Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Controversy in the Pope Room
We'd had a long day in software training. (Is there any other kind of day in software training?) There were 12 or so of us, filing out of the classroom at the end of the all-day session and ready to blow off steam. Luckily, we were on Bush Street downtown and there are plenty of steam-blowing choices within easy walking distance. After a couple of rounds at The Irish Bank, we made our way to Bucca di Beppo for dinner and several bottles of chianti.
Since our party was so big, the greeter seated us in the Pope Room, pictured above. It's exactly what it sounds like -- a round banquet room where all the decorations celebrate our two most recent pontiffs of the Catholic faith, the illustrious John Paul II and the more newly-minted Benedict XVI (seen here in the glass case atop our table).
After a few glasses of vino, I casually mentioned that the current pope had been a member of the Hitler Youth in his teenage years. No one believed me. I tried to explain that every German kid at the time was pretty much required to join the Hitler Youth, so there was no particular shame in Mr. Ratzenberger's membership. For a kid growing up in early-1940s Germany, the Hitler Youth was basically the Boy Scouts (if the Boy Scouts hated non-Aryans, that is). There's no evidence that the young Ratzenberger or anyone in his family were involved in any Nazi activity beyond dressing up in the uniforms and posing for creepy photographs. (For those of you who followed the link: yes, that's the pope.)
But it didn't matter; no one at the table was willing to accept my version of the pope's biography. So we all raised a toast to the pontiff and -- unless I'm just being paranoid -- I thought I saw his little plaster head slip me a sinister wink.