Dr. Fred L. Casmir grew up in a working class neighborhood during an extraordinary time of propaganda and dictatorships. Hitler came to power when Dr. Casmir turned five years old. He remembered witnessing Nazi marches, the barricades on the cobblestone roads, and policemen with rifles. Chaos and turmoil seeped into his life as a young boy, which compelled him to grow up fast. But his faith in the Lord guided him through these tough times.
Hitler wanted to restore Germany’s identity after their loss in World War I. Casmir vividly remembers, “In the beginning, the Nazi Party tried to maintain a Democratic image, but they were only a one party system.” With new art forms such as dance, drugs, and jazz circulating across the world during the Roaring 1920s, it became a perfect time for Hitler to employ his propaganda for his vision of total law and order in Europe.
Hitler’s Nazi Party continued their propaganda campaign to gain political popularity. Manipulation employed by the Nazi Party spread throughout Germany. They dressed well, and provided food and income for the poor, which enabled them to build false relations with the German people. Dr. Casmir notes, “Adults saw their lives change for the better. When there is insecurity, where a country does not have a direction, it’s dangerous. Under that guise, freedom is an abstract concept.” Dr. Casmir became looped into this abstract concept of freedom against his will. By the time he turned ten, it became mandatory for all children to join the Hitler Youth under the false Democratic Nazi Party.
Dr. Casmir eventually became a leader in the Hitler Youth . He rose in the ranks quickly and led three hundred boys. They had strict rules to not listen to BBC radio, or risk being branded a traitor, and then executed. During his time, he saw people burned to death and he survived two air raids by the time he turned fifteen years old. Threats on his life loomed everywhere. However, God’s Spirit indicated another path for him. So he “did something that was very odd. Not Nazi-like. [He] became confirmed in the Lutheran Church.”
Dr. Casmir was drafted at age 16. Berlin was the capital of Nazi Germany and was the target of heavy bombing raids by the Allies. As a result of the bombings, he “was twice buried under buildings.” He fought the Russian forces in a Luftwaffe founding unit, “during the last bloody months of the war in 1945.”
Soon, under God’s direction he escaped Germany before the Russians could capture him.
“Had I been arrested as a Hitler Youth leader in Berlin, [after fighting] the Russians East of Berlin, [I would have been sent to the] deadly Russian work camps.” But, “that was another one of God’s interventions…Through a series of miraculous interventions by God I escaped the final Russian encirclements, ending up in Northern Germany where I surrendered to British forces.”
Dr. Casmir managed to flee and surrender into the British zone of occupation. He later ended up at his uncle’s home in Frankfurt, in the American zone. After WWII ended, he continued to live with extended family in Western Germany, separated from his parents in Communist East Germany.
Dr. Casmir then met an old Catholic high school friend who introduced him to a Bible study with members of the Church of Christ. He remembers, “[we] both attended Bible classes in their home. He stopped, I kept on and was baptized. After that I was invited to go to the US, and studied to prepare for the ministry.”
Dr. Casmir received his BA at Lipscomb College in Nashville during his first trip to the US. During Dr. Casmir’s second trip to the US in 1954, he studied for his Masters and PhD at Ohio State University. K Otis Gatewood, a leading missionary in Germany, wanted Dr. Casmir to have those degrees as preparation to lead the training for European teachers and preachers. That opportunity fell short, and Dr. Casmir focused on writing two dissertations, one of which centered on Hitler’s rhetoric, while simultaneously preaching. This led to job searches at churches and Church of Christ colleges in the US. Pepperdine college and East Los Angeles Church of Christ called Dr. Casmir for service.
God continued to represent Himself as the Architect in Dr. Casmir’s life and led him to have an enduring impact on Pepperdine. As he states, “God’s impact continued.” He received an invitation letter from the Churches of Christ to preach, his ministry being funded by earned income as a Pepperdine College professor. It was at Pepperdine where he would earn multiple awards of teaching excellence, and leave an enduring legacy at the Communication division.
Dr. Casmir began his 42-year teaching career at Pepperdine in 1956. He was one of the founding professors of the new discipline of Intercultural communication. His later efforts led to the combination of Intercultural and international communication, which is now the International Studies Division. Dr. Casmir lectured all around the world because he developed a professional academic international reputation for giving lectures, consultations, and conferences. According to a 2002 Graphic article, “Casmir emphasized hard work and dedication in his classes. Despite his heavy demands, he was a teacher who would go the extra mile to help students achieve their goals if he saw effort and desire on their part.”
The staff of the 1997 Pepperdine Impressions Yearbook dedicated the issue to him for his years of service in the university. In the introduction, Dr. Casmir reflected on the “Timeless Tradition” of the University, saying:
“Sometimes I wonder if today we too often go our own, individual ways, and possibly even in directions which challenge the basic reason Mr. Pepperdine gave for establishing the school…I am encouraged by the fact that today there are those among us students, faculty members, administrators, staff members—who continue the traditions of a school which considers God rather than human beings to be the foundation for its value system. I am sure there will always be some who come here mainly because they wish to receive an excellent education for their own benefit- – but even they will be touched by those who see service and dedication to the well-being of others as the primary reason for their existence in this world. Things have changed. The building and the facilities are more beautiful, the educational process has been enriched, the name of the school is now known around the world. Yet, a unique future for our school will only be assured if we remember the past and dedicate ourselves to the ideals which were its foundations.”
Today, his piece of advice for the younger generation is, “We need to understand and trust the Holy Spirit, given us in baptism along with forgiveness of sins, so we do not engage in a life-long attempt to rely only on our limited talents, abilities and strength as we live our lives in Christ, but with real spiritual power, and certainly with the gift of many fruits He is able to provide for us” (Galatians 5:22).