German-American Bund

From Academic Kids

The German-American Bund was an American Nazi organization established in the 1930s.

The Bund was originally two organizations established in the US in the 1920s. The NSDAP and the Free Society of Teutonia were small groups with only a few hundred members. NSDAP member Heinz Sponknobel eventually consolidated the two groups and created "The Friends of New Germany."

Soon after their formation, the Friends came under attack from two fronts. The first was a Jewish boycott of German goods in the heavily German neighborhood of Yorkville on the Upper East Side of New York City. The Friends tried to counter this boycott using propaganda and intimidation. The second problem for the American Nazis came from Jewish congressman Samuel Dickstein, who headed an investigation against them. An internal battle was fought for control of the Friends and in 1934, Sponknobel was ousted as leader. At the same time, the Dickstein investigation concluded that the Friends supported a branch of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany in America.

After the investigation, Hitler ordered all German nationals to withdraw from the Friends. On March 19, 1936, Hitler placed US citizen Fritz Kuhn at the head of the party in order to make Americans respond more positively.

The name Friends of the New Germany was changed to The German-American Bund (Bund meaning federation).

After taking over, Kuhn started to attract attention to the Bund through propaganda film strips which outlined the Bund's views. Later that year in 1936, Kuhn with some 50 fellow Nazis boarded a boat to Germany, hoping to receive official recognition from Hitler during the Berlin Olympics. Unfortunately for Kuhn, he was probably the last person Hitler wanted to meet, because Hitler wanted his American Nazis to remain non-aggressive and work quietly. The Bund enjoyed the climax of its influence in February 1939, when its members gathered at Madison Square Garden to celebrate, allegedly, George Washington's birthday. 20,000 members attended. Despite the high number, estimates predict that total membership was never over 25,000.

The Bund was one of many German-American heritage groups, however, it was one of the few to express Nazi ideals. As a result many considered the group anti-American. In 1939 a New York tax investigation determined that Kuhn had embezzled money from the Bund. The Bund operated on the theory that the leader was absolute and did not seek a prosecution. However, in an attempt to cripple the Bund, Kuhn was prosecuted. Several leaders followed Kuhn, most notably Gerhard Kunze. However these were only brief stints, since Martin Dies and the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) would not let a Nazi sympathizer organization operate during World War II.

During World War II most of the Bund members were placed in internment camps, and at the end of the war some of its members were deported. The Bund itself failed to become a major force in American politics and eventually it died out. However, its influence is still felt on a number of American neo-Nazi groups.

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