Does the rise of a neo-Nazi movement in America indicate that we are failing to teach history in our schools? Or are we teaching it in too simplistic a fashion, as a kind of sci-fi story with poorly-written characters that are too clearly good or evil?
We like our history served up to us plain and unequivocal. Give us gods and monsters or give us no history at all!
But history is complex, and within each soul of us there exists the potential for both good and evil. So beware of history served up like an old western -- with cardboard cutout figures wearing black or white hats. It is too easy, and explains nothing.
Within the lifetimes of most Americans, the Taliban went from being "freedom fighters," battling the Soviet Union, to the enemy harboring Osama Bin Laden. As always, Hollywood tried to shape history and made movies to glorify them...
But we forget this as we forget everything that is uncomfortable. We want "goodies" and "baddies" -- gods and monsters -- and we want to leave it at that.
The Taliban provides an interesting lesson in the attempt to erase history. They are monument destroyers. They wish to forget the past, erase it, and behave as though it never was:
It seems they have something in common with this crowd:
Here in America, there are those who want to cleanse the past from memory too, as the Turks have attempted to do with regards to the Armenian Holocaust. The difference between how the Turks and the Germans accept their respective pasts is instructive and should hold a lesson for America.
Last week, we wrote about the need to remember, when Assemblyman John Wisniewski joined Democrat candidates Kate Matteson and Gina Trish at the former Camp Nordland in Andover Township, New Jersey. We noted that it was a member of the local political establishment back in the 1930's, Newton lawyer William Dolan, who handled the land transaction that granted an American Nazi group control of the land that became Camp Nordland. Mr. Dolan was then the sitting State Senator of Sussex County, a Democrat, at a time when each county had one state senator.
According to a scholar at the University of Michigan, "New Jersey Congressman J. Parnell Thomas, Republican of Sussex, noted that New Jersey State Senator William Dolan, a Democrat, had aided the Bund in buying Nordland and that the Democratic Township Committee of Andover had granted Nordland a liquor license."
According to historian and author Warren Grover, Camp Nordland in Andover Township was incorporated in March 1937. Fritz Kuhn, the American Fuehrer himself, was one of the eight trustees of Camp Nordland. When the camp formally opened in July, State Senator Dolan was introduced by the American Nazi Bund's New Jersey Bundesleiter, and he greeted the "swastika waving" crowds.
Dolan was a political enemy of Franklin's Alfred "Bike" Littell, who went on to take his place as State Senator and to serve as Senate President. Littell, whose education at Princeton University had been interrupted for service in an artillery regiment in World War I, went to war with the American Nazis. Alfred Littell was the father of Senator Bob Littell, father-in-law of NJ Republican Party Chairwoman Virginia Littell, and the grandfather of Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose.
Wikipedia notes: "Camp Nordland was a 204-acre resort facility located in Andover Township, New Jersey. From 1937 to 1941, this site was owned and operated by the German American Bund, which sympathized with and propagandized for Nazi Germany in the United States. This resort camp was opened by the Bund on 18 July 1937. In the years before the Second World War, the Bund held events at the facility to encourage pro-German, pro-Nazi values—many of these events attracting over 10,000 visitors. On 18 August 1940, it was the site of a joint rally with the Ku Klux Klan... While much of its history and notoriety has faded over the last 70 years, many local residents of Sussex County still refer to the area as the 'bund camp.'"
Here is a short video that provides something of a history lesson for Assemblyman Wisniewski and the Democrats:
The writer Sinclair Lewis published a satirical novel in 1935 called, It Can't Happen Here, two years before it did happen here -- right here, in Andover Township, New Jersey. It is high time for the Township to acknowledge that history -- as a warning against an ideology that sent so many millions to their deaths.
It was one heck of a venue for Assemblyman Wisniewski and the Democrats' to choose. Especially given their party's history in establishing the camp.
Maybe the Assemblyman can propose a resolution to memorialize what happened in New Jersey and the attempt here to normalize Nazism? Lest we forget...