CAN IT HAPPEN AGAIN?  THE STORY OF THE WAVE

Ron Jones

COULD NAZISM HAPPEN AGAIN?

​THIS IS A QUESTION  THAT CONTINUES

TO BE DEBATED TO THIS DAY.

ARE AMERICAN NEO-NAZIS, WHITE NATIONALISTS, AND OTHER ALT-RIGHT GROUPS A REAL THREAT?

IN SPRING 1967 IN A HIGH SCHOOL IN CALIFORNIA,  A HISTORY TEACHER NAMED RON JONES

WAS INTRODUCING HIS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS TO THE HOLOCAUST IN NAZI GERMANY DURING WORLD WAR TWO. 

DURING THAT TIME SIX MILLION JEWS, AS WELL AS MILLIONS OF OTHERS, WERE SLAUGHTERED.

THOSE NOT DEEMED ABLE TO WORK WERE SENT TO EXTERMINATION CAMPS

WHERE HUNDREDS AT A TIME WERE MASSACRED IN GAS CHAMBERS OR SHOT IN MASS EXECUTIONS.

THEIR BODIES WERE THEN INCINERATED IN OVENS

BECAUSE THE NAZIS WERE KILLING THEM SO FAST THEY DIDN’T HAVE TIME TO BURY THEM.

THOSE DEEMED ABLE TO WORK

WERE SENT TO CONCENTRATION

AND LABOR CAMPS

WHERE THEY WERE WORKED

UNTIL THEY STARVED TO DEATH.

THIS CONTINUES TO BE THE WORST CASE OF GENOCIDE IN RECORDED HISTORY.

AND YET, EVEN THOUGH SO MANY OF THEIR NEIGHBORS WERE TAKEN AWAY AND KILLED. AND EVEN THOUGH THE NAZIS BUILT THOUSANDS OF WORK CAMPS, CONCENTRATION CAMPS, AND EXTERMINATION CAMPS,  MANY GERMANS INSISTED  AFTER THE WAR THAT THEY’D NEVER KNOWN ABOUT THE CAMPS

OR THE MASS MURDERS.

IN MR JONES’S CLASS, THE STUDENTS WERE STUNNED BY WHAT THEY’D LEARNED. ONE ASKED IF ALL GERMANS WERE NAZIS.

RON JONES INFORMED THEM THAT MANY GERMANS WERE NOT NAZIS. ANOTHER STUDENT THEN ASKED WHY THE OTHER GERMAN PEOPLE DIDN’T TRY TO STOP THE NAZIS? AND ANOTHER ASKED HOW THE GERMANS COULD POSSIBLY CLAIM THEY DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE SLAUGHTER OF SO MANY OF THEIR NEIGHBORS? MR. JONES COULD ONLY SPECULATE ON WHAT THE ANSWERS MIGHT BE. BUT HE DIDN’T REALLY KNOW.

SOME TIME LATER, MR. JONES WROTE AN ESSAY CALLED THE THIRD WAVE. HE GAVE IT THAT TITLE

BECAUSE IN SURFING WAVES OFTEN COME IN SETS OF FOUR OR FIVE WAVES.  THE THIRD WAVE

IS CONSIDERED THE STRONGEST. MR. JONES’S ESSAY EVENTUALLY APPEARED IN A PUBLICATION 

CALLED THE WHOLE EARTH CATALOG. IN THE THIRD WAVE, MR. JONES WROTE THAT AFTER CLASS 

THE DAY HE’D TAUGHT THE STUDENTS ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST HE SPENT SOME TIME AT THE PUBLIC

LIBRARY SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS HIS STUDENTS HAD ASKED, ONLY TO

DISCOVER THAT THESE QUESTIONS HAD BEEN ASKED BEFORE AND NEVER ANSWERED IN A

SATISFACTORY WAY. AND SO HE DECIDED TO DO AN EXPERIMENT SO THAT HIS STUDENTS MIGHT

EXPERIENCE THE ANSWER FOR THEMSELVES.

THE NEXT DAY WHEN THE STUDENTS ARRIVE FOR CLASS, THEY FOUND THE PHRASE "STRENGTH THROUGH DISCIPLINE" WRITTEN ON THE BLACKBOARD. MR. JONES INSTRUCTED THEM TO  ADJUST THEIR POSTURE AND SIT UP STRAIGHT IN THEIR SEATS. HE TOLD THEM TO STAND BESIDE THEIR DESKS WHEN ANSWERING QUESTIONS. AND ALWAYS BEGIN THE ANSWER TO A QUESTION BY ADDRESSING HIM AS MR. JONES.

AT FIRST, THE STUDENTS THOUGHT THIS INTRODUCTION OF DISCIPLINE IN THE CLASSROOM WAS STUPID. BUT SOON THEY BEGAN TO ENJOY IT, AND EVEN TO COMPETE TO SEE WHO COULD BE THE BEST. IN THE DAYS THAT FOLLOWED, MR. JONES INTRODUCED THE STUDENTS TO THE IDEA OF STRENGTH THROUGH COMMUNITY AND STRENGTH THROUGH ACTION. HE CALLED HIS CLASS THE WAVE.

NEXT, MR. JONES INTRODUCED A LOGO FOR THE WAVE. HE ALSO CREATED MOTTOS, AND A SALUTE. STUDENTS WERE EVEN GIVEN WAVE MEMBERSHIP CARDS. GRADUALLY THE IDEA OF THE WAVE AND ENTHUSIASM FOR IT SPREAD OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM.  MEMBERS OF THE WAVE BELIEVED THAT THE GREATER DISCIPLINE  AND GROUP THINK WAS HELPING VARIOUS SCHOOL ORGANIZATIONS, AND EVEN THE SPORTS TEAMS. IN ADDITION, THERE WAS A SENSE OF EQUALITY AMONG THE STUDENTS. THE OLD NOTIONS OF POPULARITY AND UNPOPULARITY WERE REPLACED BY A SENSE OF TOGETHERNESS AND EQUALITY.

IN CLASS, MR. JONES CONTINUED TO STRESS  THAT THE WAVE WOULD ONLY WORK IF EVERYONE PARTICIPATED. HE ORDERED THEM TO RECRUIT NEW MEMBERS. IN ADDITION, HE DESIGNATED SOME STUDENTS AS "MONITORS" TO REPORT WAVE MEMBERS WHO BROKE THE RULES. BY THEN THE MEMBERS OF THE WAVE REALLY BELIEVED THAT IT WAS A GOOD THING. A HELPFUL AND POSITIVE MOVEMENT. IN THEIR MINDS THEY COULDN’T SEE ANY REASON WHY EVERYONE WOULDN’T WANT TO PARTICIPATE.

BUT NOT EVERYONE WANTED TO JOIN. SOON THERE WERE STORIES OF WAVE MEMBERS BULLYING OTHER STUDENTS TO TRY TO MAKE THEM JOIN THE MOVEMENT.

 

THIS IS THE GREAT DANGER OF GROUP THINK. THE PEOPLE WHO ENGAGE IN GROUP THINK NEVER BELIEVE THEY ARE DOING ANYTHING WRONG. THEY ALWAYS BELIEVE THAT IF THEY CAN MAKE EVERYONE AGREE WITH THEM IT CAN ONLY MAKE THINGS BETTER. TODAY'S WHITE SUPREMACISTS BELIEVE THAT THINGS WILL BE BETTER FOR ALL WHITE PEOPLE IF THEY CAN JUST GET RID OF ANYONE WHO COMES FROM A DIFFERENT COUNTRY, OR BELIEVES IN A DIFFERENT RELIGION, OR WHOSE SKIN IS A DIFFERENT COLOR.

POLITICIANS AND LEADERS KNOW THAT THE BEST WAY TO UNIFY A PEOPLE IS BY GIVING THEM A COMMON ENEMY.

WE KNOW THIS IS NOTHING NEW. LEADERS HAVE BEEN DOING THIS FOR CENTURIES. IN THE CASE OF THE NAZIS, HITLER KNEW HE NEEDED AN ENEMY, A SCAPEGOAT IN ORDER TO UNIFY HIS FOLLOWERS. HE CHOSE THE JEWS, WHO HISTORICALLY HAVE BEEN BLAMED FOR ALL SORTS OF THINGS. THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS BLAMED THE JEWS FOR ATTACKING THEIR TEMPLES. THE EARLY CHRISTIANS BLAMED THE JEWS FOR KILLING JESUS CHRIST. DURING THE PLAGUE YEARS THE JEWS WERE BLAMED FOR THE BLACK PLAGUE. IN THE RUN UP TO WORLD WAR TWO, HITLER SPECIFICALLY BLAMED THE JEWS  FOR CAUSING GERMANY TO LOSE WORLD WAR ONE. AND HE BLAMED THEM FOR THE ECONOMIC CRISIS THAT GERMANY SUFFERED DURING THE 1930S. HIS STRATEGY WORKED.

THE NAZI FOUND A COMMON CAUSE IN BEING UNIFIED AGAINST A COMMON ENEMY – THE JEWS.

AFTER THE THIRD WAVE WAS PUBLISHED IN THE WHOLE EARTH CATALOG, MY PUBLISHER LEARNED ABOUT IT AND THOUGHT THE STORY WOULD MAKE A GOOD NOVEL FOR STUDENTS. THEY ASKED ME TO WRITE IT. AT THE SAME TIME, A TV MOVIE BY THE SAME TITLE WAS RELEASED.

GRADUALLY, THE NOVEL BECAME POPULAR IN SCHOOLS BOTH HERE IN

THE UNITED STATES AND ALL OVER THE WORLD. IT IS ESPECIALLY POPULAR IN GERMANY, WHERE IT HAS BEEN REQUIRED READING IN MANY SCHOOLS FOR DECADES.

WHY IS THE WAVE SO POPULAR IN GERMANY? BECAUSE IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO THE GERMANS TO TEACH THEIR CHILDREN SO THAT IT WON’T HAPPEN AGAIN.

THIS BRINGS ME BACK TO THE QUESTION: CAN IT HAPPEN AGAIN?  THE ANSWER, I BELIEVE, LIES WITH YOU. PERHAPS THE QUESTION IS NOT NECESSARILY CAN IT HAPPEN AGAIN? BUT WOULD YOU ALLOW IT TO HAPPEN AGAIN? WHEN A LEADER COMES ALONG AND TRIES TO UNIFY YOU AGAINST A COMMON ENEMY. WHETHER IT IS PEOPLE OF COLOR, OR  MUSLIMS, OR MEXICAN IMMIGRANTS, WILL YOU BLINDLY FOLLOW? OR WILL YOU STOP AND ASK YOURSELF WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?

 

WILL YOU THINK FOR YOURSELVES?

In the documentary film “Lesson Plan,” the original students and teacher share their experience and the lessons they learned in the true story of The Third Wave. 

FINALLY, THERE ARE A NUMBER OF OTHER EXCELLENT BOOKS ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST FOR YOUNG PEOPLE.  STARTING, OF COURSE, WITH THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK.

AND MANY EXCELLENT MOVIES

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