Teaching kids to kill, in Gaza and beyond

Click photo to download. Caption: A third grader in Gaza is pictured on the New York Times website Aug. 29 (for an article that appeared in the newspaper's Aug. 30 print edition) wearing a headband with “jihad” slogans and military-style camouflage pants, while carrying a Kalashnikov rifle and marching alongside adult members of the Islamic Jihad terrorist group. Credit: Screenshot of nytimes.com.

By Rafael Medoff/JNS.org

For most third graders, the school year began this week with the hustle and bustle of new teachers, fresh notebooks, and crisply ironed uniforms. But the third grader in Gaza whose photo appeared in the New York Times on Aug. 30 wore a different kind of uniform: a headband with “jihad” slogans and military-style camouflage pants, while carrying a Kalashnikov rifle and marching alongside adult members of the Islamic Jihad terrorist group.

The macabre practice of educating children to hate and kill, honed to deadly perfection in Nazi Germany, is alive and well 70 years after the end of the Third Reich. It is now to be found in a different part of the world, and the youngsters who are being raised to murder speak a different language, but the targets—once again—are Jews. 

It was no secret that the Nazis were teaching German children to glorify hatred and violence. At a press conference in September 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt himself expressed concern that the German government seemed to be preparing young people for war with Germany’s neighbors. He related a story he had heard from an American tourist in Germany, about an 8-year-old German boy who in his bedtime prayers each night would say, “Dear God, please permit it that I shall die with a French bullet in my heart.”

One of the ways in which Americans learned about the Nazi indoctrination of Germany’s youth was from Disney. During World War Two, Disney created a series of short cartoons to support the American war effort and expose the nature of Nazism. They were shown in movie theaters, prior to the main feature. 

Click photo to download. Caption: Palestinian boys raise their hands during one of the first classes of the 2011-12 academic year at a school in Gaza supported by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Credit: UN Photo/Shareef Sarhan.

One episode, called “Education for Death: The Making of the Nazi,” follows a German child, “Hans,” as the Nazi school system turns him, step by step, into a worshipper of Adolf Hitler. When Hans’s teacher shows the pupils a fox capturing and eating a rabbit, Hans makes the innocent mistake of expressing sympathy for “the poor rabbit.” As a result, he is made to sit in the corner with a dunce cap, while another student gives the “correct” answer: “The world belongs to the strong… The rabbit is a coward and deserves to die.” Finally surrendering to peer pressure, Hans agrees that the rabbit was “a weakling” who got what he deserved. The teacher then provides the moral of the story: the German people are “an unconquerable super race” who will “destroy all weak and cowardly nations.” The Disney narrator concludes: “For now his education is complete—his education for death.”

CBS correspondent Howard K. Smith recognized that the Hitler Youth movement might be the Nazis’ most powerful weapon. He reported that he was “more afraid, more terrorized, at watching a squad of these little boys [of Hitler Youth], their tender faces screwed up in frowns to ape their idolized leaders” than he was at seeing “a panzer brigade of grown-up fighters.” After all, when it came to Germany’s soldiers, “we only have to fight… But we shall have to live under the children who are being trained for their role,” Smith explained.

That was precisely why Hitler lavished attention and resources on the Hitler Youth. “With them, I can make a new world,” he once remarked.

Members of Hitler Youth played a prominent role in many infamous atrocities, from forcing Vienna’s Jews to scrub the streets with toothbrushes in 1938, to the mass shooting of Jews swimming from sinking boats in the German harbor of Lubeck, just before Germany’s surrender in 1945. While other branches of the Nazi apparatus collapsed or surrendered in the waning days of World War Two, Hitler Youth remained fanatically loyal to their Fuhrer to the very end.

Today’s fanatical child-terrorists are not limited to Gaza. On the same day that the photo of the third-grader with the Kalashnikov appeared in the New York Times, a 14 year-old girl in France was arrested as she attempted to travel with two other teenage girls to the Middle East, to join a jihadist group.

Meanwhile, in Lebanon, the 60,000-member Mahdi Scouts movement has been serving as a “feeder” movement for the Hezbollah terrorist organization, according to the Times. Children who belong to the Mahdi Scouts are trained in “resistance or military activities,” and are made to study books in which “Jews are described as cruel, corrupt, cowardly, and deceitful, called killers of prophets.” When the scouts are old enough, they join Hezbollah. 

Rafael Medoff

The Mahdi Scout movement is the largest group within the Lebanese Scout Federation. That federation, along with the Boy Scouts of America and other scouting movements from around the world, are all part of the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM). Last year, longtime U.S. Boy Scout leader Scott Teare was elected secretary-general of the WOSM. There is something disconcerting about an American who represents the noble values of the Boy Scouts sitting side by side with a scouting movement whose largest component is part of a terrorist group—in fact, a terrorist group that has murdered an estimated 300 Americans.

Expelling the Mahdi terror-scouts from the world scouting movement will not solve the problem of extremists raising their children to commit murder. But it would be an important first step in the process of the civilized world finally making it clear that such abuse of children will not be tolerated. 

Dr. Rafael Medoff is director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, www.WymanInstitute.org.

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Posted on September 2, 2014 and filed under Analysis, Education, Israel, World, Opinion.