not protecting it against bolshevism and 'liberalism'? In return they had met with indifference, 'attentisme', and finally, resistance. For their part, Church leaders attempted unsuccessfully to ignore the German presence. But frictions inevitably arose and clashes were therefore inevitable. In the end the protagonists--the Church and the Germans, not to mention the regime itself--were all defeated in their divergent aims. Nevertheless in the eyes of one (German) historian, ecclesiastical opposition to the Germans could have been greater; he concludes, 'Perhaps the churches did not completely exhaust all the possibilities open to them in relation to the occupation forces.'91
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