first a Hitler youth pope now Head of firm that built warships for Hitler to run Vatican bank

The Vatican faced embarrassment Friday after appointing as the new head of its bank a German Catholic who is chairman of a company that makes warships.

Filling the vacant post was one of the last major acts of Benedict XVI’s papacy but there was dismay when it was revealed to be Ernst von Freyberg, the chairman of a Hamburg shipyard that makes frigates and destroyers.

Worse from a public relations perspective, his company, Blohm+Voss Group, was a major producer of battleships and U-boats for Hitler’s regime.

On the eve of the Second World War the firm produced the Bismarck, the battleship that sank HMS Hood, the pride of the Royal Navy, but which was eventually sunk by the British fleet in May 1941.

The shipyard also built a state yacht for Hitler and aircraft for the Luftwaffe.

During the First World War the company produced the Scharnhorst, an armoured cruiser that took on a Royal Navy squadron at the Battle of Coronel and was then hunted down by British battlecruisers at the Battle of the Falkland Islands in December 1914.


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