Future pope Joseph Ratzinger "did not attend Hitler Youth meetings", his brother Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, says, and his family suffered economically as a result.
In an interview by Andrea Tornielli for the Italian newspaper Il Giornale, Monsignor Ratzinger revealed several unknown details from the pope's childhood, Catholic News Agency reports.
After noting that their father considered Nazism to be "a catastrophe and not only the great enemy of the Church but also of all faiths and of human life in general," Monsignor Ratzinger said he and his brother were forced to join the Hitler Youth because "the State ordered all school age kids, according to their age, to be signed up for certain youth groups."
"When it was obligatory, we were registered as a block. There was no freedom to choose, and not showing up would have brought very negative consequences."
He said his brother Joseph "did not attend the meetings" and that "brought economic harm to my family because by not doing so we could not receive the discounts for school tuition."
Monsignor Ratzinger said World War II was a difficult period for the family. "We had a ticket to buy the monthly rations, which were simply generic items such as sugar, butter, oil and a little bit of meat."
He also touched on military service: "My brother was called shortly after me. We had objectives and ideals that were contrary to those of Hitler, but it was our duty as soldiers. We didn't know when the war would end."
During the interview in Ratisbonne, Germany, Monsignor Ratzinger said his brother was "a lively child, but not an earthquake. I remember him as always being joyful. From the time he showed a great sensitivity to animals, flowers and in general to all nature. Perhaps that's why he was always given pets as Christmas gifts. His care for nature and for living beings was characteristic of him."
Speaking later about their family, Monsignor Ratzinger said his family was "very united" and his father was a "police commissioner who came from an old family of farmers from lower Bavaria. My mother was a daughter of artisans, and before getting married she had worked as a cook. When it was possible, as kids we went to daily Mass."
He said that both were altar boys and that their vocations became clear early on, "first to me and then to him." "At Tittmoning, Joseph received Confirmation from Cardinal Michael Faulhaber, the great Archbishop of Munich. He was amazed and said he would like to become a cardinal. But just a few days later, while watching a painter who was painting the walls of our house, he said he wanted to be a painter when he grew up too."
Monsignor Ratzinger also noted that long before he was elected Joseph Ratzinger had signalled that he thought that Benedict would be a good name for a Pope.
"Some years ago my brother told me, 'Benedict would be a good name for a new Pope.' Now he doesn't remember having said it, but I very much do."
Pope's brother reveals unknown details of Benedict XVI's life (Catholic News Agency, 30/9/08)