What is it about Hitler and April in Williamstown? Consider this article from April 27th in the New York Times.

Adolf Hitler, in brown-shirted effigy, disappeared suddenly from the Williams College campus this evening as a group of pro-fascist conservatives made off with an image of Der Fuehrer which had been prepared for destruction at the stake.

In the first riot at Williams in several years, over 500 mauling undergraduates broke up efforts to protest the failure of the German Government to act on an offer to buy all the Vienna Library books which have been condemned.

April 27th, 1938, that is.

The article’s title is “Hitler Effigy Saved From Williams Fire; Then Student Battle Rages Over Burning of Swastika.” Those were the days, eh? The last time there were “500 mauling undergraduates” at Williams was when? The Vanilla Ice concert?

Every Eph’s Hitler reading list should include Adolph Hitler: The Definitive Biography by Pulitzer Prize-winner John Toland ’36 and The Psychopathic God: Adolf Hitler by Professor Robert G. L. Waite. If Professor Waite (my teacher in HIST 301) were still alive, he would have much to say about Mary Jane Hitler. Want to understand what the world was like 7 decades ago? Start with the Anschluss. Are there any historian readers who can educate us about the Vienna Library, circa April 1938?

The article continues:

Piles of pine coughs, boxes, crates and rubber tires blazed up in the midst of the Sophomore Quadrangle as floodlights played from dormitory windows. Fire houses were pulled out to flood the gathering and help preserve a Nazi swastika which had been brought on to supplant the Hitler image.

Are you an Eph undergraduate who cares about the past? Go look up the stories in the Record from the spring of 1938 and tell us what you find.

The student mob swayed up and down the field for half an hour in a fight over the swastika. Then its rescuer made off down the hill, while on a crowded balcony a moustached, undergraduate simulated Hitler in a brief appeal amid cheers and jeers.

And who was that nameless undergraduate, engaged in a stunt that — with the benefit of knowing what was then to come — seems much worse than that of Julia? What life did he go on to lead, which woman did he marry, what children did he raise? Should he have been marked, for the rest of his life, by one foolish moment of undergraduate stupidity? Was he not an Eph, like you, like me, like Julia?

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