Not even Nazis buy that ex-FDU prof. Jacques Pluss never was a neo-Nazi
Jacques Pluss, the Fairleigh Dickinson University adjunct professor dismissed last spring after his involvement in the National Socialist Movement became public, certainly made a convincing Nazi. The question now is whether anyone should believe his current claim his Nazi days were all a put-on.
According to the SPLC, the NSM, which Pluss joined, is especially troubling because of its recruitment of children.
Pluss, 5′ and a Ridgewood resident, was an adjunct political science and history professor at FDU in Teaneck from the spring of ‘003 until March, when reports surfaced that he was a member of NSM along with audio clips of Pluss speaking on NSM’s Internet radio program, "White Viewpoint."
Though not officially fired, Pluss was put on permanent suspension, ostensibly because he missed six classes in the spring ‘005 semester.
Shortly after his dismissal, Pluss derided FDU on White Viewpoint, calling it a "diploma mill" for minority students and claiming that his only real students were "white Aryan American students," while he had "nigger to the core" basketball players in his classes, "who have no right to sit in a middle school classroom."
At the time of his suspension, FDU officials would not comment on the professor, and Pluss would not speak with The Jewish Standard.
But on Jan. 16, Pluss posted an essay on the Website History News Network, "Now It Can Be Told: Why I Pretended to Be a Neo-Nazi," in which he claimed that his membership in NSM, from February ‘005 until the fall, was a sham, perpetrated in the name of historical research.
"Throughout the course of my academic career, I came to hold in deep respect the scholarship of the French Deconstructionists, particularly Jacques Derrida and Michele Foucault (especially Foucault’s Archeology of Knowledge and his History of Madness)," he wrote on HNN.us. "At the same time, my work in teaching and in academic writing has been heavily influenced by the notion of Geistesgeschichte, as articulated by one of the premier medievalists, Ernst Kantorowicz. All of those scholars stress, each in their own way, the need for the historian to ‘become’ her or his subject in order to develop a relationship with it."
Whether it is true, his story is compelling. After not returning calls from other media, Pluss spoke with the Standard this week in a wide-ranging telephone interview.
He said that he wanted to follow up his first book, the self-published memoir "Jumping Fences," with a work that would allow him to use method acting or the observer approach to do historical research. Becoming a Nazi was not his only choice, he said, as he looked into a number of radical fringe groups both on the left and the right. But he settled on NSM, which bills itself as America’s Nazi Party, because "they were the most hard hittingly obnoxious group that I could discern."
The NSM is a dangerous group, according to Mark Potok of the hate-group watchdog The Southern Poverty Law Center. It is filling a White nationalist power void left by the recent collapse of what were the country’s three major neo-Nazi groups the Aryan Nations, the National Alliance, and the World Church of the Creator and the group is growing rapidly. "In terms of number of chapters," he said, "it is the largest group out there right now," though the Alabama-based SPLC is trying to figure out exactly how many chapters and members the NSM has.
"But it is a particularly unpleasant group because it specifically targets young kids in a rather unusual way. It formed a whole unit of early to late teens."
It is also known for dressing officers and members in Nazi regalia. Pluss said that he filled out an online application for NSM that asked him about his ancestry and such questions as whether he had ever felt oppressed because he is white.
He answered that he was of Swiss and German descent and "I simply told them that I was a working academic who found himself on the wrong side of political correctness and I hadn’t found a political group that was, let’s say, willing to fit my views."
He now calls those answers fabrications and claims that his mother, Nina Beth Bucalo, was Jewish and that her mother’s last name was Volf, from a town in Bavaria called Alpfeld.
Within a week, he said, he received a membership packet from NSM that included "obnoxious literature with pictures of concentration camps, a manual on how to be a storm trooper, and a tape of a National Socialist Movement meeting in ‘004, so I could watch it and get all excited."
Pluss said that he did not tell anyone that his joining the group was a masquerade, including his mother, his fianc?e, his friends, or his colleagues, because he wanted to stay true to the character he was creating.
Pluss said that his academic credentials he holds a doctorate in medieval history from the University of Chicago and a degree in civil law from Queens’ College in Cambridge and was a tenured professor at William Paterson University in Wayne led him quickly through the NSM ranks.
He was quickly introduced to NSM national officer Mike Blevins, the group’s "minister of radio," who hosts White Viewpoint under the name Von Bleuvens, and Pluss said that he was appointed a national officer in the NSM’s ministry of information, which required that he appear regularly on White Viewpoint and write articles for the group’s online newsletter, "Aryan Attack."
"The topics are completely monochromatic with these characters," he said. "All you need to do is knock on the issue of the Jewish world conspiracy, the danger of the browning of America through the mixture of the black and white races, and infiltration on the southern border, if you can do it and stomach it at the same time."
He also attended national NSM meetings and rallies in Kansas City and Yorktown, Pa.
He characterized his personal interactions with the Nazis and the NSM as "strange, very strange . It is a group of people who take hate as a form of religion for whatever reason . It was like hanging out with a sect or a cult. As long as you agree with the general movement standpoint, you could talk about anything, from the speech you just heard to the weather," he said.
Pluss, who said that he spent nearly half of his time on his NSM "research," noted that his dismissal from FDU enhanced his status. But in September, after his mother died, he claims that he started to wear down and the masquerade had "taken an emotional toll."
So he sent his resignation to NSM national commander Jeff Schoep, stating that, "’I hereby quit because you are dishonest with funds and a bunch of thugs,’" Pluss said. "I didn’t tell them until a week later that I had in fact infiltrated them."
Since the publication of his History News Network essay, he has been derided on neo-Nazi Websites and chat boards with posters trying to poke holes into many of his claims, and he has been chastised on academic Websites for his methodology. Pluss, who is a horse trainer with a stake in a local horse farm, said that he has received threatening anonymous calls and messages, such as one that said, "We are going to get you, you horse-f-cker."
But the debate now centers on whether his story is true. The NSM, for one, is not buying it, according to the group’s spokesman, Bill White. "He’s full of it, and he’s been full of it for a while," White told the Standard by phone from Roanoke, Va., where he is a real estate developer and commander of the region’s outpost. "If you read his story, everything that comes out of the guy’s mouth is make-believe. We knew there were some inconsistencies when he was in the NSM."
The major inconsistency, said White, is that Pluss did not resign from the NSM. White said that the group’s leadership suspended Pluss because he was becoming psychologically unstable.
"He was having serious mental problems, to put it mildly," said White. "He made some phone calls to some people and said some odd stuff. Being involved in the politics we are involved in, we attract some odd people . After he was fired [from FDU], he started going downhill and started taking medications for depression."
White said that Pluss was suspended after a four-hour conversation Pluss, had with White Viewpoint’s Blevins, in which Pluss reportedly was "crying, acting erratically, and having some very serious problems . I got a call from Mike, and they wanted my opinion, and I gave them my opinion that we should suspend him and let him get his life in order. He was saying, ‘Why is Jeff the commander? I want to be the commander.’ He wanted a higher position than he had, and he wasn’t going over well with other members. He was sort of a weird personality."
When asked if he felt that Pluss was ever truly a Nazi, White responded: "I don’t buy his story [that he was pretending to be a Nazi] at all. None of us do . He contributed a lot of money." White said that Pluss signed on with the group and immediately paid its $600 lifetime membership fee, instead of a $’0 initiation fee. "Usually when people join, they are members for a while [before they become lifetime members]. He just joined as a lifetime member. I know he made some other financial contributions."
White suspects that Pluss may have become disenchanted with the NSM’s philosophy. He said he believes that Pluss "buys into the fantasy" of the Holocaust, and had fantasies about being a Nazi soldier.
"I saw a picture of him from his high school yearbook, and he was dressed in a German army uniform with a gun to his head," said White. (The Standard could not confirm this.) "I think he has had a lifelong fixation with it, and he got involved in the group. I think he thought it would be different than it was. A lot of people read the propaganda and they think it’s a fantastic idea about dressing up in uniforms. But the National Socialist Movement is a doctrine of life and a love for working people and universal harmony and order. And we have to set the world straight when it has gone astray."
In that world vision, said White, each race has a core essence and function. Whites are the leading and creative race, and Jews are a non-race bent on destruction and chaos, while blacks are a "blank slate" that has been corrupted by the Jews, who manipulated the civil rights movement to create chaos. When asked if NSM believes in Hitler’s model for creating order, White said that NSM does not believe that death camps ever existed, but he does endorse the idea of barring Jews from public office, the media, and universities, as well as "rehabilitation through labor."
He said that the NSM has units organized in "upwards of 150 cities."
Pluss, when asked if he ever bought into the NSM’s ideology, responded, "No. Oh my God, no." But he later said that its members are "of the sort that have a weak personality and are looking for some sort of organization to join to give them some self-esteem or a father figure. Often that would be Adolf Hitler. They fantasize about him. They can relate with him on a personal level, though it’s absolute crap. Most of them could not have told you anything historical about him . The Third Reich era has always been a side historical interest of mine."
As for Pluss’ story, New Jersey Anti-Defamation League director Etzion Neuer said that he’s not buying it.
"We’ve seen no remorse for any of the many racist statements he made as a Nazi," he said. "I’d say it really leaves us with a lot of questions."
Potok said that the Southern Poverty Law Center has had Pluss on its radar for months, and that it saw nothing to suggest that Pluss is not a Nazi.
"Whether this guy is a Nazi or not, he is certainly a fool," said Potok, who oversees the group’s Klanwatch Project. "He is the kind of person who brings academics into disrepute, and for good reason. Normally when people do these kinds of things and are serious about it, they tell people about it. What would have happened if a neo-Nazi had killed Jacques Pluss when he was out slumming? I just find this whole story ridiculous and extremely difficult to believe."