I heard James Fields’ high school teacher discussing how Mister Fields seemed to idolize Nazi Germany and how inevitably any conversation with him turned to praise of Hitler and his ilk. The teacher lamented that he was unable to convince him otherwise.

When I went to high school, there was a guy in my class with similar leanings. I’ll call him M. When M wore a swastika belt buckle to school one day our history teacher, Mister H. called him out on it. M just smiled smugly and said he thought it was cool. Mister H asked him if he realized what that symbol represented and M indicated that yeah, he pretty well knew his history.

It may not have been the next day, but shortly after that Mister H presented us with a movie – the 1956 documentary, Night And Fog. If you’ve never seen it, consider yourself lucky. It uses very graphic SS footage and photographs of Hitler’s “final solution.” To say it was disturbing is an understatement. When the film ended, you could have heard a pin drop.

Mister H. then lead us in a discussion of what we had just seen, the rise of German nationalism (the parallels of today are frightening), and how there was probably not a Jew alive today (today being 1972 at the time) who had not lost a relative to the concentration camps. Someone asked if he had. Yes, he said. He had.

I don’t know if Mister H. got through to M or not. Not really. I certainly hope so. But I do know that M never wore that belt buckle to school again.

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