Cahiers du Témoignage chrétien – France, Beware of Losing Your Soul (November 1941) (Part 1)

The clandestine publishing house which published Témoignage chrétien.

[Cahiers du Témoignage Chrétien (Notebooks of Christian Witness) is a Catholic journal which originally started off as a clandestine resistance paper during the Nazi occupation of France. Supervised by two Jesuit priests, Gaston Fessard and Pierre Chaillet, the journal, according to Piotr H. Kosicki (in his 2018 book Catholics on the Barricades) “openly promoted Catholic-Socialist-Communist cooperation in the Resistance.”
Some of the contributors to this journal where notable figures such as Henri de Lubac, André Mandouze (who became the deputy editor of the Cahiers in 1943), Yves de Montcheuil, SJ (who was later killed by the Nazis at Grenoble in August 1944), Jean Lacroix (a contributor to Esprit and also one of Louis Althusser’s teachers), Georges Bernanos, Jacques Maritain, and a slew of other Catholics.]

The cover of the first issue of Cahiers du Témoignage chrétien

“There is no doubt that our current world is a prison of the spirit, before it is a prison of the body, which it is as well. Honesty requires that we do not refuse our duty to what is true; and this is not for us a small affair, since our conscience is torn by two powers, that which gives us falsehood and that which refuses us the truth. It is our right and our duty to be doubly prudent and wary, when those who speak to us make it impossible for us to receive anything other than what they say, nothing apart from them.” 

Who has alerted our vigilance in this way? It is the Voice of the Vatican, that you must hear every evening (except Sundays) at 7 pm, on 48.47. 

Vatican Radio has good reason to speak. It knows that censorship, in all the countries under the control of the German police, “refuses us the truth” and that propaganda “gives us falsehood.” 

“Sons of light, Christians must know and testify. Regarding their own plan which is the Reign of God and of his Justice, no opportunism, no carnal fear can dispense them from this testimony which they must contrast with ‘the caricature of justice, the caricature of truth, [and] the caricature, alas, of honour.‘”

The Frenchman who present you with these Cahiers are not doing politics for or against this or that. They possess no other concern than to prevent the slow asphyxiation of consciences; they bring you facts which have been examined and authentic documents; and they remind you of doctrinal directives.

They rely on your ingenuity to amplify, with prudence and courage, the echo of these [Cahiers.]

Notebooks of Christian Witness


“An entire people is on the way to losing its soul,” it is in this way that a German prelate characterized the situation at the moment when the Nazi tide began to engluf his country.

A year ago [1940], France, was in turn, taken over by the Nazi tide and lost her liberty. Not only political liberty, to which she had to renounce because of the defeat. But also her spiritual liberty which she intended meanwhile to safeguard by an armistice concluded in honor. This was based on bad knowledge of her adversary, who is not the imperial Germany of 1914, but Hitler’s Germany. To the latter it does not suffice to simply subjugate the bodies of nations, it needs to also domesticate their soul, and make them renounce their reasons to live by being assured of their submission. Since last year, next to political work, a whole subterranean, and properly spiritual action has been taking place, which is making us renounce these Christian values, a common heritage, beyond all the surface divisions, of our different spiritual families. Of this action, the aim is the enslavement of the soul of France.

These pages intend to strictly confine themselves to that spiritual aspect of the present situation, but they desire to open up the eyes of all the Frenchman still concerned about Christian and human values:

I. – On the fundamentally anti-Christian character of the mystique which inspires Nazism.

II. – On the insidious processes of penetration and persecution employed by the Hitlerian spirit. 

III. – On their application in France and the results already obtained.