Tragically, Nazis in the United States are suddenly the subject of national focus, due to the awful events of August 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. While this open display of neo-Nazism may seem sudden and out of nowhere to some, the hateful ideology has been simmering in the shadows for generations. The history of Nazis in America is a long one, and that history has direct connections to beloved companies with unspoken ties to Nazi Germany and the Nazis in America today. By better understanding when, where, and why Nazism first spread to American soil, the events of 2017 can also be better understood.
There has been an ongoing debate as to the propriety of referring to all white supremacists as Nazis, but that argument will not apply to this article. There are, unfortunately, more than enough examples of actual, Hitler-revering, swastika-wearing Nazis in America to paint a powerful picture of the roots of hatred. There is no ambiguity when it comes to labeling these individuals as what they were and are: white supremacist Nazis.
Here's The Part You Probably Know – Their Origins Are In Germany
The National Socialist German Workers’ Party, better known as the Nazi party, was a political movement that began with the German Workers’ Party, forming in 1919 shortly after the Treaty of Versailles. Adolf Hitler joined the party that year, and, by 1921, he had gained leadership. In 1923, Hitler and the Nazis staged the Beer Hall Putsch, a failed attempt to take over the Bavarian government that landed Hitler in jail. While imprisoned, Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, part-autobiography, part-Nazi doctrine. The beliefs of Hitler and the Nazis were forever solidified, and they included: the superiority of the Aryan race, the evils of Jews and communists, and the need for revolution in Germany. After his release, Hitler steadily rose in popularity and power, resulting in the Nazis gaining control of Germany in 1933.
Because They Were On Board With The Nazi Ideology In Germany, Friends Of The New Germany Started In The US In The '30s
It wasn’t long after the Nazi Party rose to political power in Germany that the Party’s influence began to spread to other countries, including America. The Nazi Party even had a branch in America, made up mostly of German-American citizens, and that group started up an organization that was first called Friends of the Hitler Movement and then later changed to Friends of the New Germany. The “Friends” received propaganda directly from the Nazi Party and were charged with spreading it throughout America.
The Friends of the New Germany organization came under fire from the State Department in 1935 for representing foreign interests, leading the Nazis to cut ties with the group so that it could stand as “an entirely American organization.” This rebranding would require yet another new name.
Then, The German-American Bund Was Born, Taking The 'Nazi' Out Of Nazism
The new name for the American version of the Nazi Party was the "German-American Bund," which helped hide their fascist intentions behind pride in one’s German heritage. It took the word Nazi out of Nazism. However, the membership remained largely the same from the days of its official Nazi affiliation. The Bund served to promote a variety of Nazi interests in America, including antisemitism and strong demands for America to stay out of any European conflict. The Bund became more powerful and widespread than previous American Nazi organizations, peaking at a dues-paying membership of about 25,000 individuals. Of this large group, around 8,000 served as uniformed “Storm Troopers,” known for participating in street battles and clashing with Jewish veteran groups. The Bund lasted from 1936 until 1941, when it was outlawed as America entered World War II.
Fritz Julius Kuhn, The Country's Leading Anti-Semite, Led The Bund For A While
The leader of the German-American Bund for its entire five-year existence was Fritz Julius Kuhn, an American citizen who was born in Germany and fought for them in World War I. Like Hitler, Kuhn’s experiences in the war left him with a strong and irrational hatred of Jews, which he brought to America. Polls in 1939 showed that Americans considered him the preeminent antisemite in the country. Kuhn had been a part of the organization since the Friends of the New Germany days, and he used the dissolution of that group to seize power as the new Bund Führer. It eventually turned out that Kuhn was embezzling funds from the Bund, leading to his deportation back to Germany, where he died in 1951.