BOB GARFIELD: We're back with On the Media. I'm Bob Garfield.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And I'm Brooke Gladstone. Writing last week in the Washington Post author Paul Berman noted that Iraqi exiles who liken the Iraqi regime to that of Nazi Germany may not be so far off base. European totalitarian movements of the last century do share some fundamental traits with that of Saddam's -- paranoid ideologies, a total police state, a taste for murder. De-Nazification was accomplished through the actions of many government and non-governmental agencies after the war, but the first action, of course, was undertaken by American G.I.'s. Ottomar Rudolf is an emeritus professor of German and the Humanities at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. That's today. He was born in 1929 and raised in Nazi Germany. For his first 15 years everything he knew was filtered through the lens of Nazi ideology. The analogy is far from perfect, but we thought he could shed some light on the challenge America is confronting now. Professor Rudolf, welcome to OTM.
OTTOMAR RUDOLF: Thank you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So when did you first begin to come under the influence of Naziism?
OTTOMAR RUDOLF: When I went to school; I would say basically about when I was 10 years old. The war was then going well; it was 1939, '40 and the victories were left and right, and that of course was elating to us young boys.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: You were in the Hitler Youth?
OTTOMAR RUDOLF:Yes. All of us were - mand-- it was mandatory to go into the service of the Hitler Youth, and we as young boys enjoyed it - we liked it. If I wouldn't have my family this could have easily been the route towards a S.S. soldier. I came home one day with a picture of Adolf Hitler. And I wanted to put it on my wall. My father was irate and took it right down. My-- my mother said, "listen - this is our Fuhrer. Why don't you let him do it?" This is the first time I saw and heard my father and my mother argue in a way which you can't understand. I could have easily turned them in! And he would have been sent to a camp or at least to a prison -- if I would have turned them in --as many young people did!
BROOKE GLADSTONE: But it never occurred to you to do that.
OTTOMAR RUDOLF: No. No-- I think my bonds to my father and especially to my mother were much greater.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Given the intense bombing that was going on, it's not hard to imagine the German attitude towards the Allies.
OTTOMAR RUDOLF:Yes. My home city was destroyed -- over 68, 69 percent. There were terror bombings which we called terrorist. I even wrote an essay for my school class in German titled We Shall Pay Them Back, These War Gangsters.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: What was your first encounter with the Allies like?
OTTOMAR RUDOLF:My first seeing of an allied soldier was American -- and we saw the American G.I. coming in on their jeeps with their uniforms which were-- we considered no uniforms -- how could they have such a uniform?! [LAUGHTER] Look at the German uniforms! What kind of boots did they have? They had rubber soles. Look at the German boots. That's manly. I mean they were no soldiers! How in the world could they conquer Germany?! I discovered very soon how generous they were -- giving chocolate -- of course also chewing gum which we liked in that time, and food. And that helped immediately to break that vicious circle of Nazi propaganda.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So-- the bombing of the cities that was supposed to instill terror instead built rage--
OTTOMAR RUDOLF: It did.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: -- and the distribution of food helped to dissipate it.
OTTOMAR RUDOLF:Yes. And I, I should add to that very soon came perhaps the most important food package in my life -- a care package. And we received quite a few of those care packages to really change our minds towards the Allies, and especially in that respect to America. The Americans were never really hated as such. It is just that "the Jews rule America" --that's the way we were taught. And then of course the bombing didn't help either. But that dissipated because of food packages.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: When did you begin to hear the truth about what had been going on during the war?
OTTOMAR RUDOLF:I came over in '49 to New York at the city where many, many Jewish people lived -- that's where I first time heard of a concentration camp. I understood that the Jews were not tolerated; I understood that the Jews were put into camps -- but that they would be annihilated -- it slowly dawned on me that the big lie which Dr. Goebbels fed us daily through his speeches was just a big lie. I could probably say that I was as a young boy a kind of a militarist. I believed in the, the military power of a man -- and that slowly dissipated while I was in New York. For instance, I never heard of the author Kafka while I was in Germany! [LAUGHTER] Because he was Jewish, of course. So one of the greatest German-writing authors, Kafka, I would not even know! I slowly saw what was happening to me -- that this was a -- 15 years of brain-washing.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: You mentioned Goebbels who was a master and an innovator in many ways of manipulating the mass media in all of its aspects.
BOB GARFIELD:That evil genius, Dr. Goebbels, who as you know was minister of propaganda in a dictatorship, in a totalitarian state, propaganda becomes so essential they even bring it up to a ministerial position, and the power this man had over the media including radio, movies-- well all of the media what we have was so great that a vacuum existed after it was over.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:As you read about the madrassahs that teach young Islamic men how to hate the West, what do you suggest the West should do, given your experience.
OTTOMAR RUDOLF: The first thing is that we must understand their culture. And then bring in the propaganda -- yes, a propaganda -- with native speakers who will be able to tell them about the truth which really we live by -- an entree to our culture -- but not go against their culture and say you are evil.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And care packages?
OTTOMAR RUDOLF: That is the best way of bringing the people to understand that we are loving and caring people which America is.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well thank you very much.
OTTOMAR RUDOLF: You're welcome.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Ottomar Rudolf is an emeritus professor of German and the Humanities at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. [MUSIC]