Lessons My Nazi Student Taught Me

Recent events invite me to recall my Nazi student.

Back in the late 1970s I taught college extension courses at military bases in the Pacific Northwest. I had some outstanding students, one of whom is still in touch with me and gives me lessons on close reading of political texts. One went to Duke law school. Another one went on to earn a Ph.D. in political science at the University of Chicago. She won tenure and teaching awards at a quite respectable institution but met an untimely demise due to complications following surgery.

Then I had the Nazi. The class was a comparative politics seminar, with a European focus and quite a bit of Winston Churchill, including his fine work,  Great Contemporaries. The student didn’t stand out in any particular way, but along with the others making introductions, he introduced himself in an offhand way and mentioned that he was a Nazi. I wondered whether this was just a provocation. I guess I just stared at him. Later, some trusted students who had taken courses with me before told me they had spoken with him during the class break and said that he was a bit odd but shouldn’t prove to be a problem.

The thought crossed my mind that I should ask him to leave the course, that I wouldn’t feel comfortable teaching him. Should I report him to proper military authorities? I thought it odd that he would submit to the classroom authority, at least, of a non-Aryan. As it turned out, he observed classroom decorum, so he stayed.

At the end of course, having completed a paper on Churchill’s My Early Life, he declared to the class that he no longer despised Jews—though he allowed that he retained a lot of other despicable judgments. Given the latter attitudes, I could not rejoice in his apparent partial conversion. I did wonder whether a Nazi who did not regard Jews as inferiors, perhaps as vermin even, had lost his raison d’etre.

Did my class, with some thoughtful students’ contributions, somehow enlighten him and perhaps even prevent him from committing reprehensible acts? Maybe it worked in this way: Another, older Army student of mine, a warrant officer, marveled at my classes, declaring that he had previously thought that a “liberal” arts course meant they were to be indoctrinated in Leftist ideology. To the contrary, in my courses, he was saying, manly people could talk about ideas in great books and still be manly and not necessarily even Leftists. In this, I wasn’t trying to be an advocate, just a teacher.

I believe I improved that Nazi’s life, though not to the extent that I would have wanted. Would his life, or the lives of those he encountered subsequent to our meeting, have been better had I expelled him, as my feelings then screamed?

To return to recent events, one wonders what goes through the minds of the marchers of whatever persuasion in Charlottesville. What are their souls like? To judge by Richard Spencer, a leader of the alt-Right (I guess that’s the correct nomenclature) and a pro-Robert E. Lee statue march organizer, some do not lack academic credentials. He has degrees from the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago, and had studied for a Ph.D. in European intellectual history at Duke. One has to assume similar if not even greater credentials on the part of those who want to remove Confederate statues.

Would any of the marchers change their views if their “identity politics” were more vigorously affirmed, as it is on nearly every college campus today? But isn’t that the problem, at least with the neo-nazis and Black Lives Matter? Aren’t these just more cultures among the many of multiculturalism? Are the marchers moved by the old faiths, Protestant, Catholic, Jew? Perhaps, but paganism and atheism appear on the alt-Right and doubtless flourishes in its opponents as well. And Jefferson Davis’s Jewish secretary of war seems to have no purchase on them either. Faith traditions and historical facts have their limits, it seems, when they oppose the new faith.

Are the marchers in either cause moved by the Declaration of Independence or its principal author, Thomas Jefferson? Aren’t the founders derided (or hailed) as slave owners? Could the marchers agree with Jefferson: “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever….”

align=”right” If anything unites the marchers of all stripes, it is the common rejection of Jefferson, Lincoln, and America altogether.

Or could any of the marchers take to heart the blunter words of Lincoln, who defined slavery as “you work and I eat….”

If anything unites the marchers of all stripes, it is the common rejection of Jefferson, Lincoln, and America altogether. Do any of them display Lincolnian charity? Did anyone propose raising a statue of Lincoln instead of razing one of Robert E. Lee? It is the victorious who can afford to be magnanimous and therewith charitable.

The marchers are people without a past and thus they are also people without a future. Persons in such a distressful situation may reject the political altogether and seek a different world. There is in fact a unity, a transcendent one: in a religion of peace and love that nonetheless commands with the force of law. In it all contradictions are resolved, the earthly and the transcendent; secular and sacred; master and slave; sensual and spiritual. But maybe they have already considered Islam. Mustapha Mond, here they come! But, alas, even there we find Sunni versus Shia.

Perhaps the spirited Charlottesville marchers and their comrades throughout the country might instead leave America, so to speak, and turn to Winston Churchill. My Early Life might inspire them to get a hold of themselves and live more flourishing lives.


About Ken Masugi

Ken Masugi, Ph.D., is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute. He has been a speechwriter for two cabinet members, and a special assistant for Clarence Thomas when he was chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Masugi is co-author, editor, or co-editor of 10 books on American politics. He has taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he was Olin Distinguished Visiting Professor; James Madison College of Michigan State University; the Ashbrook Center of Ashland University; and Princeton University.

Support Free & Independent Journalism Your support helps protect our independence so that American Greatness can keep delivering top-quality, independent journalism that's free to everyone. Every contribution, however big or small, helps secure our future. If you can, please consider a recurring monthly donation.

Want news updates?

Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.

21 responses to “Lessons My Nazi Student Taught Me”

  1. I’m not sure what Masugi is trying to say. The National Socialist German Worker’s Party was about more than hatred for Jews. Here are the party’s points:

    The 25-point Program of the NSDAP[edit]
    We demand the unification of all Germans in the Greater Germany on the basis of the people’s right to self-determination.
    We demand equality of rights for the German people in respect to the other nations; abrogation of the peace treaties of Versailles and St. Germain.
    We demand land and territory (colonies) for the sustenance of our people, and colonization for our surplus population.
    Only a member of the race can be a citizen. A member of the race can only be one who is of German blood, without consideration of creed. Consequently, no Jew can be a member of the race.
    Whoever has no citizenship is to be able to live in Germany only as a guest, and must be under the authority of legislation for foreigners.
    The right to determine matters concerning administration and law belongs only to the citizen. Therefore, we demand that every public office, of any sort whatsoever, whether in the Reich, the county or municipality, be filled only by citizens. We combat the corrupting parliamentary economy, office-holding only according to party inclinations without consideration of character or abilities.
    We demand that the state be charged first with providing the opportunity for a livelihood and way of life for the citizens. If it is impossible to sustain the total population of the State, then the members of foreign nations (non-citizens) are to be expelled from the Reich.
    Any further immigration of non-citizens is to be prevented. We demand that all non-Germans, who have immigrated to Germany since 2 August 1914, be forced immediately to leave the Reich.
    All citizens must have equal rights and obligations.
    The first obligation of every citizen must be to productively work mentally or physically. The activity of individuals is not to counteract the interests of the universality, but must have its result within the framework of the whole for the benefit of all. Consequently, we demand:
    Abolition of unearned (work and labour) incomes. Breaking of debt (interest)-slavery.
    In consideration of the monstrous sacrifice in property and blood that each war demands of the people, personal enrichment through a war must be designated as a crime against the people. Therefore, we demand the total confiscation of all war profits.
    We demand the nationalisation of all (previous) associated industries (trusts).
    We demand a division of profits of all heavy industries.
    We demand an expansion on a large scale of old age welfare.
    We demand the creation of a healthy middle class and its conservation, immediate communalization of the great warehouses and their being leased at low cost to small firms, the utmost consideration of all small firms in contracts with the State, county or municipality.
    We demand a land reform suitable to our needs, provision of a law for the free expropriation of land for the purposes of public utility, abolition of taxes on land and prevention of all speculation in land.
    We demand struggle without consideration against those whose activity is injurious to the general interest. Common national criminals, usurers, profiteers and so forth are to be punished with death, without consideration of confession or race.
    We demand substitution of a German common law in place of the Roman Law serving a materialistic world-order.
    The state is to be responsible for a fundamental reconstruction of our whole national education program, to enable every capable and industrious German to obtain higher education and subsequently introduction into leading positions. The plans of instruction of all educational institutions are to conform with the experiences of practical life. The comprehension of the concept of the State must be striven for by the school [Staatsbürgerkunde] as early as the beginning of understanding. We demand the education at the expense of the State of outstanding intellectually gifted children of poor parents without consideration of position or profession.
    The State is to care for the elevating national health by protecting the mother and child, by outlawing child-labor, by the encouragement of physical fitness, by means of the legal establishment of a gymnastic and sport obligation, by the utmost support of all organizations concerned with the physical instruction of the young.
    We demand abolition of the mercenary troops and formation of a national army.
    We demand legal opposition to known lies and their promulgation through the press. In order to enable the provision of a German press, we demand, that:
    a. All writers and employees of the newspapers appearing in the German language be members of the race;
    b. Non-German newspapers be required to have the express permission of the State to be published. They may not be printed in the German language;
    c. Non-Germans are forbidden by law any financial interest in German publications, or any influence on them, and as punishment for violations the closing of such a publication as well as the immediate expulsion from the Reich of the non-German concerned. Publications which are counter to the general good are to be forbidden. We demand legal prosecution of artistic and literary forms which exert a destructive influence on our national life, and the closure of organizations opposing the above made demands.
    We demand freedom of religion for all religious denominations within the state so long as they do not endanger its existence or oppose the moral senses of the Germanic race. The Party as such advocates the standpoint of a positive Christianity without binding itself confessionally to any one denomination. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit within and around us, and is convinced that a lasting recovery of our nation can only succeed from within on the framework: The common good before the individual good. (Gemeinnutz geht vor Eigennutz).[10] Has also been translated as “The good of the state before the good of the individual.”[11]
    For the execution of all of this we demand the formation of a strong central power in the Reich. Unlimited authority of the central parliament over the whole Reich and its organizations in general. The forming of state and profession chambers for the execution of the laws made by the Reich within the various states of the confederation. The leaders of the Party promise, if necessary by sacrificing their own lives, to support by the execution of the points set forth above without consideration.

    • Quite a compelling story.
      Yet, the very music that once facilitated and inspired people to appreciate the cultural differences, has been intentionally purged, and now creates more division and aversion to cross cultural regard and sensitivity.
      America has been infected with Marxism for decades. The disease is becoming more malignant.

  2. “My Early Life might inspire them to get a hold of themselves and live more flourishing lives.”

    The late historian Ralph Raico said Winnie’s greatest love was war:

    “While Churchill never had a principle he did not in the end betray, this does not mean that there was no slant to his actions, no systematic bias. There was, and that bias was towards lowering the barriers to state power.”
    But while Winston had no principles, there was one constant in his life: the love of war. It began early. As a child, he had a huge collection of toy soldiers, 1500 of them, and he played with them for many years after most boys turn to other things. They were “all British,” he tells us, and he fought battles with his brother Jack, who “was only allowed to have colored troops; and they were not allowed to have artillery.”[19] He attended Sandhurst, the military academy, instead of the universities, and “from the moment that Churchill left Sandhurst … he did his utmost to get into a fight, wherever a war was going on.”[20] All his life he was most excited — on the evidence, only really excited — by war. He loved war as few modern men ever have[21] — he even “loved the bangs,” as he called them, and he was very brave under fire.

    In 1925, Churchill wrote: “The story of the human race is war.”[22] This, however, is untrue; potentially, it is disastrously untrue. Churchill lacked any grasp of the fundamentals of the social philosophy of classical liberalism. In particular, he never understood that, as Ludwig von Mises explained, the true story of the human race is the extension of social cooperation and the division of labor. Peace, not war, is the father of all things.[23] For Churchill, the years without war offered nothing to him but “the bland skies of peace and platitude.” This was a man, as we shall see, who wished for more wars than actually happened.

  3. Look at ‘gang culture’ in American prisons, where Black Muslims, and white supremacist neo-Nazis, provide ‘protection’ for their respective cohorts. In popular culture, this was in Season 1 of FX’s “Justified”, 2010-2015.

    Boyd Crowder was the most compelling tv character I can think of, ever. The actor Walton Goggins was amazing.
    I viewed “Justifed”, 2010-2015 as ‘Hillbilly Shakespeare’, but never thought about the influence on white male teenagers. Until Charlottesville.


    Boyd Crowder in Federal Prison, Season 1 “Justified”

    Boyd Crowder is an outlaw archetype, but, in Season 1, he is also a coal miner, Desert Storm veteran, and then neoNazi White Supremacist. http://justified.wikia.com/wiki/Boyd_Crowder
    Boyd is very cool, very articulate, and paraphrases Thomas Paine. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e8131cf393a6ad78085decf143b9d9f76190c50cd77d86b7dd9ba6f8a3582f72.png https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ff14c9ca45735d7083d68c5bdf1246ef5f40a98aab4524945fb95c25c1ef41c5.jpg

    James Fields, Jr’s interest in Nazis in 9th grade Boone County, KY might have been more inspired by Boyd Crowder in Harlan County, KY than Mein Kampf.

    “Justified” exec producer Graham Yost also produced “The Americans”, one reason why the Russia! hysteria porved useful past two years, and co-produced Spielberg’s “The Pacific” for HBO, and TNT’s “Falling Skies”, where a history professor from Boston leads the 2nd American Revolution against the aliens who enslave teenagers.

  4. Do not think Churchill would approve of any Muslim statue.

    • I stop trying working hard at shopritte and nowadays I am generating $75-$97 each and every hour. How? I am only working over the internet! My employment did not actually make me delighted hence I made the decision to take a chance on something new…after four years it wasn’t simple to drop out my day job however right now I couldn’t be more satisfied.???Read more here..

    • “Sic Vis Pacem, Para Bellum.”
      And, I think Margaret Thatcher would agree.

    • See his disgust at the violation of a Muslim tomb in The River War.

  5. “Lessons My Nazi Student Taught Me”

    Evidently, not very flvcking much ’cause there’s not ‘lesson number one’ in the article.

    • Well, to spell it out for you, he learned that the great ideas of Western civilization can indeed penetrate the minds of people committed to hate and change their world view. To me, it is a call t use words, and not brickbats, to combat those with scary beliefs.

      • Well, that’s YOUR understanding, but not the author’s ’cause he very specifically wrote:

        “Did my class, with some thoughtful students’ contributions, somehow enlighten him and perhaps even prevent him from committing reprehensible acts? “

      • See article’s last paragraph, which answers the rhetorical question here.

      • Did you notice the word “Perhaps” at the start of that paragraph, and if so, do you know what its definition is???

  6. A seasoned teacher can detect the neuroses in individual students, although, it can be stealthily concealed at times.
    And, sometimes, it is overwhelming.
    Teaching is like farming: Some farmers have more fertile land than others, regardless how prolific the crop.
    Attached is an essay by a teacher of their experience in a predominantly black school in the South:

    • After i lost my previous job six months ago, i’ve had luck to find about this superb website that was a life saver… make $85 every hour and get paid at the end of each week …They offer online home-based work. My last month check after working with them for 3 months was $12000… Amazing thing about it was that only requirement for the job is basic typing and reliable internet…
      If this interest you, try it out on following website❋❋❋OnlineNetCashMediaNetwork.Group…..

  7. When both the alt-right and alt-left hate Jews, how can you tell them apart?