Born on April 16, 1927 in a small German town near the Czechoslovak border, Joseph Ratzinger grew up in the Germany of Adolph Hitler. His father, a devout Catholic, could not abide by Nazism and the family was forced to move frequently. He was, at age 14, a member of the Hitler youth, a requirement of all young boys at that time. The same year he was inducted, the Nazis killed his cousin, who suffered from Down Syndrome, as part of their program to eliminate the mentally ill.
Declaring that he lacks the strength to do his job, Pope Benedict XVI announced he will resign Feb. 28 – becoming the first pontiff to step down in 600 years. His decision sets the stage for a mid-March conclave to elect a new leader for a Roman Catholic Church in deep turmoil.