From Hitler Youth to Ex-Pope: The Sordid Story of Ratzinger

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 | by

Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI, quit papacy today. He cited the lack of bodily and spiritual strength due to old age as the reason for resignation. It is curious that he did not appeal to Jesus for providing strength. Jesus had promised, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find (Matthew 7:7)” and “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer (Matthew 21:22). It is evident that Ratzinger did not trust Jesus enough to pray for strength. Ratzinger is not the first Christian celebrity to have doubted Jesus and effectively repudiated him. Mother Teresa too, in a confidential note, confessed her lack of faith in Jesus. Yet, such charlatans as Ratzinger or Teresa hypocritically hoodwink the gullible into believing that a prayer to Jesus would work miracles.

Ratzinger was born in 1927 in a typically fanatical Catholic family in Germany. In 1941, he joined the notorious Hitler Youth, the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party. Hitler Youth’s primary objective was to indoctrinate the youth in anti-Semitism. Ratzinger then served in Hitler’s forces and only deserted it in 1945 when Hitler’s defeat was imminent. The exposé about his Nazi past proved very embarrassing for Ratzinger and the Vatican. They claimed that Ratzinger only joined the Hitler Youth because the membership was compulsory. This is a disingenuous claim because membership was only mandated in 1936 and 1939 for all boys aged between 10 and 14, and not in 1941 when the 14 year old Ratzinger joined. If Ratzinger had really been forcibly conscripted into Hitler Youth, he would rather have publicly distanced himself from his past after Hitler died than hide this fact.

Even in Ratzinger’s little town, there was a resistance movement that opposed Hitler. One might think that a person who would eventually become the pope would have at least shown as much courage and scruples as the dissidents that resisted Hitler did. However, if one knew the history of the relationship between the Nazis and the Christian churches, especially the Vatican, one would realize that aligning with Hitler came naturally to Christians. Here, I will summarize relevant points from Hector Avalos’ essay Atheism was Not the Cause of the Holocaust:

  • In 1543 CE, Martin Luther of the Protestant Reformation wrote an anti-Semitic tract called On the Jews and Their Lies in which he advocated a seven point plan for the utter destruction of Jews. This plan included burning Jewish homes, schools, and synagogues, confiscating their property, and imposing forced hard labor on their men, women, and children. Nazis later on implemented every point of the plan.
  • The Vatican was not to be outdone. In 1555 CE, Pope Paul IV established a ghetto for the segregation of Jews and consigned them to perpetual servitude. Nazis would implement this too.
  • Hitler saw his mission as a fulfillment of the will of the Christian God. He wrote in Mein Kampf, “I believe that I am acting with the will of the Almighty Creator … I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” Hitler also insisted, “Neither a personal life could be built without Christianity nor a state.” Hitler attempted to create a state-sponsored Positive Christianity.
  • Hitler drew inspiration from John 8:44, where Jesus says that the “Jews are liars fathered by the devil,” and displayed this verse in road signs.
  • In 1933, Pope Pius XI signed a Concordat with Hitler so the Vatican could make political gains knowing well that Hitler intended harm to the Jews. This paved the way for Hitler’s consolidation of power.
  • Hitler hailed Jesus as a popular anti-Semitic leader.

Hitler became popular by espousing views that Germany’s Christians had cherished for centuries. Even after he died, the church saw him as an ally. The Catholic Church ordered prayers to be said for Hitler’s soul to reside in heaven as a Son of God.  Ratzinger quite likely saw Hitler as a kindred spirit when he joined Hitler Youth. However, when he became pope decades later, he realized that a past linked to Hitler does not endear one to modern society. So, he dishonestly attempted to whitewash the fact that Hitler was Catholic or that his crimes were motivated by Christian teachings and instead blamed the Holocaust on atheists. This, and other legitimate reasons, prompted Richard Dawkins to call Ratzinger an enemy of humanity.” Dawkins makes a pretty good case:

  • Ratzinger is an enemy of children because he supported pedophilia.
  • He is an enemy of women for his advocacy to discriminate against them in jobs.
  • He is an enemy of truth for lying that condoms do not protect one from AIDS.
  • He is an enemy of the poor for turning them into womb-factories.
  • He is an enemy of science for obstructing stem cell research.

Why do such charlatans as Ratzinger or Teresa succeed? Why do such unscrupulous elements rise to positions of power within the church? One must examine the nature of Christian teachings to understand this phenomenon.

Christianity is a system of belief founded on truth claims, i.e., it claims to be the only true religion and expects its adherents to uncritically accept such claims. However, the claims it makes are absurd and false, and one can list the claims of virginal conception or the resurrection as representative samples. In his essay, Why the Resurrection is Unbelievable, Richard Carrier points out that the apostle “Paul reveals the earliest Christians were hallucinating on a regular basis, entering ecstatic trances, prophesying, relaying the communications of spirits, and speaking in tongues – so much, in fact, that outsiders thought they were lunatics (e.g. 1 Corinthians 14).” 

Carrier, relying upon the findings of modern neuropsychiatry, remarks that only functional schizotypes (i.e., individuals displaying symptoms of psychosis) would have been prone to congregating into cults like this. Christianity also took advantage of the general gullibility of the masses that expected the world to end soon and used intimidation as the means to convert them. Later on, once Constantine became the emperor in the fourth century CE and converted to Christianity for likely political reasons, Christianity acquired brute force to propagate itself.

Christianity lacks the serious philosophical or doctrinal framework that characterizes many doctrinal schools of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, or Hellenism. It lacks a reasonable understanding of morality. Truth is the first casualty in such systems as Christianity. Vilest elements rise through the echelons of churches so long as they play an effective role in propagating the Christian meme. The successes of a Ratzinger or a Teresa, neither of whom can be considered virtuous, is attributable to the fact that they effectively propagated the Christian meme.

Their successes come at the expense of the gullible masses that are conditioned to believe in Jesus by those that evidently lack any belief in him. However, it would be fallacious to think that Ratzinger’s abandonment of papacy would make these masses see the truth. The psychologists Petty and Cacioppo demonstrate that persuasability begins to decline at the age of eight whereas Christian indoctrination starts much earlier. This decline in persuasability works hand in hand with another psychological phenomenon called confirmation bias. Human beings have a tendency to seek evidence that confirms pre-established beliefs and to ignore evidence that negates it. Since a Christian is conditioned from early childhood, he would ignore all facts that portray Ratzinger as a charlatan, and instead look for evidence, even of the spurious variety, that would allow him to continue to see Ratzinger as divine.

Christian apologists and spin doctors can be relied upon to synthesize such spurious evidence. This stark reality is the most sordid aspect of the Ratzinger story.

Kalavai Venkat is a Silicon Valley-based writer, an atheist, and a practicing orthodox Hindu.

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11 Responses to From Hitler Youth to Ex-Pope: The Sordid Story of Ratzinger

  1. catholic

    an atheist and a practising orthodox hindu?

  2. Jason13

    The Catholic church is a criminal enterprise now mainly being a international pedophile ring full of child abusers lusting for children at their churches.Christianty has a long track record of crimes against humanity so Ratzinger being a Nazi fitted right in.

  3. VishNu Shaastrii

    Kalavai, नमस्तुभ्यम् । The Abrahamic religions, viz. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, are very comfortably snuggled in with both fascist and socialist ideology. They require the blind unquestioning obedience from their moronic myrmidons. Woe be unto the individual who thinks for himself or dares to be ‘different’. One of my late friends, a pacifist, went to prison because he refused to join Hitler’s army. As we say in German: “Das ist absolut verboten!”
    Another topic: say, I met you when you spoke to my student group many years ago at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. I enjoyed your presentation. You may remember me as either Adolf or विष्णु शास्त्री ॥

  4. Kalavai Venkat

    Namaste Vishnu Shaastri ji, indeed I remember you. Thank you for the kind note. I do not think I have your email id but please email me at



  5. Hinda Blas

    Vishnu, apparently you know bupkus (nothing) of Judaism. Judaism condemns pedophilia and it is not a fascist/socialist ideology. Please do not equate this faith with that of Islam where it is very much a fascist ideology. Islam condemns civil rights of the infirmed that Nazism thrived upon. My father of blessed memory was in WWII fighting against the Nazis. He saw first hand man’s inhumanity to man at the camps that were liberated. The handiapped (both mentally and physically) were “experiments” to the sick doctors. Yet, what is really a shock is that at the Nuremberg trials, only 7 of these doctors out of thousands would be found guilty. That I will never understand. Then again your moniker of “Adolf” speaks volumes of what you stand for.

  6. Murali Chari

    Very well written. The complicity of Catholic church in Holocaust is well documented and still stubbornly denied by them.

    The problem with religion or any form of collectivism is they instantly appeal to the gullible masses though they are nothing but a peril (even for them) in the long run. And the gullible masses are in majority. (There are quite a few literate among them too. Literacy doesn’t automatically eliminate stupidity.)

    The challenge for the intellectual minority is to educate the masses. For that, you need an open atmosphere for discussion and dissent. For that you need a true democracy.
    Hence, whatever the other ills of democracy might be, it’s still the most desired government.

    I know I have gone off on a tangent here, but sometimes the gullibility of the masses makes us wish a benevolent dictatorship might actually be better. But, unfortunately, it is not.

  7. VishNu Shaastrii

    Dear Hinda, please don’t resort to any ad hominem statements that link me to Hitler; one of my dear friends in Germany lost his health due to treatment in a Nazi prison camp. Our family has proudly used ‘Adolf’ meaning the ‘noble wolf’ for centuries; there are former Germanic kings with that name. Next, I’ve taught in the Middle Eastern Studies Dept. at our university for 27 years and am more than a little acquainted with the 3 Abrahamic religions. The original deity of all three was one of the Ba’als; this one was probably a storm god according to mythologists. Considering the ‘big picture’ there is nothing unique among these three faiths; they share the same Ba’al called by different names (e.g. Yahweh, Allah) and some of the same scriptures, viz. the Old Testament.

  8. koushik.varaghur

    All hindus are athiests… they are believers and non believers at the same time… all hindus exists in duality… existence and non existence… that is the beauty of life…

  9. Kalavai Venkat


    Ad hominem remarks directed at Adolf Vishnu Shastri are unnecessary and rude. It is a correlation fallacy to call someone a Nazi just because his first name happens to be Adolf. This can be best illustrated by the case of svastika. It has been a sacred symbol of the Hindus, Buddhists, Jainas, Native Americans, and numerous Indo-European peoples for thousands of years. Hindus, a people who rever the svastika, protected and nurtured the Jews for 2,000 years. See Nathan Katz’s book Who Are the Jews of India? for a discussion on this. Now, would it not be unfair to associate the Hindus with the Nazis just because Hitler inherited the svastika?

    I disagree with your claim that “Judaism condemns pedophilia and it is not a fascist/socialist ideology.” Consider Numbers 31:17-18 and Judges 21:11-12 where the God of Abraham directs his followers to kill men and women of the other tribe and take all of their virgin girls as captives for rape or into concubinage. In the ancient Near East, girls married in their teens soon after attaining puberty. So, these are examples where Judaism has actually sanctified sexual abuse of children or at least taking them as captives for future sexual abuse.

    Consider Psalm 137:8-9, 2 Kings 15:16, Isaiah 13:16-18. The God of Abraham demands that his Jewish followers commit genocide of those belonging to other tribes. In particular, he wants pregnant women to be assaulted, the child in their womb ripped apart, men massacred, and their wives raped in front of their husbands’ eyes. I will recommend that you read Philip Jenkins’ Laying Down the Sword: Why We Can’t Ignore the Bible’s Violent Verses to understand the idea of herem in The Bible. I call it the mother of all jihads because it goes a step beyond jihad and calls for complete extermination of other tribes including the cattle they own so that Jewish tribes can usurp the fruits of their labor. These are examples of the totalitarian nature of the ideology that permeates The Bible. Fascism is a form of totalitarianism.

    However, I admire the Jewish people for many reasons. One, despite their millennia of persecution at the hands of the Christians they have learnt to fight back. Two, they have nourished and nurtured knowledge. It is entirely due to this, schools such as the Qabbālâ took roots in the Jewish landscape. At the same time, my admiration of the Jewish people and their spirit cannot stand in the way of my objective evaluaton of their religion as totalitarian.

  10. Vande Mataram

    “The problem with religion or any form of collectivism is they instantly
    appeal to the gullible masses though they are nothing but a peril (even
    for them) in the long run…….The challenge for the intellectual minority is to educate the masses. For that, you need an open atmosphere for discussionand dissent. For that you need a true democracy.”

    Democracy itself is a form of collectivism; rule of the majority.

    In democracy the only hope is that the majority is a benevolent one. In any case, the majority consensus is forced upon the minority.

    ” In the ancient Near East, girls married in their teens soon after attaining puberty.”

    In South Asia, particularly India today, this is still taking place.

  11. Vande Mataram

    Hinduism is not a religion. It is an umbrella term for the diversity of cultures, traditions and religions native to South Asia. There are a few ancient Hindu philosophical schools that are atheistic in nature. Thus it is not a contradiction to be both atheist and Hindu. It is also not a contradiction to be both theist and Hindu, depending on which school/tradition one subscribes to.

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