Benedict XVI to speak to youth about his Hitler Youth experience

From iWireNEws:

Pope To Tell Young People Of Hitler Youth

Published on September 03, 2010  
by NewsDesk – iWireNews ™


Pope Benedict XVI plans to use his own experience in the Hitler Youth in his message to young people at the next World Youth Day, the Vatican said Friday.

Officials released a partial text of the message the pope has written for the gathering, scheduled for Aug. 16-21 in Madrid, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. He plans to tell young people they must rely on faith and the values found in the Gospels, that job-hunting and economic security are "great and pressing problems" but not the most important issues in life.

Benedict, born in Germany as Josef Ratzinger, was forced to join the Hitler Youth when he turned 14 in 1941. His father was a devout Catholic who opposed the Nazi Party, and the pope has said he dodged meetings of the youth organization.

"We were closed in by a dominant power, we wanted to get out and enjoy the fullness of the possibilities of being human," he plans to tell the World Youth Day of that part of his life.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Pope of Christian Unity and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Athelstan says:

    This pope does not lack for courage.

  2. melafwife says:

    My grandfather was forced to join, his mother to be exact, it was join or “well we don’t know what might happen to you and your family”. I love when people ask me: “Why didn’t she speak up or do anything against the Nazis?” She was a Mother trying to protect her children, speak up and your family will not be seen in the neighborhhod again. My Grandmother’s first husband was jewish and died at a concentration camp, we don’t know which one..My great-grandmother (on my Mother’s side) never was able to bury her husband’s body, nobody brought the fallen bad guys home from Russia, when refusing to work for the Nazis she was threatened and abused, she complied to save her life and be able raise her children.
    Thank you for the cowards in my family for keeping quiet and “only” praying.

  3. spesalvi23 says:

    It’s hard for non-Germans to understand what the regime did to it’s own people. (not to belittle what it did the everybody else)
    Sure you had mass hysteria and fantastic marketing / propaganda spectacles, but that was all not entirely real.
    Sure people could have understood the real evil behind Nazi ideology, but when they finally did, it was too late.
    It was a reign of terror and ruthlessness. For the average mother (dad was most likely fighting at some front line), there was no other way but to go along with the official line.
    I’m very interested in the way the Holy Father will talk about his own experiences.

  4. Andrew says:

    When I started elementary school, in post-war Europe, the front page of my textbooks had a picture of Josef Stalin with some gratuitous inscription about the “bright future of the socialist proletariat”. Every year, on certain days, I had to march with the rest of the school in celebration of the victory of communism. There was no getting out of the system. I did what they did because there was no alternative, and after all, marching down the street along with the rest of your school mates instead of going to class was not such an unwelcome event. As for my opinions and those of my relatives, those were whispered at home with windows closed. So I think I know the meaning of being “hemmed in”. And if anyone was to suggest that I am a former communist, because I marched for their cause, I would be deeply offended. Now, do I think that something similar could happen right here in our mist? It woudn’t surprise me. In fact I think the idealogues are working on it. Little by little, the loop around our necks is getting tighter and tighter.

  5. Jerry says:

    @Andrew – “do I think that something similar could happen right here in our mist? It woudn’t surprise me. In fact I think the idealogues are working on it. Little by little, the loop around our necks is getting tighter and tighter.”

    It started not long after Obama’s election:

  6. Revixit says:

    In my opinion, everyone should read an excerpt from the book “They Thought They Were Free
    The Germans, 1933-45” by Milton Mayer. It can be found here:

    This excerpt helps one to realize how the Nazis took over before the average good citizen in Germany realized what was happening and how something similar could happen in the US and other countries.

    Other online sites feature this excerpt as well and the entire book is available in paperback at Amazon for $20.52. The entire book may be online to read at no charge but I have not looked for it.

    Also worth reading is “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis. “It” refers to fascism or totalitarianism. That book is available free online, or as a paperback costing less than $8 at Amazon. I’m sure other booksellers have both books but having just gotten a new generation Kindle from Amazon, I like to check out whether books are available on Kindle. These two are not at this time.

  7. Jayna says:

    I’ll be looking forward to listening this address.

    Not to detract from the seriousness of the topic, but it just reminded me of this hilarious video from That Mitchell and Webb Look.

  8. Well, from what I’ve read before, apparently our little pope was just going to blow off the Hitler Youth, but his Nazi teacher signed him up. This had a twofold reason behind it. 1) If all the kids didn’t sign up for Hitler Youth, the school and the teachers looked bad; and Nazi Teacher wanted to stay good with the Party and the government. 2) Teachers don’t really like their best students meeting horrible fates. So basically, the teacher was like, “Let’s you not tell anyone in the Party that you didn’t sign up, and in return I’ll pretend you show up for meetings.”

    But as we all know, there’s a lot of ways to tell the same story, even when it happened to you, and even when you’re telling it accurately. So I’m sure we’ll learn something new.

    Finally, I concur that this pope has guts.

  9. JonM says:

    I think this is an excellent chance to give a hard-hitting talk on how consumerism, materialism, and Mammonism simply cannot give what they do not possess: sanctifying grace and eternal happiness. The Church, a contradiction to the ways of the world, of course is the well-spring of grace and the means of salvation.

  10. Incaelo says:

    We all know that the Holy Father knows his way with words, but once again it strikes me that he also has a talent to engage young people. I’m working on a translation of the WYD message and it’s wonderful to discover how he treats young people as equals; perhaps not yet adults, but certainly not stupid or inconsequential. If only more people would get to read or hear these papal writings.

  11. Well, not much about the wartime stuff in the “partial text”. It’s really about how the kids in post-war Germany felt like they’d been set free. (Which was something he talked about in his autobiography — the seminarians were very intense, and were often searching for deeper meaning and relevance after all the stuff that happened in the war.)

    Of course, when Benedict starts talking, he often adds a lot of stuff that’s not in the prepared text. I hope he does get into this stuff at WYD.

  12. irishgirl says:

    Yes! The Holy Father has courage!

    Long live ‘Our German Shepherd’!

  13. The Egyptian says:

    My Dad’s 3rd cousin, maria, came to the US after the war she was a late teen during the worst of the fighting, the stories she tells are very different than the official text books we see. She blames the french, after the 1st war they stripped Germany of everything, the solders went on the trans and literally held up the civilians, all industrial equipment was hauled off, the country was left destitute from the war reparations. The only Germans that didn’t lose everything were the Jews. the french didn’t look at them as German. If you wanted to finance business or the farm you went to a Jewish banker. it wasn’t the Jews fault it was just the way it was. Adolf came along and gave the starving jobs and food, you feed a starving people and they will follow you anywhere, he also talked constantly of HOPE, sound familiar? Adolf closed all the church run schools and instated mandatory state education “for the good of the children” Heard that one before? The Hitler youth started out as similar to the boy scouts, but soon was year around, finally the boys that came back to the farm for harvest were not your children, they were assigned to you for they were all children of Germany, correct. when the war came the youth were not loyal to their families but to their father Adolf Hitler, after all he raised them! As melafwife said above, the dangers to your family were real, one of their neighbors were caught raising a pig for their own use, hidden in their cellar, the family was shot and the bodies dumped in the church as a warning! The Jews became the convenient scapegoat and she says immediately that the people damn well knew about the plight of the Jews and that it was horrible wrong but at the same time it was go along or die and eventually you become numb to it. She also recounts that the SS came to their village of Halter, in Visbeck to oversee the installation of huge portraits of Hitler in the parish church, the people met then with pitchforks and scythes and stood their ground and the SS left after 2 hours of demanding then pleading, finally for their lives. Maria recounts that she really never had any contact with the Jewish population since they were mainly in the cities but her father did and he always claimed to be treated fairly. As a youngster she claims that she had no idea of the final solution till late in the war and was sickened to the core of it. She lost 1 much older brother in Russia who was never accounted for, the younger 2 escaped the youth much the same as the Holy Father. Maria is very interesting to say the least

  14. spesalvi23 says:

    Well, all I can add is that the Nazis surely did a job on their own country, which is still deeply traumatized by its history – reflected in our everything-goes society, the media and politics – anything resembling even the slightest bit of authority is rejected. Anybody trying to tell you how you should live your life is rejected.
    Anything close to resembling some type of national pride is rejected and criminalized.
    There are many studies about our own 68 generation – in many ways a father-less generation (fathers were either killed, or returned from POW camps heavily emotionally scarred – my own father returned from Siberia when he was 21 years old and had the deepest hatred for Russians you would ever imagine; also God was never relevant in his mind ever since) with a deep, hateful resentment against their country and their parents.
    In my opinion the rapid demographic decline of native Germans in Germany is partially connected to the fact that Germans don’t want to be Germans. They’d rather be regarded EU citizens – at least there is no baggage attached to that.

  15. AnAmericanMother says:

    Those who fail to learn from history . . . .

    I’m 55 and I heard much the same from my German teacher. Her husband was already in the army when Hitler assassinated Dollfuss and took over Austria. He was wounded at Stalingrad and was on one of the last planes out. He didn’t care much for Russians either.

    spesalvi, I think that the feelings you describe are probably why they emigrated to the U.S., to make a fresh start without all the consequences of the war staring them in the face.

Comments are closed.