Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League
The Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League to Champion Human Rights, (originally American League for the Defense of Jewish Rights) was founded in 1933 to enact an economic boycott against Nazi Germany.
Generally, the organization was thought to represent Jewish people throughout the United States. The League corresponded with FBI Headquarters and the New York Field Office. It was founded and headed by Samuel Untermyer in the 1930s. Born in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1858, he attended the College of the City of New York and later graduated from Columbia University in 1878, becoming a very successful lawyer. A champion for Jewish rights, Untermyer was among the most outspoken critics of the Hitler regime, advocating an international boycott of Germany though the League of Nations. He was also the head of the World Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi Council and the World Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League. He led the league until his retirement in 1938, remaining involved in its activities until his death in 1940. Throughout the 1930s, allied with groups such as the American Federation of Labor, the league tried to persuade American businesses to stop purchasing merchandise from Germany, exposing the ones that continued selling Nazi-made goods in their bulletin. They also tried to stop Americans from visiting Germany thus stopping any money from coming in. Among its many boycotts were ones against the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and the Schmeling – Louis boxing match in 1938. They also lobbied government, asking them to investigate various things, including pro-Nazi propaganda activities in the U.S. by organizations such as Welt-Dienst/World Service founded by Ulrich Fleichhauer. They tried to educate the public through talks on radio, distributing printed material. They also provided information to Martin Dies and his House Un-American Activities Committee.
In the early 1940s as sentiment turned strongly against Nazi Germany, the League under the new leadership of James H. Sheldon, a former professor at Boston University changed its mission, beginning to directly investigate right wing propaganda groups. Among them were the Christian Front of Father Coughlin, the Christian Mobilizers of Joseph McWilliams and the American First of Gerald L. K. Smith. They had also begun to support the civil rights movement voicing their approval for the Fair Employment Practice Commission (FEPC) and various other anti-discrimination laws. In 1945 they filed a lawsuit against Columbia University to have its tax except status revoked for discrimination against Jews. With the end of the war they also unsuccessfully tried to get the Nuremberg court to prosecute the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem for having aided Hitler during the war, sparking an investigation into Arab propaganda in the U.S, mainly the Arab office.
They were able to successfully combat the resurgence of hate groups in the U.S. by infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan and being instrumental in shutting down the Columbians, an Atlanta, Georgia-based group. The league continued its investigation and exposure activities through the 1950s eventually forced to substantially cut down. All though the 1960s and the first half of the 1970s, the league continued to maintain an office on 46th street in New York however serving mostly as a repository, information still continued to come in but minimal action being taken. The league terminated in 1975 with the death of its head, James Sheldon.
Shortly after Mr. Sheldon's death, the Archives of the League were entrusted to the Columbia University Libraries Rare Books and Manuscripts Division. Some of these materials, especially correspondence between the League's leadership and high-level political leaders were collected and added to the Manuscripts' collections. The remainder of the Archives, however, was deemed of "little historic significance." According to former Columbia University Librarian and Pratt Institute Provost George Lowy, they were then transferred to Lehman Library. There, they were stored until 1979 in an unused sub-basement of the International Affairs Building. The Lehman Librarian, Matthew James Simon, concerned that a significant resource collection was at risk, effected the physical transfer of the Archives to Yale University, where they are, today, accessible to scholars and researchers.