Days before 85-year-old Paul Henss, facing deportation for his alleged past as a member of Hitler Youth and attack dog trainer for the Nazis, addressed reporters gathered around his suburban Atlanta home, nineteen-year-olds at one of our most prestigious schools applauded a dictator who has recently hosted an international conference of Holocaust deniers and has vowed to wipe Israel off the map. Paul Henss was quoted in the October 1 Atlanta Journal-Constitution as saying, “’I was 19 years old. Everybody was with the Hitler youth.’”
The students applauding Iranian President Ahmadinejad at Columbia University on September 24 will not be charged for war crimes for this behavior, even though their applause fuels the propaganda of a regime that kills our soldiers. Indeed, Columbia president Lee Bollinger’s condemnatory introduction to Ahmadinejad has reportedly spurred a backlash among many of the university’s faculty and students.
Let us look at Paul Henss’s situation as a nineteen-year-old and compare it to the nineteen-year-old student at a place like Columbia. Henss was living under the reign of a dictator at a time when to not join the Hitler youth or support the regime invited suspicion and possible repercussions.
Though repercussions cannot be compared, a situation of intimidation occurs in many college classrooms. To be a conservative student on a college campus these days requires intellectual vigor and fortitude beyond the capabilities of the average 19-year-old, who is more often concerned with being popular and getting good grades.
Furthermore, the student today finds himself in an institution where the standards of logical thought and accepted historical fact have been eliminated by the tenured radicals and replaced by their own interpretations of history, emotional spins, and pressure to adhere to the group-think of sensitivity that includes respect for all kinds of behavior no matter how revolting or harmful. One can read in the scholarly literature the calls for abolishing the values of the West, for eliminating philosophy, for replacing historical fact with “perspectives,” and for replacing universals with social advocacy. Upon entering graduate school in the 1990s, I was shocked to learn that for decades academics have been publishing papers on this agenda and sharing them at conferences.
Fifty years from now will our grandchildren be pointing to the shameful behavior of students and professors applauding Ahmadinejad? Whom to blame? The professor or the nineteen-year-old?