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Mein Kampf

Mein Kampf

This past Monday, July 7, The New York Times ran an op-ed by my close friend Peter Ross Range, entitled, “Should Germans Read ‘Mein Kampf’?”

Since the end of World War II, Adolf Hitler’s autobiographical manifesto of hatred and power lust has been officially banned in Germany, as are many documents and iconography related to the Third Reich. All publication has been underground or on the Internet. But now, with the expiration of the copyright and a more historically studied perspective by the German government, a new version of the Nazi screed is being produced by the highly respected Institute for Contemporary History, which will publish a critical edition of the book with annotations by scholarly experts to set the work in proper context.

Peter Range suggests that this is a good idea: “But while the prospect of the Fuhrer’s words circulating freely on the German market may shock some, it shouldn’t. The inoculation of a younger generation against the Nazi bacillus is better served by open confrontation with Hitler’s words than by keeping his reviled tract in the shadows of illegality.”

Not everyone agrees.

Letters to the editor flowing in to the Times prove this is a highly controversial subject. Scholars and prominent Jewish leaders weighed in on both sides. But I think a letter to the editor written almost 50 years ago offers the best answer. It was written by my friend and mentor Rod Serling, who dealt with the Holocaust in several of his television plays and later in memorable episodes of The Twilight Zone.

In 1966, author and journalist Alex Haley, who would go on to fame and prominence for Roots and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, conducted a Playboy interview of American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell in his Arlington, Virginia office. Rockwell had not known in advance that Haley was African American, and kept a loaded revolver by his side throughout the encounter. The interview ran in the April issue and the reaction was huge. A general consensus was that Playboy should not have dignified or legitimatized Rockwell and his fringe hate group with this national exposure.

Rod Serling disagreed. And I offer his letter in full as an articulate explanation of why comprehending the forces of evil is a much more effective strategy than ignoring them. I strongly believe that were he still with us, Rod would have written a similar letter in support of Peter Range, who has conducted a number of memorable Playboy interviews himself.

April 15, 1966

Editor, Playboy Magazine

I anticipate that you people shall probably be roundly roasted for the recent Rockwell interview. There is a breed of layman social scientist who will forever cling to a concept of “defeating by ignoring”. Hence, when out of the muck of their own neurosis rises these self-proclaimed fuehrers, there is this well-meaning body who tell us that if we turn both eyes and cheek the nutrias will disappear simply by lack of exposure.

My guess is that in this case exposure is tantamount to education and education, here, is a most salutary instruction into the mentalities, the motives and the modus operandi of an animal pack who are discounted by the one aged maxim that “it can’t happen here.” So might have said the Goethes and Einsteins of a pre-war Germany who thought then, as we do now, that civilization by itself protects against a public acceptance of the uncivilized. Eleven years of national genocide and ten million lives later, we have learned to realize that even the most sophisticated society can still fall prey to an invasion of monsters. It is not public exposure that helps these perverters of human dignity. Rather, it is apathy. Laughter and derision might momentarily embarrass them but in the long run prove no deterrents whatsoever. What is desperately needed to combat any “ism” is precisely what PLAYBOY has done — an interview in depth that shows us the facets of the enemy. Yes, gentlemen, you may be knocked for supposedly lending some kind of credence to a brand of lunacy. But my guess is you should be given a commendation for a public service of infinite value.

Sincerely,

Rod Serling

Pacific Palisades, California

One final note: George Lincoln Rockwell and Rod Serling died at almost the same age – the former at 49, due to assassination by a dismissed American Nazi Party member the year after the Playboy interview, the latter at 50, due to a heart attack in 1975. Both men’s philosophies and moral views remain alive. And I firmly believe that the greatest weapons against the George Lincoln Rockwells of the world are the Rod Serlings. We need them more than ever.

8 Responses to We Can’t Ignore the Monsters

  1. watson says:

    When you ignore monsters….that’s when they get you. To expose monsters is like overturning a rock, then they have no place to hide.
    To live in ignorance is part and parcel of living in ‘fear’. Fear is where the monsters grow. I’ve never seen a book or education do any harm. I think the Germans should know Hitler’s hate screed so it does not happen again.

  2. Zeno says:

    Mark, I had a few more questions about the Lindbergh kidnapping. Do you know anything about Paul Wendel or isiodore Fink? Could either of them have written parts of the ransom notes or do they have any connections with any of the staff? Here is another name,J. Nosovisky. The same questions apply to him as the names above.

    • I think you mean Isidor Fische, Zeno. He is certainly an interesting suspect, having been involved with Hauptmann in a fur importing scheme and having left the country and a pretty blank trail. Interestingly, he dies penniless in Germany of tuberculosis, so if he was involved, what happened to his part of the ransom money. Also, in one report, Condon describes Cemetery John as having a cough and other characteristics that could be associated with someone in advanced stages of tuberculosis. Paul Wendell is an interesting actor in the case, but his story is so weird and kept changing and in so many ways contradicts the physical evidence that it is difficult to give it much credence. Again, he is “possibly” involved, and the police knew about him, but they just couldn’t fit him into a logical scenario. I don’t have much to say about Nosovitzky. Some say he tipped off the ring about money in Dwight Morrow’s house and he seemed to be a shady operator whom some of the investigators thought might be involved, including handling some of the ransom money, but like Wendell, it’s difficult to fit him into an overall theory.

  3. Zeno says:

    Interesting and insightful. Like Sterling ideas often were.

  4. noel dalberth says:

    This is very well written. I think anyone who has been involved with Amanda Knox & Raffaele Sollecito’s case sees how this nightmare has been blasted with hate. The hate is misplaced. These people have made this personal. They mock & shame Meredith’s memory yet claim this is about justice for her. When it’s broken down, this hate is only a projection by those who choose to project their own misery onto others.

  5. seesthru says:

    I would wish this were a world in which such things were not thought much less written, but it is not. We can’t put the genie back in the bottle, and forbidding people to read this material only makes it that much more enticing. Let them read it. Don’t force them to read it, but don’t forbid them.

    There is nothing in that book that has not been dreamed of before and since. Hitler didn’t invent hate, and it did not die with him, nor is Germany the only country that followed such an ideology and practiced genocide in the name of ethnic cleansing.

    It is what it is. People who hate will hate, people who progress will progress. Hitlers manifesto will either be a bible or it will be a lesson on what never to do, but that depends solely on the soul of the person reading it.

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