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Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977 Paperback – 1 Oct 1998
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Presents the life and acccomplishments of the man who became Pope Benedict the Sixteenth, from his early life in Nazi Germany, through his theological education, to his appointment as archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977.
About the Author
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) is widely recognized as one of the most brilliant theologians and spiritual leaders of our age. As Pope he authored the best-selling Jesus of Nazareth; and prior to his pontificate, he wrote many influential books that continue to remain important for the contemporary Church, such as Introduction to Christianity and The Spirit of the Liturgy.
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But what shook me was what was not in those memories. I found his criticism of the Nazi movement not convincing, and I am not saying 'he was a Nazi'. He served in the Flak Core while in Munich, a city that was bombed 71 times, where 60% was destroyed, and over 300,000 fled. There was no empathy for the death and suffering going on around him. He saw prisoners from Dachau going to work in the BMW factory. Over 2000 priests were incarcerated there, and half were murdered. He expressed no sympathy for what was happening there, and he was only interested in learning.
Even when he was Archbishop of Munich he never formally visited the concentration camp. After he was conscripted into the army proper he was found to be below standard, given his civilian clothes and sent home, where he was conscripted into the local force in Traunstein. His claim to fame was that he deserted, but could not remember the date. It was the end of April or the beginning of May ...... funny that, because the war was almost over, and the Americans were not very many miles away, his boss, General K Barbe had shot himself in the brains. On May 1st it was announced that Hitler had shot himself. On May 2nd, 61 people were executed just outside Traunstein, and one survived to tell the story. As a young person Joseph was exposed to horrendous trauma and there is no evidence that any of this was processed. His seminary education was short, and he refers to one of his professors Fr. Michael Höck, who survived Dachau concentration camp after five years incarcaration as if he had been to a kind of superior university!
Sometimes in life we find ourselves in situations not of our choosing, and very much dependent on others for our survival. I doubt if I would have found Joseph Ratzinger a dependable colleague fighting to protect Munich from attack.