The Strangest Reason Yet I’ve Gotten for Missing Classes

It’s that time of year in the academy: grandmothers and other dear relatives are dropping like flies, at least according to our emails, as final paper due dates draw near. It is a dangerous time for the elderly.

But a couple of weeks ago, one of my better undergraduates comes to my office to tell me he’ll be missing a few classes to fly to Germany to join his uncle chasing down a 97-year-old Nazi his uncle had befriended in hopes of serving him with some sort of civil law suit for his activities during the Holocaust. (I’ll leave that a run-on to give a sense of how quickly this info was coming at me, after discussing Aristotle’s theory of substance with the previous student.) He returned yesterday to class a little tired from his journey, and it’s depicted in the New York Times today (thankfully, I can link to it since it doesn’t have his name: he’s the nephew mentioned in the story).

The article gives a good feel for the (seeming?) strangeness of the whole enterprise, not least the uncle who has somehow funded buying up Nazi materials for years and has book and film plans for this, while taking his non-German-speaking nephew to Germany for … well, I did ask a lot of questions…

It’s just not often that your student’s reasons for missing class are covered in the New York Times. Of course, he better get that make-up work in…


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