German American Bund

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Bund parade, East 86 Street, New York, October 30, 1939

The German American Bund (German: Amerikadeutscher Bund), also known as the German American Federation was a pro-National Socialist organization established in the United States March 29, 1936.[1] Often derided in the press as America’s Brownshirts, the organization was the successor of an earlier German American group, Friends of New Germany, which had a large number of non-American German nationals as its members. The Bund had strong ideological ties to the New Germany however there has never been any evidence National Socialist Germany ever financed the group.[2] According to the Justice Department the Bund had its largest membership of 8500 in 1937-1938.[3] Around this same time undercover reporters from the Chicago Daily Times who infiltrated the Bund for six months estimated their membership to be 20,000.[4] One of the Chicago reporters John C. Metcalfe believed 90 percent of German Americans did not support the organization or its activities.[5] The German American Bund slogan was "Free America!"[6]

The Bund held their meetings mostly in German however being of German descent was not a requirement for membership.[7] Forty percent of the membership was of non-German ancestry, most of these being Irish.[8] All members of the Bund had to be American citizens and of the Aryan race.[9] The one exception was the attempt to recruit American Indians into the Bund.[10]

German American Bund membership was mostly middle class. Working class German American immigrants tended to favor Social Democrats.[11]

Contents

Organization

Flag of the German American Bund

The German American Bund was formally organized at a national convention held in Buffalo, New York, on March 29, 1936 orginally named the German American Volksbund (Amerika Deutscher Volksbund). On June 3, 1936 the group was renamed the German American Bund. Fritz Gissibl was the national leader, later succeeded by Fritz Kuhn in December 1937. Kuhn became the head of three subsidiary or affiliated organizations: the German-American Business League, the A. V. Publishing Corporation, and the A. V. Development Corporation. The Bund’s newspapers were called The Free American and Deutscher Weckruf und Beobachter[12] The Bund also had a German Film Society.[13]

The Bund ran over twenty recreational camps many of these with rifle ranges and gun clubs affiliated with the National Rifle Association (NRA).[14] The Bund was organized into three “Gau” or regional divisions located in New York City, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles.[15] The eastern division Gau Ost had forty locals, Gau Mittelwest nineteen locals and Gau West ten locals.[16] The only significant representation of the Bund in the South was in the small German-American community of Taylor, Texas.[17] German Americans who made up the Bund were mostly recent immigrants; those who have been in the country for generations seldom belonged to the Bund.[18]

The Ordnung Dienst was the uniform division of the Bund.

Madison Square Garden rally

German American Bund Rally Poster at Madison Square Garden, February 20, 1939

On February 20, 1939 the German American Bund held a meeting in Madison Square Garden in New York City in celebration of the birthday of George Washington which drew an estimated audience of more than 22,000.[19] Bund banners proclaimed "Americans-Stop Jewish Domination of Christian America" and "Smash Jewish Communism." Rally program Recorded audio address of Fritz Kuhn before the Madison Square Garden rally.

Decline of the Bund

In 1939, seeking to cripple the Bund, New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia had the city investigate the Bund's taxes. It found that Kuhn had embezzled over $14,000 from the Bund, spending part of that money on a mistress. District Attorney and later presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey pressed charges and won a conviction against Kuhn. On December 6, 1939 Kuhn was sentenced to two and half to five years in prison.[20]

Kuhn’s successor as leader of the Bund was Gerhard Wilhelm Kunze. With Kuhn’s absence the Bund began its demise and by the time America entered the war it was of little consequence.[21]

The German American Bund claimed to have disbanded itself on December 8, 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. [22] However, key leaders and local units went “underground” and operated during the duration of the war as sports teams, singing societies and social clubs.[23] On December 13, 1941 a concert was held in Brooklyn by the Volkeschor a German American singing choir that was earlier formed by the Bund. After the concert was over it was stated the German American Bund would continue under the guise and name of the Volkeschor.[24]

In October 1942 the Justice Department started a nation-wide effort to revoke the American citizenship of naturalized members of the Bund and place them in American internment camps.[25]

Headquarters

The German American Bund headquarters was located at 178 East 85th Street in New York City.

National leaders and notable members

Fronts and subsidiaries

Bund recreational camps

There were 24 Bund recreational camps in the United States. Nineteen of these had adjacent youth camps.[26]

Bund Publications

Newspapers

Papers issued by Friends of Germany and the German American Bund

Newsletters

Notes

  1. Organized Anti-Semitism in America, Donald S. Strong, page 23
  2. Nazis in Newark, By Warren Grover, page 177
  3. Encyclopedia of White Power, by Jeffrey Kaplan, p. 96
  4. Chicago Daily Times September 9, 1937
  5. Investigation of un-American propaganda activities in the United States, page 8
  6. Under Cover, by John Roy Carlson, page 46
  7. Sworn testimony of Otto Decker
  8. Testimony of Fritz Kuhn, August 6, 1939, before the House of Un-American Activities Committee, page 3886
  9. Testimony of Fritz Kuhn, August 6, 1939, before the House of Un-American Activities Committee, page 3724
  10. Chief Red Cloud on Metapedia
  11. Organized Anti-Semitism in America; The Rise of Group Prejudice by Donald S. Strong, page 34
  12. Trial on Trial: The Great Sedition Trial of 1944, page 158
  13. Sworn testimony of Otto Decker
  14. "Long Island Nazis: A Local Synthesis of Transnational Politics" Long Island History Journal Volume 21, Issue 2, Spring 2010
  15. [http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Fascism/Support_Hitler_US.html Support for Hitler (or Fascism) in the United States
  16. Shadow Enemies: Hitler's Secret Terrorist Plot Against the United States, by Alex Abella, Scott Gordon, page 59
  17. The Establishment in Texas Politics: the Primitive Years, 1938-1957, By George N. Green, page 72
  18. Organized Anti-Semitism in America; The Rise of Group Prejudice by Donald S. Strong, page 33
  19. The Great Brown Scare: The Amerika Deutscher Bund in the Thirties and the Hounding of Fritz Julius Kuhn
  20. The Great Brown Scare: The Amerika Deutscher Bund in the Thirties and the Hounding of Fritz Julius Kuhn
  21. The Great Brown Scare: The Amerika Deutscher Bund in the Thirties and the Hounding of Fritz Julius Kuhn
  22. Insidious foes: the Axis Fifth Column and the American home front, by Francis MacDonnell, p. 45
  23. UNITED STATES v. BAECKER et al. March 25, 1944
  24. Loyalty On Trial: One American's Battle With The FBI, by Erik Wolter, page 120
  25. War Relocation newsletter October 5, 1942
  26. Shadow Enemies: Hitler's Secret Terrorist Plot Against the United States, by Alex Abella, Scott Gordon, page 60
  27. Nazi Summer Camps In 1930s America?

See also

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