Just when you thought the Vatican Press Office was getting it together comes this from Reuters.
The problem here stems from a distinction. Many youth were automatically enrolled or pretty much forced to be enrolled in the Hilter Youth. Not all of those enrolled participated with anything like free will or energy. Such was the case of the young Joseph Ratzinger.
You need to know this in case people ask you about it.
Vatican spokesman says pope never in Hitler Youth
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The official Vatican spokesman said on Tuesday that German-born Pope Benedict was never a member of the Hitler Youth, contradicting quotes from the pope himself that have been aired again during his visit to Israel. [Which raises the question… has no one in the Press Office read the Pope’s autobiography?]
Rev. Federico Lombardi said the pope, whose speech at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial on Monday was criticized in Israel as too abstract, was a member of anti-aircraft units that many youths were drafted into in the last two years of World War Two. [True.]
But noting many media reports during his Middle East tour had mentioned membership in the Nazi Party’s youth wing, Lombardi told reporters in Jerusalem: "The pope was never in the Hitler Youth, never, never, never."
In "Salt of the Earth," a 1996 book of autobiographical and religious reflections based on interviews with German journalist Peter Seewald, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said, however, that he was automatically enrolled into the Hitler Youth. [If memory serves the Pope’s father was dead set against this.]
Asked if he had been a member, he said: "At first we weren’t, but when the compulsory Hitler Youth was introduced in 1941, my brother was obliged to join. I was still too young, but later, as a seminarian, I was registered in the HY. As soon as I was out of the seminary, I never went back."
He also said he served on anti-aircraft batteries and was conscripted into the German infantry late in the war.
Lombardi did not say why the Vatican had not issued a denial about membership in the Hitler Youth in the past. Media reports highlighted this issue even before Benedict was elected in 2005, and it regularly appears in articles about him.
The speaker of Israel’s parliament, in criticism of the pope’s Yad Vashem speech, described him as a "German who joined the Hitler Youth and … a person who joined Hitler’s army." [That would be a mischaracterization of what happened.]
The Vatican spokesman made a distinction between convinced Hitler Youth activists and members of the anti-aircraft units, omitting the category of involuntary Hitler Youth members to which Benedict has been quoted as saying he belonged.
"The Hitler Youth was a corps of volunteers, fanatically, ideologically for the Nazis," Lombardi said.
The anti-aircraft auxiliary corps the pope was enrolled in toward the end of the war "had absolutely nothing to do with the Hitler Youth and the Nazis and Nazi ideology," he added.
"It is important to say what is true and not to say false things about a very sensitive thing like this," Lombardi said. [Yes…. it is important not to say things that are false about the Pope’s past. He was a member of the HY but was not active or committed.]
Histories of the air-aircraft auxiliary corps, known as the "Flakhelfer," and of the Hitler Youth, describe the auxiliaries as being organized as a unit of the Hitler Youth.
Joseph Ratzinger Was Not a Hitler Youth
Spokesman Verifies Truth as Press Fails to Fact-Check
JERUSALEM, MAY 12, 2009 (Zenit.org).- A Vatican spokesman is clarifying that the young Joseph Ratzinger never formed part of the "Hitlerjugend" (the Hitler Youth corps), correcting misinformation reported by the Israeli press.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, said at a press conference today in Jerusalem, "I have read something that is not true. The Pope never, never formed part of the Hitlerjugend, which was a corps of fanatic and ideological volunteers."
Father Lombardi saw a need to clarify the facts today as the Israeli press has reacted badly to the Holy Father’s address Monday at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. They took issue with the Pope having used the word "killed" instead of "murdered," and other similar points.
"Benedict XVI has nothing to do with violence; he is a gentle and humble person, tender. He has never been against the Jews," Father Lombardi continued.
The spokesman explained that during Hitler’s reign, the young Joseph Ratzinger "was a seminarian and a theology student, who at 16 years of age, like all the people of his age, was drafted as an auxiliary of the anti-aircraft defense, and was never in this youth movement that was ideologically educated in Nazism."
Father Lombardi also responded to some of the other criticisms, such as that the Pope mentioned "millions" of Jews and not "six million," or that he did not make reference to his own German roots.
"In the discourse at Yad Vashem," Father Lombardi noted, "he chose the theme of memory and developed the idea of a name."
The speech was not a treatise on the Holocaust, the spokesman added, and pointed to other discourses where the Pope has mentioned Germany and his past, and Nazism.
"He can’t mention everything every time he speaks," Father Lombardi remarked.
"Moreover in the morning, he had already say that six million Jews died and that we can’t forget, and that there is still anti-Semitism," the spokesman said, referring to the Holy Father’s first address in Israel at the Tel Aviv airport, delivered just hours before his visit to the Yad Vashem.
Father Lombardi commented that Benedict XVI does not get offended when the press alters or takes issue with his words.
"He does not react superficially or immediately," the spokesman said. "He is very patient and is ready to listen to the others — everyone can voice their ideas. It’s true, he feels that he has not been understood, and I feel the same, but we know how the world is and how attitudes are. There is not always a willingness to understand well; sometimes there are prejudices and not everyone is open to an attitude of readiness to listen.