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Tabloid war! Bild blasts Brit Benedict barbs

Germany’s top-selling daily Bild blasted its British counterparts on Thursday for what it saw as their disrespectful coverage of the new Pope and their focus on his brief membership of the Hitler Youth.
An office worker reads the 20th April ed
Britain's biggest-selling newspaper, "The Sun," reports Tuesday on the appointment of Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI.Odd Andersen / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: Reuters

Germany’s top-selling daily Bild blasted its British counterparts on Thursday for what it saw as their disrespectful coverage of the new pope and their focus on his brief membership of the Hitler Youth.

“‘Hitler Youth’ — English insult German Pope!” the paper titled its front page before listing headlines from British newspapers a day earlier announcing the election of conservative German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI.

The Sun newspaper — Bild’s nearest British equivalent — headlined its front page on Wednesday: “From Hitler Youth to Papa Ratzi,” while even the sober Daily Telegraph carried the title “’God’s Rottweiler’ is the new Pope.”

Bild, which itself reported the election of the first German pope in centuries with the triumphant headline “We are the Pope!,” was shocked by the tone of the British coverage.

“It’s disgraceful to reduce the German pope on the day after his election to a member of the Hitler Youth,” the paper said. “The British have done it. They are reporting on Benedict XVI with mockery and undisguised rage,” it said.

‘Panzer pope’
The German media often reacts with bemusement to British newspapers’ obsession with the Nazis and to their constant references to World War Two and Hitler when dealing with virtually any aspect of German life.

Many other European newspapers also reported Ratzinger’s membership in the Hitler Youth, and quoted nicknames such as “Panzer Pope” and “Rottweiler” in reference to his reputation as a doctrinal hard-liner, a fact Bild mentioned lower in its story.

But its special ire was directed at British media, although the Sun made clear in its reporting that the Hitler Youth was compulsory for boys of Ratzinger’s age at the time.

“A new member seems to have slipped into your newsroom named Mr. Devil,” the paper’s star columnist Franz Josef Wagner said in an open letter to Britain’s tabloids. “Your headlines on the new German pope stink of him, like sulfur and rotten eggs.”

“Anyone reading you British popular newspapers must have thought Hitler had been made pope.”

In an interview published in book form almost a decade ago, Ratzinger says he was briefly forced to join the Nazi Party’s youth organization as a schoolboy during World War II but says his parents were firm anti-Nazis.

Bild carried a separate article on the historical background of the Hitler Youth, answering its own question “Were all Hitler Youth convinced Nazis?” with a decisive “No!”