When is it fair to call a Nazi a Nazi?
That seems to be the debate surrounding Cardinal Ratzinger, the new Pope. He was a member of the Hitler youth, and he belonged to a a Luftwaffe AA battery. And sure, as some on the left note, just because he was a German soldier doesn’t make him a Nazi (though I must admit the nuance is lost a bit on me – I mean, yeah, he was just being a good German, but I thought that excuse went out of favor a long time ago).
The thing is, I feel like some are exonerating Ratzinger’s past SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE OF his past. It’s almost as if the fact that he was in the Hitler Youth and the Nazi army somehow means “of course he wasn’t a Nazi.” That logic is a bit weird. It’s as weird as folks today who say “how dare you compare what is happening in America to what happened in Nazi Germany.” Many people like to think, for whatever reason, that the sins of the Nazis could NEVER happen again, so per se it’s bad form to even worry that they might or are. That’s a rather dangerous and flippant view of history. And I think it’s what’s motivating some of the “how dare you call Ratzinger a Nazi” rhetoric.
It’s almost as if we’ve gone from “how dare you think the Nazi horror could occur again” to “how dare you think the Nazis were Nazis?” Folks aren’t saying – yes, Ratzinger has some explaining to do. Rather they’re saying, per se it’s unfair to worry about his unfortunate youth working for Hitler’s final solution and victory, and to at least suggest that maybe the Catholic Church could have done better for itself and the memories of what it did, or didn’t do, during WWII.
I mean, they couldn’t have skipped a generation when picking a German pope?
And while we’re at, I looked up the word “Nazi” online:
Nazis (naht-seez, nat-seez)
A German political party of the twentieth century, led by Adolf Hitler. The Nazis controlled Germany from the early 1930s until the end of World War II. The party’s full name in English is National Socialist German Workers’ party; Nazi is short for its German name. Despite the word socialist in its name, it was a fascist party, requiring from its members supreme devotion to the German government – the Third Reich (see fascism and socialism). The Nazis rose to power by promising the people that Germany, which had been humiliated after World War I, would become powerful again.
The Nazis opposed communism and free intellectual inquiry. Desiring to form a master race that would rule the world, they fought the influence in Germany of peoples not of “pure” descent. Their power was particularly directed at controlling Jews in Germany and in the countries that Germany conquered in war. After depriving Jews of their property and confining them in concentration camps, the Nazis employed the Final Solution of killing them in large numbers; an estimated six million Jews lost their lives (see Holocaust). Also marked for extermination were the mentally and physically handicapped and “enemies of the Reich” such as Slavs, communists, Gypsies, homosexuals, Christians who resisted the government, and defenders of intellectual freedom. The Nazis fought World War II to spread their principles worldwide but were defeated.
All I’m saying is that the man is hardly a picture postcard of the anti-thesis of Nazi thought. The comparison is valid for discussion at the very least, lest we ignore history altogether.