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A Mother's Sorrow

A mother is trying to understand how the sensitive child she raised has become a hateful neo-Nazi.

In anguished tones, she spoke of her son.

She was trying to fathom how the boy she raised — a child so sensitive, she said, that he couldn't bear to see bees killed or trees cut down — could have become the hateful neo-Nazi she had just seen on television. She spoke of how he'd loved his parents, his taunting as a child by cruel classmates, the fact that a close friend had been black.

But Peggy Greenbaum couldn't explain it. Her 20-year-old son, now legally named Davis Wolfgang Hawke, is a national socialist, a young man who told a reporter that the killers of a black man in Texas should be convicted — of "cruelty to animals."

Now, Greenbaum was weeping. "I just don't know where it came from. He seems to be so full of hate and so power-hungry. ... I just don't want him to hurt anyone."

Despite Hawke's denial of his Jewish ancestry, Greenbaum — a woman who has been labeled by her son as a "race traitor" — says that one of his biological grandfathers was, in fact, Jewish.

As a boy, she said, he was taunted by children who called him "k---." Hawke also was beaten up by classmates who were jealous of his good grades.

"I thought I was doing this the right way," she said of raising Hawke, who was once pegged as the next Bobby Fischer because of his chess prowess as a youth.

"I just don't know what happened to him. ... I don't know what I could have done. ... Maybe because he has seen so much hatred in the world at an early age, this is his way of dealing with it."

Greenbaum said she had never known of her son's neo-Nazi attitudes or group until she read an account of him in a newspaper this winter. After that, she refused to call him until she heard about the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. Then, she felt, she had to.

"I said, 'Are you proud of yourself now? Maybe you're not going to kill someone, but what about your members? I hope you're proud of what you're doing.'"

Then, in tears, she hung up.