Nazi supporters held huge rallies and summer camps for kids throughout the United States in the 1930s.
- During the 1930s, thousands of Americans sympathized with the Nazis, holding huge rallies.
- The rallies were organized by the American German Bund, which wanted to spread Nazi ideology.
- Nazi supporters also organized summer camps for kids to teach them their values.
Having radical fringe groups tearing at the seams of America is not a new phenomenon. Less than a 100 years ago, the Nazis were gathering for big rallies on U.S. soil, running youth camps, their numbers growing by tens of thousands.
In the America of the 1930s, pro-Hitler groups like The Friends of New Germany carried out propaganda and intimidation campaigns to disseminate the National Socialist agenda. Their members wore uniforms, consisting of a white shirt and black trousers for men, topped by a black hat with a red symbol. Female attire included a white blouse and a black skirt.
In 1936, the Amerikadeutscher Volksbund, or German American Bund, was created as "an organization of patriotic Americans of German stock." They ran around 20 camps for youth and training, eventually establishing 70 regional divisions around the nation.
The ostensible goal of the German American Bund was to represent Americans of German descent but its true objective was to promote the views of Nazi Germany. The Bund played into the growing "America First" stance that sought to keep the U.S. out of World War 2, while amplifying its racist messages.
A Bund parade in New York, October 30, 1939.
Credit: Library of Congress
One of the most astonishing events held by the Bund was the "Americanization" rally it held at Madison Square Garden in New York on February 20th, 1939. The event, attended by 20,000 people, consisted of railing against Jewish conspiracies, President Roosevelt and similar sentiment. While speaking, the leader (Bundesführer) of the organization, Fritz Julius Kuhn (a chemical engineer by trade), spewed anti-Semitism, calling the President "Frank D. Rosenfield" while describing his New Deal as a "Jew Deal". He referred to the U.S government as a whole as "Bolshevik-Jewish" and kept attacking the press and American culture as being run by the Jews.
The rally featured a giant banner of George Washington, as the speakers tried to link the event to his birthday and supposed non-interventionist positions.
Huge crowds of up to 100,000 people comprising of anti-Nazi protestors also came to make their voices heard at this event, but were held back by 1,700 New York police officers.
For chilling footage and more on the Manhattan rally, check out the Academy Award-nominated short documentary film A Night at the Garden:
Besides the rallies—there were many held throughout the '30s—one of the main efforts to inculcate Nazi ideology in America took place in summer camps.
Audrey Amidon from the National Archives shared the significance of the camps in her interview with Gizmodo:
"The summer camps, complete with the official uniforms and banners of the Hitler Youth, might be the most visual and chilling example of the [Bund's] attempts to instill Nazi sympathies in German-American children," said Amidon.
The camps had boys and girls from 8 to 18, most often the children or grandchildren of German immigrants. Nearly a quarter of all U.S. citizens was of German descent in the 1930s, but the vast majority of them did not support Nazi ideology.
Along with usual activities you might find at a summer camp, the kids who attended were taught about Hitler's racial ideas, dressed in Nazi-esque uniforms, practiced drills and addressed higher-ups with Hitler salutes.
One prominent such camp was Camp Siegfried, in the Yaphank hamlet on Long Island. The town regularly held Nazi parades, while its streets were named after Hitler and his top brass like Goebbels.
Credit: Herald Tribune
Postcards from Camp Siegfried
The Bund's activities obviously wound down as the U.S. entered World War 2, with many of their leaders eventually arrested as enemy agents. For more striking fascist Bund camp footage, check out this home movie:
A new study from Ohio State University details implicit bias.
- New research from Ohio State claims we cannot separate how someone looks and sounds.
- Volunteers were asked to look at photos and listen to audio, and were told to ignore their face or voice.
- "They were unable to entirely eliminate the irrelevant information," said associate professor Kathryn Campbell-Kibler.
Postmates is a way of life in Los Angeles. So when a young Black driver recently crossed paths with a woman outside of her building while delivering food to another apartment, you might initially be shocked at her response. While the woman claims her reaction is not racist—not only does she refuse him entry, but after he calls the apartment and talks to the man on other line, she even denies that he lives in the building—her use of the term "boy" says it all.
Would she have reacted similarly if the driver was white? While no definitive answer can be given, a new study from Ohio State University finds that his race is not only an issue, the woman would have not been able to ignore it even if she wanted to.
The distance between implicit and explicit bias has been studied for years. In this research, published in Journal of Sociolinguistics, Associate Professor Kathryn Campbell-Kibler, in the Department of Linguistics at OSU, asked 1,034 volunteers to look at photos and listen to audio of people speaking to determine if they immediately judged someone by their looks or accents.
Almost across the board, they did.
8 powerful speakers that might make you think differently about racism | Big Think
In some cases, volunteers were told to evaluate how "good-looking" the people in the photos were; in others, they were asked to judge their accents. One cohort was not given guidance; they looked at a photo and listened to a voice. Others were told to ignore the face while listening, and vice-versa. Some were even told that the voice was not from the same person they were looking at.
It didn't matter. In most cases, volunteers expressed critical judgment of either their face or voice. As Campbell-Kibler says,
"Even though we told them to ignore the voice, they couldn't do it completely. Some of the information from the voice seeped into their evaluation of the face."
Detaching face from voice is a difficult endeavor. The first time I heard Welsh actor Matthew Rhys' true accent was while watching "The Wine Show," which he filmed shortly after wrapping up work on "The Americans." It took me a few minutes to rationalize what I was seeing. Now I can't get his actual speaking voice out of my head while watching the drunken private investigator transform into the lawyer we knew Perry Mason would become.
Jonathan Gartrelle (L), participating in a protest against police brutality, confronts a demonstrator taking part in a counter demonstration advertised as a Law and Order Rally that was also supporting President Donald Trump on June 14, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Rhys is paid to speak English with an American accent. The stakes are low for me as a viewer. Out in the real world, where racism is as prevalent as ever, the situation is different. Implicit bias affects everyone, which means racism and xenophobia are conditions we have to work at correcting in ourselves. It won't come natural. Campbell-Kibler continues,
"We found that people could exercise some control over what information to favor, the voice or the face, depending on what we told them to do. But in most cases, they were unable to entirely eliminate the irrelevant information."
She notes that even though most participants were white, they were careful to not racially stereotype. Volunteers told to ignore faces while listening to accents performed best for this reason, though some admitted they had to make a conscious effort to do so.
Volunteers took no issue with judging the photos good-looking, believing looks to be subjective. Campbell-Kibler wants to follow up this research using videos instead of photographs to observe the impact of watching others on the screen.
The takeaway: we are influenced by all of the information available to us at all times. Our biases will make themselves apparent. Course-correcting is not natural, but thankfully, it is possible.
Monuments are under attack in America. How far should we go in re-examining our history?
- Historical American monuments and sculptures are under attack by activists.
- The monuments are accused of celebrating racist history.
- Toppling monuments is a process that often happens in countries but there's a danger of bias.
History is not only the stuffing of Wikipedia articles but a live process involving you right now. As is evidenced bluntly by 2020, history is an undeniable force, here to change our societies and force us to re-examine everything we think and know before you can say "news cycle." So far we've had one of the worst pandemics of the modern era, with thousands dead and economic livelihoods uprooted around the world. We've had the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, spurred on by the murders of African-Americans by the police, unleashing pent-up frustrations at systemic injustice. We also find ourselves in an amazingly divisive election year, probably one of the worst periods of rancor in the life of the country. American "heroes" are getting re-examined left and right and statues are getting torn down.
All the upheaval places focus on the role of history in our society. How much of it do we want to own up to? How much are current American citizens responsible for the sins of their ancestors? Which men (and yes, mostly these are men) are allowed to stay up as bronze reminders of some heroic past, and which ones need to finally go to the far reaches of our collective unconscious? Do Confederate monuments and statues deserve to stay as part of the legacy of the South, or does it make any sense that a period of history that lasted about 5 years and produced attitudes that were actually defeated in a bloody Civil War is allowed to percolate in the minds of the population? It is as if a tacit agreement was kept up all these years where the victors allowed some such traditions to remain in order to foster a spirit of reconciliation.
Mob pulling down the statue of George III at Bowling Green, New York City, 9 July 1776.
Painting by William Walcutt. 1854.
There is a big danger, on the other hand, that as the conversation turns to exorcising ghosts of currently unpopular attitudes, we are doing it through the lens of presentism. It's a bias of judging the behavior of historical people through the standards of today. Oxford helpfully defines it as "uncritical adherence to present-day attitudes, especially the tendency to interpret past events in terms of modern values and concepts." We tend to view our present time as the best, most advanced socially and intellectually. And as such judge all others as inferior. While that may be true (certainly debatable), it's unfair to view how people reacted to situations around them within the constraints and prejudices of the society of their day. It's probably how people of a couple of hundred years from now will judge us, who still eat meat, as some kind of utter barbarians, a lesser humans.
Our present knowledge comes at the heels of wisdom gathered by generations before us. It is accumulated over time and by that standard should be richer, informed by greater experience and examination. Yet, is it fair to say that a person living 150 years ago should not have had the attitude shared by most people of his or her time, who only knew what they could know by that point in history? The intelligence of societies grows not only intellectually, reshaping their governments, but emotionally. It has taken the world a while to grow in that regard, to become mature in empathy and it's obviously nowhere near where it should be in such evolution.
As it is biased to judge a person from a different era for not having the moral foresight to stand up to his or her peers and end the tyranny of injustice, that is also no excuse to celebrate attitudes and statements that go squarely against what we believe in now. A bad idea is like a virus. It can take hold and come back quickly, infecting millions. We have all seen that happen too often recently. If you think it's no big deal to have statues of abolitionists and slave owners around, imagine if you were a Jewish person and had to pass by a statue of Heinrich Himmler, the Nazi architect of the Holocaust, every day on the way to work. It would just casually be there, kept up by people who believed that despite the times he subjected people to inhuman treatment and death, Himmler did a lot of other "good things" and represented the heritage of the people of the town. As that scenario would be unacceptable, so are a lot of statues kept up around the United States as vestiges of a past we do not need to remember with veneration. And for those who are wondering – no, Germany does not have any Nazi statues or memorials around.
People in Rome tear down the statues of Mussolini. July 25, 1943.
Photo by Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images.
If you think this debate concerns only Southern "heroes," it took until this year to start taking down statues of Juan de Oñate, the Spanish conquistador who rampaged through what is now New Mexico in the late 1500s. In 1599, he ordered a massacre at the Acoma Pueblo, killing about 500 of its men and 300 women and children. Many were thrown off a tall mesa to their deaths while survivors had their legs cut off. And yet, you could find statues of this man all over New Mexico. Only this year, they started to come down.
Ultimately, there's a big lesson here for statue-makers and those prone to worshipping idols. Even the Bible spoke about this. Respecting and learning from historical figures is extremely useful and necessary, but putting anyone up on a pedestal is generally a losing proposition. Eastern Europe saw a whole century of statues being torn down every few years in the 1900s – from monarchic rulers to Communist heroes who would fall in and out of favor, then a whole period of pulling down Lenin and Stalin figures in the 90's. Western Europe had its own idol carousel. Many other countries across the world, who've had tumultuous histories and had to undergo historical reckonings did the same. It's a process that happens in societies that experience change.
Of course, the big question is – how far should this go? How far back do we have to extent the soul-searching to expunge all the wrongs in our country's past? Do the iconic Presidents get a pass? Are they coming for Mount Rushmore, put up on Native land without permission, and the Washington Monument? Besides being one of the country's main Founding Fathers, Washington was a lifelong slave-owner who changed his mind about the practice and freed all his slaves by the end of his life – the only Founding Fathers with slaves to do so.
Statue of Lenin in Berlin, Germany On November 13, 1991.
Photo by Patrick PIEL/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
Removing or altering some of the country's main symbols is probably a nonstarter at this point. But there can be correct acknowledgements and payments made, according to our current laws. It's legitimate to have concerns about dangerous ideas from the past but there have to be boundaries and the right pace. When you you start retooling your whole foundational mythology quickly, you get violence and revolutions. People are not going to give up on what they have been taught for generations easily and what is part of their culture. Still, this doesn't make such conversations not worth having, since what constitutes tribute to Southern heritage and values to some is a continual slap in the face to others, celebrating people who enslaved them and brutalized them for centuries. Status quo is not acceptable in such an equation.
But what about the once-taboo topic of asking national forgiveness with money – paying reparations to people brought to the country as slaves and to Native Americans who were largely exterminated and whose land was taken? In his seminal essay "The Case for Reparations" for The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates argues that the early American economy was built on slave labor and the wealth that was accumulated on the backs of the enslaved created a tremendous wealth gap that persists today in dramatic fashion, in a ratio of 20 to 1 (of white to black wealth).
"Perhaps no statistic better illustrates the enduring legacy of our country's shameful history of treating black people as sub-citizens, sub-Americans, and sub-humans than the wealth gap," he writes. "Reparations would seek to close this chasm. But as surely as the creation of the wealth gap required the cooperation of every aspect of the society, bridging it will require the same."
Could we achieve such cooperation now? At the moment, only about 20 percent of the American population would support paying reparations to descendants of slaves.
Statue of Lenin taken down in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. October 2012.
Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
As Ta-Nehisi Coates calls it, the notion of reparations is "frightening" to many because it might incur major economic costs and maybe most importantly, it "threatens something much deeper—America's heritage, history, and standing in the world."
While the issue of paying for past sins might further drive a wedge into an already-divided society, Coates believes putting a number on the historical events that led to American prosperity being "ill-gotten and selective in its distribution."
He further proposes that paying reparations would be more than just a payoff but would lead to "a healing of the American psyche and the banishment of white guilt," adding "What I'm talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal."
The cultural reexamination unleashed by the recent protests linked to widespread police brutality taps into the undercurrents of the American psyche. What's surprising is that so many Confederate statues can still be found around the U.S. – approximately 1,800 such monuments to be exact. Think about that – almost 2,000 signals of past attitudes that were defeated in a war and have been legislated against since. And yet, there they are, like guardians of not-so-secret inclinations America is unwilling to let go.
As many rightfully fear, however, efforts to tear things down based on the emotion of the moment can lead to mob rule and often less-than-nuanced opinions on history. A country deserves its past and whitewashing it doesn't change the facts. But all people living in the country today, which is much more diverse and getting more and more so, according to clear census data, have a right to be part of a society that values their sensibilities and respects them equally. Hanging onto to imperfect idols is understandable on the part of a population that is becoming less and less able to wield its will over minorities but ultimately futile, as the statues will come down as they always tend to do. The question is – will they come down as part of an elevated national consciousness or amidst violence? As coronavirus continues to expand its grip on the country, a more measured approach would serve us well.
Numerous U.S. Presidents invoked the Insurrection Act to to quell race and labor riots.
- U.S. Presidents have invoked the Insurrection Act on numerous occasions.
- The controversial law gives the President some power to bring in troops to police the American people.
- The Act has been used mainly to restore order following race and labor riots.
The nationwide protests that were catalyzed by the police killing of George Floyd led to the possibility that President Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act. This piece of legislation would presumably justify the use of the military to quell the demonstrations that on numerous occasions turned violent. The legality and reality of that is still under debate, highlighting a very controversial power of an American President. While the U.S. military is banned from participating in law enforcement activities on its own soil, the Insurrection Act can provide the exceptions.
The Act was signed into law by Thomas Jefferson in 1807, and has a long history of being used to quell race and labor-related riots. The first time the act was modified was in 1861, when in anticipation of the calamity that would follow the Civil War, a section was added allowing the feds to use the National Guard and the army even against the wishes of state governments. The language specified the case of "rebellion against the authority of the government of the United States" as the cause that would justify sending in the troops.
The 1871 amendment to the act was actually meant to protect African-Americans from attacks by the Ku Klux Klan. The new wording stated then that the federal government can invoke the act for the enforcement of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This came into play during the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War and in the course of the desegregation incidents that were part of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s.
One important caveat to the use of the act – since 1967 it has only been invoked upon request from the states and not under exclusive authority of the President. The actual wording of the act states its purpose is to address "whenever there is an insurrection in any State against its government, the President may, upon the request of its legislature or of its governor if the legislature cannot be convened," call upon military troops. A 1956 provision, however, says the President can use it without state governments in cases where "unlawful obstructions" or "rebellion against the authority of the United States, make it impracticable to enforce the laws". In the current situation in the U.S., following the George Floyd murder at the hands of the police, the states have not asked Trump for such help.
Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
One of the early Presidents to invoke the act was Andrew Jackson. He used it to put down the slave rebellion by Nat Turner in 1831 and to settle a labor dispute by workers of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal in 1834.
Ulysses S. Grant relied upon the Insurrection Act several times, for the suppression of the Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina in 1871 and to put down the unrest that started after the contested 1872 Louisiana gubernatorial election.
Rutherford B. Hayes used the Insurrection Act for the troops needed to deal with the Lincoln County War of 1878, the one that famously involved Billy the Kid.
The tensions brought on by the railroad worker Pullman Strike of 1894 and the 1914 mine worker uprising dubbed the "Colorado Coalfield War" forced, respectively, Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson, to rely on the act to bring back order.
Colorado National Guard troops during the Ludlow strike. 1914.
Credit: Survey Associates, Inc.
In more modern times, the Insurrection Act's re-appearance is tied exclusively to breakdowns in race relations. It was employed by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1943 Detroit race riot and by Dwight D. Eisenhower to protect the Little Rock Nine – a group of nine African American students enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957. John F. Kennedy used the act a couple of times, both times to fight segregation. He called upon it during the Ole Miss Riot of 1962 and to enforce desegregation in Alabama's public schools in 1963.
Lyndon B. Johnson was most prolific in engaging the Insurrection Act, resorting to it four times – during the bloody 1967 Detroit riot as well as the 1968 riots in Washington, D.C., Chicago and Baltimore that were precipitated by the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King.
In recent times, President George H. W. Bush was the last one to invoke the act, calling up troops to restore calm in the 1992 Los Angeles riots, prompted by the beating of Rodney King.
National Guardsmen in South Los Angeles, 30 April 1992.
Photo credit: HAL GARB/AFP via Getty Images
The current focus on the Chinese and Jews is nothing new.
- Pandemics have historically brought out racist and xenophobic tendencies.
- COVID-19 has sparked conspiracy theories against Chinese and Jewish populations around the world.
- Racist tropes spread online have real-world consequences that are harming communities.
In the fourth and fifth centuries, Christians were called upon to practice alousia. Known as "the state of being unwashed," the only time these faithful were allowed to bathe was during baptism. Any other instance of putting soap and water together for the sake of cleansing one's skin, according to "The Dirt on Clean" by Katherine Ashenburg, "signified vanity and worldliness."
Humans have always had strange bathing rituals (or lack thereof). As one instance of the bubonic plague claimed 25 million European lives in the 14th century, the University of Paris's medical faculty discovered the cause: the conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars "caused disease-infected vapors to rise out of the earth and waters and poison the air." The most susceptible? Anyone taking hot baths, which opened the pores and allowed the vapors to penetrate.
There was a two-century stretch in which Europeans refused to bathe. Muslims and Jews, both with their own extensive histories of cleansing rituals, long suspected their Christian neighbors of being filthy. Not that early Christians left their peers off easily. They believed these silly rituals with soap and oils and water were the actual source of scourge. Dirtiness was divine. So long as their linen shirts were cleaned and pressed, whatever went on beneath was as nature intended.
Nature doesn't intend so much as adjusts. Bacteria and viruses couldn't care less about rituals. Their goal is to proliferate, not pontificate. While today we've course-corrected too far thanks to an obsession with antibacterial soap, good hygiene has always been wrapped up with mysticism and ritual—as well as racism.
David Patrikarakos points out that the bubonic plague provided an opportunity to scapegoat Jewish communities, which have long been subject to unfair scrutiny. "Hundreds of Jewish communities perished too," he writes, "their inhabitants slaughtered out of hatred and fear." The Black Death was yet another in a series of instances that "rebirthed an ancient idea: that the Jews are to blame."
Strange ideas about cleanliness persist. For instance, in early twentieth-century France, dirt was thought to nourish your hair. The anti-aging protocol du jour involved keeping your skin as oily as possible. Our neuroses about health always seem to get the best of us. A recent Pew study discovered that roughly 30 percent of Americans believe that COVID-19 was created in a laboratory. Again, a profound misunderstanding of nature—in this case, our relationship with other animals.
As Patrikarakos notes, Turkish state-run television recently promoted the idea that Jews and Zionists engineered the novel coronavirus to "neuter the world's population." An Algerian news outlet jumped on the same bandwagon. Never to be outdone, some American pastors and Reddit commentators (always the crème of our nation, them) believe the pandemic is God's way of exterminating Jews. By this point, you'd think the Big Guy would have been able to handle that directive.
Let's not leave out the Chinese, who have taken the brunt of this current aggression. The "Chinese virus" rhetoric coming from the White House has real-world consequences for Chinese-Americans (and relationships with China broadly). That doesn't mean, as Bill Maher suggested last week, we cannot use the geographical location in naming the virus. He lists plenty of examples:
"Zika is from the Zika Forest, Ebola from the Ebola River, hantavirus the Hantan River. There's the West Nile virus and Guinea worm and Rocky Mountain spotted fever and, of course, the Spanish flu."
An Israeli rabbi walks next to the body former Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel Eliahu Bakshi-Doron, who died from complications of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection the previous last night, during his funeral at the har HaMenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem on April 13, 2020.
Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images
Maher's larger point is relevant and unfortunately absent in many discussions regarding this pandemic. It's possible to both recognize that this virus appears to have originated in an exotic animal market—a danger that we've been warned about since at least 2007 specific to Chinese markets (by researchers in Hong Kong, no less)—and not be racist and xenophobic. We can work toward banning food stalls that threaten public health without abandoning Chinese restaurants in America. Yet it doesn't appear that we're able to hold two ideas in our heads anymore.
While I don't have extensive experience debating on a stage, I recall an essential part of the training: you have to argue whatever point you're assigned. This sometimes means arguing for a perspective you're personally against. The best debaters learn this skill. The rest spend their time trolling on social media.
Debate prep arms you with critical thinking skills necessary for navigating a confusing and at times contradictory world. It forces you to stop reacting emotionally after reading the lede of an article without bothering to click through. We have reached, as Patrikarakos writes regarding the invented DC pizzeria pedophile ring, "the perfect embrace of the sinister and the absurd."
Thus, next to posts about 5G killing birds (false) and causing coronavirus (false) and Bill Gates being sued by India (false) and vaccines causing autism (false), the ultimate conspiracy must be between the Chinese government and Zionists tanking the global economy in order to…to…
Writing about smallpox in 19th-century Britain, Ashenburg writes that the unintended transmission of disease (in this case through the eyes of Charles Dickens's 1853 novel, "Bleak House"), "is a forceful reminder that the neglect of its weakest members makes society as a whole vulnerable." Along the way, we finally recognized that soap and water is necessary for public health. Now if only we can find the magic formula that ends our toxic love affair for racist and xenophobic conspiracy theories, during times of pandemics and otherwise.