Benedict XVI: A Life: Volume One: Youth in Nazi Germany to the Second Vatican Council 1927-1965

Peter Seewald, trans. from the German by Dinah Livingstone. Bloomsbury Continuum, $35 (496) ISBN 978-1-4729-7919-3
This stimulating yet flawed first volume of German journalist Seewald’s duology, his English-language debut, takes the reader through the first four decades of the life of Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger, including his youth and education under the Nazi regime. Seewald bases his account on interviews with Ratzinger, members of his family, and “one hundred contemporary witnesses.” The early chapters describing Ratzinger’s childhood, including his father’s career as a high-ranking policeman and his mother’s work in the family’s bakery and sometimes as a house servant, are the most successful. Seewald emphasizes Ratzinger as a studious youth—nearly monastic from a very young age—and discusses at length his reading of St. Augustine and Herman Hesse. Unfortunately, those looking for insights into Ratzinger’s relationship with the Nazi state or his thoughts on the actions of the Catholic Church during the rise of Hitler will be disappointed. Seewald avoids these topics and only notes that Ratzinger joined the Hitler Youth when membership was made compulsory by state law. While Catholic readers will enjoy the thorough investigation of Ratzinger’s intellectual development, Seewald fails to place the youth of Pope Benedict XVI in full context. (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 07/16/2020
Release date: 11/17/2020
Genre: Religion
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