A Son of Germany


BERLIN/AUSCHWITZ/VATICAN CITY (Own report) - In a speech, which was widely felt to be outrageous, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the German Pope Benedict XVI, described the murderers of National Socialist Germany as a "gang of criminals". He asserted that the German people were delivered into the hands of this gang and "abused" by them. The Pope made these claims during a visit to the former concentration camp at Auschwitz and provoked international protest. According to the French press, he gave the impression that he wanted to acquit his countrymen of every responsibility. This sort of self- exculpation goes largely uncriticised in Germany and has the approval of wide sections of society. Whilst Ratzinger prayed for historical and heavenly forgiveness for the mass of Germans ("unser Volk"), he sharply attacked some of his former enemies in the anti-Hitler coalition. The Pope was a one-time member of occupation forces under the Nazi regime. Ratzinger said that the "blood sacrifice of Russian soldiers" had a "dual significance" because it had served "a new dictatorship". Similar views are widespread in the German and international revisionist scene. They apply to the troops who liberated Auschwitz on 27th January 1945 and who fought alongside the Western powers until the successful taking of the Berlin Reichstag Ratzinger has already given credence to revisionist opinion, which is directed against the legal international agreements of the Potsdam Accord.

As the Pope explained at Auschwitz, he sees himself as "a son of the German people" [1], and "a child of the German people over which a criminal gang (...) won power". The power of this diffuse "gang" over Germans of the Nazi period made "our people into an instrument", according to Ratzinger. The instrument, this people, was merely "used and abused" he announced, in the face of the millions of casualties of war and inhumane treatment, in which millions of Germans took part or cooperated.


Ratzinger admonished his listeners to refrain from judgment over the past, which is comprised in Auschwitz (God's secret") as far as possible. Whoever makes himself "to be a judge over history" is "misdirecting" himself says the text of the speech. As established by the international press, this attempt to taboo discussion of culprits in his circle of acquaintance did not prevent the Pope from going among the victims, secure in his opinion. In Auschwitz the Pope especially honoured Catholic Christians and created the suspicion that he was trying "to annex the holocaust", according to Le Monde.[2] Ratzinger's concepts of German mass crimes risked causing estrangement between Christians and Jews.


Critics have frequently attested to the Pope's noteworthy attitude to the world of Jewish belief. In 1987 Ratzinger asserted "Jewish scripture and Jewish history are fulfilled exclusively in the person of Jesus Christ" [3], so only in the Christian tradition. The "theological anti-semitism" [4] of Ratzinger's circle is rooted in the germanocentric philosophical world of the Middle Ages ("The Holy Roman Empire of the German People"), sources from which German ultra-nationalists and neo-Nazis draw on to this day.


During the Nazi period Josef Ratzinger was an anti-aircraft auxiliary at the armament firm BMW and served in the occupation forces in Hungary. He denies that there was any possibility of being active against the Nazi repression of his German fellow citizens, as he witnessed violence against Jews and socialists. Ratzinger justified his behaviour by saying that unfortunately it was "absolutely" impossible to offer resistance.[5] With the background of such excuses and dissimulation, Ratzinger's actual attacks on the Soviet and allied forces of the anti Hitler coalition deserve particular attention. Without mentioning the 30 million civilian casualties in the USSR, the former Anti Aircraft Auxiliary gives a subtext that the operations of "the Russian soldiers" of all people in Auschwitz had a double significance "whilst they freed the peoples from one Dictatorship" these same soldiers had subjected "the same peoples to a new dictatorship".[6] This passage in the speech can be understood as a far-reaching attempt at equating the two sides. This fits the ideological constructs of German revisionism.


The Pope is no stranger to the revisionist political scene. Already, in the first year of his pontificate he endorsed the central demand of the German "Expellees'" association in a public statement. In particular, he supported the "Right to Homeland" and called the post war resettlement of Germans "illegal". "Homeland" he said "belongs to people and to their history" and "therefore nobody should be taken away by force". This was in the Pope's message of greeting to a large conference of those who had been resettled ("Homeland Day") in August 2005.[7] As Ratzinger went on to announce officially "ideologies that approved expulsions were an attack on human dignity" - a public attack on the resettlement of Germans as a result of the Second World War, which was made binding in international law by the Potsdam Accords. The motto of these festivities was "Outlaw Expulsion Worldwide" - "a task for humanity", as the German Pope put it.

Direction of Attack

On 21 September 2005, the address of greeting to "Homeland Day" was followed with a joint declaration by the bishops of Germany and Poland. Experienced observers consider that this was done in consultation with the Vatican. In it the Catholic bishops warned against plans for memorials and demands for compensation by Germans who had been resettled. They were causing annoyance amongst the Polish population and creating "an evil spirit of blame". The declaration goes on to call the "expulsion and loss of homeland" of the Germans in Poland after 1945 "illegal".[8] In view of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland the document is accorded high significance. Its direction of attack corresponds to positions opposed to the post war settlement, which are also advanced by the German government.[9]

[1] "Ich konnte unmöglich nicht hierherkommen". Die Ansprache des Papstes im früheren Vernichtungslager; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 29.05.2006
[2] Le pape à Auschwitz; Le Monde 29.05.2006
[3] Cardinal Ratzinger Divides Germans; New York Times 15.04.2005
[4] see also Habemus Europam
[5] Papal hopeful is a former Hitler Youth; The Sunday Times 17.04.2005
[6] "Ich konnte unmöglich nicht hierherkommen". Die Ansprache des Papstes im früheren Vernichtungslager; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 29.05.2006
[7] Grußbotschaft von Papst Benedikt XVI. an die deutschen Heimatvertriebenen; Pressemitteilung des Bundes der Vertriebenen 08.08.2005
[8] Gemeinsame Erklärung der katholischen Bischofskonferenzen Deutschlands und Polens; KNA 28.09.2005
[9] see also Hitler, Stalin, Churchill, Roosevelt, Aufgabe des ganzen Landes, The Culprits' Perspective and "Zur Relativierung führen"