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April 20, 2005

Israel's cool with Popenfuhrer

Israel Praises Pope Despite Past Nazi Ties[AP]

Ct of DKos says it's inappropriate to bring up Pope Ratz' sordid past. I don't see why. Ratz' defenders argue that he spent his entire life atoning for his collaboration. What has he really done to atone?

Pope John Paul apologized for the "failure of many Catholics to oppose the Nazi extermination of the Jews during World War II." [Belieftnet].

This and other apologies occurred during Ratzinger's tenure as God's Rottweiler, so he's at least doctrinally committed to being ashamed of himself. However, his own statements about his past suggest something less than absolute contrition. Years later, Ratzinger is trying to minimize his moral responsibility by pleading youth and coercion.

It is perfectly legitimate to point out that Ratz cooperated in the day and made excuses after the fact. That's not the level of moral leadership one might expect from St. Peter's representative on earth.

NAZI PAST HAUNTING CARDINAL
By TODD VENEZIA

A "fuhrer" furor is dogging the papal candidacy of Germany's top Roman Catholic cleric — over revelations he was a member of the Hitler Youth.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger — a favorite to become the next pontiff — joined the Nazi children's corps in 1941 as a 14-year-old and was later an anti-aircraft gunner.

At one point, he guarded a factory where slaves from a concentration camp were forced to work. He was later shipped to Hungary, where he reportedly saw Jews persecuted.

Ratzinger, a staunch conservative dubbed "God's Rottweiler," has said he joined the Hitler Youth when membership became compulsory. He and his brother were later drafted but deserted. The cardinal claims he never fired a shot and that resistance would have meant death.

Not so, Germans from his hometown of Traunstein told The Times of London.

"It was possible to resist, and those people set an example for others," recalled Elizabeth Lohner, 84. "The Ratzingers were young — and they had made a different choice." [NY Post]

Hat tip to Americablog.

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Comments

here is a longer article from which the post article was derived.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-1572667,00.html

Anyone interested in seeing how the Jewish religious establishment views Ratzinger should see http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/567083.html.

For me, it's the bit about risking losing his scholarship if he tried to quit the Hitler Youth. No, I'm not Catholic, but I am surprised that so many people are worried that people like me might try to hold the Pope up to some ridiculous moral standard! Pope, get it? Supposedly God's representative to over a billion Catholics. And this is the best they could find?

Look, he wasn't all that young. If he was 8 years old, okay, whatever. But he was 14, which as someone above pointed out, is the age at which Catholics get confirmed, meaning that 14 is the age at which the Church views one as being old enough to be held accountable for one's choices.

And he wasn't "forced" to comply any more than any other person in Germany at the time was--and the fact is, the German people who did cooperate with the Nazi regime do share some of the responsibility for their atrocities.

And no one's arguing that it's the crime of the century. Hell, it might even be understandable; not everyone is courageous enough to defy authority when it could (note: COULD) mean death. But that doesn't mean it's irrelevant, or that it's unfair to take it into account when assessing Ratzinger's character.

I understand it had to be tough for people living under Nazi rule that didn't buy into Nazism but had to keep up appearances to protect themselves and their families. But, I don't think he's really addressed his history which is a concern because most people who have repented that type of history would have started to use his considerable power & prestige to fight against persecution.

I have to agree with Lindsay and dadahead. Catholic doctrine assigns to 14-year-olds full adult responsibility for the fate of their souls. The youthful errors of a child can land him in hell for eternity. Ratzinger's flip dismissal of his membership in the Hilter Youth clashes fundamentally with his doctrinal rigidity. His membership is not the issue. His current attitude toward it is.

Oh yes, the White Rose/Weisse Rose - the one and only example every German is trained to give when asked about civil Nazi resistance in Germany.
What they did: saved nobody, but get killed - not so wise.
from Markus.

Well, yes. Not so wise getting killed. Bad form and all that. And an example of trained Germans above? Most unfortunate turn of phrase.

There are victories on the battlefield, there are victories of the spirit. What is lost on the battlefield of today may yet be a victory for the spirit tomorrow. Ours is a most cynical age. Cynical leaders and cynical spectators, neither speak to problems that need answers. Regarding Sophie Scholl, I would not be so quick to discount the sacrifice, however much it now is a rote recitation for German youth. For one remembers what they by rote otherwise recited in the past.


The real damage is done by those millions who want to 'survive.'The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honor, truth, and principles are only literature.

Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you.

But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what?

Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.
Sophie Scholl

More on Sophie Scholl can be found here.

I disagree completely. Dying on moral grounds is fine if you believe you are saving your immortal soul. Otherwise, it is foolishness. The proud and defiant martyr is an example to others that defiance is really stupid. The intimidated 'small' man can betray his oppressors and accomplish something. This example is far more valuable.

Max Schmelling allowed himself to be paraded around as Hitler's Aryan champion. He hated it, but refused to make a public show of resistance. He lived to save several Jews when he saw the chance. Oscar Schindler, A selfish and amoral man most of his life, when he discovered his conscience, did not engage in suicidal open rebellion. Instead he betrayed his Nazi masters when he could do a greater good. Open defiance is only useful when there is at least a shred of decency in those whom you defy. There was none in the Nazis.

.."I think that we on the left fail to see that religion (and I am for the most part no fan of institutional religion) is about truth.."-

Religion is not about truth. Religion is about chains. Religion is about "ties that bind." It is adaptable, supple, and the servant of power. When the image of the christian martyrs was supplanted by the image of the pope in Rome (or wherever) as a paradigm, we observe 'relativism'- the very kind that offers justification to a 14 year-old who may admire the martyrs but would prefer to worship his god in other ways. He accepted the paradigm shift; but he seems less than willing to offer it to others, equally oppressed. Does that make him a self-serving relativist, who wraps himself in the papal banners of Tradition, just as the scoundrel wraps himself in the flag of a patriot?
If he assumes his staff, ring, mitre, and other accoutrements of power, let him also put on the mantle of August Carnifex of the Feral Hecatomb, for his glorification of the divinity of his kind, and his indulgence of the distress wrought to the rest of the kingdom of the god he claims to serve, who purports to be the author of All life, and not simply one hominid strain among the beings. (& if this is Life following Art following Life, perhaps he's the reincarnation of Bishop Hatto... and my blessing to him and all his tribe.) ^..^

Njorl,

What evidence is there that Pope Ratz engaged in any defiance whatsoever? Or, more to the point, that he harbors any regrets whatsoever about his complicity, however small and half-hearted, with the Nazi war machine? Again, his defenses all reduce to "I was just following orders, and everyone else was doing it too."

Yes, Ratz didn't behave any worse than millions of other ordinary Germans at the time. But we're talking about THE POPE here. If you consider Ratz to be morally inferior to a "selfish and amoral man" (your words) like Oskar Schindler -- someone who actually resisted the Nazis and saved lives -- then perhaps Ratz is not qualified to be Pope, hmm?

Why need the Pope be such a flawless leader with no black spots in his history? I hold religious leaders to the same standards I hold other politicians. If a Senator were involved in promoting homophobia or liquidating a movement meant to better the social conditions of the poor, I'd call him on that. If a Senator had distant ties to the Nazis at age 14, I wouldn't give a damn.

It is interesting to hear those who choose to pontificate about the moral imperative for another person to uselessly sacrifice his existence to meet their views.

But where were they in the great moral questions of their own times? Were they willing to make similar sacrifices? Where were they when our own nation was in violation of the Geneva conventions? Where are they now, while torture, rape, destruction and murder continue? By their own voice, they demand selfsacrifice to stop these crimes.

I do not condemn them. I understand the futility of storming the torture palaces, of refusing conscription. But it is not meet to denounce another for the same behavior or lack their of. Such mouthings are known as hypocrisy.

Again, judge this man for what he is responsible (and he has a lot to answer for). For those actions which he has taken freely. Not for those which he was coerced with the threat of death or imprisonment.

Should anyone believe otherwise, then it is fair to ask:
Why were you not in the Sudan?
Why were you not in Rwanda?
Why are you not in Gitmo?
Why did you not physically attempt to stop the war in Iraq?
Why do you let Padilla rot in prison without charges or trial?
And on,
and on,
and on...

It's idiocy such as this is why I no longer have this blog on my links list.

This is some of the stupidest "philosophical" thinking I have EVER encountered in my life. I find it a laughable, completely overrated site.

Give the pope a couple of years, and THEN try to write something intelligent about him instead of trying to spout some nonsense that he is simply morally unfit for the job because he was forced into Hitler Youth as a kid and into the German military.

How old are you, anyway? Judging from the picture, not very. You have a lot of growing up to do.

How old are you, anyway? Judging from the picture, not very. You have a lot of growing up to do.

You might want to head off to Pharyngula before you start patronizing people younger than you are. PZ is 48 and believes that Ratzinger's Hitler Youth past matters.

Two sets of items re my post here yesterday:

More information coming in on BXVI in WWII.

This from today's UK Independent:

"Ratzinger insists he never took part in combat or fired a shot, because of a badly infected finger. He was later sent to Hungary where he set tank traps. In early 1944, he suddenly decided to leave his unit, knowing full well that SS units had orders to shoot deserters on sight. He recorded his terror when, after deserting his unit, he was stopped by other soldiers: "Thank God they were the ones who had enough of war and did not want to become murderers," he wrote in his memoirs."

This makes no sense. The Wehrmacht wasn't setting tank traps in Hungary until very late 1944 and 1945. The article goes on to say:

"Ratzinger was captured by US troops at war's end. He was taken to a field near the Bavarian town of Ulm where prisoners were being held and spent several weeks living in the open behind barbed wire."

If both the early 1944 desertion and the mid-1945 capture are true, then one can assume the very young Ratzinger either hid in uniform for over a year, or re-donned it near the end of the Third Reich for some reason or another.

As I mentioned yesterday, the Bavarian Catholic Church in the 1930s and up until WWII was somewhat supportive of the Nazi machine. Several Catholic youth organizations such as the Central Young Men's Association of Germany, The Central Association of Catholic Maidens, The Association of Catholic Bachelors, The Association of Bavarian Catholic Book Clubs, The Association of Catholic Students of Institutions of Higher Learning and so on were very anti-communist in their thrust during the end of Weimar and consolidation of Nazi power. Many of their members went on to positions of power in the various competing hierarchies of the Nazi state. One of my favorite names for a committee which tied the Nazis to the religious youth of Germany in the 30s was the "Examining Board for the Protection of Youth Against Filth and Obsenity." No doubt they had an abstinence education subcommittee. Representatives of eight Catholic youth organizations served on this board.

The Independent article cited above ( http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/story.jsp?story=631615 ) also states:

"Ratzinger's election will also raise questions about the dubious role played by the Catholic Church during the Nazi era. The extent to which leading Catholics felt obliged to reach compromises with the regime is outlined by the stance taken by Ratzinger's mentor, Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, one of the Pope's most important early influences.


Documented evidence shows that the cardinal visited Hitler's mountain retreat during the 1930s and was entertained to lunch by the Führer in person. During their meeting, Von Faulhaber is on record as telling Hitler that the Church saw him as an "authority chosen by God, to whom we owe respect"."

"Yes, Ratz didn't behave any worse than millions of other ordinary Germans at the time. But we're talking about THE POPE here. If you consider Ratz to be morally inferior to a "selfish and amoral man" (your words) like Oskar Schindler -- someone who actually resisted the Nazis and saved lives -- then perhaps Ratz is not qualified to be Pope, hmm?"-Thad

First, I stated Schindler was a selfish and amoral man BEFORE discovering his conscience. People do change. Second, why do you think popes would be any more moral than anyone else? I find their history to be rather sordid. I see nothing in the office of pope that requires any decency, just knowledge of Catholic doctrine and some politicking.

While I agree that he showed no defiance of the nazis, the point I've been making is that it was, after some critical point, the more moral course not to show defiance. At some point between the murder of Ernst Rohm and the invasion of Poland, open defiance became a waste. The more moral course was open compliance blended with treachery. His treachery was indeed puny, consisting only of his dessertion as far as I can tell, but so was his compliance.

I do enjoy the irony. I'm defending an anti-moral-relativism zealot with moral relativism. It was moral that he be compliant with evil in order to act treacherously toward it. His greatest blame lay in not being even more treacherous.

Again, judge this man for what he is responsible (and he has a lot to answer for). For those actions which he has taken freely. Not for those which he was coerced with the threat of death or imprisonment.

Should anyone believe otherwise, then it is fair to ask:
Why were you not in the Sudan?
Why were you not in Rwanda?
...
and on,
and on...

I am perfectly willing to be judged on the basis of all my actions as well as my inactions. (Though you might want to keep in mind that there is a moral difference (acc. to most) between actively engaging in evil (Ratzinger) and passively not trying to stop it (all of us).)

If you are going to judge my character, of course the fact that I was not in the Sudan, etc. should be part of what you take into consideration. How could it be otherwise? No, it may not be enough to condemn me as evil--but I don't think anyone's doing that with Ratzinger. We're just arguing that the choices he's made in his life are relevant to his moral character. This is almost a simple truism.

LOL one day all you little liberals will be considered "bushies". After you didn't stop Bush.

"Give the pope a couple of years, and THEN try to write something intelligent about him instead of trying to spout some nonsense that he is simply morally unfit for the job because he was forced into Hitler Youth as a kid and into the German military."

After all, he did leave the time-space continuum in 1945 and only re-entered it last week. It's not as if he has engaged in theological discourse on the topic of absolute standards of morality.

Whenever you read someone's biography and the word "Hitler" comes up, it merits further review. I happen to think that what he did was fine, and is not worthy of many more words. Not discussing it at all, however, would be advocating ignorance.

Second, why do you think popes would be any more moral than anyone else?

Well, clearly I don't, but exemplary virtue is kind of built in to the job description, what with the infallibility and being closer to God than any other mortal and all of that. The fact that most popes historically have fallen far short of the mark doesn't change the fact that the office is supposed to go to an exceptionally virtuous man.

And Susan, nice to see you pop in so you can treat us to your usual content-free spew. However, perhaps next time you'd like to try making an actual argument?

I am perfectly willing to be judged on the basis of all my actions as well as my inactions. (Though you might want to keep in mind that there is a moral difference (acc. to most) between actively engaging in evil (Ratzinger) and passively not trying to stop it (all of us).)
-- dadahead

Most of us filed a 1040 last week, and hence provided active financial support for atrocities. We had a choice. To file was an active support of evil. Some people made a choice not to file on ethical grounds. I can appreciate their actions, but I made a choice to file. The choice was clear and easily available to anyone responsible for their own taxes.

Does that make me a neofascist war criminal, because I have thus actively contributed to the evil my nation is engaged in?

Njorl, understand your objections regarding "suicidal" White Rose members, but make one absolute, and at the same time relative statement:
In the face of evil, doing anything in opposition is greater than doing nothing.

An oversimplication? Perhaps. But consider the scale and the frame of one individual in society.

What one person can conquer total evil alone? Perhaps the individual's salvation is in confronting the evil within the self. Not all can lead, but we all can make the choice not to follow.

An example? That picture of the Buddhist monk setting fire to himself changed the way the world looked at the Vietnam War

He argued that Americans who voted for Kerry were meaningfully morally complicit with mass murder (i.e. abortion).

I've heard roughly the opposite. I believe I read quotations from a letter (or whatever) by him which said that if Americans disagreed with Kerry's pro-choice position but felt compelled to vote for him for other reasons then they were not responsible. So some were morally complicit and some weren't, which seems...about right.

Most of us filed a 1040 last week, and hence provided active financial support for atrocities. We had a choice. To file was an active support of evil ... Does that make me a neofascist war criminal, because I have thus actively contributed to the evil my nation is engaged in?

It makes you an American, and to some extent responsible for what your government does, yes. I mean, why not just admit this? Why try to dodge responsibility? I'm not saying it's the final word on your worth as a moral agent; you might do plenty of other stuff to undermine Bush & co. that more than makes up for your choice to file. But the fact is that (assuming paying taxes = contributing to evil) you did something that was by your own admission wrong, though understandable and pardonable.

To say that someone should be held responsible for a choice is not to condemn them; quite the opposite--it's to respect them as an autonomous rational agent. In the final tally, so to speak, every choice you made would count; for many of us, the good would outweigh the bad. But one thing the Christians do have right is that we are all sinners. There's no use denying that. We do good things too, of course.

At some point, the ratio of sin to good works becomes such that we say: that is a bad person. I don't know whether or not Ratzinger is a bad person; it's very conceivable that he isn't. But I do know he's not perfect, and that he is ultimately accountable for his actions, as are all of us.

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