The American Nazis of the German American Bund, 1930s

After Hitler came to power in 1933, some German Americans formed groups to support the Nazi Party in Germany and attempt to influence American politics. The most infamous of these groups was the "German-American Bund", which tried to model itself as the American arm of Hitler's Third Reich.

Although these groups wore uniforms and promoted swastikas, in reality, they had little connection to Nazi Germany and had minimal support among the larger German-American community. Nevertheless, the group strongly promoted hatred for Jews and attempted to bring Nazi-style fascism to the United States.

Early support for American fascist organizations came from Germany. In May 1933, Nazi deputy Führer Rudolf Hess authorized German immigrant Heinz Spanknobel to form an American Nazi organization.

Soon after, the "Friends of New Germany" was formed in New York City with the help of the German consul. The organization was based in New York but had a strong presence in Chicago.

The organization led by Spanknobel was openly pro-Nazi and engaged in activities such as storming the German-language New Yorker Staats-Zeitung by publishing Nazi-sympathetic articles and seeking the infiltration of other non-political German-American organizations. Spanknobel was removed as leader and later exiled in October 1933 when it was discovered that he had failed to register as a foreign agent.

The organization existed in the mid-1930s, although it has always been small, with a membership of between 5,000–10,000. Mostly German citizens living in the US and German expatriates who had recently become citizens made up their ranks.

The organization engaged itself in verbal attacks against Jews, communists and the Treaty of Versailles. By 1935 the organization was openly supported by the Third Reich, although Nazi officials soon realized that the organization was doing more harm than good in America, and in December 1935 Hess ordered that all German citizens be called Friends of New Germany. Leave these; Also, all the leaders of the group were recalled to Germany.

Shortly after the Friends of New Germany fell out of favor and destroyed the Nazis, a new organization with similar goals emerged in its place. Founded in Buffalo/New York in March 1936 and calling itself the German-American Bund or the American-American Bund or the Americandeutscher Volksbund, the organization chose Fritz Kuhn as its Bundesleiter.

The organization was soon flooded with those calling themselves "Germans in America" ​​and dreaming of the day when Nazism would rule the United States.

Although he was instructed not to accept German citizens into his organization, he was not one to turn down anyone interested and many immigrants joined. It is estimated that about 25% of the members of the Bund were German citizens—the rest were mostly first or second generation Germans.

The Bund soon began organizing rallies filled with singing of swastikas, Nazi salutes and German songs. The Bund built recreational camps such as Camp Siegfried in New York and Camp Nordland in New Jersey. It also established Camp Hindenburg in Wisconsin, and the group often met at Milwaukee and Chicago beer halls.

The Bund created an American version of the Hitler Youth that educated children in the German language, German history, and Nazi philosophy. Although the organization tried to differentiate itself from the previously unsuccessful Friends of New Germany, the German Foreign Ministry commented that "in fact ... they are the same people, with similar principles, and the same appearance".

In the summer of 1937 the Bund began to attract the attention of the federal government as rumors spread that Kuhn had 200,000 men ready to take up arms.

An FBI investigation of the organization was conducted during that summer but found no evidence of wrongdoing. Later in 1938 Martin Dice of the House Un-American Activity Committee wildly declared that Kuhn had 480,000 followers. More accurate records show that at the peak of his power in 1938, Kuhn had only 8,500 members and another 5,000 were "sympathetic".

In February 1939, Kuhn and the Bund held their largest ever rally at Madison Square Garden - ironically, this marked the beginning of the end of the organization.

In front of a crowd of 22,000, a giant portrait of George Washington, swastikas and American flags, Kuhn attacked FDR for being part of a Bolshevik-Jewish conspiracy, calling him "Frank D. Rosenfeld" and criticizing the New Deal. . Which Kuhn considered the "Jewish deal". Three thousand members of the Bund's militant wing, the Ordnungsdienst, were on hand, and encounters broke out between those in the crowd who had come to besieged Kuhn.

After the rally, New York District Attorney Thomas Dewey arrested Kuhn on charges of theft and forgery. Not only was he indicted for these charges, but he also confessed to being arrested several times for drunkenness, having extramarital affairs, and earning $15,000 from a Madison Square Garden rally. After the war, Kuhn was deported to Germany; He died there untimely in 1951.

After Kuhn's arrest, the Bund gradually dried up following the attack on Pearl Harbor, until its dissolution on 8 December 1941. After the United States declared war on Germany, federal authorities began to arrest Bund officers. Kuhn's successor Gerhard Kunz was captured in Mexico and sentenced to 15 years in prison for "subversive activities".

In the end, the Bund's of German immigrants had little power, if any, and often made average Americans less sympathetic to Germany, as the Bund's highly anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi views did not play well with the American public. Even Nazi Germany realized this and attempted to distance itself from the dam.

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