The History of American National Socialism –
Part I: 1924-1936
In order to chart a course for American National
Socialism into the future,
we must know where we stand today.
And to have an accurate
understanding of our present position
we need to know where we came from.
By Martin Kerr
It is the goal of this series of articles to provide an outline of the
history of the Movement in the United States. But we are not interested here in a simple timeline recitation of names and
dates. Rather, we wish to provide a framework for a critical analysis of NS development. A hagiographical account, in which
every event and decision is presented as being necessary and perfect, will not accomplish our purpose. Instead, we must
be willing to ruthlessly examine the mistakes that were made as well as congratulating ourselves on the modest successes
of our struggle. For only in recognizing where things have gone wrong can we hope to correct any missteps we have made.
Although any telling of our story will inevitably highlight
the Movement’s leaders, we need to also keep in mind the countless thousands of rank-and-file members and supporters:
the nameless street activists who time and again risked life and limb for the cause; the women comrades who labored behind
the scenes in an often thankless support capacity; the financial benefactors who provided the economic wherewithal that
financed our efforts; and the silent aid rendered to us by sympathizers whose employment situation or family obligations
prevented them from openly proclaiming their National Socialist faith. If the well-known names of our leaders have provided
the head of the Movement, these unknown and unheralded comrades have provided its body.
The earliest manifestation of organized National Socialism in the US dates back to the early
1920s. Various private associations – clubs, really – sprang up in cities with a high concentration of German
nationals, many whom were newly arrived since the end of the First World War. Following the unsuccessful National Socialist
revolt in Munich in November of 1923, a number of members of the Hitler movement emigrated from Germany to the US. Little
clusters of like-minded men gradually found each other in the tightly knit German communities of cities such as Chicago,
Cincinnati, Milwaukee and New York. These little groups were formed mainly for social reasons, and none of them amounted
to much – and, indeed, expansion and recruitment were not really on their agenda.
One of these little groups was known as the American National-Socialist
League, but like the others, it faded away almost as soon as it had arisen, and vanished without a trace. The first serious
attempt at building National Socialism on these shores was the “Free Association of Teutonia.” It was founded
in October of 1924 in Chicago by 21-year-old Fritz Gissibl and his brothers Peter and Andrew. Joining with them in the enterprise
was 19-year-old Walter Kappe, who edited Teutonia’s small German-language newspaper Vorposten (“Picket”).
That the group even had a publication, as modest as it was, placed it head-and-shoulders above earlier NS efforts. Teutonia
quickly obtained a headquarters for itself by leasing a room in Chicago’s Reichshalle.
An early recruit to the group was Joseph “Sepp” Schuster.
He had been a member the Sturmabteilung in Munich, and had participated in the fateful march that had ended so tragically.
Schuster organized Teutonia’s equivalent of the SA. It was named the Ordnungsdienst, or “Order Service”
in English. Eventually, the OD wore uniforms patterned on those of the SA, with similar insignia. No doubt at the time forming
a uniformed paramilitary formation that copied the German model seemed normal and organic. But in hindsight it proved to
be an unfortunate development, from which the Movement still has not recovered today, for it set a precedent that every
subsequent NS group has followed – often to the Movement’s detriment, as we will discuss later.
Although it forthrightly supported the NSDAP
in Germany – which was a political party – Teutonia itself was not political or outward-looking in any way.
Rather, it limited itself to quietly building support for National Socialism among the sizeable German-American community.
Semi-public meetings were held every two weeks, and the proceeds from the meetings were used to fund German cultural activities.
On one occasion, at least, Teutonia used an airplane to drop leaflets. But its newspaper and other printed material were
in German, and there was no thought of recruiting non-Germans, nor of expanding the group in a political sense beyond the
In all, Teutonia
only had 400 or 500 members. Most were in the Chicago area, but there were small local chapters in other cities throughout
the Upper Midwest.
SPANKNOEBEL AND GAU-USA
key figure in the establishment of American National Socialism was Heinz Spanknoebel. Although virtually unknown today, he
played a pivotal role in the first decade of the Movement. Spanknoebel was a man of strong personality. Like all of us, he
had human weaknesses and shortcomings. But these were more than offset by his strengths. One of these strengths was his
insight into the true nature of National Socialism.
In the late 1920s, the NSDAP was a struggling fringe movement in German politics, and although it had small chapters
throughout the Reich, in practical terms it was largely limited to Bavaria. Hitler himself was considered a Bavarian firebrand,
and not a national political leader. But already at this time, Spanknoebel recognized the fundamental, world-changing character
of the NS worldview, and he recognized Hitler not just as the leader of a small extremist party, but rather as world-historical
figure of the first order. He envisioned a future in which National Socialism controlled the entire Earth, with a National
Socialist Germany dominating the eastern hemisphere and a National Socialist America dominating the western hemisphere. In
his vision, Hitler would rule one half of the world, and he, Spanknoebel, would rule the other half.
And here we encounter Spanknoebel’s first shortcoming: he had a greatly
exaggerated sense of his own importance and capabilities. But although we may today smile at his presumption to be Hitler’s
equal, that should not detract from his realization that National Socialism was far more than just a vehicle to rectify
the injustices of the Treaty of Versailles.
Like Gissibl and Schuster, Spanknoebel was a German National Socialist who had taken up residence in the US. He
investigated Teutonia and decided that although it was well-intentioned, something on a grander scale was needed to create
the NS America he envisioned.
the end of the 1920s, the NSDAP was a tiny party on the margins of the German political scene. In the 1928 national elections,
the party won a scant 2.6 percent of the vote. It struggled just to survive in Germany, and had no resources for and no desire
in establishing a functioning bridgehead in the US. It was distantly aware of the efforts of Gissibl and Teutonia on its
behalf, as they occasionally sent modest contributions to the party’s Munich headquarters, but there was no official
recognition of Teutonia as an NSDAP affiliate.
However, the 1930 election changed the party’s status. It went from being a fringe movement to the second-largest
party in the Reichstag overnight. Spanknoebel decided that to was time for him to act. He journeyed to Munich, and sought
out an audience with the NSDAP. He asked for permission to form an official branch of the NSDAP in the US. The details of
the meeting have been lost to history. Did he explain his plan to divide the world between Hitler and himself? Who knows?
But the result was that the party denied his request: there was to be no NSDAP chapter in America.
Undeterred, Spanknoebel returned to the US and dishonestly announced that
he had, in fact, been given authorization to form an American unit of the Hitler movement. In April of 1931 he formed his
group, which he called Gau-USA. Its headquarters was in New York City, which had a huge population of both German immigrants
and multigenerational German-Americans.
Gau-USA and Teutonia existed as competing NS organizations until sometime in 1932. Gissibl, under the impression
that Spanknoebel had official recognition from the NSDAP, voluntarily dissolved Teutonia and merged it with Gau-USA. Teutonia’s
local chapters became chapters of Gau-USA, and its Order Division was absorbed intact into Spanknoebel’s group, with
Sepp Schuster still at its head.
had a higher public profile than Teutonia, with a greater media presence. At the same time, more attention was being paid
in the press to the Hitler movement in Germany, which had become a force to be reckoned with.
Following the party’s ascension to power in January 1933, a letter
was sent by Rudolf Hess to Spanknoebel, asking him to stop falsely representing himself as the US leader of the NSDAP. It
further requested that he cease operations and disband his group. In April 1933, after Spanknoebel ignored the letter, a
second, more forcefully-worded letter was sent. This time Spanknoebel acquiesced, and disbanded Gau-USA.
Unfazed, Spanknoebel made a second pilgrimage to Munich, and again sought
audience with Rudolf Hess. He convinced Hess that there was huge potential support for National Socialist Germany in the
US among both German immigrants and among native-born Americans of German descent. He again asked for permission to organize
this support on behalf of the NSDAP. This time Hess relented. Spanknoebel returned with a letter of authorization from Hess.
With this letter as his foundational document, he reorganized the Movement in America as the League of the Friends of the
New Germany, generally known by its German initials FND. It officially came to life at a convention in Chicago in July 1933.
Like Gau-USA before it, FND was based in New York City.
FRIENDS OF THE NEW GERMANY
But rather than quietly organizing German-American support for Hitler’s Germany – which is what Hess
undoubtedly had in mind – Spanknoebel proceeded to build an open, confrontational NS movement that mirrored the early
history of the NSDAP. The Friends held uniformed marches and rallies that sometimes ended in bloody brawls with Jews and
communists. When there was an outbreak of vandalism directed against synagogues, Jewish merchants and Jewish cemeteries,
the FND was blamed. Much of the FND’s operations were conducted in the German language, which left many Americans
thinking that the group was foreign, un-American and somewhat sinister. The publicity generated by the FND was unrelentingly
negative. Rather than building sympathy for the New Germany, the overall impression it gave was that it was a subversive
group that owed its allegiance to a foreign government.
Spanknoebel further made things worse by enraging established German-American organizations and publications by
insisting that they subordinate themselves to him as Hitler’s American representative.
The members of the Friends, however, had faith that they were on the right
path – a path that they believed had been specifically charted by Hitler himself. They threw themselves into the struggle
with great enthusiasm and self-sacrifice, unaware that Spanknoebel had misrepresented the nature of his mandate from Munich.
German diplomats in the US followed the disastrous
progress of the FND, and dutifully reported it to Berlin, where the bad news was brought to the attention of Hitler and
Hess. Eventually, Spanknoebel was ordered by Munich to cease operations until further notice, as his efforts were doing
more harm than good to the cause of National Socialism.
Spanknoebel finally got the message. He resigned as leader of the FND and returned to Germany, where he enlisted
in the SS. He survived the War and settled in the shattered ruins of Dresden. There he was betrayed to the Soviet secret
police by a German traitor. He was arrested and died of starvation in a Soviet concentration camp in 1947.
In early 1934, Fritz Gissibl took the reins of the FND. Some 10 years after
first forming Teutonia, he was again the leader of American National Socialism. Under his renewed tenure, the FND made some
tentative steps to Americanize its image. German citizens and members the NSDAP were first discouraged from being members
of the FND, and later were formally prohibited from joining. Gissibl himself began proceedings to obtain American citizenship.
Printed materials from the time show that English was used as well as the German language in Friends literature.
Gissibl also began to steer the FND away
from the confrontational activities favored by Spanknoebel and to focus more resources and energy on building an NS community.
In 1934, a women’s auxiliary, the Frauenschaft, was formed, as well as youth organizations for male and female youngsters,
the Jugendschaft and Maedschenscaft, respectively.
Not all members were happy with Gissibl’s leadership, and in 1935 Anton Haegele and a small band of followers
broke away to form the American National Labor Party, which was later renamed the American National-Socialist Party. Their
newspaper was the National American, and it set a high standard of quality for Movement publications that was to last the
rest of the decade. The ANLP/ANSP was short-lived, but it was important in that it was the first attempt to create an American
National Socialism that as not simply an extension of the German movement and that was open to all Aryan Americans, not
The FND membership
threw itself behind Gissibl’s new initiatives, and the organization began to grow. This growth spurt did not go unnoticed
by the Movement’s numerous and powerful enemies, who did everything they could to hamper and thwart its efforts. A
congressional investigation designed to undermine and cripple American National Socialism was begun in 1934 at the behest
of Congressman Samuel Dickstein of New York. Dickstein’s stated goal was to eradicate all traces of National Socialism
in America. He was a Jew, and most observers felt that his zeal in persecuting the Friends was simply a manifestation of
the racial animosity that all Jews felt towards the Hitler movement. However, after the fall of the Soviet Union in the
1990s, documents came to light in Moscow that revealed that Dickstein was a paid agent of the NKVD, the Soviet Secret Service.
Dickstein convened hearings
of the House Un-American Activities Committee in Washington. Gissibl and other prominent members of the Friends were ordered
to appear for public interrogation in full light of the news media. There they were insulted and berated. Although the committee
was unable to find any evidence that the FND was engaged in illegal activities, they published a report in February of 1935
that described the group “Un-American” in its orientation.
The blatant persecution of the Movement by HUAC split the German-American community.
Many remembered the dark days of World War I, when all German-Americans had been suspected of being spies and traitors,
and were treated accordingly. Consequently, some German-Americans put as much distance between themselves and the Friends
as possible. However, others rallied behind the FND, as it defended itself in the face of the government and media onslaught
In Berlin, the NSDAP
reacted adversely to the overwhelmingly negative publicity. In the eyes of Hitler, Hess and other party leaders, the FND
was doing more to hurt the cause then to help it. Accordingly, in October 1935, an edict was issued severing all ties between
the Friends on one hand and the German government and NSDAP on the other. Gissibl resigned as the League’s leader,
and made a trip to Germany in a futile attempt plead his case. (Like Spanknoebel before him, Gissibl eventually settled
in Germany, and likewise joined the SS.)
In December, Fritz Julius Kuhn became the new Bundesleiter (League Leader). In March 1936, the Friends held a national
convention, where it was dissolved. A new organization was formed in its place, the Amerikadeutscher Volksbund (German-American
Folks League) which was to be popularly known as the German-American Bund.
The History of American National Socialism
Part II: 1936-1941
At its height, the Friends of the New Germany had approximately 10,000
members. This is 10 times the number of members that Gau-USA had, and 20 times the number of its predecessor, Teutonia.
By Martin Kerr
However, 60 percent of FDND members were German citizens, and were not
eligible for membership in the newly reorganized Bund. In a sense, Kuhn had to rebuild the Bund from the ground
Fritz Julius Kuhn was born in Munich in 1896.
He served as an infantry lieutenant during the First World War, and had earned the Iron Cross Second Class. Kuhn
and his wife Elsa emigrated to Mexico in 1923. They moved to the US in 1927, and Kuhn became a naturalized citizen
in 1933. He settled in Detroit and was employed as a chemist by the Ford Motor Corporation. He took an active
interest in ethnic politics, and became the leader of the Detroit chapter of the FDND.
A minor point, but one that is worth addressing: Kuhn’s title
was Bundesleiter. Historians and biographers, however, in error frequently refer to him as Bundesfuehrer. But
Kuhn himself was quick to point out that there was only one Fuehrer, and that was Adolf Hitler.
Under his determined and energetic leadership, the Bund grew steadily. By
the time it ceased operations in December 1941, the Bund had an organized presence in 47 of the 48 states (the
exception being Louisiana), with a combined 163 local chapters. A fully accredited chapter was known as a “unit.”
As a minimum requirement, each unit had a unit leader, a treasurer, a public relations officer and a nine-man OD
squad. Many units had a membership of over 100. Chapters that could not meet the minimum requirements were known
as “branches,” and were attached to the nearest unit.
The Bund was divided into three departments – Eastern, Midwestern
and Western – which in turn were divided into regions. The regions were subdivided into state organizations, which
were further organized by city, neighborhood, and even block-by-block where the membership warranted it. Total
membership is unknown, but probably exceeded 25,000. The uniformed Order Division had an estimated 3,000 members
The Bund published a weekly newspaper,
with both German-language and English content. It was initially called the Deutscher Weckruf und Beobachter (“German
Wake-Up Call and Observer”). By 1937, it had a total circulation of 20,000. Three regional editions were
published that carried local news and advertisements. In 1939, as part of an ongoing effort to Americanize the
Bund, its full name was lengthened to Deutscher Weckruf und Beobachter and Free American. From that point on,
for convenience sake, it was normally referred to simply as the Free American. Building on its success, the Bund
published several other publications, including a youth magazine.
A notable Bund feature were its summer camps, which were located on Bund-owned
property. There were 18 of these camps in all. Some were modest in size, but others, like Camp Nordland in New
Jersey, Camp Siegfried on New York’s Long Island and Camp Hindenburg in Wisconsin, were large and elaborate,
with facilities for year-round living. Camp activities included hiking, camping, swimming and other athletics.
There were also communal cultural activities. Special programs were developed for young people, designed to build
comradeship and to strengthen bodies, minds and character.
The Bund was not a political organization in the normal sense of the word,
and did not run candidates for office. It did, however, hold public meetings and parades, and these gatherings
became a target for protests by Communists and Jews. Sometimes the protestors would physically attack the Bund
members, resulting in bloody brawls. Clashes between uniformed National Socialists and their enemies received
generous publicity in the mainstream media, which was eager to portray the “Bundists” (as they termed
the Bund members) as violent troublemakers. Back in Germany, the NSDAP viewed such publicity as detrimental to
the foreign policy interests of the Reich. The same concerns that Hitler and Hess had over Gau-USA and the Friends of
the New Germany had not gone away: instead, they were taking place on a larger scale and with increased media scrutiny.
THE BUND’S 1936 TRIP TO GERMANY
Nearly all Bund activity took place on a
local level, but on least two occasions, the Bund pooled its resources for a major national event. The first of
these was an excursion to Hitler’s Germany in the summer of 1936. The second was a mass rally in New York
City’s Madison Square Garden in February 1939.
The year 1936 was a watershed for Hitler’s Germany. When the National Socialists
assumed power in early 1933, the country was in dreadful condition as a result of the lost world war and 15 years
of democratic incompetence and corruption. It had been ravaged by the Great Depression and the depredations of
the Treaty of Versailles. The economy was a wreck, unemployment was at a record high; many thousands of the most-energetic
and skillful Germans emigrated each year to seek a better life elsewhere. The media was in the hands of the Jews,
as were other important segments of society. But after only three years of National Socialism, the Reich had been
reborn: hunger had been banished, the economy was booming and the armed forces had been reorganized and strengthened.
A new sense of optimism and national pride filled the population.
The 1936 Summer Olympics, held in Berlin, brought countless guests and
tourists to the new Germany. Among those visitors were Fritz Kuhn and some 50 members of the newly-formed Bund. The American
National Socialists toured the country, and were widely feted as heroes. Uniformed members of the OD were accorded
the same privilege as the German SA and allowed to ride public transportation for free. In Munich, uniformed Bund
members marched with the SA, the SS and the Hitler Youth in a parade.
Shortly before the beginning of a second parade in Berlin, Bundesleiter
Kuhn and his officers were granted a short, formal audience with Hitler. This meeting is what today might be termed
a “photo op” – the Fuehrer shook hands with them and chatted amiably for a few minutes. One
photograph from the occasion shows Hitler and Kuhn talking together. As the brief audience wrapped up, Hitler told
Kuhn, “Go back and continue the struggle over there.” Nothing deep or significant was meant by these
words: they were just a courtesy by the Fuehrer to his American followers.
Upon his return to the United States, Kuhn lost no time in misrepresenting
his brief photo op with Hitler. Kuhn told reporters that, “I have a special arrangement with the Fuehrer”
to build the NS movement in America. Rumors spread that there had been a second, private meeting between the Chancellor
Hitler and the Bundesleiter, during which Hitler had given Kuhn detailed instructions on strengthening Germany’s
position in the New World. Kuhn did nothing to stop the spread of such tall tales, and instead maintained that
he had received a direct mandate from Hitler to lead the American movement.
Kuhn’s dishonesty and false claims undoubtedly strengthened his
position as the undisputed leader of the Bund. They came at a steep cost, however, because now they lent credibility
to the charges made by the Jews and other anti-German forces that Hitler harbored aggressive aims towards America.
The foreign-born Kuhn, with his thick German accent and mannerisms that some felt were off-putting, became the
public face of domestic National Socialism to ordinary citizens. It was a face that many found hostile and threatening.
Instead of building support and sympathy for the New Germany, Kuhn had alienated a huge swath of the American
AND THE NSADP WANTED FROM GERMAN-AMERICANS
Hitler had low respect for groups or parties in other countries that wanted to imitate the NSDAP. He
realized that such copycat groups were inorganic and essentially foreign to their own folk. This included not just
the Bund, but also NS parties such as those in Denmark and Sweden. He commented that if Sir Oswald Mosely were
really a great man as he presented himself, that he would have come up with an original movement of his own, instead
of merely aping the NSDAP and Mussolini’s Fascists.
But this does not mean that he felt that there was no way for Germans outside the
Reich in foreign countries to help build National Socialism.
Regarding the US, the Fuehrer felt that there were two primary ways that indigenous American
National Socialists could help the New Germany:
1. Those German-Americans and expatriate German nationals residing in the US could
most effectively help out by relocating to Germany. There they could help build National Socialism firsthand in
the Fatherland. And, in fact, many did exactly this. An agency was set up to encourage and to assist with their
relocation, the Deutsches Auslands Institut (German Foreign Institute). It was headed by Fritz Gissibl, former
leader of Teutonia and the FDND, provided financial assistance to Germans who wanted to return to their Fatherland,
and it helped them reintegrate into German society. In this connection, an association was formed for German-Americans
who had returned, called Kameradschaft-USA.
2. For those German-Americans unable or unwilling to
relocate to Germany, there was still an important task that they could perform. Since the earliest days of the
Hitler government, Germany had been faced with an international economic boycott of German goods by the Jews and
their many allies. This hampered the economic recovery and financial growth of the Reich. By working to weaken
the boycott and promote Germany imports, pro-NS Americans could render immediate and tangible aid to the Movement.
Fritz Kuhn formed a corporation to organize an NS fightback against the boycott, first called the Deutsch-Amerikaner
Wirstschafts Anschluss (German-American Protective Alliance), and later renamed the Deutscher Konsum Verband (German
Business League). The DKV urged American merchants to ignore the Jewish boycott and to buy German goods for resale.
It also encouraged American consumers to buy goods made in Germany. The DKV held a highly publicized “Christmas
Fair” highlighting German-made products and promoting their sale.
The DAI and the DAWA/DKV had the
full and enthusiastic support of Hitler and the NSDAP. Uniformed marches, provocative speeches and confrontational
meetings, however, were the mainstays of public Bund activity and did not meet with approval of Reich authorities,
who did whatever they could to discourage such activities and to distance themselves from them – to no avail.
THE MADISON SQUARE GARDEN RALLY
On February 20, 1939, the Bund held a mammoth
rally in New York’s Madison Square Garden. The event was billed as a “Mass Demonstration for True
Americanism.” It took place in proximity to George Washington’s birthday, and indeed, a gigantic image
of the first president formed a backdrop for the speaker’s platform. Over 22,000 Bund members and allies
gathered for the occasion, easily making it the largest National Socialist meeting ever held in North America,
before or since. Some 1,200 OD men under the command of August Klapprott provided security. Outside the Garden,
80,000 unruly anti-Bund protestors scuffled with the police in an unsuccessful effort to disrupt the meeting.
Among the speakers were National Secretary
James Wheeler Hill, National Public Relations Director Gerhard Wilhelm Kunze and Bundesleiter Kuhn. As Kuhn began
his address, a Jew named Isadore Greenbaum pushed his way past the police, slipped between two OD guards, and
rushed the stage. He was armed with a knife. The would-be assassin was quickly tackled by the OD and beaten into
submission. Klapprott pulled his men off the Jew before he was badly hurt, and he was turned over to the police
for arrest. Kuhn continued speaking without interruption. Later, some members and followers leaving the meeting
were assaulted by the mob outside.
Bund portrayed the event as a huge victory. And indeed, it was an impressive tactical and logistical triumph.
The Bund had shown that it could organize a successful mass meeting in the face of massive opposition.
But the reaction in Berlin was
not so favorable. From the standpoint of the German government, this was exactly the type of publicity that they
did not want.
IDEOLOGY AND OUTREACH
The Bund formally adhered to the National Socialist worldview as expressed in NS Germany. But there was
a problem: the US was not Germany, and the social, economic, political and racial situation in America did not
correspond to that of Germany. The program and exact policies of the NSDAP did not fit the American scene. Kuhn’s
solution to the quandary was two-fold: the Bund adhered strictly to German National Socialism internally, but
in terms of public outreach it advocated an ideology that was an awkward fusion of National Socialism and the
Christian Nationalism of the times. (“Christian Nationalism” was roughly equivalent to modern White
Nationalism. It was not a religious movement, per se; rather, by “Christian” it was understood that
Jews were excluded.) An example of this was a statement by Kuhn quoted in the New York Times: “I am a White
Man and I give the White Man’s salute: Heil Hitler!”
Publicly, the Bund claimed to be for “100 percent Americanism”
and opposed to “Jewish communism.” It never attempted to forge a specific American National Socialism,
unique to the experiences and situation of the Aryan race in North America.
When it felt the need to give some intellectual heft to its outreach,
the Bund would refer to the writings of Lawrence Dennis, who was the foremost American Fascist intellectual of
the period, or to other non-Bund, non-NS theoreticians and commentators.
The German National Socialist Colin Ross attempted to provide
some intellectual ballast for the Movement in America with his 1937 book, Unser Amerika (Our America). He gave
lectures throughout the US which were supported and attended by Bund members. But in the end, he was an outsider,
and it is unclear to what extent his work had any effect on the Movement in the US.
DECLINE AND END OF THE BUND
The Madison Square Garden rally aggravated the increasing dissatisfaction
of the German government with the Bund. The German ambassador, Hans Diekhoff, had a contentious relationship with
the group. Public opinion, largely manufactured and manipulated by the Jews, was already strongly tilted against
the Reich. The media wanted to portray the Bund as a violent, un-American subversive organization directly under
Hitler’s command; every headline that played into that false image made Diekhoff’s already-challenging
job that much more difficult. He sent repeated dispatches to the Berlin urging the German government to sever
all ties with the Bund and publicly disown it. But the truth was that there was little or nothing Berlin could
do: Contrary to popular belief, the Bund was not under the command of Hitler, the German government, or the NSDAP.
It was an independent organization that could conduct its operations in any way that it wished.
The average American had a negative appreciation of the Bund. It
was widely assumed that the Bund was a “fifth column,” designed to aid the “Nazis” in the
event that the Germans invaded the United States – which the media assured the public was Hitler’s ultimate
Consequently, there was
a widespread feeling that the government should “do something” about the Bund. The Roosevelt regime
was more than willing to comply, but there was a hitch: the Bund operated strictly within the limits of US law.
Eventually, the authorities found
a solution: In May, 1939, Kuhn was charged with the embezzlement of approximately $14,000 of Bund funds. Kuhn had
foolishly taken as a mistress Virginia Cogswell, a former beauty queen. He had purportedly used Bunds funds to pay for
her medical bills and to ship some used furniture to her from California. The Bund hierarchy responded to the
charges that Kuhn, as leader of the Bund, was free to use the money in question in any manner that he wanted to.
But the government was out for blood, and in November Kuhn was convicted of misusing Bund funds. Eventually he
was sent to New York’s Sing Sing prison.
The scandal, rocked the Bund, and resulted in many resignations. However, a new leader, Gerhard Wilhelm
Kunze, stepped forward to lead the group until Kuhn was free again.
Bund operations continued until December 8, 1941 – the day
after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and three days before Hitler’s declaration of war against the
United States. On that day the Bund national council voted to dissolve the organization, and it burnt sensitive
documents before they could be seized by the FBI.
OTHER NATIONAL SOCIALIST AND PRO-NS GROUPS
Although we have concentrated our attention on the German-American Bund,
the Bund was not the only NS formation in the US during the pre-War period. We have previously mentioned the short-lived
American National-Socialist Party of Anton Haegele (1935). In 1939, the Brooklyn chapter of the Bund – which
was the largest in the nation – broke away and reformed the ANSP, under the leadership of Peter Stahrenberg.
But, despite excellence of its newspaper, the National American, the party was small and never amounted to anything.
Of the hundreds of other small groups
that flourished during this period, the following are also worth mentioning:
• The Christian Mobilizers, a New York group
led by Joseph “Nazi Joe” McWilliams. Its uniformed branch was called the Christian Guard. Later, the group
was renamed the American Destiny Party.
• The National Workers League, led by Russel Roberts, later a supporter and advisor of George Lincoln Rockwell.
Based in Detroit.
• The Citizens Protective
League, led by Kurt Mertig, later mentor to James Madole of the National Renaissance Party.
• American Nationalist Party (founded as the American Progressive Workers
Party). Emory Burke, who would go on to be the founder of the post-War movement, was a member of this group.
were National Socialist or pro-NS also supported organizations such as Charles Lindbergh’s America First Committee,
William Dudley Pelley’s Silver Shirt Legion, Father Charles Coughlin’s National Union for Social Justice,
and the Christian Front.
an effort to broaden its appeal, the Bund also held a unity rally with the Ku Klux Klan at August Klapprott’s
Camp Nordland in 1940.
The History of American National Socialism –
III: Critical Assessment of the Pre-War Movement
The first period of development of American National
Socialism came to an end with the entry of the United States into the Second World War.
By Martin Kerr
Although some tiny remnants of the pre-War movement continued on through
the War years and into the post-War period, for all practical purposes, the attack on Pearl Harbor by Germany’s Japanese
ally put an end to the American movement as a force on the political scene. A great divide separates pre-War National Socialism
from its post-War counterpart. Therefore, before resuming a chronological account of NS development, it is appropriate to
examine the strengths and weaknesses of the pre-War movement, its successes and failures.
With the benefit of 80 years of historical perspective, we can say that there were two optimal
strategies that the Movement could have pursued in the pre-War period.
I. American National Socialists could have dedicated themselves to supporting National Socialist Germany by adopting
a low profile, and working to weaken the economic boycott against the Reich, and by fostering German-American friendship.
Those who wanted to play a more active role in building National Socialism could have relocated to Germany. This strategic
role for the Movement is the one favored by Adolf Hitler.
II. Alternately, American comrades could have focused their resources and energy in building
an authentic American NS movement, rooted in the broad masses of White America, that would have been separate from, but
allied to, the Hitler movement in Germany. This is the course favored by Peter Stahrenberg of the American National-Socialist
Party, and a small segment of the American movement.
But neither of these two strategies were pursued in a focused manner. Instead, American National Socialists, who
were overwhelmingly German in ethnic or national origin, chose to support the German-American Bund. The Bund’s strategy
(to the degree that it had any grand strategy) was to serve as a home for Germans in exile from their fatherland. It imitated
the NSDAP in every way it could, and conducted no outreach to non-German-American Whites. It dressed its members in stormtrooper
uniforms and attempted to reenact the German NS kampfzeit on American soil. Its public activities included
marches and meetings, which often ended in brawls with Jewish and Marxist opponents. Such battles were then reported in
newspapers, magazines and newsreels.
Although the coverage was always negative, the media gave an exaggerated portrayal of the Bund’s strength,
implying that it posed a real threat to American democracy. Perhaps this publicity was in some way psychologically and emotionally
fulfilling to ordinary Bund members. But if it pleased the Bund, it was a black eye to Hitler, who was trying to convince
America and Western Europe that the New Germany was not the menace it enemies claimed it was.
Other Bund activities were low key and internal, such as those that strengthened
the folk identity of German-Americans through an emphasis on German language and custom. But in the long run, these activities
did not contribute to establishing National Socialism as a native movement on the shores of the New World.
From hindsight we can judge that the pre-War
movement was a strategic failure in every sense. In failed to provide substantial aid to National Socialist Germany, and
it undercut Hitler’s efforts to have normal diplomatic and economic relations with the US. Rather than building support
for National Socialism among White Americans, it played into the Jews’ false narrative: Hitler was a dangerous, evil
mastermind, and the “Bundists” were his willing goons and thugs. The Bund’s image convinced ordinary citizens
that Hitler harbored sinister and aggressive designs on the US, and that the Bund itself constituted a “fifth column”
that would aid the German military in the conquest of America in the event of an invasion. No concerted effort was made to
explain National Socialism – either as a worldview or a political-economic system – to the American public.
In consequence, ordinary White Americans
believed the lie that Hitler posed a threat to their lives and liberties. Little wonder that George Lincoln Rockwell dropped
out of college in the months prior to Pearl Harbor, so that he could join the US Navy and help “stop Hitler”
from conquering America!
the War, the tattered and beleaguered remnants of the pre-War movement tentatively came together to resume the struggle.
But there were no Bund members among them. Of the 25,000 or so members that the Bund had at its height, none chose to actively
resume the fight when the War was done. In the 1960s, Lincoln Rockwell waited in vain for a mass influx of former Bund members,
whom he hoped would provide an initial membership base for his nascent NS party. I, personally, knew a half-dozen or so
members of the original German Hitler Youth who joined the National Socialist White People’s Party and took part in
its demonstrations in the 1970s, but I never met a single former member of the Bund’s Order Division or its youth
organization who did so. August Klapprott, his family, and a handful of his comrades provided behind-the-scenes advice and
moral support to the NSWPP. I am told that former Bund members also provided the initial impetus to the formation of Gerhard
Lauck’s NSDAP-AO. But beyond that, the Bund failed to provide leadership, direction or even a meager physical presence
to the post-War movement.
this failure was not foreordained, but largely was result of the moral shortcomings of two key Movement leaders, Heinz Spanknoebel
and Fritz Kuhn
FAILINGS OF SPANKNOEBEL AND KUHN
The three leading figures in pre-War American National Socialism were Fritz Gissibl, Heinz Spanknoebel and Fritiz
Kuhn. Spanknoebel and Kuhn were cut from the same cloth: both men were energetic and intelligent, with strong personalities
and a flair for the dramatic. The two were sincerely dedicated to building National Socialism in the US, but only on the
condition that National Socialism itself was subordinate to their own personal agendas. While they demanded to obedience
from their followers in the name of Adolf Hitler, they themselves were not loyal to Hitler in an absolute sense.
Both Spanknoebel (as the leader of Gau-USA)
and Kuhn (as Bundesleiter) falsely told their followers that they had a mandate from the Hitler to lead the
American movement. While they were misrepresenting themselves to their followers as being the executors of the Fuehrer’s instructions,
they were charting a course for the Movement that they knew contravened the Hitler’s express wishes. Simply put, they
thought that they knew better than the Fuehrer, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Their ultimate
loyalty was not to Hitler, but to their own egos.
In the end, Spanknoebel came to heel, and voluntarily subordinated himself to the will of the Fuehrer.
His wartime service in the SS and eventual death in a Soviet gulag largely expiates his earlier hubris. But even so, the
damage that he did to American National Socialism proved irreversible.
Kuhn, for his part, picked up where Spanknoebel left off, charting a course for the
Bund that negated its domestic potential and made it a parody of the NSDAP. As with Spanknoebel, even in the face of direct
criticism from the German movement, Kuhn willfully pursued a course of development that he found personally gratifying,
but which was a dead end for National Socialism in the New World.
Kuhn’s decision to cheat on his wife with a mistress, whom he then supported with Movement
funds, further underscores his fundamental flaw: when a conflict arose between what was best for the Bund, and what Kuhn
believed to be in his personal interests, he followed the dictates of his ego.
In contrast to Spanknoebel and Kuhn is Fritz Gissbl, founder of Teutonia
and briefly leader of the Friends of the New Germany. Gissibl was quiet and unassuming compared to the other two men. But
though he lacked their flair, he was 100 percent loyal to Hitler, not just in word, but in deed as well. He carried out
the directives that he received from the NSDAP in leading the American movement as well as he could. In 1936 he returned
to Germany, where he worked with Deutsches Auslands Institut in encouraging other expatriate Germans to
return to the Fatherland. When the War came, he joined the SS, rising to the rank of Obersturmbannfuehrer.
His ultimate fate is uncertain, some sources saying that he perished on the Eastern Front in 1944, while other claim that
he survived the War and was imprisoned for 18 months in a Soviet “denazification” concentration camp. Either
way, it is clear that the Bund would have pursued a different course of development if he had been the Bundesleiter –
a course that would been in keeping with Hitler’s will.
A CHINK IN OUR ARMOR
The failings of Spanknoebel and Kuhn point out a weakness in National Socialist doctrine
that needs to be addressed. Under the leadership principle, a person in position of authority has both the absolute
authority and the concomitant absolute responsibility in carrying out the job assigned to him.
Someone who fails in successfully executing his mission is subject to removal from office. But what happens when that person
is the supreme leader? Who removes him then? In the case of the pre-War American movement, there was no mechanism in place
to remove a national leader who placed his own subjective desires above the objective good of the cause. Indeed, in the absence
of any oversight, it is not clear whether the senior leadership of the FND or the Bund were even aware that Spanknoebel
and Kuhn were disobeying the instructions given to them by the NSDAP.
Although the pre-War movement was a strategic failure in building National Socialism
in America, it enjoyed success on a tactical or operational level on several fronts.
We have previously noted that the Bund established a nationwide organizational
structure that included 163 local chapters in 47 of the 48 states. It had 18 summer youth camps, and facilities that provided
for Bund members to live in a National Socialist community year-round if they desired. There was a weekly bilingual newspaper
and other publications. In the 1930s, America had a population of roughly 100 million – less than a third of what
it has today. Thus, the Bund membership of 25,000 would be 75,000 in today’s terms. The 3,000 men of its Order Division
would be 9,000 strong. Especially impressive was the Bund’s success in organizing its local chapters as folk communities,
which included cultural, social and youth activities. There was a place in the Bund for women, children, veterans and the
elderly – not just for military-age males.
AUGUST KLAPPROTT’S CRITIQUE
In the 1970s, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity on two occasions to speak privately
at length with August Klapprott concerning the Bund. Klappott’s credentials were impressive: leader of the Bund in
the eastern third of the US; editor of the Free American; proprietor of the largest Bund camp – Nordland
– in New Jersey; and head of security at the mammoth Madison Square Garden rally. In the final months before the entry
of the US into World War II, Gerhard Wilhelm Kunze, who had succeeded Fritz Kuhn as leader of the group, quietly drifted
away, allowing his erstwhile comrades to fend for themselves. It was August Klapprott who stepped in and helped to lead the
Bund during its final days.
asked him what he thought were the greatest successes and failing of his movement. It is interesting to note that he refused
to criticize Kuhn by name, even 30 years later: such was his sense of personal loyalty to his former leader. But although
he did not criticize Kuhn by name, he was not slow in criticizing his policies.
Klapprott said that, in retrospect, the uniformed marches and street battles
with communists were counterproductive. At the time they took place, however, he said, this was not so clear. The Bund had
the legal right to conduct its public activities and to defend itself when physically attacked. The bad reputation that
this brought to the Bund was unavoidable, he said, as the Jews controlled the media and would have painted the Bund in a
bad light, no matter what its activities were.
He told me that, realistically speaking, the Bund did the best that it could under difficult circumstances. Even
if it had forgone activities that brought it negative publicity, and concentrated on a low-profile support of Hitler’s
Germany, the outcome would have been the same: the Japanese would still have attacked Pearl Harbor, and four days later
Hitler would still have declared war on the US.
I found another critique by Klapprott especially surprising. Although he had organized Camp Nordland, the most successful
of the Bund’s facilities, he said that the underlying premise of the Bund’s camps was flawed. The Bund sank
every available dollar into purchasing the land for the camps. Consequently, the Bund was always strapped for cash. When
the time came for it to defend itself from legal attacks by the government, sufficient funds were not at hand for a full-scale
legal defense. And in the end, the government just seized the Bund’s properties anyway, so that that the financial
investment that the camps represented was lost without benefiting the Movement.
The Bund maintained four camps in the state of Michigan alone, for example.
It would have been better, he said, for the Bund to have had fewer but larger camps, and to have rented the land. That way,
money could have been set aside to fend off federal attacks.
I asked him for his opinion of non-Bund NS groups, such as Peter Stahrenberg’s American
National-Socialist Party, that sought to build an authentically American NS movement. Klapprott was scornful of such efforts,
saying that they drained manpower and resources from the Bund, and in the end amounted to nothing. On this point I must disagree
with comrade Klapprott, for if this course of action had been followed from the beginning, it is possible that the movement
could have survived the War intact in some form.
Regardless of the personal failings of its leaders, and despite the strategic blunders that rendered it ineffective
in building National Socialism in America in the long run, there is something positive to learn from the Bund’s history.
The lesson of the Bund is this: It is possible to build a functioning National Socialist movement in the United
States, even in the face of aggressive semi-legal persecution by the federal government and the open hostility
of the media, the Jews and other committed anti-NS forces.
The America of 2017 is not the America of 1937, and today’s NS movement would have to
adapt itself accordingly. But it could be done.
The History of American National
Part IV: 1942-1945 (The War Years)
The Japanese Attacked Pearl Harbor on December
7, 1941. The next day the
German-American Bund burnt its membership
lists and other sensitive documents,
and dissolved itself. Three
days later, Hitler declared war on the United States.
by Martin Kerr
With very few exceptions, which will be discussed below, the other American
NS and pro-NS groups followed the Bund’s lead. But the Bund’s 25,000 members did not simply evaporate, nor did
they cease believing in National Socialism. The America First Committee, associated with Charles Lindbergh, had 800,000
members. Most of these people, if not all, were broadly sympathetic to Hitler’s Germany. They, too, did not simply
cease to exist when their movement formally shut down its operations on December 10.
The first reaction of the rank-and-file adherents and sympathizers of National Socialism was
to go to ground. They hoped that the crackdown they expected would pass them over if they kept a low profile, remained out
of the public eye and did not cause trouble.
The leadership was a little bit warier: they knew that in the eyes of the government they were enemy agents operating
in the American homeland in a time of war, and that they would not simply be ignored. They knew that they were in for a
Some Bund chapters did not accept
the shutdown ordered by their national headquarters in New York to be absolute and binding, and continued operations for
awhile on a reduced basis. But in short order, they, too, closed down. Then it was quiet for a while.
The last national leader of the Bund was George Froebose. He had been the Midwest district
leader for the group when Gerhard Wilhelm Kunze, Fritz Kuhn’s successor, mysteriously disappeared in the autumn of
1941. As the most-senior-ranking Bund officer, he formally took over in Kunze’s place. But Froboese was in poor health,
and allowed August Klapprott and others to run the Bund on a day-to-day basis. In the middle of June 1942, he was served
with a subpoena and ordered to report to New York to answer questions about the Bund’s operations. He never made it.
The official story was that he lay down on a railroad track in Waterloo, Indiana, and allowed a train to decapitate him.
But although his death was ruled a suicide, Klapprott and others who knew him suspected foul play.
On July 7, 1942, the former leaders of the now-defunct Bund were arrested
in coordinated nationwide raids by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. Frederick Schraeder, editor of the Free
American, died of a heart attack during the raid, when armed FBI agents broke into his house in the dead of night to
arrest him. He was 83.
the Bund had conducted its operations with scrupulous legality, the government had to fabricate spurious charges in order
to arrest its leaders. The Bundsmen were accused of “conspiring to … undermine the morale of the armed forces
of the United States” by encouraging men of military age to avoid wartime service. (In point of fact, the Bund had
issued a directive encouraging its members to comply with the draft.) The initial wave of arrests targeted the leadership,
but other arrests followed in the succeeding months. Eventually, even individual members of the Bund’s youth organizations
were tracked down. In some cases, they were pulled from their classrooms in front of other students, handcuffed, and marched
In October 1942, the Bund
leaders were found guilty of “sedition” and sentenced to five years in prison. The majority were sent to a forced
labor camp in Sandstone, Minnesota. The conditions there were rough. Some of the men died and others had their health shattered.
Gustav Elmer, former Bund Organizational Secretary, suffered a mental breakdown, and was transferred to an insane asylum.
Malnourishment cost August Klapprott all of his teeth, and put him in wheelchair. Once, before being sent to Sandstone,
he had been brutally beaten by prison guards.
Although they were interned without trial, rank-and-file Bund members and their families who were rounded up fared
better. Most of these were sent to a detention camp in Crystal City, Texas. There, the government built a complex of internment
facilities, including those for Japanese and Italian Americans, as well as those of German descent. In all, some 7,000 Germans
and German-Americans were imprisoned for the duration of the War.
In May 1943, former Bundesleiter Fritz Kuhn was paroled from New York’s
Sing Sing prison, where he had been serving a sentence for allegedly embezzling Bund funds. He was then sent to Crystal City,
where he enjoyed celebrity status among his fellow National Socialists.
Although not luxurious by any means, the conditions in the Crystal City camps were
livable. Families were kept together, and private cottages were provided for the bigger families. The inmates largely governed
themselves, and the Bund members organized their camp into a functioning National Socialist community. NS holidays were celebrated
(such as Hitler’s birthday on April 20) and NS flags were proudly displayed. There was a camp newspaper published
in German. Two schools were provided for youngsters: an “American” school run by the government, in which instruction
was in English, and a “German” school run by the inmates, with German-language instruction. Most parents opted
to send their children to the German school.
Following the War, the federal government slowly released the detainees. About 1,000 were repatriated to Germany.
One of those sent back was Fritz Kuhn. He settled in Munich, where he died in poverty in December 1951, an unrepentant National
Socialist to the end. The rest were allowed to stay. The last camp was closed in 1948 — three years after the end
of the War.
“Pastorius” and “Elster”
The government’s true rationale for the persecution of the Bund was not, as it falsely
claimed, that the Bund was subverting the US military. Rather, it was the fear that if the Germans invaded the North American
mainland the Bund would constitute a “fifth column” to assist the Wehrmacht. War propaganda had
reached a fever pitch, to the point that most Americans believed that such an invasion was a real possibility.
But the Germans only landed men on US soil
twice during the War, and in both cases the efforts proved so weak and poorly organized that they collapsed immediately,
and never posed any threat to the US.
The first of these missions was “Operation Pastorius” (named after an early German-American settler
in the New World). In June 1942, German submarines landed two four-man teams on the East Coast, one on Long Island, and
one in Florida. The men were agents of the Abwehr (German military intelligence) and they had been tasked
with sabotaging the US war effort. Two were American citizens, and the others German nationals who had lived in the US.
The effort disintegrated almost instantaneously,
when two of the would-be saboteurs turned themselves in to the FBI and betrayed their comrades. The two traitors were sentenced
to prison and the other six men were executed on August 8, after being convicted of espionage by a secret military tribunal.
Hitler was angry with Abwehr chief
Admiral Wilhelm Canaris over the botched operation, and no further sabotage missions were launched against the United States.
In November 1944, two German agents were
landed by submarine in Maine. Their assignment was to report on the production of war materials. The mission, called Operation
Elster, also ended in disaster when the two agents were captured soon after landing. They were sentenced to prison.
The threat of a mass invasion of the US by
Germany had been a phantom all along, and the Bund had played no role in assisting the miniscule efforts that did take place.
The Great Sedition Trial of 1944
President Franklin Roosevelt, who had been
a frequent target of the German-American Bund and its Christian Nationalist allies, was not satisfied with the destruction
of the Bund. He wanted every vestige of pro-Axis sentiment obliterated. Early in 1942, Roosevelt ordered Attorney General
Francis Biddle to organize a comprehensive prosecution of NS and Fascist sympathizers and anti-Semites. The legal justification
for this was to be the Smith Act, which made it illegal to call for the overthrow of the Federal government.
The government’s case was problematic
from the beginning. The initial theory of the case was that those indicted were sympathetic to Hitler’s Germany and
that had conspired together to help Hitler take over the United States. The first assumption was correct, that all of those
under indictment to some degree or another had a favorable impression of National Socialist Germany. But, as a group, they
were not united in either thought or action, and did not collectively “conspire” to do anything. And, certainly,
there was no thought of aiding a German conquest of the US.
Nonetheless, the prosecution went ahead, indicting an ever-changing roster of defendants three
different times before settling on a final list. Here are the 30 defendants (28 men and two women) listed in the final indictment.
It constitutes an honor roll of National Socialists and Christian Nationalists from the 1930s and early 1940s. Many of those
indicted were associated with more than one organization, but accompanying each name is the group with which each defendant
was most prominently affiliated.
Garland L. Alderman – National Workers’ League
2. David Baxter – Social Republic Society
Victor Broenstrupp – Silver Shirt Legion
4. Frank W. Clark – National Liberty Party
5. George E. Deatherage
– National Workers’ League
6. Prescott Freese Dennett – Citizens Committee to Keep America Out of the
7. Lawrence Dennis – Author of The Coming American Fascism, The Dynamics of War and Revolution and
8. Elizabeth Dilling – Patriotic Research Bureau
9. Hans Diebel – German-American Bund
10. Robert Edward Edmonston – Editor of the American Vigilante Bulletin
11. Ernst Friedrich Elmhurst
– Pan-Aryan League
12. Franz K. Ferenz – German-American Bund
13. Elmer J. Garner – Editor of Publicity newsletter
14. Charles B. Hudson – Publicist
15. Ellis O. Jones – National Copperheads
16. August Klapprott –
17. Gerhard Wilhelm Kunze – German-American Bund
18. Lois de Lafayette Washburn –
National Gentile League
19. William Robert Lyman, Jr. – National Workers’ League
20. Joseph E. McWilliams
– Leader of the Christian Mobilizers, later renamed the American Destiny Party
21. Robert Noble – Friends
22. William Dudley Pelley – Leader of the Silver Shirt Legion
23. E.J. Parker Sage – National
Workers’ League, Black Legion
24. Eugene Nelson Sanctuary – American Christian Defenders
Max Schwinn – German-American Bund
26. Edward James Smythe – Protestant War Veterans of America
James True – Editor of Nation and Race magazine
28. Peter Stahrenberg – Leader of the
American National-Socialist Party
29. George Sylvester Viereck – German American Fellowship Forum
P. Winrod – Defenders of the Christian Faith
Notably missing from the list are Charles Lindbergh, Father Charles Coughlin and Fritz Kuhn. Lindbergh was hugely
popular with the American public, who considered him to be a hero. Including him in the indictment would have made the prosecution’s
case less believable and less sympathetic. Father Coughlin, known as the “radio priest” for his broadcast sermons,
was indeed openly anti-Jewish — but he had an enormous following, and, to an extent, he enjoyed the backing of the
Roman Catholic Church. So, he, too, was not charged. Fritz Kuhn was already in prison on separate charges, and had not been
active politically in the run-up to the War.
The government’s original theory of the case, that the defendants comprised a conspiracy to aid Hitler in
his conquest of the US, was clearly ridiculous, and was discarded before the proceedings began. In its place, the prosecution
substituted the ploy that had worked for them in the case against the Bund: that the defendants conspired to undermine the
US military. Specifically, they were charged with subverting the military by criticizing its commander-in-chief, President
was a ludicrous theory: criticizing a sitting president has never been considered treason. But “undermining the military”
had worked against the Bund, and the government hoped it would work this time too. O. John Rogge was the lead prosecution
attorney; Edward C. Eicher was the judge. An indictment was handed down on January 3, 1944 and the trial began on April
17. The government’s case ran into problems immediately. The Bundsmen had been unpopular defendants, with a lazy and
timid lawyer. This time, each of the 30 defendants had their own attorney, some of whom were experienced and aggressive.
They challenged Rogge’s case at every turn. Some of the accused, such as Elizabeth Dilling, had powerful friends and
connections. As the trial progressed, the media began to mock the prosecution for its ineptness.
On November 29, Judge Eicher died suddenly of a heart attack. A new judge
was appointed. After reviewing the evidence that the prosecution had provided, he declared a mistrial and dismissed the indictments.
Although Rogge was still enthusiastic about going forward with new charges, the Department of Justice had no stomach for
renewing the case, and did not back him. The only allies he could find were the American Jewish Committee and the Communist
Party, USA. In 1947, a Washington, DC, court of appeals upheld the dismissal.
But although the government failed to obtain the verdict it wanted, it
achieved its primary objective: the trial crushed the Christian Nationalist movement. It rendered the most prominent and
effective CN leaders politically impotent, it destroyed their organizations and publications, and it intimidated their rank-and-file
followers into silence. Whatever base of support that National Socialists and Christian Nationalists had enjoyed previously
was now gone: they and their cause were now anathemas among ordinary Americans.
The National Worker’s League
Despite the brutal persecution of the Bund, a few small pro-NS groups continued
to solider on even after the War began. The most notable of these was the National Workers’ League, based in the Detroit
area. The NWL was formed in 1938. Ostensibly, it was led by Sage Parker, Garland Alderman and William Lyman, but another
man, Russell Roberts, made the most important policy decisions behind the scenes. Their publication was the typewritten Nationalist
The NWL concentrated
it efforts on organizing White workers in Michigan and elsewhere in the Upper Midwest. It also was outspoken in its opposition
to the War. In 1942, when racial fighting broke out between Whites and Blacks in Detroit, the NWL was in the forefront of
organizing the White resistance.
federal government decided that the League, which was building strength in the armaments industries, posed a potential threat
to the War effort. In 1943, its newsletter was banned from the US mail, effectively terminating it, and subsequently the
NWL ceased operations. In 1944, Parker, Alderman and Lyman were indicted in the “sedition” trial discussed earlier.
Roberts, however, escaped prosecution. A successor group, the United Sons of America, took the place of the NWL, but it
was only a pale reflection of the original group.
The Citizens Protective League
Although he is little-known today, Kurt Mertig was an influential National Socialist activist and organizer during
the 1930s and 1940s . He was born in Germany and became a naturalized US citizen. In addition to being affiliated with the
Bund and other groups, he also ran an organization of his own, the Citizens Protective League. The innocuously-named CPL
pursued a hardline NS agenda while maintaining a low profile. In some respects, it resembled the National Alliance of Dr.
William L. Pierce two generations later. Mertig and his associates rejected the uniformed marches of the Bund and the rabble-rousing
speech-making of “Nazi Joe” McWilliams, and instead appealed to a sober, serious middle-class audience.
Before the War, the CPL held meetings every
Monday evening in a hall in Yorkville, a German-American neighborhood of Manhattan. While the Bund and other groups disbanded
after Pearl Harbor, Mertig continued his low-profile meetings without missing a beat. When, eventually, the CPL lost the
use of the Yorkville meeting hall, Mertig shifted the location of his gatherings to the private homes of some his more-affluent
members. This was done on a rotating basis, so that the CPL never met in the same place twice in a row.
Mertig escaped the sedition indictment, perhaps because the feds thought
he was a small fish not worth their efforts. Nonetheless, in 1943 he was ordered to relocate inland, out of the three-hundred-mile
“exclusion zone” that the military declared for the East and West coasts. Presumably, this was to prevent him
from aiding the feared German invasion.
Mertig kept his small group together throughout the conflict, and in 1949 he used it as a membership base when he
formed the National Renaissance Party, which will be discussed in subsequent installments of this series.
Although the purpose of this series is to specifically chronicle and analyze
American National Socialism, there are a few other wartime developments of movements allied to National Socialism which should
1942, Rev. Gerald L. K. Smith, former associate of Louisiana governor Huey Long and a champion of Christian Nationalism,
founded The Cross and the Flag magazine, which was to be the banner publication of the CN movement into
- In the summer of 1944, the Internal Revenue
Service, on orders from the Roosevelt regime, placed a lien on all assets of the Ku Klux Klan, effectively (but only temporarily)
putting an end to it.
- In November 1944, Smith contested
the presidential election as the candidate of the America First Party. He was on the ballot in only two states, and received
a paltry 1,781 votes (1,531 in Michigan and 250 in Texas). This was the low-point of American racialism in the 20th century.
We should also mention the “Mothers
Movement,” founded in 1939 after the outbreak of the War in Europe. It is sometimes known by its campaign name of
“We, the Mothers.” Its initial goal was to prevent US entry into the War. After Pearl Harbor, it urged an end
to the War through a negotiated peace. Prior to the Normandy D-Day, it vociferously opposed the “second front”
invasion of Europe.
All of the
groups that continued to fight on after the US entry into the War were weak and ineffective in the face of their main adversary,
which was the Federal government. It is a testament to the strength of their beliefs and to their courage that they refused
to bend the knee or give up the fight, despite the insurmountable odds that they faced.
The War in Europe came to an end on May 8, 1945. The Japanese formally
surrendered on September 2. All charges were finally dismissed against the sedition trial defendants on May 18, 1946.
On August 16, 1946, Emory Burke founded the
Columbian Workers Movement of America (or simply “the Columbians”) — and the work of rebuilding National
Socialism in America commenced.
The History of American National Socialism -
Part V: The Pre-Rockwell
An office worker answers the
telephone at the offices of the National States Rights Party
For good or for ill, the German American Bund was the primary
of open National Socialism in the US prior to America’s entry
into the War.
by Martin Kerr
After the voluntary dissolution of the Bund on December 8, 1941, there was no open advocacy of the National Socialist
worldview in the US until George Lincoln Rockwell raised the Swastika banner in Arlington, Virginia, on March 8, 1959. The
option to re-found the Movement was theoretically available as soon as the War had ended in 1945. However, the immediate
post-War political and social climate was so hostile to National Socialism that even the most stalwart American National
Socialists were unwilling to take that path forward.
But still, the struggle went on, albeit in the political shadows, rather than in the light of day. Various pro-NS
or neo-NS activist groups arose during the pre-Rockwell period that attempted to advance the Cause without openly declaring
themselves to be National Socialist.
There is a great divide —
really, a chasm — that divides the pre-War Movement from the post-War Movement. To a degree this
separation is one of ideology: the world was a much different place in the 1950s than it was in the 1930s, and it was a
natural and organic development that the Movement’s policies evolved to fit the new dispensation.
But the real differences are those of quantity and quality.
If pre-War American National Socialism was, at best, a minor movement on the American political scene, it became microscopic in
its numbers in the post-War period. The Bund had 25,000 members at its height, of whom 3,000 were uniformed activists. In
contrast, the National Socialist White People’s Party at it strongest in the early 1970s never had more that 800 supporters
and 200 Stormtroopers. Adjusted for population growth, this meant that the NSWPP had about two-percent of the Bund’s
numerical strength relative to the total US population, and perhaps three-percent of its activists.
It can be said that both the pre-War and post-War movements were led by men who were fanatically committed
to the Cause, who were intelligent, and who possessed stable personalities. But the pre-War Movement’s rank-and-file
members were also of similar quality: men with careers, families, marriages, community standing and the like. In contrast,
the fringe nature of the post-War Movement often meant that its rank-and-file adherents had eccentric personalities, and
frequently lived on the edges of American society. This is especially true of the Movement’s activist contingent.
There were, of course, a percentage of rank-and-file supporters who had successful lives in society’s mainstream.
But normally these comrades kept a low profile, and played a passive role rather than an active one.
On August 18, 1946, Emory Burke, along with Henry Loomis and John Zimmerlee, incorporated the “Columbians
Workers Movement of America” in Georgia. It was commonly referred to simply as “the Columbians.” Although
short lived, the Columbians was the first attempt to rebuild the Movement after the catastrophe of 1945.
Burke was a National Socialist at heart, but he realized that with the War barely a year
over, open advocacy of the Hitlerian worldview was a non-starter. Rather, something in line with American traditions and
values would have a greater chance of success. What he had in mind was a dynamic racial movement, something more political
than the Ku Klux Klan and more racially focused than Christian Nationalism. Burke was a veteran of numerous pre-War organizations,
and he was still in contact with leaders of the old movement who still had some fight left in them, such as George Deatherage,
Gerald L.K. Smith, and Gen. George Van Horn Moseley. However, he also attracted new recruits who had only come of age since
the War. One of these was a young attorney from Chattanooga named J.B. Stoner; another was high school student Edward Reed
Fields, transplanted to Atlanta from Chicago. Although neither of these two young men would play a significant role in the
Columbians, the racialist movement would hear more from them in the years to come.
Burke and his comrades spent several months in preparation before publicly launching their new enterprise.
In June 1947, they were ready. A headquarters had been secured in Atlanta, and the first issue of a newsletter, The
Thunderbolt, had been issued, along with a program. Following in the steps of the pre-War movement, the Columbians
had a uniform: khaki, with a red thunderbolt insignia on the left arm. The thunderbolt was also featured on their banner,
which was patterned after the Confederate battle flag.
Columbians held meetings and made a concerted effort to attract White workers and recently demobilized soldiers. In July,
they began nighttime patrols of White working class neighborhoods that were bordered by Negro areas: Blacks criminals, who
had historically preyed on other Negroes, had begun to drift into White neighborhoods after the sun went down.
The rise of the Columbians disturbed the political establishment of Atlanta, and it scared
the city’s large and powerful Jewish community. After an incident in which a Columbian patrol injured a Black man found
wandering at night through a White neighborhood, the authorities cracked down on the group. Its leaders, including Burke,
were arrested on charges of “usurping police powers” — that is, conducting a citizens’ patrol to
do a job that the police were failing to do. Burke was sentenced to prison, and the charter of the Columbians was revoked.
The Columbians were in operation only a scant two months. Their total membership numbered
less than 200, of whom only a couple dozen were actively involved. Yet their example inspired racial nationalists elsewhere.
Slowly, the Movement was beginning to reawaken.
Before describing the National
Renaissance Party, a cautionary note is necessary: Almost without exception, everything that may be found online or in printed
books concerning the NRP and its leader, James H. Madole, is flat-out wrong. Wikipedia has collected the most egregious
falsehoods about the NRP and exaggerated them further, and then published them as the truth. Virtually nothing that you may
have heard about the NRP from such sources is correct.
National Renaissance Party was officially founded on January 1, 1949, following several months of negotiations among various
minor leaders of the pre-War movement who decided to combine their meager memberships and resources into a single new group.
The main groups involved were Kurt Mertig’s Citizens Protective League, the German-American Republican League (also
led by Mertig) and William Henry MacFarland’s Nationalist Action League. Mertig was named as the chairman of the group,
but it was under the operational control of 22-year-old James Harting Madole, a new post-War recruit.
Madole was brilliant, energetic, fearless and an effective public speaker. One of his
contacts was Charles B. Hudson, who had been a defendant in the 1944 Sedition Trial described previously. Hudson shared
Madoles’s interest in racial nationalist politics, space travel, science fiction — and the occult. And here we
come to one of Madole’s shortcomings: his trouble in separating his personal enthusiasms from his political career.
However, this problem only manifested itself later — in the 1970s — and was not a handicap during the NRP’s
Madole’s title was National Director, and
he held the real power within the small party. A nine-point program was drafted, stationary was printed up, and the first
issue of the party’s publication, the National Renaissance Bulletin was issued. The lead article
of the inaugural issue was “Americans, Awake,” and was authored by Madole. He continued to issue the newsletter
without interruption until death in 1979.
From the very beginning,
the NRP showed itself to be different from many of the pre-War NS and Christian Nationalist groups, in that it took a serious
interest in ideas and ideologies. Madole’s goal was to build a new Aryan super-civilization in North America, not just
to save the Constitution from the Jews. He was anti-rightwing, anti-capitalist and anti-Christian, all of which earned him
the hostility of the Christian Nationalists and their allies, such as the Ku Klux Klan.
An early NRP associate was Francis Parker Yockey, who attended NRP meetings and activities, although
he never officially became a member. Madole shared Yockey’s assessment that Stalin had broken the power of the Jewish-Bolsheviks
in the USSR, and was steering the Soviet Union ever-closer to the traditional Russia of the czars. Whereas the mainstream
view of the Soviets in the West during the Cold War was that they were ideologically monolithic, Madole perceived that there
was a behind-the-scenes struggle taking place between the remaining Jewish Marxists on one hand, and Russian nationalists
on the other. The smart thing, Madole felt, was to encourage the nationalists within the Soviet regime, and forge an alliance
with them, which he tried to do. This nuanced appraisal of the USSR was lost on the American Right of the 1950s, who decided
that Madole was just a racist, anti-Semitic communist.
NRP never defined itself as National Socialist, although it praised Adolf Hitler and NS Germany. In the early years, the
NRP used both Swastikas and thunderbolts on its printed material. Initially, the NRP did not have a uniformed, paramilitary
section. However, repeated efforts by its opponents to disrupt NRP public activities convinced Madole that such a formation
was needed, and in 1953 he formed the “Elite Guard,” who wore black uniforms with thunderbolt armbands. The EG
was under the joint command of Hans Schmidt and a 18-year-old Matt Koehl, who was just beginning his apprenticeship in NS
From the very beginning the NRP had an aggressive
program of public activities. Typically, Madole and his followers would commandeer a busy sidewalk corner in a White neighborhood
of New York City, gather a crowd, and begin speaking. Some 22 rallies of this sort were held in 1953, for example. Madole
pulled no punches in his speeches. A report to the FBI from this period from an informant describes him as “a vicious
son-of-a-bitch.” New York’s huge Jewish community, as well as the FBI, became aware of, and alarmed by, the
NRP activities. Hostile and mocking publicity ensued, such as major article in the New York Post, “The
Man Who Wants to Be Fuehrer.”
Demands were soon made
that the authorities “do something” about Madole. The problem was that Madole, like the earlier German-American
Bund, conducted his activities strictly within the letter of the law. One thing that the Federal government could do, however,
was to “investigate” the NRP. In 1954, the House Unamerican Activities Committee, under the leadership of Harold
H. Velde (R-Illinois) launched an investigation of the NRP and other “hate groups.” Party members were interrogated
and spied on. The fear in the Movement was that the government was going to crack down on the NRP in a heavy-handed manner
as it did a decade earlier with the Bund, when dozens of Bund members were sent to prison. Many members dropped out of the
NRP and others scattered to the four winds, some running as far as Mexico.
The government’s findings were released on December 17, 1954, in a grandiosely entitled Preliminary
Report on Neo-Fascist and Hate Groups, often referred to as The Velde Report for short. It was
a scant 32-pages in length, half of which were devoted to the NRP. HUAC concluded that while the NRP was indeed “Unamerican,”
it did not pose an immediate threat to the American republic.
Feds estimated that there were 200 NRP members. After the release of the report, there were far fewer. Only a tiny handful
of activists remained. But Madole soldiered on. On one occasion, two or three party members climbed to the roof a Manhattan
skyscraper and showered thousands of leaflets onto the sidewalk below during a busy rush hour. But although Madole continued
the party until his death, the effectiveness of the NRP as a vehicle for promoting National Socialism — or “Racial
Nationalism” as Madole preferred to call it — was over.
New York City was the center of American National Socialism and Christian Nationalism before the Second World War.
Consequently, it made some sense to try to exploit whatever residual support remained there in the late 1940s. But a decade
later, New York was enemy territory. An insane Jew took Madole hostage in February 1958, with the intent of killing him,
but Madole escaped unharmed. His remaining followers told him that he needed to relocate both the party and himself to a
Whiter area, but Madole stubbornly remained in New York until the end.
United White Party/National States Rights Party
Mention was made earlier of Edward Fields, a high school student affiliated with the short-lived Columbians. After
the demise of the Columbians, Fields continued his participation in the shadowy world of the post-War movement. In the early
1950s, he journeyed to New York City, to check out the NRP. He was impressed by Madole’s intellect and dedication,
but put off by Madole’s ideological radicalism. He did not like Madole’s embrace of (non-Marxist) socialism,
nor did he accept the New Yorker’s analysis that the USSR was no longer under strict Jewish control. Fields also had
a poor impression of many of the NRP’s activists, some of whom had marginal personalities and lifestyles.
Fields was not a National Socialist, but his belief system ran parallel to it, especially
on racial issues. His goal was to create a racial movement that combined the ideology of the Columbians with a base of mass
support among racially conscious Whites, who at that time were the majority of the White population.
In 1957, Fields was instrumental in convening a gathering of White racialists in Knoxville,
Tenn., to unite various small groups together into a single large party. Among those attending the gathering were Emory
Burke, J.B. Stoner, Wallace Allen and John Kasper. Also present was 22-year-old Matt Koehl, who attended as a protégé
of the controversial movement personality DeWest Hooker, who was unable to attend.
The immediate outcome of the convention was the formation of the United White Party, which was reorganized
the following year as the National States Rights Party. It would remain the largest White racialist formation in the US
for the next two decades.
Anti-Jewish attorney J.B. Stoner
was the public face of the party, while Fields ran its day-to-day operations, and edited its monthly tabloid newspaper, The
Thunderbolt. The publication took its name from that of the newsletter put out by the Columbians in 1946. The
NSRP also adopted the flag and the thunderbolt insignia of the Columbians. Indeed, it can be said that the party was an extension
or version of the earlier group. There were close ties between the NSRP and the Klan movement, although the NSRP pursued
a strictly political agenda and the Klan operated in other arenas. The membership of the party and the KKK overlapped, and,
with some accuracy, the NSRP was often referred to as the political wing of the Klan movement.
Although it was not an NS formation, the party had many National Socialists among its
ranks. To keep these members from drifting away, Fields would confide to them that the NSRP’s initials secretly stood
for “National Socialist Revolutionary Party.” This, and similar practices, later got Fields condemned as a “sneaky
Nazi.” But Fields had good reason to be concerned about losing his NS members, because an open, forthright National
Socialist leader was only months away from raising the Swastika banner for the first time since 1945.
The Advent of George Lincoln Rockwell
One participant in the Knoxville conclave who did not go on to join the UWP was a 39-year-old naval
commander, who introduced himself to the gathering as “George Lincoln.” He gave a presentation to the convention
outlining a plan to relocate the Black population of the US to Africa. He called it the “Lincoln Plan.”
George Lincoln Rockwell had abandoned his philosophy major at Brown University in 1941,
because he, like many other Americans, could sense that war was on the horizon. As a patriotic American, he felt that it
was his duty to defend his country in time of war. Beyond that, he believed that he had a moral obligation to help “stop
Hitler” from “conquering the world.” He joined the navy as an ordinary seaman; by the end of the conflict
he had risen to the rank of lieutenant commander. After the War he became a member of the Naval Reserve. Rockwell was called
back to active duty during the Korean War. He was eventually promoted to full commander.
Lincoln Rockwell was one of any number of former servicemen who came home to an America they did
not recognize. Softness in the face of Communist aggression abroad, cultural Marxism at home, feminism, and what was euphemistically
termed “civil rights” were features of post-War America. But most of these men merely grumbled, and got on with
their lives. Rockwell, being more sensitive and reflective than his compatriots, began to investigate what had gone wrong.
This was not the America that Rockwell and the others had fought for — and for which 500,000 Americans had died.
While stationed in San Diego during the Korean War, he became involved in the movement
to draft Gen. Douglas MacArthur as the 1952 Republican presidential candidate. Through his contacts in the conservative
wing of the Republican party, he was exposed to his first anti-Semitic literature. He did not take it seriously. But over
time, he noticed that the charges made in anti-Jewish publications were, by and large, factually correct. Specifically,
he was horrified to learn that the Jews were behind the communist movement both, at home and abroad.
In his political autobiography, This Time the World (1962), he wrote
of this time,
I wondered about Adolf Hitler and
the Nazis. I had learned that he was right about the Jews. It might be worth reading his book to see if he had anything
else right, too.
I hunted around the San Diego bookshops and finally found a copy of Mein
Kampf hidden away in the rear. I bought it, took it home, and sat down to read.
And that was the end of Lincoln Rockwell, the “nice guy” — the “dumb goy”
— and the beginning of an entirely different person.
That was probably sometime in 1952. Rockwell was instantly converted to National Socialism. He spent the next seven
years trying to find an workable strategy to promote National Socialism in a quiet, low-key way through the extreme right
wing of the Republican party. All of these efforts came to naught. Although there was plenty awareness of the Jewish Question
and of racial issues in rightwing circles, there was no will or courage to tackle these problems in an effective manner.
Rockwell realized that the Republicans were not the solution to the problems to which
he had been awakened. But he was also unimpressed with the little NS or racialist groups that he investigated. It gradually
dawned on him that if he could not work through any of the existing formations, he would have to start one himself.
By 1958 he had made the acquaintance of Harold Arrowsmith, an eccentric, anti-Jewish multi-millionaire
(a billionaire in today’s terms). After some negotiation, they came to an agreement: Arrowsmith would finance the
new movement, and Rockwell would run its operations. Rockwell had his own idea for a name for the group, but Arrowsmith
insisted on the “National Committee to Free America from Jewish Domination.” A house in Arlington, Va., was rented
for use as a headquarters, and a printing press was installed in its basement.
One of Rockwell’s strengths was that he thought in grand terms: thinking big is the key to big results. As
the inaugural manifestation of the Committee, Rockwell planned for several nationwide anti-Jewish demonstrations to take
place simultaneously. Rockwell himself would lead a picket of the White House, while Fields would hold demonstrations at
the same moment in Knoxville and Atlanta. Rockwell hoped that James Madole would come aboard in New York City, while DeWest
Hooker would lead an activity in Boston. Rockwell further wanted other demonstrations is Chicago, San Diego and elsewhere.
In event, Rockwell went ahead in Washington and Fields in Knoxville and Atlanta, but the
others fell through.
Still, it was an auspicious beginning
— but soon everything collapsed. A suspicious bombing of a synagogue in Atlanta that was undergoing renovation led
to the arrest of the Atlanta demonstrators. Arrowsmith was picked up by the FBI and interrogated for hours as though he
were a common thief, all his wealth notwithstanding. The Arlington headquarters, which was also the home of Rockwell and
his family, came under repeated attack and he sent his wife and children to safety in Iceland.
Finally, Arrowsmith withdrew his support, and ordered Rockwell to vacate the house and
return the printing press. Rockwell fought back and won a delay: at the beginning, he had insisted that Arrowsmith sign a
contract, and it held up in court. But the victory was only temporary. The year 1958 came to a bleak end for Rockwell: he
had put himself in a position where he could not turn back, and he could not see a way forward.
On March 8, 1959, Rockwell received a package sent to him by James K. Warner, a young
admirer. In it was a large, Third Reich-era Swastika banner. A tingling ran up Rockwell’s spine: He suddenly saw the