Ratzinger as pope raises questions: Independent
22 April 2005, LONDON - Britain's left-liberal Independent newspaper said on Friday the election of Joseph Ratzinger as the new pope raised serious questions about the role of the Catholic Church under Nazism.
22 April 2005
LONDON - Britain's left-liberal Independent newspaper said on Friday the election of Joseph Ratzinger as the new pope raised serious questions about the role of the Catholic Church under Nazism.
"A burden of history that needs to be lifted", said the headline of the Independent's commentary.
British media have generally given an unfavourable welcome to Pope Benedict XVI, focusing their attention on the young Ratzinger's obligatory spell in the Hitler Youth.
This, in turn, has provoked angry comment in Germany, where newspapers condemned the British "obsession" with the Nazi regime and World War Two.
"The world celebrates the new Pope and the British make a stink", wrote the mass circulation Bild newspaper.
The news magazine Der Spiegel accused the British tabloid press of "stunning meanness" at a time when Germans had something to celebrate.
But the Independent insisted that while no one was suggesting that the young Ratzinger was a Nazi, there remained "good reasons for profound unease" over his new role.
"The election of a German who lived through the era of Nazism to this supreme spiritual seat will inevitably raise questions not only about the present state of the Catholic Church, but also about its past."
To underline its call, the Independent sent its correspondent to the local town library in Traunstein, Bavaria, where Ratzinger went to school and attended a Catholic seminary in 1940.
In his book, local author Friedbert Muehldorfer gives a disturbing and detailed account of atrocities, the expulsion of Jews and the use of slave labour in a camp on the outskirts of Traunstein.
Muehldorfer records that the people of Traunstein were ordered to close streets to traffic as "a column of emaciated prisoners was herded through by SS guards".
While some locals showed sympathy and gave the prisoners food, there were also those "who looked away in shame to avoid the cruel truth and past those who laughed at them cynically", he added.
Making the link to Ratzinger, the Independent said it was "somewhat remarkable" that none of these events "appear to have been mentioned" in the pope's autobiography, 'Milestones', which was published in 1997.
"It would have been difficult for anyone in the area not to be aware of the concentration camp on the edge of Traunstein", said the Independent.
In his autobiography, the pope, who was in an anti-aircraft unit at the end of the war, records that he deserted in late April 1945 and fled to Traunstein.
There he hid from the SS, wearing civilian clothes, and was found by the Americans who sent him briefly to an American prisoner of war camp.
Subject: German news