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"Nazi" Attacks on Pope Anger Germans

DW staff / AFP (win)April 21, 2005

Germany's top-selling newspaper Bild was furious on Thursday at the coverage of the new pope by British newspapers, which had accentuated Benedict XVI's past as a teenager in Nazi Germany.

Benedict XVI has said he didn't want to join the Hitler YouthImage: dpa/KNA

"English insult the German pope," said the front-page headline, below the words "Hitler Youth."

Britain's Sun tabloid, like Bild the highest-selling daily newspaper in its market, had headlined its coverage of the election of Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday with the words "From Hitler Youth to... Papa Ratzi."

"It is impertinent to reduce the German pope to a Hitler Youth on the day after his election," Bild fumed.

Benedict not secretive about past

Papst Benedikt in Rom
Benedict XVI on WednesdayImage: AP

The new pope, known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger until his election, has made no secret of his past in wartime Germany, saying he was an unwilling participant in Adolf Hitler's youth movement which he joined at the age of 14.

Bild was also unhappy with the front-page headline on Wednesday's conservative Daily Telegraph broadsheet which described the pope as "God's Rottweiler," a reference to his role as the moral guardian of the Catholic Church's conservative wing.

A Bild editorial written by senior journalist Franz Josef Wagner said: "If you read the British tabloids yesterday, you would have thought Hitler had become pope. Only the devil could come up with such a thing. Or you English, with your complexes. It is like in football matches, we are always the Nazis."

The editorial added: "I do not hate in return. The pope in his goodness will include you idiots in his prayers. Yes you, the editors of the Sun and the Daily Mirror. Even idiots go to heaven."

The Daily Mirror tabloid was sharply criticized at home and abroad for a front page during the Euro 96 football championships which played on the countries' rivalry in World War II ahead of a match between the two countries.

Jewish groups around the world have generally acknowledged the new pontiff's earlier efforts to build links between Jews and Catholics.