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It’s an election year, so everybody is talking about nazis

Globally, the policies of the Third Reich are gaining traction again. From South African white rights groups to Norwegian white power bands, from anti-immigrant far-right political parties to xenophobic attacks on African or Middle-Eastern refugees, self-styled Nazis are bustin' out all over the place.

But we don't have to look to the Old World to find pro-Nazi sympathies. Take a moment to consider the role Nazis have played right here in the Greater New Orleans Metropolitan Area. I’m talking, of course, about Jefferson Parish, where our locally-grown Hitlerites have been remembering the dream of the Thousand Year Reich since the Eisenhower administration.

Racist demagogue and ex-convict David Duke may be the most notable citizen of Jeff Parish to don Nazi attire(as he did at LSU in the late 1960s), espouse eugenic sterilization (as he did in 1991, while representing Metairie in the Lousiana Legislature), and speak with pride at Hitler Fest(1980, in North Carolina), but he’s far from the only Jeffersonian who thinks the Nazis are cool. He’s not even the most recent: Current political has-been John Labruzzo also proposed eugenic sterilization in 2008 when he represented the same Metairie bigots that once supported Duke’s political ambitions.

But Nazism isn’t just for Jefferson Parish politicos. In 2010, Armand Kerlec, a supervisor in the Parish’s Traffic Engineering Department, reached an undisclosed settlement in a workplace discrimination lawsuit for using Nazi salutes and saying “Sieg Heil” when a Jewish employee was around. A year earlier, in the Sewerage Department, another supervisor was disciplined for having a noose and a whipping post in the workshop. In both cases, the stalwart Caucasians claimed that their threatening and offensive behavior was “just a joke,” and Metairiens laughed along.

Even unemployed, mentally-imbalanced Jeff Parishites are in on the joke. In 2008, Westwegan Devin Plaisance was stopped by police at 10:30 pm one night as he strolled down the sidewalk “clad in a Nazi uniform, carrying a high-powered World War II rifle” and a pocketful of bullets, on his way “to kill an elderly family friend,” according to the cops. The dispute between the men revolved around a dog in the backyard, but Plaisance boldly took it to the next level, a power move that would have impressed even Hermann Göring. Plaisance’s own mother begged that her son be institutionalized, but the wisdom of JP law enforcement decided that he was well enough to be tried, adjudicated, and released. He has committed more crimes since, but these days he keeps his SS duds in the closet.

And then there are all those conferences of Klansmen and Nazis held in Jefferson Parish, going back as far as 1976, when the “World Nationalist Conference” met for a racism-studded weekend in a Kenner hotel. Similar groups of white hatred have assembled periodically within the Parish, rarely mentioned in reputable media but seething with indignant bigotry all the same. U.S. Representative Steve Scalise found himself in hot water for speaking at the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, or EURO, in 2002 at the Landmark/Best Western Hotel in Metairie. Scalise later denied knowing that the organization, founded by David Duke, was a hate group when he addressed the white crowd.

It may come as no surprise that the roots of Jefferson Parish’s pro-Nazi sympathies actually extend back to the early 1950s, when teenage white boys declared their loyalty to the Third Reich by forming the Nazi Stormtroopers Club. The lads, aged 13 to 15, carried membership cards featuring a photo of Adolf Hitler, and operated out of an abandoned grocery store on Metairie Road. Initiation rituals required jumping from a moving train, breaking lights or windows with rocks and “striking a Negro on the head with a brick.” When police raided the den of Nazis they found several stolen guns and ammunition, as well as dozens of knives. Officers further suspected their involvement in fabricating a home-made bomb, found at the abandoned Old Metry Theater earlier in the spring of 1952.

The Stormtroopers’ 15-year-old leader, described by police as “a defiant and intelligent youth,” called the Nazi Fuhrer a “great man,” and asserted “Hitler is alive and in Argentina and I am going there.” In his room police found “Nazi war helmets, swords, and literature” alongside his school clothes.

The gang was busted when an 8-year-old kid ratted them out after they broke a window in a Lakeview home, but not before one of the enterprising Hitler Youths threw a 10-pound slab of concrete through the window of a train, injuring two African-Americans. The rascals were turned over to their parents, although authorities suspected the group was organized “with the assistance of adults with Nazi sympathies.”

If those young men are still alive today, they are considered venerable elders of the community. Makes you wonder if, in their late 70s, they still believe that Hitler survived the war.

I’m not saying Jefferson Parish has a problem with Nazis, but people with problems in Jeff Parish often find comfort in a Nazi state-of-mind. It resonates with a racial pride undiminished by complete and total defeat.