German American Bund

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German American Bund
Amerikadeutscher Volksbund
Also known as"German American Federation"
LeaderFritz Julius Kuhn
Gerhard Wilhelm Kunze
George Froboese
Foundation1936 (1936)
Dissolved1941[1] (1941[1])
CountryUnited States
Active regionsAll United States, mainly New York,[2] Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Midwest
Political positionFar-right
Major actions

The German American Bund, or the German American Federation (German: Amerikadeutscher Bund; Amerikadeutscher Volksbund, AV), was a German-American Nazi organization which was established in 1936 as a successor to the Friends of New Germany (FoNG, FDND in German), the organization chose its new name in order to emphasize its American credentials after the press accused it of being unpatriotic.[5] The Bund was to consist only of American citizens of German descent.[6] Its main goal was to promote a favorable view of Nazi Germany.


Friends of New Germany[edit]

In May 1933, Nazi Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess gave German immigrant and German Nazi Party member Heinz Spanknöbel authority to form an American Nazi organization.[7] Shortly thereafter, with help from the German consul in New York City, Spanknöbel created the Friends of New Germany[7] by merging two older organizations in the United States, Gau-USA[8][9][10][11][12] and the Free Society of Teutonia, which were both small groups with only a few hundred members each. The FoNG was based in New York City but had a strong presence in Chicago.[7] Male members wore a uniform, a white shirt, black trousers and a black hat adorned with a red symbol. Female members wore a white blouse and a black skirt.[13]

The organization which was led by Spanknöbel was openly pro-Nazi, and it engaged in activities such as storming the German language New Yorker Staats-Zeitung and demanding that it publish pro-Nazi articles, and infiltrating other non-political German-American organizations. One of the Friends' early initiatives was to use propaganda to counter the Jewish boycott of German goods, which was started in March 1933 as a protest against Nazi anti-Semitism.[14]

In an internal battle for control of the Friends, Spanknöbel was ousted as its leader and subsequently, he was deported in October 1933 because he had failed to register as a foreign agent.[7]

At the same time, Congressman Samuel Dickstein, Chairman of the Committee on Naturalization and Immigration, became aware of the substantial number of foreigners who were legally and illegally entering the country and residing in it, and the growing anti-Semitism along with vast amounts of anti-Semitic literature which were being distributed in the country. This led him to independently investigate the activities of Nazi and fascist groups, leading to the formation of the Special Committee on Un-American Activities which was Authorized to Investigate Nazi Propaganda activities and Certain Other Propaganda Activities. Throughout the rest of 1934, the Committee conducted hearings, bringing most of the major figures in the American fascist movement before it.[15] Dickstein's investigation concluded that the Friends represented a branch of German dictator Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party in the United States.[16][17]

The organization existed into the mid-1930s, although it always remained small, with a membership of between 5,000 and 10,000, mostly consisting of German citizens who were living in the United States and German emigrants who had only recently become citizens.[7] In December 1935, Rudolf Hess ordered all German citizens to leave the FoNG and all of its leaders were recalled to Germany.[7]

Bund's activities[edit]

German American Bund parade on East 86th St., New York City, October 30, 1939

On March 19, 1936, the German American Bund was established as a follow-up organization for the Friends of New Germany in Buffalo, New York.[7][18] The Bund elected a German-born American citizen Fritz Julius Kuhn as its leader (Bundesführer).[19] Kuhn was a veteran of the Bavarian infantry during World War I and an Alter Kämpfer (old fighter) of the Nazi Party who, in 1934, was granted American citizenship. Kuhn was initially effective as a leader and was able to unite the organization and expand its membership but came to be seen simply as an incompetent swindler and liar.[7]

Sowilo rune on the flag of the youth organization

The administrative structure of the Bund mimicked the regional administrative subdivision of the Nazi Party. The German American Bund divided the United States into three Gaue: Gau Ost (East), Gau West and Gau Midwest.[20] Together the three Gaue comprised 69 Ortsgruppen (local groups): 40 in Gau Ost (17 in New York), 10 in Gau West and 19 in Gau Midwest.[20] Each Gau had its own Gauleiter and staff to direct the Bund operations in the region in accordance with the Führerprinzip.[20] The Bund's national headquarters was located at 178 East 85th Street in the New York City borough of Manhattan.[2]

The Bund established a number of training camps, including Camp Nordland in Sussex County, New Jersey, Camp Siegfried in Yaphank, New York, Camp Hindenburg in Grafton, Wisconsin, Deutschhorst Country Club in Sellersville, Pennsylvania,[21] Camp Bergwald in Bloomingdale, New Jersey,[7][22][23][24][21] and Camp Highland in Windham, New York.[25] The Bund held rallies with Nazi insignia and procedures such as the Hitler salute and attacked the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jewish-American groups, Communism, "Moscow-directed" trade unions and American boycotts of German goods.[7][26] The organization claimed to show its loyalty to America by displaying the flag of the United States alongside the flag of Nazi Germany at Bund meetings, and declared that George Washington was "the first Fascist" who did not believe democracy would work.[27]

Kuhn and a few other Bundmen traveled to Berlin to attend the 1936 Summer Olympics. During the trip, he visited the Reich Chancellery, where his picture was taken with Hitler.[7] This act did not constitute an official Nazi approval for Kuhn's organization: German Ambassador to the United States Hans-Heinrich Dieckhoff expressed his disapproval and concern over the group to Berlin, causing distrust between the Bund and the Nazi regime.[7] The organization received no financial or verbal support from Germany. In response to the outrage of Jewish war veterans, Congress in 1938 passed the Foreign Agents Registration Act requiring foreign agents to register with the State Department. On March 1, 1938, the Nazi government decreed that no Reichsdeutsche [German nationals] could be a member of the Bund, and that no Nazi emblems were to be used by the organization.[7] This was done both to appease the U.S. and to distance Germany from the Bund, which was increasingly a cause of embarrassment with its rhetoric and actions.[7]

German American Bund rally poster at Madison Square Garden, February 20, 1939

Arguably, the zenith of the Bund's activities was the rally at Madison Square Garden in New York City on February 20, 1939.[28] Some 20,000 people attended and heard Kuhn criticize President Roosevelt by repeatedly referring to him as "Frank D. Rosenfeld", calling his New Deal the "Jew Deal"[dubious ] and denouncing what he believed to be Bolshevik-Jewish American leadership. Most shocking to American sensibilities was the outbreak of violence between protesters and Bund storm troopers. The rally was the subject of the 2017 short documentary A Night at the Garden by Marshall Curry.[29]


In 1939, a New York tax investigation determined that Kuhn had embezzled $14,000 from the Bund (equivalent to $260,000 in 2020). The Bund did not seek to have Kuhn prosecuted, operating on the principle (Führerprinzip) that the leader had absolute power. However, New York City's district attorney prosecuted him in an attempt to cripple the Bund. On December 5, 1939, Kuhn was sentenced to two and a half to five years in prison for tax evasion and embezzlement.[30]

New Bund leaders replaced Kuhn, most notably Gerhard Kunze, but only for brief periods. A year after the outbreak of World War II, Congress enacted a peacetime military draft in September 1940. The Bund counseled members of draft age to evade conscription, a criminal offense punishable by up to five years in jail and a $10,000 fine. Gerhard Kunze fled to Mexico in November 1941.[13]

U.S. Congressman Martin Dies (D-Texas) and his House Committee on Un-American Activities were active in denying any Nazi-sympathetic organization the ability to operate freely during World War II. In the last week of December 1942, led by journalist Dorothy Thompson, fifty leading German-Americans (including baseball icon Babe Ruth) signed a "Christmas Declaration by men and women of German ancestry" condemning Nazism, which appeared in ten major American daily newspapers.

While Kuhn was in prison, his citizenship was canceled on June 1, 1943. Upon his release after 43 months in state prison, Kuhn was re-arrested on June 21, 1943, as an enemy alien and interned by the federal government at a camp in Crystal City, Texas. After the war, Kuhn was interned at Ellis Island and deported to Germany on September 15, 1945.[31] He died on December 14, 1951, in Munich, Germany.[32]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Allen, Joe, "'It Can't Happen Here?': Confronting the Fascist Threat in the US in the Late 1930s," International Socialist Review, Part One: whole no. 85 (Sept.-Oct. 2012), pp. 26–35; Part Two: whole no. 87 (Jan.-Feb. 2013), pp. 19–28.
  • Bell, Leland V. In Hitler's Shadow; The Anatomy of American Nazism, 1973
  • Canedy, Susan. Americas Nazis: A Democratic Dilemma a History of the German American Bund Markgraf Pubns Group, 1990
  • Diamond, Sander. The Nazi Movement in the United States: 1924–1941. Ithaca: Cornell University, 1974.
  • Grams, Grant W. Coming Home to the Third Reich: Return Migration of German Nationals from the United States and Canada, 1933–1941. McFarland Publishers, Jefferson, North Carolina, 2021.
  • Jenkins, Philip. Hoods and Shirts: The Extreme Right in Pennsylvania, 1925–1950 University of North Carolina Press, 1997
  • de Jong, Louis (1956). The German Fifth Column in the Second World War. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9781787203242. OCLC 2023177. translated from the Dutch by C.M. Geyl
  • McCartan, Gerald Joseph (1976). An analysis of press coverage of the German American Bund by selected American publications (Thesis). Michigan State University. doi:10.25335/M5T87X. Retrieved 3 October 2021. Journalism Masters Thesis
  • MacDonnell, Francis. Insidious Foes: The Axis Fifth Column and the American Home Front Oxford University Press, 1995
  • McKale, Donald M. (1977). The Swastika Outside Germany. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press. ISBN 0-87338-209-9.
  • Miller, Marvin D. Wunderlich's Salute: The Interrelationship of the German-American Bund, Camp Siegfried, Yaphank, Long Island, and the Young Siegfrieds and Their Relationship with American and Nazi Institutions Malamud-Rose Publishers, November 1983(1st Edition)
  • Norwood, Stephen H. "Marauding Youth and the Christian Front: Antisemitic Violence in Boston and New York during World War II" American Jewish History, Vol. 91, 2003
  • Rodriguez, Patrick (2019-12-02). "'True Americanism': The Rise of America's Nazis in the Great Depression". Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Colorado Boulder Libraries.
  • Schneider, James C. Should America Go to War? The Debate over Foreign Policy in Chicago, 1939–1941 University of North Carolina Press, 1989
  • St. George, Maximiliam and Dennis, Lawrence. A Trial on Trial: The Great Sedition Trial of 1944 National Civil Rights Committee, 1946
  • Strong, Donald S. Organized Anti-Semitism in America: The Rise of Group Prejudice during the Decade 1930–40 1941
  • Van Ells, Mark D. (August 2007). Americans for Hitler – The Bund. America in WWII. Vol. 3. pp. 44–49. Retrieved May 13, 2016.


  1. ^ Bell, L. V. (1970). "The Failure of Nazism in America: The German American Bund, 1936-1941". Political Science Quarterly. 85 (4): 598. doi:10.2307/2147597. JSTOR 2147597.
  2. ^ a b Federal Bureau of Investigation. "German American Federation/Bund Part 11 of 11". Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  3. ^ "American Nazi organization rally at Madison Square Garden, 1939". Rare Historical Photos. February 19, 2014.
  4. ^ "German American Bund". Holocaust Encyclopedia. July 2, 2016.
  5. ^ Erik V. Wolter, Loyalty On Trial: One American's Battle With The FBI. (iUniverse, 2004) ISBN 9780595327034. p. 65
  6. ^ Van Ells, Mark D. (August 2007). Americans for Hitler – The Bund. America in WWII. Vol. 3. pp. 44–49. Retrieved May 13, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "American Bund". Archived from the original on 24 January 2018. Retrieved 2 March 2011.
  8. ^ Diamond, Sander A. (1970). "The Years of Waiting: National Socialism in the United States, 1922–1933". American Jewish Historical Quarterly. Johns Hopkins University Press, American Jewish Historical Society. 59 (3): 265. JSTOR 23877858. In one swift move that was to have an enormous implication for the infant Nazi movement in America, Nieland over looked Teutonia and designated the New York City cell as a Department (Gau) of the NSDAP. By June, local units of the New York Gau were opened in Seattle, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Chicago. By September, the American section of the NSDAP claimed to have over 1,500 members and it even had a Women's Division in Chicago. Nieland's decision threw the Teutonia Group into a state of complete dismay. Not only had he dismissed Teutonia as the potential base on which Gau-USA could have been built, he also engendered a situation that caused Party members to withdraw from the organization because they wanted to belong to a "real" Nazi movement. (The official name of Nieland's organization was the Auslands Abteilung der Reichs Leitung der NSDAP. On the formation of a Women's Division, Application to Kameradschaft-USA, Martha Schnieder, Leiterin der Frauenschaft der Ortsgruppen Chicago, 1932 1935. RUckwanderer Materials, 3/140/177983; on the development of Gau-XJSA, cf. Alfred Erinn to Gauleitung Hamburg, Feb. 2, 1931. 3/147/185886.)
  9. ^ Nazi Party/Foreign Organization
  10. ^ de:NSDAP/AO
  11. ^ William, Chris. "The German American Bund: The Enemy Within". Military Trader. Retrieved 3 October 2021. Gau USA was a domestic offshoot of the German Nazi party and it took orders from its superiors in the old Fatherland. Because of internal issues and a lack of adequate organization, Gau USA was ordered to dissolve itself in 1933 when Hitler came to power. In April 1933, the Gau USA's Detroit leader, Heinz Spanknobel, traveled to Germany and he was granted permission to reorganize a new group in the US. The following July, he formed Die Freunde des Neuen Deutschland (FDND — The Friends of the New Germany). Many of the leaders of the old Teutonia Club and Gau USA were brought in to help run the new organization under the strict guidance of Spanknobel. However, due to his poor management skills, his overbearing direction, and political wrangling, Spanknobel left the US and he was later replaced by Teutonia's founder, Fritz Gissibl.
  12. ^ Smith, Arthur L. (October 2003). "Kurt Ludecke: The Man Who Knew Hitler". German Studies Review. 26 (3): 597–606. doi:10.2307/1432749. JSTOR 1432749. Retrieved 3 October 2021. Reichsschatzmeister to the Auslands - Abteilung der NSDAP
  13. ^ a b Fritz Kuhn: Biography IMDb
  14. ^ Hawkins, Richard A. (2010), "The internal politics of the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League to Champion Human Rights, 1933–1939", Management & Organizational History, 5 (2): 251–78, doi:10.1177/1744935910361642, S2CID 145170586Hawkins, Richard A. (2010), "The internal politics of the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League to Champion Human Rights, 1933–1939", Management & Organizational History, 5 (2): 251–278, doi:10.1177/1744935910361642, S2CID 145170586
  15. ^ Chip Berlet, Matthew Nemiroff Lyons (2000). Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. Guilford Press. ISBN 978-1-57230-562-5.
  16. ^ Shaffer, Ryan (Spring 2010). "Long Island Nazis: A Local Synthesis of Transnational Politics". Vol. 21, no. 2. Journal of Long Island History. Archived from the original on June 21, 2010. Retrieved November 19, 2010.
  17. ^ Investigation of un-American propaganda activities in the United States. Hearings before a Special Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Seventy-fifth Congress, third session-Seventy-eighth Congress, second session, on H. Res. 282, to investigate (l) the extent, character, and objects of un-American propaganda activities in the United States, (2) the diffusion within the United States of subversive and un-American propaganda that is instigated from foreign countries or of a domestic origin and attacks the principle of the form of government as guaranteed by our Constitution, and (3) all other questions in relation thereto that would aid Congress in any necessary remedial legislation
  18. ^ "Fritz Kuhn Death in 1951 Revealed. Lawyer Says Former Leader of German-American Bund Succumbed in Munich". The New York Times. AP. February 2, 1953. Retrieved 2008-07-20. Fritz Kuhn, once the arrogant, noisy leader of the pro-Hitler German-American Bund, died here more than a year ago – a poor and obscure chemist, unheralded and unsung.
  19. ^ Cyprian Blamires; Paul Jackson (2006). World fascism: a historical encyclopedia, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 270. ISBN 0-8223-0772-3.
  20. ^ a b c Wilhelm, Cornelia (1998). Bewegung oder Verein?: nationalsozialistische Volkspolitik in dem USA [Movement or Association: National Socialism in the USA] (in German). Franz Steiner Verlag. p. 167. ISBN 3-515-06805-8.
  21. ^ a b "German-American Bund". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
  22. ^ "German films about Camp Bergwald, the Bund Camp on Federal Hill, Riverdale, NJ". Motion Picture, Sound, and Video Branch (NWDNM), National Archives. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
  23. ^ Jackson, Kenneth T. The Encyclopedia of New York City. The New York Historical Society, Yale University Press, 1995, 462.
  24. ^ David Mark Chalmers (1987). Hooded Americanism: The History of the Ku Klux Klan. ISBN 1-57607-940-6. When Arthur Bell, your Grand Giant, and Mr. Smythe asked us about using Camp Nordlund for this patriotic meeting, we decided to let them have it ...
  25. ^ "Windham was home to Nazi summer camp in 1937," by Julia Reischel, (Watershed Post; Monday, August 18, 2014 - 12:10 pm)
  26. ^ Patricia Kollander; John O'Sullivan (2005). "I must be a part of this war": a German American's fight against Hitler and Nazism. Fordham Univ Press. p. 37. ISBN 0-8232-2528-3.
  27. ^ "Nazis Hail George Washington as First Fascist". Life. 1938-03-07. p. 17. Retrieved November 25, 2011.
  28. ^ "Bund Activities Widespread. Evidence Taken by Dies Committee Throws Light on Meaning of the Garden Rally". The New York Times. February 26, 1939. Retrieved 2015-02-19. Disorders attendant upon Nazi rallies in New York and Los Angeles this week again focused attention upon the Nazi movement in the United States and inspired conjectures as to its strength and influence.
  29. ^ Buder, Emily (10 October 2017). "When 20,000 American Nazis Descended Upon New York City". The Atlantic. Retrieved 6 December 2017. In 1939, the German American Bund organized a rally of 20,000 Nazi supporters at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
  30. ^ Adams, Thomas (2005). Germany and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History: A MultiDisciplinary Encyclopedia. G – N, volume 2. ABC-CLIO. p. 631. ISBN 1-85109-628-0. Retrieved January 11, 2011.
  31. ^ "Fritz Kuhn, Former Bund Chief, Ordered Back to Germany". The Evening Independent. September 7, 1945.
  32. ^ "FRITZ KUHN DEATH IN 1951 REVEALED; Lawyer Says Former Leader of German-American Bund Succumbed in Munich". The New York Times. 1953-02-02. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-01-29.

External links[edit]