knowledge

One of the best ways to form a dictatorship is to suppress knowledge. That’s one reason that propaganda is so important. When the people only hear what the government wants them to, they tend to become compliant…or at least that’s the theory. When Adolph Hitler was elected to office, he was the people’s choice, but they had no idea just how evil he was and how long they would be stuck with him. With the end of democracy, Germany became a one-party dictatorship. The Nazis began a massive propaganda campaign to win the loyalty and cooperation of Germans. The Nazi Propaganda Ministry, directed by Dr Joseph Goebbels, took control of all forms of communication in Germany…newspapers, magazines, books, public meetings, and rallies, art, music, movies, and radio. Viewpoints in any way threatening to Nazi beliefs or to the regime were censored or eliminated from all media. The German people were isolated from the outside world, and while they did not like it, the government became their only source of information.

Germany was now led by a self-educated, high school drop-out named Adolf Hitler, who was by nature strongly anti-intellectual. For Hitler, the reawakening of the long-dormant Germanic spirit, with its racial and militaristic qualities, was far more important than any traditional notions of learning. Books and writings by such authors as Henri Barbusse, Franz Boas, John Dos Passos, Albert Einstein, Lion Feuchtwanger, Friedrich Förster, Sigmund Freud, John Galsworthy, André Gide, Ernst Glaeser, Maxim Gorki, Werner Hegemann, Ernest Hemingway, Erich Kästner, Helen Keller, Alfred Kerr, Jack London, Emil Ludwig, Heinrich Mann, Thomas Mann, Karl Marx, Hugo Preuss, Marcel Proust, Erich Maria Remarque, Walther Rathenau, Margaret Sanger, Arthur Schnitzler, Upton Sinclair, Kurt Tucholsky, Jakob Wassermann, H.G. Wells, Theodor Wolff, Emilé Zola, Arnold Zweig, and Stefan Zweig, were suddenly unGerman. Their books were pulled from libraries and schools. Then, on the night of May 10, 1933, an event unseen in Europe since the Middle Ages occurred as German students from universities once regarded as among the finest in the world, gathered in Berlin to burn books with unGerman ideas. It was the Nazi burning of knowledge. Students can be very impressionable, and easily lead, and these students played right into Hitler’s hand.

The youth-oriented Nazi movement had always attracted a sizable following among university students. Even back in the 1920s they thought Nazism was the wave of the future. They joined the National Socialist German Students’ League, put on swastika armbands and harassed anti-Nazi teachers. Many formerly reluctant professors were swept along by the outpouring of student enthusiasm that followed Hitler’s seizure of power. Most of the professors eagerly surrendered their intellectual honesty and took the required Nazi oath of allegiance. They also wanted to curry favor with Nazi Party officials in order to grab one of the academic vacancies resulting from the mass expulsion of Jewish professors and deans. The entire education system of a nation changed…almost overnight. As the German-Jewish poet, Heinrich Heine, had declared, a hundred years before the advent of Hitler, “Wherever books are burned, human beings are destined to be burned too.” And so it was in the end.

Have you ever noticed that there are some people who seem very knowledgeable about alot of things? I’m not talking about a know it all. I’m talking about someone who just knows a lot about a lot of things. That is the way Bob’s great uncle is. He isn’t the type of person to brag about what he knows, he just shares his knowledge in such an interesting way, that it is a pleasure to listen to him.

Great Uncle Frank is the fourth of five brothers in his family. He and his wife, Helen went on to have five sons of their own. The first time I met then was when they brought Bob’s great grandparents from Yakima, Washington to Casper, Wyoming to visit the family here in August, 1976. Not only were he and his wife very interesting people, but his parents, Bob’s great grandparents were too. I could definitely see where Great Uncle Frank got his thirst for knowledge. His parents were amazing people in great health, who lived at home their entire lives. They were alert and sharp as tacks well into their ninety’s, and I expect Frank and Helen will do the same.

Frank was a college professor until his retirement, and Helen was a social worker. Frank taught Science at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, but science was not all he knew about. He was a virtual encyclopedia of knowledge. He can carry on a conversation about almost any subject you might want to talk about, and talk intelligently about it too. Some people do a lot of reading, and some people just retain information very easily. I’m not sure which one applies to Frank, but the knowledge is definitely stored in his memory in a orderly fashion that was easily accessible. It was a pleasure to talk with him.

Having five sons, Frank was always interested in anything that would interest his boys, and help them become the best men they could be. He settled on the Boy Scouts, and he was active in the Boy Scouts for many years. I will always feel blessed to have known this amazing man, and his equally amazing wife.

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