IN THE NAME OF PATRIOTISM 


"Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light"

-George Washington-

  The German American Bund

"100 Percent American"

CCO Image: Emblem of the German American Bund
CCO Image: Emblem of the German American Bund

The German-American Bund, also known as Amerikadeutscher Volksbund (or simply Bund), was an organization that ethnic Germans established in March 1936 in Buffalo, New York State. Their leader was Fritz Kuhn, who immigrated in 1928 to the United States and became a naturalized US citizen in 1934. Kuhn served as a Bavarian infantry lieutenant during World War I and earned an Iron Cross. He also held a master's degree in chemical engineering. The Bund wanted to create a positive image of National Socialism in the United States and presented itself as an All-American institution. Two essential organizations that preceded were the "Free Society of Teutonia" and the "Friends of the New Germany". Not the citizenship of someone, but his blood determined whether or not someone was considered a Volksdeutscher and therefore eligible to join the Bund.  (Source: Diamond, Sander A.) Unlike the former forerunners of the Bund,  the German-American Bund presented itself as a patriotic pro-American institution and allowed membership for Americans of German ancestry.  Kuhn and his loyalists focused on the Bund's Americanization, presenting George Washington and Benjamin Franklin regularly in their publications. One article compared storm trooper Horst Wessel to Abraham Lincoln in which the "Deutscher Weckruf und Beobachter" proclaimed that "they both died to make their country greater." (Source: Kopp; Eliot A.)

  "Free Society of Teutonia" and the "Friends of the New Germany"

Forerunners of the German American Bund

"The Free Society of Teutonia" was the first National Socialist Association in the United States, led by a 20 years-old German immigrant named Fritz Gissibl. It only had a few members and didn't impact the social and political life in the U.S. but it served as training ground for nationalistic activities in the United States.  Another forerunner of the German American Bund was an organization named "Friends of the New Germany", led by Heinz Spanknöbel. Friends of the New Germany was one of the most succesful organizations groups in the United States. Nazi Deputy Führer Rudolph Hess gave Spanknöbel the authority to form such an American Nazi organization. Together with the German consul's help in New York City, Spanknöbel created the "Friends of the New Germany." (Source: Kopp Eliot, A.) Spanköbel served as a minister in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Würzburg (Bavaria), Germany. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1929.

  "Structure and activites of the Bund"

The Playbook for the Western Hemisphere

The German American Bund was based on the concept of the Führerprinzip (Leadership Principle), which required unquestioning, absolute obedience to one leader. Fritz Julius Kuhn began his rule by stressing 100% loyalty and discipline (Source: Canedy, Susan). Like in Germany, where the idea was promoted that only one person could save a nation, Kuhn imitated chancellor Hitler in every way (except the mustache) and called himself the "American Fuehrer". There was no bigger patriot than him. Thus, he was the one to guide the way. The Bund divided the United States into three departments (Gaue):

                                                                                                                      

The Western Department (Gau West), led by Hermann Schwinn

The Middle West Department (Gau Midwest), led by George Frobose

The Eastern Department (Gau Ost), led by Rudolf Markmann

 

Each department had a Department Leader, a Department Convention, District Leaders, Local Unit Leaders and branches. The headquarter in the Gau West (Deutsches Haus in Los Angeles, California) played an essential role for Bundists because of the film industry, which was seen as a propaganda machine.

The German-American Bund closely cooperated with the "Christian Front," a newly established pro-Nazi organization led by priest Father Charles Coughlin. He operated under the banner of Christianity and anticommunism. The German-American Bund carried out active propaganda in all departments such as the publications "Deutscher Weckruf und Beobachter" (renamed to "The Free American and Deutscher Weckruf und Beobachter" in 1939) and "Philadelphia Weckruf und Beobachter."

Even though the Bund was an organization for German heritage people, many Irish-Americans sympathized with the organization due to its anti-British-bias. One rally, for example, took place in Union City, an industrial city with a large Irish population in Hudson County. Also the Silver Shirts (Silver Legion of America), actively supported the Bund (Source: Geels, James E.)

(c) Bundesarchiv: Bild 146-1990-073-12  Die Amerikanische Flagge neben Reichsadler mit Hakenkreuz
(c) Bundesarchiv: Bild 146-1990-073-12 Die Amerikanische Flagge neben Reichsadler mit Hakenkreuz
CCO Image: Flags of the Bund and American Flags, Special Clothing Stores in the background
CCO Image: Flags of the Bund and American Flags, Special Clothing Stores in the background

Other activites of the German American Bund included:

 

mass rallies

The Bund recruited their members through rallies and sporting activities. They had two soccer teams, the Hansa and Hamburg.

Other patriotic gatherings took place at the "Deutsches Haus" in Los Angeles. Their rallies were flagged with Swastikas and US flags. Most rallies were started by the same song, namely the "Horst Wessel Song." Mass rallies were also used to slur the opponent's names, such as President Roosevelt, who was frequently called "Frank D. Rosenfeld"  and to play with words as a technique as in the case of "New Deal" and "Jew Deal" (Source: Geels, James E.) Their activities often led to clashes and street battles with other groups. Jewish-Americans and other German Americans who did not want to be associated with the movement protested against the German-American Bund.

 

celebrations in Hitler's honor

The annual celebration of Hitler's birthday on April 20  played a key role in recruiting new members and celebrating the nationalistic culture. His birthday celebration consisted of the flag march, taps and a ball, as in the case at the Yorkville Casino (Eastern Gau). The fee was 40 Cent.

Another important date was the Beer Hall Putsch, an attempted coup d'etat on German soil. Those dates, April 20 and the attempted coup d'état to overthrow the government (on 8 - 9 November in 1923), go hand in hand.

 

youth camps and propaganda schools

The German American Bund had their own version of the Hitler Youth, the so called Jungvolk (aged 6 - 13) and the Jungenschaft (aged 14 and older). The summer camps (Camp Sutter, Camp Siegfried, Deutschhorst, Nordland, Camp Bergwald and Camp von Steuben among twenty others)  required children to learn the German language. Bundists learned the creed and ideology of the German-American Bund. All locations followed the same routine: breakfast, morning sports, instructions in American history followed by German lessons. The most notorious camps were Camp Siegfried in the state of New York and Camp Nordland in New Jersey. Boys of the youth movement were supposed to be tough, courageous, loyal, fortright and strong and genuine. Above all, camaraderie played an important role. The children listened to the Badweiler March and the Horst Wessel song, a song of the NSDAP since 1933, while Swastikas and American flags were waving on these camps. During the week only children went through the rituals of camaraderie, during the weekend adults joined them "for fun and sun." (Source: Kopp, Eliot A. ) After 1937, the Bundists published a magazine, named "Junges Volk" for their young members. The magazine had an emphasis on patriotic education and on German achievements in the historical development of the United States. Bund literature pointed out that Aryans had been the original European immigrants who had defeated the American wilderness in the westward movement, preparing the way for a promising and prosperous future. (Source: Eliot A. Kopp and Geels, James E.) The American flag was saluted by raising the right arm in a Nazi salute. (Source: Miller, Marvin D.) These summer camps were run like Hitler Youth camps. (Source: USHMM) Also, the mentioned key dates were taught in American History lessons, as Fritz Kuhn described it in a FBI interrogation:

"The fight against the vermin of the United States will be fought. This is our motto for April 20th [Hitler's birthday] ... we are the ones who are coming! It has been estimated that there are about twenty-five to thirty million of Germans and Germanic people here. They are not organized, fighting against the filthy insults flung at their race and their Fatherland by a band of elbow-showing Jews and sneering Marxists."

(Source: Kopp, Elliot A.)

 

Propaganda schools, however, were established to train the officers of each of the Bund's units. They were instructed to carry out the goals of the Bund and how to reach out to other organizations.
Furthermore, the Bund sought to convince the American public that the völkisch movement' qualities could be blended with American patriotism and traditions to produce a better America. 
(Source: Kopp, Eliot A)

 

Publications and the Media

-Deutscher Weckruf und Beobachter:

(The German Awakener and Observer)

The magazine ran numerous articles in its pages to promote a pro German opinion concerning nationalism.  In 1938 the name was changed to

-Deutscher Weckruf und Beobachter and The Free American and in 1939 again to

-The Free American and Deutscher Weckruf und Beobachter

-Philadelphia Weckruf und Beobachter.

This was another version of the original newspaper for the state of Pennsylvania.

 

However, the free press was frequently discredited, such as in the rally at Madison Square Garden:

"I am sure I do not come before you tonight as a complete stranger. You will have heard of me through the Jewish-controlled press as a creature with horns, a cloven hoof and a long tail ... They will surely succeed in their far-reaching ambition, unless you Aryans, Christians, wake up, and not only speak out in thunder tones to demand that our government shall be returned to the American people who founded it."

(Fritz Julius Kuhn)

 

uniformed American Storm Troopers called Order Service (OD) 

This militia-like group had been formed already within the Friends of the New Germany and was reorganized by Kuhn. They pledged their allegiance to him and were responsible for the security on rallies. A few thousand Bund members were part of the OD, recognizable by their armbands and legionnaire style hats.

Furthermore, Bundists supported the idea of Law and Order, hoping to serve as a reserve force to the police in any attempt of Communists to overthrow the U.S. Government. (Source: Geels, James E.)

Moreover, the members pledged "to uphold and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States and to cultivate their lofty ideals, to be of real value and a desirable and respected class of law-abiding citizens of the United States of America." (Source: U.S. Congress, Congressional Records, March 2, 1938, 2726) These uniformed members were also commonly known as Storm Troopers. (Source: USHMM)

The Chicago Daily Times assigned a team of journalists to investigate the Bund. Their series "I AM A U.S. Storm Troop" was presented for two weeks in September 1937.

An Honor America Rally

"Live in New York City"

Rallies played an essential role in Nazi Germany to show off the regime and orchestrate the concept of an ethnic community. They appealed to the emotions of the audience and their natural love for their homeland:

 

"Here politics are conceived not as something to be thought out and understood, but as an 'experience'. Stagecraft becomes a political message."

(Source: Documentation Center Nuernberg) 

 

Christian and Germanic customs were part of the mix, along with parades, speeches, and music. The most popular one was held every year in Nuernberg from 1933 to 1938. In the United States, the German- American Bund took the idea of propaganda into action. The Stonemasons march, for instance, emphasized the cause for the working class. Use patriotism to win the patriots for any cause is another technique of propaganda in nationalism.

Propaganda

The art of propaganda lies in understanding the emotional ideas of the great masses and finding, through a psychologically correct form, the way to the attention and hence to the heart of the broad masses . . . It is a mistake to make propaganda many-sided, like scientific instruction, for instance. The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is tremendous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few paints and must harp on these slogans until the last menber of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan. (Adolf Hitler)

 


Propaganda and Education

"Every educated person is a future enemy"

(Martin Bormann - NSDAP official)

Facts and Falsehood

Another aspect of German propaganda was falsehood. Goebbels, minister of propaganda of the German Reich, believed "that a lie may only be recognized as such when one's opponent has the opportunity to expound the truth"  As a law of propaganda, the following scheme was implemented:

 >>falsehood - revelation of the opponents weaknesses - repetition of a lie. <<

The biggest rally that the German American Bund held took place in New York City in February 1939. Dates had always played an essential role in the Nazi code. However, the organizers' focus was not April 20 (Hitler's birthday), but to celebrate George Washington's birthday beforehand on February 20. Due to widespread protests, February 22 would have been a challenge for city mayor La Guardia. More than 20.000 people came to the rally, some of them with Nazi armbands. The event was billed as a "Pro-American Rally" and was opened with the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag. A very outlandish version of the Star-Spangled Banner was sung by Margarete Rittershaush. A 30-foot-tall banner of George Washington was hung between swastikas and American flags. A band was stationed directly in front of the stage (Source: Eliot A Kopp). Their live performance included American patriotic tunes as well as songs favored by the German Reich. German American Storm Troopers were in the aisles and were responsible for the order.

The whole event was a version of an American Dream, dreamed by some German immigrants who came to the United States after World War 1. Their version presented the Stars and Stripes as a white only flag that had no space for other Americans of different backgrounds. Ironically, not every member of the German American Bund was an American citizen and their leader was presented in the media as the American Fuehrer whose English skills leave much to be desired. A fact that was overlooked since he was white.

  "The Bund", the "Christian Front" and "The Hour of Power"

In the name of Christianity - Father Coughlin

"God has chosen Hitler"

Whereas Fritz Julius Kuhn was the organizer of Nazi events, Father Coughlin was the Bund's megaphone and disseminator. The Bund and the "Christian Front" cooperated on many levels. (Source: USHMM) Father Coughlin was another naturalized citizen who became famous across the country as a radio celebrity due to his weekly radio broadcast "The Hour of Power." He used his radio show, which reached an audience of more than 30 million people, to persuade Americans to vote for Roosevelt before turning on him by the end of 1935 and attacked him and the New Deal in his radio program. Father Coughlin and Kuhn didn't know each other in person but supported one another (Source: USHMM). Kuhn, for instance, told his supporters to listen to his radio and read Coughlin's magazine "Social Justice", which would contain the truth about who is trying to destroy United States' Constitution. Coughlin helped to establish a political and militia-like organization called the "Christian Front" in a 1938 broadcast. They organized "Buy Christian" rallies throughout the United States. Furthermore, in the days and weeks after the Kristallnacht (Night of broken glass), Father Coughlin defended the Nazi regime and argued that the Kristallnacht was justified as retaliation for Jewish persecution of Christians. Father Coughlin shifted to the Far Right and openly promoted the idea that a fascist dictatorship and authoritarian government is the only cure to drain the swamps in a sickening democracy. Even after America was under attack on December 7, 1941, Father Coughlin refused to support the idea of a strong nation that defends itself after Pearl Harbor, warning that the United States should stay out of the war and blamed the Jews for it. Coughlin's request for a passport was denied by the US State Department in 1941. (Source: USHMM)

  The German American Bund as a "Patriot's Party"

In the Name of Patriotism

"The Party Line was changed as a bucket of red, white, and blue paint was applied to make overnight patriots of the Nazis. With the realization that the United States would never adopt National Socialism as a replacement for democracy, the Bund became nationalist and isolationists, showing great concern for the welfare of the Republic. They adopted the slogan  'America First'."

(Source: Carlson, John. Undercover. New York: Alfred Dutton and Co, 1943)

America is not only the land of many possibilities but also the nation of many dreams. The following quotes present one of them. They were all made by members of the German-American Bund at the famous rally at Madison Square Garden. They do not represent the writers view.

 

Defining Patriotism:

 

The event was opened with the following words:

"My fellow Christian Americans! It is my privilege to welcome you to this impressive patriotic mass demonstration sponsored by the German American Bund . . . Let us reason from FACTS that cannot be challenged."

 

Loyal and law-abiding:

 

"My Fellow Countrymen! We German Americans are inequivocably committed to the defense of the Flag, Constitution and Sovereingty of our United States. WE STAND BEFORE YOU - loyal and law-abiding, to be here dedicated together with you, to the great task of national and social reconstruction, and resolved as you are resolved to restore America to the true Americans and to the ideals and principles given expression in the great farewell address of George Washington. FREE AMERICA."

The Bundists saluted  "FREE AMERICA" instead of "Sieg Heil" in order to show their Americanism.

 

Preservation of the Constitution, denial of National Socialism

 

"The German American Bund firmly maintains that it is by no means un-American to assume that the Congress of our United States, within the scope of its Constitutional Authority, can achieve the same results in the same way! It is not our slightest intention to realize these aims through the medium of violence and bullets. They can be attained by means of the BALLOT of a national-minded, patriotic Electorate!"

 

"We have never claimed to be and are not Nazis, knowing very well that Nazism, German National Socialism is reserved for Germany and has no place in our Country, the United States of America! The German Chancellor has proclaimed to the world many times that National Socialism is not for export!"

 

The great American Melting Pot

 

As numerous authors have pointed out already, the very American Melting Pot idea as a distinctive feature of the United States was condemned and seen as a Jewish product by Bundists and other fraternities. Some speakers made no secret about the comprehension of their version of the American Flag as a White Banner only:

 

"THESE UNITED STATES ALSO are the product of a particular Racial Group, the ARYAN."

 

"We can respect and live in Peace with the Negro, the Japanese, the Chinese, the Arab, provided we protect our prerogatives here as these others do in their Countries . . . "

AN AMERICAN BY BIRTH!  AND A CHRISTIAN GUY
AN AMERICAN BY BIRTH! AND A CHRISTIAN GUY

                                                                                                    SAYS THE IMMIGRANT...

  The downfall of the German American Bund

Mind the Background!

Image Property: Department of State (U.S. Passport)
Image Property: Department of State (U.S. Passport)

The German-American Bunds activities led congressional representatives to demand that it be investigated by a new committee, called the House Un-American Activities. The Committee hearings showed clear and unmistakable evidence of the Bund ties to the ideology of Nazi Germany. Fiorello La Guardia, the city mayor of New York City, ordered to investigate the Bunds taxes. It found that Fritz Julius Kuhn had embezzled 14.000 $ from his organization. In August 1939, Kuhn was questioned by the House Un-American Activities. On December 5, 1939, Kuhn was sentenced to prison for forgery and embezzlement. While in prison, his citizenship was stripped off, and Kuhn was deported back to Germany after the war. In Munich, he worked as an industrial chemist until he was arrested during the post-war de-Nazification process and charged with attempting to transplant Nazism into the United States. He was released shortly before his death in 1951. The New York Times noted he died "a poor and obscure chemist, unheralded and unsung."

 

Sources:

 

Geels, James E. The German-American Bund: Fifth Column or Deutschtum? 1975. University of North Texas. Master of Arts Thesis.

 

Canedy, Susan. America's Nazis, A Democratic Dilemma. Menlo Park: Markgraf Publications Group, 1990.

 

Carlson, John. Undercover. New York: Alfred Dutton and Co, 1943.

 

Diamond, Sander A. The Nazi Movement in the United States, 1924 - 1941. New York: Cornell University Press, 1974.

 

Kopp, Eliot A. Fritz Kuhn, "The American Fuehrer" and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund. 2010. Florida Atlantic University. Master of Art Thesis.

 

Miller, Marvin D. Wunderlich's Salute. New York: Malamund-Rose, 1983.

 

Museums Nürnberg. "The Nazi Party Rallies". https://museums.nuernberg.de/documentation-center/national-socialism/the-nazi-party-rallies/

 

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC. "German-American Bund". Holocaust Encylopedia. https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/german-american-bund

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