Video: Pope's past

updated 4/20/2005 5:46:35 PM ET 2005-04-20T21:46:35

As John Paul II's right hand man, in charge of enforcing the conservative papal policy, Cardinal Ratzinger earned an unfortunate nickname from his more progressive peers: the "Panzer Cardinal".  Like the tank.  Pope Benedict XVI, now 78, had his own brush with warfare as a young boy growing up in Nazi Germany. 

  • At age, 14 membership in Germany's "Hitler Youth" became mandatory. So Joseph Ratzinger enrolled
  • He managed to get out early so he could study for the priesthood.
  • Two years later, when he was 16, Ratzinger was drafted again by the German Army.
  • Ratzinger worked as a helper in an anti-aircraft briagde.
  • In 1945, he was put through basic training and stationed near his hometown in Bavaria.
  • When Allied forces advanced, he deserted the German army — risking death by that act alone.
  • After he escaped, Ratzinger was captured by American soldiers and spent the remainder of the war in a POW camp.

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