Shame of Gaeta

Shame of Gaeta (‚Schande von Gaeta‘) was the name given by the Nazi propaganda to the outcome of an extraterritorial vote during the referendum on the annexation of Austria ( Anschluss ) in 1938. In historical literature, the expression is sometimes used with quotation marks. In stark contrast to the overall result, the unhindered vote to a strong rejection of the Anschluss.


After the Anschluss, Bishop Alois Hudal , the rector of the theological seminary Anima , prepared a solemn „Te Deum“ -mass as thanksgiving for this event. The service was planned for the following Easter Sunday on April 6, 1938 in the church Santa Maria dell ‚Anima . However, the celebration of this mass was prohibited by Pope Pius XI . [1] Hudal was outraged about the ban and blamed the „machinators‘ influence in the Vatican“. [2]

It has become clear that Hudal’s pro-Anschluss enthusiasm was very isolated in the Vatican. Even more, his contacts to the Curia and especially to the Cardinal Secretary Eugenio Pacelli cooled down considerably. Thus, right after the Te Deum incident and in spite of Hudal’s explicit plea via Pacelli, the Pope refused to receive a group of German speaking pilgrims in the Vatican.

It was in this difficult environment that Gaeta, which he had already started to prepare in the wake of the annexation of Austria.


On 1 April the vice-rector of the Anima , Heinrich Schneider, wrote a list of participants in the plebiscite (largely German and Austrian clerics studying the theological seminary at the time) to the German embassy with the Holy See. [3]

The seminarians were brought to Gaeta in a special train [4] on April 10, 1938. There the extraterritorial vote took place on the board of the German Admiral Scheer cruiser [5] which happened to be in the harbor. Bishop Hudal also took part in the special poll.

Contrary to the general result, the clerics rejected the Anschluss by over 90 percent. [6] The Nazi press called the Shame of Gaeta incident (‚Schande von Gaeta‘) and its hostile narrative in a period of increasing persecutions of the Catholic Church in Germany.


  1. Jump up^ „Die Schande von Gaeta“. Die Furche (in German). April 6, 1968.
  2. Jump up^ „April 6, 1938“. Anima Chronicles (in German).
  3. Jump up^ Langer, Markus (1995). Alois Hudal. Bischof zwischen Kreuz und Hakenkreuz. Versuch einer Biography (in German). p. 136.
  4. Jump up^ Graham, Robert A. (1977). „Questione Religiosa Nella Crisi Dell’Asse“ . The Civiltà Cattolica . 3041 : 447 . Retrieved 5 May 2017 .
  5. Jump up^ „Memorial Postcard: Vote in Gaeta on Admiral Scheer Board, April 10th, 1938“ . German Postal History . Retrieved 2017-04-24 .
  6. Jump up^ Pawlikowska, Anna (2010-06-14). „Watykański agent III Rzeszy“ (in Polish) . Retrieved 5 May 2017 .