Krek’s Westphalian Letters: religious-moral, national-cultural and political views, and emigration
Besides social-economic factors, Krek in his letters primarily emphasised activities of Catholic Church in Germany and inclusion of Slovenian immigrants into its organisation from a religious viewpoint. In various “programmes” he pointed out the tasks that await Slovenian churchgoers in Germany and mostly those who remained in the homeland. Cultural and national affiliations are being emphasised, but always in connection to religious life (societies, books, newspapers, emigrant priests, morality). He did not avoid extensive reflections on political life in Germany as compared to Austria.
KEYWORDS: Slovenians in Germany, religious and cultural life of emigrants, Bismarck, Judaism, liberalism, social democracy.
During the spring of 1899, Slovenian politician and priest Janez Evangelist Krek (1865-1917) resided among Slovenians in Westphalia and Rhineland and wrote letters with his reflections and findings that were published in Slovenian catholic newspaper Slovenec, issued in Ljubljana. His social-economic views have already been published in the journal Dve domovini/Two Homelands, 25, 2007, pp. 161-185. This discussion is a sequel to analysis of his views on religious and moral life within the framework of catholic church, preservation of national identity among Slovenian emigrants in Germany and their cultural activities (societies, reading culture, newspapers).
Krek, as a catholic, was critical towards liberalism, bismarckism, social democracy and Judaism, in both Germany and Austria. Within the framework of religious life, he was strict towards Protestantism, especially if churchgoers were leaving the Catholic Church in order to join the Protestant Church. In practice, this mostly occurred with marriages, e.g. of a Slovenian churchgoer with a German protestant. Life in Germany had an impact on increasingly tepid religiosity. Krek was constantly on the road, visiting places where Slovenians lived. He held masses in many of those places. contacts with German catholic priests provided him with an insight into the state of the
Catholic Church in Germany. That is why we find in his letters numerous comparisons with the state of Catholic Church in Austria. For a certain period of time he was under inspection of the Prussian police, as there was a thin line between his religious and organisational-political activities. He participated at several gatherings, where he was organising Catholic workers. German authorities were afraid that organization of workers, as known from the Polish case, would be repeated. He was cleared of all suspicions. Undoubtedly, Slovenian community did not pose a threat to authorities and the police due to its smallness (in 1900 there were only 10.000 Slovenians living in Germany) and dispersal. In conversations with Slovenians in Germany, Slovenian priests emphasized values such as peacefulness, diligence and hard work. It remains unclear to what extent this is a stereotype or indeed an actual situation. Undoubtedly, Krek’s visit to Germany and his published letters presented a shift in knowledge of emigration back in the homeland, where there were at the time writing and talking mostly about emigration to the United States of America.