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That hair! Those eyes! That swastika!

INSIDE/OUT

The first of two parts.

I can count on one hand the great loves of my life, and the one I

count on my little finger is a tall, brown-haired girl named Aubrey.

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Aubrey and I were 14 when we met. She was the first big crush of

my life, and my first girlfriend. And it would have been among my

happiest childhood memories were it not for the fact Aubrey turned

out to be a Nazi.

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OK, she wasn’t a real, swastika-wearing Nazi -- more a Nazi

sympathizer. She didn’t goose-step around campus or wear brown shirts

and boots or anything like that. Instead, she wore the same peasant

blouse and bell-bottom jeans that were popular then. She had the same

feathered, Farrah Fawcett hair as did all the girls at my school. In

fact, if you squinted your eyes just right, she looked just like

Farrah, or so I tried to convince my friends at the time.

So far as I could tell, the only thing that really stood her apart

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from all the other girls was the way she carried herself when she

walked -- perfectly straight, chin up high, as though she’d spent

hours walking with a book on her head or carrying a torch in some

fascist rally.

But I never suspected her of being a fascist. I just thought she

had great posture.

I fell for Aubrey the first time I laid eyes on her, which was as

she walked to school one morning and crossed the path of my friend

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Buck and I. I immediately turned to my friend Buck and said, “She’s

the one -- she’s the girl for me.”

But for all my outward confidence, I almost passed out from shock

the day I asked her out and she accepted. Not sure what actually

constituted a date, I took her to our school’s big annual talent

show. Somewhere between Judy Rincon doing the hustle and David Perez

crooning “Three Times a Lady,” Aubrey and I started holding hands.

After that, we were inseparable. We walked to school together and

waited for each other after class to walk home. We went to the movies

and to football games and kissed behind the P.E. bleachers. We talked

for hours on the phone every night, or mostly I talked, about all the

places in the world I wanted to take her. Aubrey was a great

listener.

As I said, it would have been perfect, but it all came crashing

down when I called her one night to tell her about a show I had just

seen on TV. The miniseries “Holocaust” was airing for the first time,

chronicling the story of a doomed European Jewish family during World

War II. We had studied the Holocaust in school, but the film brought

the catastrophe into my living room, made me realize for the first

time that these were real people who perished, not just faceless

figures in a history book. I asked Aubrey if she wanted to come over

the next night to catch the second episode with me.

“No, I don’t believe in that stuff,” she replied.

“What do you mean, you don’t believe in it?”

“I mean I don’t think it happened,” she said matter-of-factly. “I

mean, sure, some Jews were killed, but not so many as they say. And

the ones that were killed probably had it coming.”

Having grown up in a heavily Latino city, among people who

suffered daily from racism in their lives, I had never heard such

words spoken. “How can you say that?” I shouted, suddenly very upset.

“Millions were killed -- women, children, old people.”

Aubrey was silent for a long moment, and I began to think that

maybe she was just putting me on, when she said, “Well, they had to

kill a few good people to get all the bad ones.”

Her words knocked the wind out me. My mouth worked, but nothing

came out of it. “I ... I ... look, I’ll talk to you later,” I said

finally, and hung up.

The next day, I met Aubrey after class and walked her home in

silence. The words she had said the night before played over and over

in my mind, but I figured if we didn’t talk about it, I might forget

them, or she would come to her senses. I sometimes catch myself doing

this with the racists I come across today.

Aubrey and her parents lived on the second floor of a duplex not

far from my house. I had already met her parents, Susan and Al, and

they had seemed like nice enough people. But when Aubrey invited me

upstairs, I hesitated. What if the way her parents had acted before

had been just that, an act, and now they were all dressed like storm

troopers and had a big bonfire going? OK, you’re being stupid, I told

myself, and followed Aubrey upstairs.

Susan and Al were sitting on a couch in the living room, listening

to Merle Haggard on the stereo. “Hi, Dave,” Susan said. “Sit down,

sit down. Take a load off.” Aubrey and I sat on the loveseat across

from them. Her mother asked us about our day and we chatted for

awhile. I was so nervous I began to sweat.

“Aubrey told us what you talked about last night, Dave,” Susan

said. “Look, Aubrey really likes you ...”

“Mom!” Aubrey wailed.

“Shush. Look, Dave, if you’re going to be spending time with our

daughter, we think we should get a few things out on the table right

off.”

Susan then told me about how difficult it had been for the family

to move to a town where everyone was so blind to the truth. It was

especially hard for Aubrey, Susan said, because she had to sit in

class while her so-called educators tried to fill her head up with

lies. But fortunately, Aubrey had family who refused to allow her to

grow up with her eyes closed.

Susan then proceed to tell me all about the Big Jewish Conspiracy.

I’ve heard this anti-Semitic garbage several times since, but I had

never heard it before, and as I sat and listened my heart grew

heavier and heavier in my chest. The conspiracy, Susan said, was an

elaborate, multi-tentacled affair that had started before the birth

of Jesus and continued up through to present times. It somehow

controlled the White House, the civil-rights movement and NBC, jumped

the Atlantic to include Buckingham Palace and the Vatican, snaked its

way east to dominate the Soviet Union and China, then jumped back

across the ocean to pull the strings of all the financiers on Wall

Street.

Somehow, Susan insisted, the entire conspiracy was controlled by a

roomful of rabbis and the loan officer at the local Bank of America.

All the while she was speaking, Al kept nodding his said and saying

things like, “Yep” and “That’s right.”

I left the house two hours later in a daze. I felt like my ears

were bleeding. How could this be? How could someone as sweet and

pretty as Aubrey come from a family like that? I knew I had to break

up with Aubrey immediately. But ... but ... that hair! Those eyes!

That great posture! How could I dump Aubrey?

I couldn’t, was my heart’s answer. I decided that the best thing

to do was to stay with Aubrey and somehow convince her that her views

were all wrong. How would I do this? With the power of love.

I had recently seen the TV movie, “Summer of My German Soldier,”

in which Kristy McNichol meets German POW Bruce Davison while he’s on

work detail in a small Southern town. Her love manages to convince

the Nazi of the error of his ways. That’s what I’ll do, I told

myself. I’ll change Aubrey’s heart with the power of my love.

But it was perhaps because of that love that I had forgotten

“Summer of My German Soldier” ended with Davison being chased down

and killed by an enraged Southern mob.

Next week: Kristy McNichol and the fall of Berlin.

* DAVID SILVA is an editor with Times Community News. He can be

reached at (909) 484-7019, or by e-mail at david.silva@latimes.com.


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