College made me profoundly aware and disdainful of leftist socialist ideology. It was everywhere in every discipline: history, psychology, sociology, ethics, and even economics. The alternative I knew about was called “right wing” or conservatism/libertarianism.
These were the days of the Cold War. Everything was clear. To be pro-American meant to be pro-freedom and certainly not a leftist. The bad guys blamed America for everything and never stopped putting down freedom.
Where do the Nazis fit in here? They didn’t matter in the slightest, except as a matter of history. I took a class in World War II. The impression I had was that Nazis were a cult that came out of nowhere, killed a lot of people, and were then vanquished by the Allied troops. And that was the end. There was little discussion of the ideological structure, its meaning, its import. It was just some weird junta that came and went.
That’s where things stood until a very strange lunch in Alexandria, Virginia. Years had gone by. I was perhaps 26 years old. A journalist in Washington, D.C., an acquaintance with some odd views that I couldn’t quite place, had arranged a meeting. He told me of a wealthy philanthropist who I really needed to meet. She could make some good connections for me.
I wasn’t sure I understood what all this was about but I was up for it.
I arrived at the brightly lit and elegant tea room where the waitstaff were bustling around, serving high-end clientele. I sat and waited, and then a hand touched my shoulder.
“I am he,” I said and stood up to greet a beautiful woman in her 60s, gorgeously dressed, blonde hair pinned up top. She had flawless manners, a pretty way of speaking, and all the signs of “high birth,” as they say, on top of the classic “beauty that money buys.” I held her chair and seated her. We ordered some small sandwiches and tea and began to talk.
We began with the problem of leftism and how terrible it all is. I was intrigued at the polished cadence of her language. And the way she moved her hands. And her bright and pretty eyes. Her perfume. And the way she smiled and connected with me so personally. I was enjoying this, feeling special.
The real problem, she explained, was the Jews. The nature of the conversation began to shift gradually. The problem was not the left as such, she said, but the global elites. It is they who are behind the corruption of the culture through Hollywood and the media generally. Their power is bad enough, she explained, but the real problem is within the banking system and the world financial system that they own.
I didn’t really understand what she meant by “they” but I didn’t like every movie, so I was okay with a solid attack on Hollywood. And I certainly didn’t like the Fed. I would respond in each case with a point about the problems of government. Each time, she would gently explain to me that the problem is not the government but the people who occupy the government who are building a world order to benefit only one tribe.
I still didn’t entirely understand. Finally, she put a fine point on it.
“The real problem, Jeffrey, and I hope you can come to understand this more fully, is the Jews.”
Ok, now I’m rolling my eyes. Here we go with the cranky stuff. I’ve heard this kind of talk before but mostly from uncouth and uneducated malcontents who seem consumed by class resentment. It was boring and dumb. I must say, however, that I had never heard someone of her beauty and intelligence speak this way. I found it embarrassing more than anything.
Above all, I would stop and wonder: why am I having lunch with this person? I didn’t argue with her, mostly because I wouldn’t even have known where to begin. Mostly I had no real understanding of her outlook, where it came from, what it meant, where she was going with talk of this. In the world I grew up in, I had no consciousness of Jews or non-Jews or anything at all related to this topic.
Above all, I would stop and wonder: why am I having lunch with this person?
She shifted again to talk about her personal biography. Her husband left her a substantial amount of money. She set up her own philanthropic empire. She supported journalists, magazines, institutions, conferences. She is highly careful in her spending, she explained, making sure that she backs people and institutions who know both the problem and the answer.
Now I understood where this was going. She was recruiting me, testing me. Maybe if I studied and learned, and deepened the sophistication of my personal philosophy, I too could benefit from her generosity.
From there, things ramped up quickly. She said, “well, that’s enough serious talk. Let’s offer a small toast to the greatest man of our century.”
Maybe she meant Reagan? We lifted our glasses. Then she finally came out with it.
Well, now that seemed to come from nowhere. I made a sheepish face and slowly lowered my glass. She knew that she had shocked me but gave a playful smile and engaged in more small talk. I wasn’t listening anymore, simply because I was just a bit distracted by her toast.
At some point in the remaining minutes of this meeting I realized: I was having lunch with a real Nazi. It was not a frothing-at-the-mouth thug with a club and torch. It was a beautiful, erudite, and highly educated woman of high breeding.
Fortunately, lunch time ended. We did air kisses and polite goodbyes and said we would stay in touch. I walked to my car as quickly as I could without seeming to rush. I sat down and exhaled as much air as I could and took another deep breath. What had just happened? Who was this woman and what did she believe? Why was I sitting there with her?
At the time, the whole thing seemed ridiculous. Today, not so much.I never saw her again. Over the coming weeks, I gradually came to realize that this was a very important person, the main source of money for what was then a nascent Nazi movement in America. At the time, the whole thing seemed ridiculous. Today, not so much.
I never had a Nazi professor, never heard a Nazi media commentator, never read a mainstream book promoting Nazism. Until recently, such a bloodthirsty political longing has had to live in dark corners or come in beautifully deceptive packages such as this woman. For this reason, it has mostly escaped the notice of several generations. That doesn't mean it is not a danger to rationality, decency, and freedom. And it doesn't mean that it cannot grow and infect the ideological outlook of a new generation.
Another 20 years would go by before I seriously began to study and learn about this warped and freaky branch of totalitarian thought which today goes by many names (fascism, alt-right, neoreaction, and so on). I've learned that Nazism was and is the culmination of dangerous ideological tendencies from a century earlier. They didn't die after the war.
As Ludwig von Mises (one of the most consistent anti-Nazi intellectuals of the 20th century) warned repeatedly: bad ideas are never entirely gone; they come back and back, which is why the friends of liberty must never rest in learning about them and being true champions of the free society.
Over time, I’ve also learned that it is not enough to hate the left, or even to hate the government as it is (occupied or not). It is all about what we love. If we can identify and describe what we love, and with a clean conscience and sincere hope for the good of ourselves and everyone, we are where we need to be to recognize and resist all threats to liberty, from whatever source, beautiful or not.
As for my lunch partner that day, I assume that she is gone from this earth by now. But her ideological children are more numerous than ever.