View of the crowded hall at Madison Square Garden where the German-American Bund is holding its "Pro-American" rally. American flags and a portrait of George Washington form the backdrop on the stage. Outside the Garden police restrain thousands of anti-Nazi demonstrators who are protesting against the rally. — Bettmann Archive [licensed by Getty Images]

February 20, 1939

American Nazis Rally in New York City

On February 20, 1939, the pro-Nazi German American Bund drew more than 20,000 people to a rally in Madison Square Garden.

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German American Bund, Fritz Kuhn, Madison Square Garden, Dorothy Thompson, Isadore Greenbaum, Nazi

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The German American Bund, a pro-Nazi organization for Americans of German descent, demonized Jews and Communists and dreamed of a fascist America. Fritz Kuhn, the Bund’s leader, tried to portray himself as the “American führer,” though he never received the support from the Nazi Party in Germany that he desired.

The Bund’s membership probably never exceeded 25,000, yet its pro-Nazi propaganda and mass demonstrations sometimes reached large crowds. The Bund even established more than a dozen summer camps around the United States to indoctrinate German American children. Campers wore uniforms of the Hitler Youth and carried Nazi banners.

At its height, the Bund organized a rally at New York’s Madison Square Garden on February 20, 1939 that drew more than 20,000 attendees who booed any mention of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and cheered “Heil Hitler!” Thousands of anti-Nazi protesters filled streets outside the arena. When the prominent journalist Dorothy Thompson loudly shared her opinion that the Bund leader was spewing “bunk,” she was escorted out of the arena by uniformed Bund supporters. When a young Jewish protester inside the arena, Isadore Greenbaum, rushed the stage, stormtroopers violently attacked and subdued him. He was then arrested by police officers.

Later in 1939, the House Un-American Activities Committee chaired by Martin Dies, held hearings investigating the German American Bund which showed clear evidence of its ties to the Nazi government.

Shortly thereafter, Kuhn was convicted of embezzling funds from the organization and was sentenced to prison. In the following years, a number of other German American Bund leaders were interned as dangerous aliens, and others were jailed for various offenses. By 1941 the membership of the organization had waned. After the United States entered World War II in December 1941, the US government outlawed the German American Bund.

Dates to Check

Typically, daily newspapers reported news the morning after it occurred. However, some papers were printed in multiple editions, including evening news. If you are using an evening paper, begin your search on the same day as the event being researched.


February 1-20, 1939 News articles, opinion pieces, editorials, letters-to-the-editor, and political cartoons anticipating the planned German American Bund rally to be held in Madison Square Garden.

February 21, 1939 - March 10, 1939News articles, opinion pieces, editorials, letters-to-the-editor, and political cartoons regarding the German American Bund rally held in Madison Square Garden and its aftermath.

Bibliography

Bernstein, Arnie. Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund. New York: St. Martin's Press,, 2013.

Churchwell, Sarah. Behold, America.: A History of America First and the American Dream. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018.

Hart, Bradley W. Hitler’s American Friends. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2018.

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