I came across an article about frat boys doing tasteless things. (Which one, right?) So, at the risk of being accused of Godwinning any of a number of ‘national conversations’ we are having today, I offer this brief article in its entirety from 1939…
NAZIS TOO SERIOUS STUDENTS ASSERT
West Virginia Students Amazed At Row Over ‘Hitler Party’
MORGANTOWN, W. VA, Jan. 11 (AP)—West Virginia University students expressed astonishment today at the international comment raised by a fraternity’s “Fuehrer” party here several weeks ago and declared “we thought ‘twas funny.”
“You take things too seriously over there, ” the campus daily newspaper, The Daily Athenium said in an open letter addressed to Das Schwarze Korps, official organ of the goose-stepping black-uniformed Nazi Elite guard.
“What,” it asked, “is the world coming to when 80,000,000 inhabitants of a great nation become agitated over the pranks of college students?”
Male students attending the party had imitated the appearance of Adolf Hitler, and when the German newspaper caustically criticized the affair as pictured by “Life” magazine, four students facetiously cabled they were severing “diplomatic relations.”
Das Schwaze Korps replying described the students as “sprigs of war-profiteering Babbits” and said this could not be expected to “make less frivolous play with ‘diplomatic relations’ between two nations than would Jews and free Masons around President Roosevelt.”
The Athenum’s letter asserted the “whole episode, including your reply, will cause only a passing ripple of interest here,” and recalled Oliver Goldsmith once said “little things are important to little men.”
Editors said the letter would be mailed to Germany.
In hindsight, of course, we countenance any ridiculing of Hitler, and discount any protests from Nazi Germany. But in early 1939, when Roosevelt was committing to keep us out of any European conflict, there were arguably a number of sensitivities relating to our relationship with an ascendant Germany, not to mention a significant American minority.
It would have been ironic if those kids were somehow punished for offending those sensitivities soon before having to face death in defense of America’s most fundamental ideals.