Rome, May 13 (ANI): The Vatican has involved itself in a fresh public relations fiasco for seeking to rewrite the biography of Pope Benedict XVI by denying that he was ever a member of the Hitler Youth.
Even though the 82-year-old German pontiff has admitted in numerous interviews that he was drafted unwillingly into the Nazi youth movement towards the end of the war, his spokesman came up with another version.
"The Pope was never in the Hitler Youth, never, never, never," The Telegraph quoted Father Federico Lombardi, chief spokesman for the Pope, as saying at a press conference in Jerusalem.
Father Lombardi tried to draw a distinction between pro-Nazi Germans who volunteered for the Hitler Youth and young men, like the pontiff, who were forced to join the anti-aircraft unit but who, he claimed, were not necessarily in the Hitler Youth.
But his comments contradicted statements the Pope himself has made.
In the 1996 book "Salt of the Earth", the Pope told Peter Seewald, a German journalist: "At first we weren't, but when the compulsory Hitler Youth was introduced in 1941, my brother was obliged to join. I was still too young, but later, as a seminarian, I was registered in the HY. As soon as I was out of the seminary, I never went back."
Late yesterday Father Lombardi withdrew his earlier comments, saying that Benedict had, indeed, been forced to join the Hitler Youth.
Father Lombardi made his comments in the wake of a critical response in Israel to the Pope's choice of language over the Holocaust during the first day of his trip to Israel.
In clarifying his suggestion that the Pope had not been a member of the Hitler Youth, Father Lombardi said he had intended to dispute suggestions in the Israeli media that the Pope had been an enthusiastic Nazi as a boy. (ANI)