In 1936, the German-American Bund, a pro-Nazi group, was formed in the United States to advocate for policies beneficial to Germany. The Bund was very active throughout the latter half of the 1930s, organizing rallies and marches, including a rally at Madison Square Garden in 1939.
One of the Bund’s most notable activities was running summer camps across the nation that were similar to Hitler Youth Camps. Camp Siegfried was located in Yaphank, New York and attracted numerous visitors. The camp even had its own train on the Long Island Railroad, the “Siegfried Special.”
This Museum program explores Camp Siegfried and Nazis in the United States with a panel discussion between Bess Wohl, playwright of Camp Siegfried; Bradley W. Hart, author of Hitler’s American Friends: The Third Reich’s Supporters in the United States; and Arnie Bernstein, author of Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn & the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund. The conversation is moderated by Randi F. Marshall, Editorial Writer at Newsday.
This program is co-presented with the New York City College of Technology (CUNY) and the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County.
Watch the program below.
This program’s original recording transcript is below. This transcription was created automatically during a live program so may contain inaccurate transcriptions of some words.
Sydney Yaeger: hi everyone, my name is Sydney Yaeger and i'm the public programs coordinator at the Museum of Jewish heritage, a living memorial to the Holocaust.
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Sydney Yaeger: I am so excited to welcome you to today's program Nazis on long island, the story of camps Siegfried.
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Sydney Yaeger: I would like to thank the New York City college of technology, who will be opening an exhibition entitled Americans and the Holocaust in 2023.
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Sydney Yaeger: And the Holocaust Memorial and tolerance Center of Nassau county for co presenting today's Program.
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Sydney Yaeger: joining us today our best full arnie bernstein and Bradley w heart, they will be in conversation with Randy F Marshall.
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Sydney Yaeger: Best will is a playwright, whose works include grant horizons, which was nominated for the Tony Award for best play.
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Sydney Yaeger: Make believe, which was a New York Times critic pick and small mouth sounds which was on numerous top 10 list her most recent play is camp Siegfried which had its world premiere at the old vic in London and 2021.
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Sydney Yaeger: or any bernstein is the author of swastika nation for its cocoon and the rise and fall of the German American food.
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Sydney Yaeger: He is a nonfiction author and writing teacher based in Chicago or any has spoken about the wound on msnbc the National Geographic channel npr and other national and international media.
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Sydney Yaeger: This summer, he will be featured in the documentary the American fear for German public television.
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Sydney Yaeger: Bradley w heart is an assistant professor at California State University fresno his books include George pit rivers and the Nazis, the foundations are the British Conservative Party.
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Sydney Yaeger: essays on conservative ISM from Lord salisbury to David Cameron, which he co edited with Richard car and hitler's American friends, the Third Reich supporters in the United States.
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Sydney Yaeger: Randy if Marshall is a member of the editorial board at newsday she has covered the economy biotechnology and a host of other business issues on long island and in New York City, after eight years on Tuesdays investigations team she joined the editorial board in 2015.
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Sydney Yaeger: During the discussion, please feel free to share questions in the zoom Q amp a box and we'll get to as many as we can, at the end of the hour.
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Sydney Yaeger: Thank you all so much for being here and i'm now going to hand things over to Randy.
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Randi Marshall: hi folks thanks so much Sydney and thank you it's a real honor to be here today and to be joined by such an esteemed panel.
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Randi Marshall: If my powers could turn their cameras on and and unmute themselves i'd love to be able to have everybody see their smiling faces as well.
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Randi Marshall: um and it's really telling to me that we're having this conversation today, just a few days after the horrific events at the synagogue in Texas and and in the climate that we are in, so I hope to be able to talk about that as well.
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Randi Marshall: But to start i'd like to take everybody back to the mid 1930s and into yapping which is on the eastern part in the eastern part of an island.
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Randi Marshall: And I want to start with you talk to me a little bit about what YAP hank was like back then, and how this can't wear this camp came from and what life was like at Camp Siegfried What did it look like what did it feel like what it was like for those for the youth that were there sure.
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Arnie Bernstein: Well yeah hank was well known, one of our early urban berlin's early shows was up a pancake and so as well known community on long island.
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Arnie Bernstein: The band camp actually was an outgrowth of the whole band was an outgrowth of something called the friends of new Germany which.
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Arnie Bernstein: fits Kuhn, who was the leader of the German American been as they went out he took over what they would do is it was look like any other kind of family camp Nice, you know ground athletic areas.
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Arnie Bernstein: You know camper cabins things like that places where people could gather accepted had the Nazi twist that Everywhere you look, there was a swastika on the flower beds on the you know, on the the flags they things, called Adolf Hitler street gerbils street.
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Arnie Bernstein: You know, things like that there were you know a lot of things were in German.
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Arnie Bernstein: The the Nazi flag would hype fly higher than the American flag so everybody knew, you know what was going on.
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Arnie Bernstein: There was a what it was largely for new Yorkers and they would come in on something called the camp Siegfried special.
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Arnie Bernstein: It was a train coming from New York right into your bank and they would march through on Main Street, they would march through to go to Camp Siegfried.
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Arnie Bernstein: The neighbors and people in yeah peg did not like them, there were, in fact, the abundance said they didn't just confine themselves to the grounds of of the camp, they would also.
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Arnie Bernstein: They were neighbors complain that they were digging around and flower beds are ripping out strawberry patches things like that it was they didn't like him there.
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Arnie Bernstein: To say the least it's a.
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Randi Marshall: yeah seriously brad talk to us about how the campaign to be and why no start started by Fritz Kuhn What did he offer up what was the purpose, how did it come to be and how does it fit with the broader efforts to promote Nazi ideology in America.
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Bradley W. Hart: But pretty soon as this really fascinating finger that's almost been lost from the history books, but as I presented my book, certainly is is this incredibly disturbing figure he himself a an immigrant from Germany.
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Bradley W. Hart: immigrated initially to Mexico in the 1920s, and then to Detroit where he worked for the Ford motor company for a period of time, and it was supposedly fired from that job for practicing his political speeches in the workplace.
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Bradley W. Hart: But Kuhn presents himself as an as an old fighter of the Nazi party he actually claims, he was with Hitler during the beer hall push in 1923.
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Bradley W. Hart: And then ends up sort of exiled as many supporters of the early Nazi party were either either by law or by sort of self exile so coons is this radicalized figure already.
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Bradley W. Hart: is already mentioned, I mean initially is involved in a group called friends of the new Germany, which is supposedly a German American heritage group, but of course has this very politicized.
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Bradley W. Hart: Extremist bent to it that group eventually shut down the German American boone results as sort of the successor organization and coun becomes sort of national.
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Bradley W. Hart: Chairman so so Kuhn, is actually a nationally known figure again it's in some ways remarkable that he is almost entirely forgotten today.
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Bradley W. Hart: One of the reasons I wrote my book was because when I was teaching.
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Bradley W. Hart: This period in American history classes, none of these figures showed up under these names, except really Charles lindbergh who was not involved in the boone but involved, and of course the America First Committee.
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Bradley W. Hart: So so for Khun emulating the Nazi party in the United States really involves emulating what it has done in in Germany and so physical camps, the idea of sending.
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Bradley W. Hart: People to a physical place where they can commiserate in in their politics and in their in their shared heritage.
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Bradley W. Hart: is essential and so Kuhn developed this idea that the Bu needs a physical presence across the United States and camps League for you is really the.
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Bradley W. Hart: The hallmark the the sort of benchmark for what exists elsewhere.
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Bradley W. Hart: But Kuhn develops a very effective and impressive real estate portfolio across the United States, so the way they use this camp is really as a showpiece for not only their New York members, which was probably the largest.
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Bradley W. Hart: branch of the boone but also for visiting dignitaries from Nazi Germany so so this one spot in long island becomes a sort of internationally known place for for extremists.
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Randi Marshall: An interesting thing for a long island, to be known for at the time that you've written a play that depicts a very vivid picture of this camp.
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Randi Marshall: I found myself imagining what it was like to be one of those youth in that in that environment at that moment and reading it.
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Randi Marshall: And what struck me is that they became the youth that were there became fully involved in German culture, even as they're you know they're in America.
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Randi Marshall: On the island tell us what you found and why the camp became such a focal point for you in writing the play and what the camp was like for these youths that became the main characters of the work that you did.
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Bess Wohl: um well I had never heard of this camp before as Bradley said, you know it had never been taught to me it was totally unknown to me this chapter in American history, and so I.
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Bess Wohl: I I first stumbled upon it actually you know i'm a playwright i'm not a historian, so I was living in bellport and I sort of was researching the area little bit this was.
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Bess Wohl: The first summer of the pandemic.
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Bess Wohl: And I looked around and I sort of googled a little bit around the area and I found that there had been this campaign yeah peg and I really couldn't believe it because I started looking at images and I.
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Bess Wohl: felt like I was looking at images of Nazi Germany, and yet they were on long island there was like a complete disconnect cognitively in terms of being able to process that this was America.
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Bess Wohl: And, as I dug in more I felt that this story really needed to be told, and that people needed to know about it and I I focused on my play focuses on.
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Bess Wohl: Two characters a 16 year old girl and a 17 year old boy and they're spending the summer at the camp and there's this sort of really sort of strange and.
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Bess Wohl: upsetting tension between the activities which seem incredibly idyllic you know sailing cookouts.
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Bess Wohl: All of this sort of embrace of nature and the underlying ideology, which is you know, obviously horrifying.
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Bess Wohl: And incredibly destructive and and the play really looks at how young people become indoctrinated why they do, and hopefully ultimately offers a message of you know what we can do to combat some of these some of these really hateful forces in our society.
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Randi Marshall: And we're going to get to some of that messaging something that's really important about how we reflect on it today.
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Randi Marshall: You know brad I found one of the things that I found in your book and some of my own research is the.
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Randi Marshall: sort of juxtaposition of this German campus Nazi ideology funneling through it and yeah there, they are celebrating the fourth of July um talk to me about how this fit into Americana or how maybe Americana fit into it and sort of the.
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Randi Marshall: amazing juxtaposition of those two cultures in one place, and maybe in particular I like that, for us, that fourth of July celebration anything I know you worked on.
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Bradley W. Hart: yeah what's really fascinating and disturbing about Fritz Kuhn, is that he tries both visibly and ideologically to merge Americanism with Nazi ISM.
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Bradley W. Hart: he'll vertically argues at various points that and he says this actually in 19 1939 and a very famous rally at Madison square garden that.
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Bradley W. Hart: If George Washington Abraham Lincoln were alive in the 1930s, they would certainly be Nazis, this is the claim that fruits Kuhn makes, and so the imagery that you see at Camp Siegfried and these other boone facilities, I mean they I.
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Bradley W. Hart: Facilities all over the country, we should mention combined the American flag with the swastika, they had American flags being carried next to swastikas in these parades.
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Bradley W. Hart: You would see the German flag being hoisted above the American flag, but, but they were very careful to sort of combine that idea together, and then I think it's what makes Kuhn unique I mean you certainly see.
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Bradley W. Hart: efforts from Italian fascists or muesli sympathizers to sort of argue that, but perhaps mussolini's not that bad type thing you see other Nazi sympathizer saying oh.
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Bradley W. Hart: Perhaps we you know the US doesn't have a vested interest in entering the war in Europe that's Charles lindbergh argument.
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Bradley W. Hart: But coons arguing something different he's actually saying that Americanism and Nazi ISM are compatible.
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Bradley W. Hart: And of course anti Semitism is deeply at the heart of that, I mean if you look at the sort of banners that show up at boone rallies.
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Bradley W. Hart: One of their key slogans is free America.
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Bradley W. Hart: And by that they they overtly mean free America from from suppose a Jewish domination, so I think that that's really what stood out to me with with Kuhn versus all these other extremist groups, even of that period is this argument of.
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Bradley W. Hart: Not only does Nazi Germany not present a threat but Nazi Germany has ideas that the US should import, but these are compatible sort of visions of the world.
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Randi Marshall: or me, I want to hear your thoughts on that as well, but also doing after you reflect on that do me a favor talk to you a little bit about the ugliness of the camp and sort of the your neath the surface, as well that I know you've reflected on.
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Arnie Bernstein: Sure well first regarding Fritz Cone he you know, he was this was the middle of depression, if he had been a businessman.
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Arnie Bernstein: He would have been a genius because he took this small organization, the friends of new Germany that was dying.
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Arnie Bernstein: And he turned it around and he made it a money making venture they had a lot of different businesses, they had their own publishing wing they had branches across the country, in fact, the the camp itself was owned by.
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Arnie Bernstein: It was a different organization, obviously, but it was owned by someone, not the German American born, but the German American business league.
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Arnie Bernstein: Something like that.
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Arnie Bernstein: And so, he had this genius for it, if he had gone into a legit business, we might remember him a little better today than we do now, the I mean we've talked about the the camps and bestest talking about the tension between the kids and everything.
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Arnie Bernstein: ideologically was what these camps look like now, here are these wonderful kids in there, you can find pictures on the Internet easily have them, you know marching and enjoying you know camp activities.
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Arnie Bernstein: But they were abused as well, and many levels and in many ways, these kids were victims.
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Arnie Bernstein: They were the ones who built the camps, they built the they wiper highway her Union when you have a lot of young teenagers to build things.
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Arnie Bernstein: And they you know they they work them hard you know they end when parents complained.
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Arnie Bernstein: They were countered with well you know fine and you want to have anyone to protect you in the United States were the only ones who can protect you.
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Arnie Bernstein: In other words, shut up in fact parents were often not allowed on the grounds, they didn't want them to see you know the leadership didn't want them to see what was happening to their children.
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Arnie Bernstein: They would have marches in the middle of the night, and they would take these kids put 30 pound packs on them.
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Arnie Bernstein: And they would have to mark during the hot you know summer days and then in the middle of the night, they would deliberately pick.
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Arnie Bernstein: trails that had a lot of brush a lot of bramble kids would get scratched up they couldn't complain no good German would complain.
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Arnie Bernstein: They take them out in the middle of a field and there'd be a bonfire they sing Deutschland to braless they'd sing the hospice of lead, which was the Nazi son.
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Arnie Bernstein: named after a so called martyr for the Nazi party and he it pile Hitler, they would there was certainly wouldn't be any mention of Franklin Roosevelt, other than Franklin rose and fell T, which was his real Jewish name, as we all know.
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Arnie Bernstein: I they were abused on a lot of levels and one of the other levels was sexual abuse the.
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Arnie Bernstein: The head, they did, there was a young woman their name was Helen vorhees and when she thought she was going to be choosing remember that brooklyn branch, and she thought she was going to be this nice camp leader, like a girl scout leader or something.
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Arnie Bernstein: And the head of the youth.
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Arnie Bernstein: The Youth girl group the adult head when he met with her he started hitting on her and she wasn't sure what was happening, this is 1937 you know kids don't know like they do today.
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Arnie Bernstein: And he said oh you can't take it can you when she got to the camps, there was open sexual abuse, they had put the boys boys.
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Arnie Bernstein: kevin's in the girls kevin's within close proximity to each other, you know you got teenagers in the middle of summer, you know it's you know close proximity, things are going to happen, but it was encouraged.
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Arnie Bernstein: It was based on the German baby policy which were in Nazi Germany the kids were encouraged to have relations and produce good area and children, which is what the been wanted to do as well, now there was one girl her name is Telecom, and she didn't.
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Arnie Bernstein: She felt this was an abuse so she started standing guard at night to keep the boys from coming over to the girls camps.
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Arnie Bernstein: But she ended up getting sick from standing out there night after night after night she first got pneumonia that turned into pleurisy.
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Arnie Bernstein: And they wouldn't do a thing they wouldn't do a thing to help her because you know no German was going to you know, in fact, the word sissy know Germany was going to be a sissy.
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Arnie Bernstein: And she got sicker and sicker and she died as a result of this now, that is a bad PR move to have you know, a camp or die, you know, and so they.
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Arnie Bernstein: They said she was this great martyr for the course they held a giant parade for her to you know criticize, you know in brooklyn without honor guard and you know all this and.
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Arnie Bernstein: her father, who was a janitor of some modest means paid for everything.
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Arnie Bernstein: Now years in 1939 when the House what became the House on American activities Committee was investigating the bond they had first called Fritz Kuhn.
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Arnie Bernstein: Which is quite something, but then they had this Helen voice come and speak and she detailed everything that was happening and I equate remember it was horrific with these kids went through in such as I said they were the victims as well.
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Randi Marshall: You know best i'm struck in your in your play how normal things seem, for the first section until I guess they're not right and until.
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Randi Marshall: The language changes and the atmosphere changes and and you know scene by scene, you can almost see that shift.
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Randi Marshall: um can you talk about sort of how you created that contrast and how you saw that contrast to armies point right on the one hand, this was this idyllic setting and.
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Randi Marshall: he's wondering, you know typical kids doing typical one island camp and and on the other, he got dark really quickly um can you talk a bit about that contrast.
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Bess Wohl: yeah I mean I think they're part of what I was interested in exploring in the play was the way.
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Bess Wohl: These sort of very ugly ideologies can kind of hide in plain sight and the sense that things seem normal, but just under the surface.
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Bess Wohl: there's these this really sort of hateful thing happening so I was really interested in in both the way the characters were seduced into this.
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Bess Wohl: into this world and also because it's a play taking the audience on that journey, you know, could I take the audience on a journey, where they think they're watching one thing and then slowly the play become something else and actually.
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Bess Wohl: Let them have the experience of being sort of indoctrinated you know theater.
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Randi Marshall: Has.
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Bess Wohl: A quality of seduction and indoctrination sort of built into it, so you know how much could that play upon the audience and become.
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Bess Wohl: Part of the experience of watching the play, and then by the end of course you're hitting the face with the horror, the absolute horror.
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Bess Wohl: Of what you've witnessed and what's happened to these characters and what these characters become and you're left to asking the question is, are any sort of mentioned, you know, are they victims, or are they perpetrators and you know what.
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Bess Wohl: How much can we hold them responsible for their actions and and you know, especially these 16 and 17 year olds were sort of on the cusp of figuring out who they are.
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Bess Wohl: And, and how fragile that moment, is and how it can go so arrived they you know don't have the right role models and influences in their lives.
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Randi Marshall: But i'm struck by how vivid, all of this is, and yet how little it seems the perhaps broader public knows about this history, this part of the history.
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Randi Marshall: And how little it is taught um, why do you think that is why is this not part of the discussion when we talk even about Nazi Germany or about the Holocaust.
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Randi Marshall: And do we need to do, I don't know more, to make sure that this is part of the discussion and that this history, he right here in America and right here on the island is discussed and understood better.
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Bradley W. Hart: I think the answer to the second question is absolutely yes, I mean that's why i've written my book i'm sure that's why I already wrote his as well is, this is a part of history that.
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Bradley W. Hart: I think for many Americans was was is number one uncomfortable because the the sort of pervasive narrative of the Second World War, is that the United States inevitably was going to join the side of the allies, it was only a matter of time.
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Bradley W. Hart: And of course we were going to liberate Europe from the you know the the jackboot of Nazi ISM not true at all, I mean up until Pearl harbor.
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Bradley W. Hart: You know isolationism I argue was the predominant political stance in Washington DC.
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Bradley W. Hart: there's even historical debate now in the past few years about what would have happened had Hitler not declared war on the United States, we often think that after Pearl harbor FDR declares war on Germany in Japan it's actually not true.
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Bradley W. Hart: Hitler declares war on the US after the US has declared war on Japan, so we have to.
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Bradley W. Hart: understand and remember that this was a politically fraught time and and the other thing that really was remarkable to me, is there really no consequences for any of these individuals involved in this after the war, really ends.
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Bradley W. Hart: These people go on with their lives, I mean the German American boomed I argue had minimally 10s of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of members and sympathizers at its peak.
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Bradley W. Hart: I found very little evidence that many of them were prosecuted beyond the leaders, some of them end up going to prison for various financial malfeasance and including actually Fritz Kuhn.
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Bradley W. Hart: But the vast majority of members face no consequences if you if you look at the the background check.
00:23:03.360 --> 00:23:08.850
Bradley W. Hart: documents and security clearance documents, the US Government was using in the in the late 40s early 50s.
00:23:09.300 --> 00:23:17.550
Bradley W. Hart: The boone was a prescribed organization would have prevented you from obtaining a security clearance, but there were really no other consequences for for many of these people, and so I think.
00:23:18.330 --> 00:23:25.890
Bradley W. Hart: You know, America very quickly wants to forget this history, after the war ends, you know and and by the late 40s there's this incredible pivot.
00:23:27.030 --> 00:23:40.050
Bradley W. Hart: towards sort of rooting out communists of version, especially when you get into the McCarthy era in the early 50s but there's really no effort that I was able to detect it to hunt down the former members of these types of organizations, so I think it's in some ways.
00:23:41.280 --> 00:23:44.550
Bradley W. Hart: it's the American narrative we want to tell ourselves about the Second World War.
00:23:44.790 --> 00:23:46.710
Bradley W. Hart: But, in some ways it's also a willful.
00:23:46.710 --> 00:23:56.070
Bradley W. Hart: forgetting that there were there are many Americans probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions that did not let the US to enter Second World War, and in fact rooted for its adversaries.
00:23:57.240 --> 00:24:04.770
Randi Marshall: army to that point talk to us about sort of what happened to the camp, as what was the end of this story in terms of at least.
00:24:05.280 --> 00:24:16.620
Randi Marshall: been and it's outgrowth how did it at how long was it, therefore, how did it end and what happened in the aftermath, but I just alluded to the fact that many of the people involved there were no consequences.
00:24:17.070 --> 00:24:22.680
Randi Marshall: But what happened to these kids what happened to the camp, how did it, how did they come to an end of sorts.
00:24:22.770 --> 00:24:27.600
Arnie Bernstein: yeah before I do that, I just want to address, something that brad said, these were everyday people.
00:24:28.560 --> 00:24:39.030
Arnie Bernstein: They you know nationwide I did they first of all, they were terrible record keepers, secondly nobody's going to MIT they were in such an organization so it's really hard to say how many were in it.
00:24:39.630 --> 00:24:49.170
Arnie Bernstein: But there were camps nationwide secrecy was probably the largest but there was also camp norland over in Jersey there's kempt hindenburg north of me and milwaukee.
00:24:50.160 --> 00:24:59.070
Arnie Bernstein: And, but if we were talking about the rally the George washington's birthday rally there were 20,000 people inside of Madison square garden that night.
00:24:59.880 --> 00:25:02.670
Arnie Bernstein: They weren't all been members obviously they were you know they were.
00:25:03.120 --> 00:25:09.960
Arnie Bernstein: Everyday folks you know, somewhere, how they had to get these uniforms, will they retailers to make them, they were taylor's to make the flags somebody a defeat these people.
00:25:10.890 --> 00:25:18.480
Arnie Bernstein: You know if they were your next door neighbors in a sense, know the end of the caps well.
00:25:18.930 --> 00:25:28.830
Arnie Bernstein: When the wind Fritz Kuhn went to jail and they got him the same way, they got Al Capone on taxes they couldn't get him on free speech, your right to be obnoxious in this country.
00:25:29.670 --> 00:25:41.040
Arnie Bernstein: But they found that he had something called the leadership principle where you do whatever the Leader says, and the leaders in charge of everything standard element of fascism well, he was also in charge of all the money, nobody could.
00:25:42.120 --> 00:25:42.660
Arnie Bernstein: say anything.
00:25:43.740 --> 00:25:46.500
Arnie Bernstein: He was I guess you could say he was the Nazi chick magnet.
00:25:47.700 --> 00:25:59.100
Arnie Bernstein: heavyset guy heavy joel's thick glasses thick German accent, and he got women left and bright and he they found he was using the money from the button to fund his romances.
00:25:59.610 --> 00:26:06.060
Arnie Bernstein: So, in the end they got him on embezzlement well once they got him on investment that cut off the head of the dragon.
00:26:06.810 --> 00:26:13.950
Arnie Bernstein: And the been tried to get along for a few years after that, but there were various power struggles within who was left.
00:26:14.730 --> 00:26:24.300
Arnie Bernstein: And then, a few days after Pearl harbor I mean they were barely existing as it was, but a few days after Pearl harbor they officially came to an end, there was an.
00:26:24.840 --> 00:26:31.560
Arnie Bernstein: insider who was actually feeding the FBI information on the bundle give them all the Info on that final meeting.
00:26:32.520 --> 00:26:48.150
Arnie Bernstein: That the camps were dying as a result of you know, the whole been dying the there were various I won't say raids, but there were people get you know police came on local sheriff's departments things like that they found guns they found.
00:26:49.380 --> 00:26:50.580
Arnie Bernstein: Pro Nazi literature.
00:26:51.870 --> 00:27:03.060
Arnie Bernstein: They found things in fact this is actually kind of amusing there was they found a notebook and one that said in one of the camps in someone's head right said, Charles lindbergh would make a great President.
00:27:04.140 --> 00:27:13.410
Arnie Bernstein: Now, Philip Roth actually dealt with that in the plot against America, where he imagines Charles lindbergh and he actually talks about fits tune in that book I highly recommend it and.
00:27:14.580 --> 00:27:25.320
Arnie Bernstein: They just sort of petered out they they disappeared, like a lot of the been people on the place in Wisconsin today's it's actually walk the grounds it's it's quite beautiful.
00:27:26.700 --> 00:27:36.960
Arnie Bernstein: And it looked like anything else, and I know some people walk through some of the other camps not Siegfried which i'm sense just Community today, but they look.
00:27:38.550 --> 00:27:52.200
Arnie Bernstein: Like any kind of forest preserve they just sort of faded like you know his bread is saying the war game, and that was that it's that simple, I know it sounds simplistic but it's also that simple.
00:27:53.190 --> 00:28:00.990
Randi Marshall: it's it's true you know what struck me in reading all your books and in reading your play bass is is.
00:28:01.380 --> 00:28:10.950
Randi Marshall: Especially in reading the climactic scene in your play where the young woman is on the platform and and speaking to the crowd her words are so familiar right I.
00:28:11.430 --> 00:28:23.220
Randi Marshall: She says we will she says a foreign interest try to overtake America, we will not let them, we will prevail, I am sure that America can be great again i'm sure it's no accident, perhaps that you wrote the wrote it that way, but.
00:28:23.910 --> 00:28:31.290
Randi Marshall: talk to me about how you saw the environment of camps Siegfried in today's lens and.
00:28:31.590 --> 00:28:37.500
Randi Marshall: I promise Brian are you going to have a chance to all of your chance to talk about this, because this, I think, is a really important part of the conversation.
00:28:37.860 --> 00:28:50.310
Randi Marshall: But that's I want to start with you because you obviously you were writing this already in the middle of the pandemic in the era that we're in now talk to me about how reflected on today's society, when you thought about the camp.
00:28:51.870 --> 00:29:04.650
Bess Wohl: Well, it was again, you know this history was really new to me when I stumbled upon it and and one of the most striking things was how the rhetoric of the leaders of the camp of Fritz Kuhn.
00:29:05.280 --> 00:29:11.820
Bess Wohl: You know, really perfectly mirrored some of what I was hearing in the lead up to the election.
00:29:12.120 --> 00:29:24.240
Bess Wohl: And I started this play in the sort of the summer before the presidential election, so we were you know, obviously I mean which feels like we're still in a very tense moment but we were at a very tense moment.
00:29:24.630 --> 00:29:40.320
Bess Wohl: Part of our ongoing moment of tension, I guess, but um you know it really felt like America was in crisis hanging in the balance so many hate groups, making their presence known with zero shame, or you know.
00:29:41.400 --> 00:29:52.470
Bess Wohl: any sort of hiding of it, so it felt like it really resonated exactly with what was happening around me in a very terrifying way and I felt, you know my place and in 1938 so.
00:29:53.070 --> 00:30:03.330
Bess Wohl: there's a sense in my play of her being on the cusp of something horrible that is unimaginable to the characters within the play, especially a 16 and 17 year old so.
00:30:03.660 --> 00:30:09.150
Bess Wohl: I was thinking, as I was writing the play in the lead up to the election, you know what are we on the cusp of like what happened and what does it.
00:30:09.450 --> 00:30:14.730
Bess Wohl: feel like when you're on the cusp of something, and do you know and and what are the signs and how do you.
00:30:15.210 --> 00:30:28.080
Bess Wohl: How do you know when you're headed to a very, very dark and terrible place so that was one of the things that I was exploring in the writing of the play I almost felt like I had to tone down the connections to.
00:30:28.980 --> 00:30:31.860
Bess Wohl: Some of the current slogans that we were hearing.
00:30:32.250 --> 00:30:40.980
Bess Wohl: The media because I felt like, no one would believe it, you know, no one would believe how similar this was and, in fact, you know some of the feedback on the play has been like oh that can't really be.
00:30:41.190 --> 00:30:52.470
Bess Wohl: What it was it's one of those things as as a playwright, sometimes when you represent reality truthfully it seems made up because reality is just so you know, difficult to.
00:30:53.280 --> 00:31:04.590
Bess Wohl: To accept sometimes so so that was so so yeah it felt very sadly tragically current to me, as I was writing, and that was part of the reason I was really wanting to write it.
00:31:05.520 --> 00:31:21.600
Randi Marshall: arnie I want to hear that you hear from you on this to reflect similarly How does that era and everything that the camper presented and extend that the youth experience there reflect on where we are today on some of the things that we've been through I mean introduction.
00:31:21.720 --> 00:31:21.990
Arnie Bernstein: But.
00:31:22.260 --> 00:31:29.130
Randi Marshall: What comes to mind and talk to me about how you frame it when you think about it in today's lens.
00:31:29.940 --> 00:31:36.540
Arnie Bernstein: But it's it's an interesting question before 2016 I would have given you a very different answer.
00:31:38.520 --> 00:31:42.810
Arnie Bernstein: But you know with the rise of what we've had of trump ISM.
00:31:43.710 --> 00:31:52.440
Arnie Bernstein: The it's frightening how close it is to some of the things that it's coming and his been just envision they had something they called their tag.
00:31:52.860 --> 00:32:02.880
Arnie Bernstein: The day that was coming when they were going when Bolsheviks Jews were going to take over the country, and they would have to fight back well January six.
00:32:04.650 --> 00:32:15.150
Arnie Bernstein: steer tab and, in fact, that you find in a lot of these white supremacist groups, they were they were also talking about something called the day or their version of it, where.
00:32:15.660 --> 00:32:26.610
Arnie Bernstein: It was going to be necessary to fight back to take over, you know before the government fell well that's what happened it's.
00:32:28.020 --> 00:32:33.660
Arnie Bernstein: there's no other way to put it it's exactly what happened, it was Fritz coons dream come to life on January six.
00:32:34.080 --> 00:32:35.520
Arnie Bernstein: it's interesting because someone on.
00:32:37.140 --> 00:32:46.140
Arnie Bernstein: It was just the peace in your bank, who was terrified of these people, and he wrote to the local officials that we're going to have an insurrection.
00:32:46.920 --> 00:32:58.290
Arnie Bernstein: huh ladies right but it came a few years later bobby's but he was right and it was these people, you know the groups of today they're in the inheritors of this.
00:32:59.670 --> 00:33:14.370
Arnie Bernstein: And innocence Fritz coolness were foolish and that he put himself out there, so much and wanted to be a public figure he thrived on that publicity he loved it, he was so real you know he just love the attention.
00:33:16.140 --> 00:33:22.950
Arnie Bernstein: But the groups of today, they were more underground you know they have a way of cooking on the underground.
00:33:23.490 --> 00:33:33.090
Arnie Bernstein: You know, through the dark web, you know Q and on all these different factors that led to January six we had all these disparate elements coming together, united.
00:33:33.690 --> 00:33:44.910
Arnie Bernstein: The German American band, while they did have some they would appear in like forums, with the silver shirts, for example, and they did host some klansmen at one of the camps after after couldn't was gone.
00:33:46.230 --> 00:34:00.660
Arnie Bernstein: But they weren't it was more like friends, but they weren't connected as the groups are today it's it's really frightening to think that we are living in a world where they've inherited the dream of Fritz going and the dream.
00:34:00.780 --> 00:34:02.040
Randi Marshall: job is interesting, as your.
00:34:02.160 --> 00:34:08.190
Randi Marshall: As you're speaking arnie i'm reflecting on what Fritz tune and his efforts would have been like in the world of social media.
00:34:08.550 --> 00:34:09.000
Arnie Bernstein: Oh yeah.
00:34:09.150 --> 00:34:09.960
Randi Marshall: Good had Twitter.
00:34:10.350 --> 00:34:22.980
Randi Marshall: Right well what would have happened i'm brad talked to me about your thoughts on this and and sort of how you bring the research, you did and and and what you know have that time into today's lens.
00:34:23.700 --> 00:34:31.560
Bradley W. Hart: yeah I think what what's always stood out to me and already alluded to this earlier is the absolute normalcy of many of the people who were involved in these things, I mean, these were.
00:34:31.770 --> 00:34:41.910
Bradley W. Hart: In many ways, average Americans, except that they were involved in the German American Food and had these extremist views and I think you know I started writing my book, back in 2014 2015.
00:34:42.690 --> 00:34:53.670
Bradley W. Hart: You know very different context than than what it was published in 2018 and a very different context, and then today when we're talking about it and so that's been an interesting experience as an author to see my own work sort of evolving.
00:34:54.570 --> 00:35:04.320
Bradley W. Hart: From from sort of the wider perspective but, but I think you know, this is what disturbs me about the situation we're in today is is how well Do we really know our next door neighbor I mean.
00:35:04.680 --> 00:35:13.860
Bradley W. Hart: You know, to the extent that these children thousands of them went to these camps in the 1930s and probably went on to live normal lives ostensibly right we don't know what happened.
00:35:14.640 --> 00:35:23.970
Bradley W. Hart: To the vast majority of them actually give you an example that's that's sort of relevant to me as you heard in the intro i'm a professor at California State University fresno.
00:35:24.420 --> 00:35:39.960
Bradley W. Hart: As a result of my book, we actually have a task force examining the name on our library, because the person that it is named for is a person that I sort of exposed in my book as a Nazi sympathizer at Columbia University period, so this was a man that went on.
00:35:41.490 --> 00:35:45.060
Bradley W. Hart: unknown to the vast majority of people and had a library and informing California.
00:35:45.450 --> 00:35:53.820
Bradley W. Hart: So many of these people who held extremist views went on to seemingly normal life, some of them have buildings named after them, some of them are now figures of.
00:35:54.090 --> 00:35:59.490
Bradley W. Hart: Of ostensible veneration and and obviously as historians, we have a responsibility to to discuss.
00:36:00.120 --> 00:36:05.580
Bradley W. Hart: The things that people are people, things are named after and that sort of commemoration, but I think we also have to remember that.
00:36:05.910 --> 00:36:15.600
Bradley W. Hart: that these people were essentially invisible there was almost no reckoning at all these extremists and we really don't know what happened, these people, and what that sort of intellectual lineage look like so.
00:36:15.900 --> 00:36:21.660
Bradley W. Hart: that's sort of the the dark thought that keeps me awake at night is what happened, these people and what did they what did they pass on the next generation.
00:36:22.410 --> 00:36:33.150
Randi Marshall: i'd be remiss, especially as a new standard troll writer and calmness has been writing about my island where we are today a lot if I didn't talk about one island, specifically in the in today's around a little bit.
00:36:33.510 --> 00:36:48.960
Randi Marshall: And I have two questions on this or salas arnie um yeah paying this in your pain, this is not ancient history right until very, very recently, your pen CAP provisions on its books were non Germans could not buy real estate.
00:36:50.130 --> 00:36:54.930
Randi Marshall: And yeah and there was a fair housing settlement, only a few years ago, actually.
00:36:55.800 --> 00:37:09.660
Randi Marshall: That basically forced the not all of you have pink but a piece of yapping it still was governed by this by by the these Treaties to be able to allow folks to sell to non Germans and I guess, I want you to reflect on sort of.
00:37:11.190 --> 00:37:28.530
Randi Marshall: How that plays out rate on a real estate level on a neighborhood level how you know how perhaps this continues to even today to have ramifications and to have sort of a domino effect that would still affect these communities with.
00:37:28.560 --> 00:37:32.970
Arnie Bernstein: The will it, I mean that's part of American history and virgin there's always been restrictions.
00:37:34.170 --> 00:37:39.870
Arnie Bernstein: That you know you we can't you know there's a wonderful story that may be apocryphal.
00:37:40.920 --> 00:37:49.620
Arnie Bernstein: About Groucho Marx trying to get joined a country Club in California and they said to him sorry you can't join Mr mark Sue Jewish well.
00:37:51.060 --> 00:38:03.900
Arnie Bernstein: The one thing that took graduate marks of back and he thought very singing say well my daughter is only half Jewish can should go in the water, up to her waist and, but these kinds of things have always existed it's unfortunate but it's really in clubs, you cannot join things like that.
00:38:05.610 --> 00:38:17.010
Arnie Bernstein: It doesn't surprise me that those things happen, I mean again turning to Donald trump and his father settled out of court because they were having restrictions and who could.
00:38:17.940 --> 00:38:25.980
Arnie Bernstein: Who could move into their apartments things like that woody guthrie actually lived in a trump apartment a Fred trump apartment wrote a song old man trump about it.
00:38:27.420 --> 00:38:30.510
Arnie Bernstein: Every well well worth looking into it it's it's quite a song.
00:38:32.250 --> 00:38:38.100
Arnie Bernstein: There, but there is one thing to it yeah they were among us, but there were more good people.
00:38:39.120 --> 00:38:47.610
Arnie Bernstein: Fighting back and that's really key to the story is is it there were 20,000 people inside of Madison square garden outside there were an estimated 100,000 people want to kill them.
00:38:48.300 --> 00:38:48.840
Arnie Bernstein: They were.
00:38:49.860 --> 00:39:01.050
Arnie Bernstein: I, and it was such a disparate organization was really fun to write about you had Walter winchell in New York, who went after Fritz tune in a big way you had.
00:39:02.250 --> 00:39:14.610
Arnie Bernstein: Tom you had a war idea and Dewey who was then the prosecutor in New York went after them, they were the ones who found the tax issues in there and the women issues that you had was formed in order to go after them.
00:39:15.600 --> 00:39:27.360
Arnie Bernstein: In and investigate the Bund you had you know various Jewish groups looking into it very Socialist Groups everyday Americans, even the Jewish mafia Meyer Lansky Mickey Cohen.
00:39:28.890 --> 00:39:30.330
Arnie Bernstein: longest Roman in in Jersey.
00:39:31.560 --> 00:39:38.430
Arnie Bernstein: Guy named jack Rubinstein here in Chicago who later changed his name to jack Ruby and understand he got some other American history things they.
00:39:39.540 --> 00:39:44.430
Arnie Bernstein: But they even even the Jewish mafia got involved in between these guys up and it's quite it's quite a tail.
00:39:46.020 --> 00:40:02.970
Arnie Bernstein: And that was the thing, there were people out to stop it, and there were more good people out to stop it, and I, you know I would argue that today as well, there are more good people, then there are these other elements and that's what stops it from taking over.
00:40:03.480 --> 00:40:14.040
Randi Marshall: And you know, I think that does speak to today as well, on your best I should ask you the other piece of this net reflected, for me, a lot in terms of the island in New York and where we are right now.
00:40:14.430 --> 00:40:20.580
Randi Marshall: Is that even some of our you know anti vaccine and time mask kind of protests have taken on a little bit of a.
00:40:21.030 --> 00:40:34.800
Randi Marshall: Of a flavor right, some of them are featured swastikas or have been there have been comparisons to Mengele right or things of that nature there's been some Nazi symbolism there some of those groups, I found a home on in Suffolk county.
00:40:36.000 --> 00:40:46.920
Randi Marshall: Now, far from your pink in some cases, justice, those Nazi sympathizer so I guess i'd asked you How does that reflect to to our knees pointing to some of what Brown has said.
00:40:47.400 --> 00:40:58.680
Randi Marshall: on how we combat it right and how we respond now in today's world to some of these protests and some of what we're seeing, given what you've learned about about our past.
00:40:59.940 --> 00:41:03.030
Bess Wohl: Well, I love what you just said, because.
00:41:04.080 --> 00:41:18.870
Bess Wohl: it's easy I think especially right now to feel a lot of despair and to you know the the hatred and anti Semitism and racism in our society can be so loud that you know the good people that are.
00:41:19.620 --> 00:41:26.190
Bess Wohl: You know, trying to do their best every day and fight these these forces can get kind of drowned out so.
00:41:27.240 --> 00:41:36.420
Bess Wohl: I really appreciate that reminder already in the in the in the moments of despair, I really do you know that the morning after Donald trump was elected, our.
00:41:36.840 --> 00:41:44.280
Bess Wohl: neighborhood playground in brooklyn where my kids play was graffitied with swastikas all over the young kids you know.
00:41:44.910 --> 00:41:55.080
Bess Wohl: play structures and it was you know, one of those moments where it's like you know this one my children play every day um but you know we still play there and we're still you know.
00:41:56.010 --> 00:42:09.030
Bess Wohl: You know there every day, and I think you know, in terms of what we can do I think it's looking with honesty at ourselves, which I think is part of what this camp sick free conversation is about you know looking with honesty at.
00:42:09.630 --> 00:42:18.180
Bess Wohl: Who, who we are, but then it's also you know aspiring to more and then ultimately taking action, you know, is so important and.
00:42:18.840 --> 00:42:30.840
Bess Wohl: You know, as a playwright writing a play I don't I don't imagine that that's the same, as you know, a real social activism, but I do hope that you know that's one that's my way that's my particular thing that I can offer in terms of.
00:42:31.740 --> 00:42:45.480
Bess Wohl: How I can bring this conversation to people and and everyone's is different, and so I think it's for everyone, you know these amazing historians on the panel, whose books, by the way, I used for research in my writing of the play so like i'm a little star struck to.
00:42:45.810 --> 00:42:55.710
Bess Wohl: To be with both of you um you know it's really it's really offering what you can and figuring out what that is and then doing it actively as much as possible.
00:42:56.640 --> 00:43:07.650
Randi Marshall: Brian I want to get to a few audience questions, but before I do do you want to talk a bit about sort of how the the past connects with the President can ask the future and and some of what arnie and best were just talking about.
00:43:07.980 --> 00:43:15.270
Bradley W. Hart: yeah I want to echo both of them, I mean this has been a great panel discussion by the way, I mean really enlightening and and thought provoking but.
00:43:15.600 --> 00:43:22.080
Bradley W. Hart: I thought already made a great point which is you know, the vast majority people oppose this stuff you know I cite all sorts of scary statistics in my book about you know.
00:43:22.380 --> 00:43:33.150
Bradley W. Hart: 35% of Americans think that the Jews have too much financial power in the 1930s something like 10% of Americans say they would like choose to be expelled from the country and in the late 1930s.
00:43:33.540 --> 00:43:37.620
Bradley W. Hart: And even after the war starts, you have two or 3% of Americans who say they hope that Hitler wins the war.
00:43:38.250 --> 00:43:46.710
Bradley W. Hart: But, but when you look at the other side of that you know, even in the darkest days 65% of people didn't support that 98% of people want the United States to win the war.
00:43:46.920 --> 00:43:52.950
Bradley W. Hart: Even when Roosevelt is essentially hamstrung from providing aid to the British by the isolation on Capitol Hill.
00:43:53.910 --> 00:43:57.210
Bradley W. Hart: A substantial number of Americans not quite a majority but high 40s.
00:43:57.870 --> 00:44:02.760
Bradley W. Hart: want to aid the allies, even though it would violate the sort of American principles neutrality so.
00:44:02.970 --> 00:44:14.700
Bradley W. Hart: I think we can't dwell purely on the darkness, I think the reason I wrote my book was to expose a moment in history that I thought was under examined, but I think the other side of that is is realizing that these people failed.
00:44:15.390 --> 00:44:23.760
Bradley W. Hart: You know the scariest figure who hasn't come up yet in this competition is Father Charles coghlan right, probably the most listened to radio host of history openly anti Semitic.
00:44:24.510 --> 00:44:29.550
Bradley W. Hart: No known ties to the boone, at least in my research but certainly ideologically adjacent.
00:44:30.480 --> 00:44:42.660
Bradley W. Hart: And yet, even Charles coughlin essentially fails to gain any serious political influence beyond sort of being a thorn in the side of Roosevelt, so the end of the day, that was American friends utterly failed, and I think that should that should all give us some hope.
00:44:43.200 --> 00:44:49.770
Arnie Bernstein: I should point out, by the way at the rally they were selling buttons and things like that they were selling copies of Charles conklin's.
00:44:51.090 --> 00:44:56.730
Arnie Bernstein: or waking Singh was that the name of it, the they were set yeah they were selling copies of that as well as mine COMP.
00:44:59.310 --> 00:45:04.920
Randi Marshall: So we have a bunch of great audience questions and i'm very grateful for what I know is an ongoing chat.
00:45:05.820 --> 00:45:15.360
Randi Marshall: As we're talking, which I think is terrific and I really look forward to hearing from from some of those who are with us today, a couple of the questions are very similar interestingly.
00:45:16.020 --> 00:45:22.680
Randi Marshall: One of our watchers today asks, is it possible to draw a direct line from the leaders of the Bund.
00:45:23.070 --> 00:45:33.060
Randi Marshall: And the camps and contemporary neo Nazi far right hate groups or is the heritage more diffuse or indirect and somebody else asked whether there was a connection between the KKK.
00:45:33.390 --> 00:45:45.900
Randi Marshall: And the German American Bund so I don't know brad do you want to take do you want to take that at all to we make any direct connections between some of our other groups, more contemporary hate groups and that and that in those historic groups.
00:45:46.380 --> 00:45:56.580
Bradley W. Hart: yeah, this is an interesting question I get this all the time, I mean so that, as are already sort of mentioned mean the boone disappears essentially overnight, we don't really know what happens to a lot of the Members.
00:45:57.390 --> 00:46:05.610
Bradley W. Hart: Some of them may genuinely have just gotten out of politics entirely because they were German American and didn't want to face the types of.
00:46:06.330 --> 00:46:13.710
Bradley W. Hart: Of anti German prejudice that actually the German American pinion face and World War one so some of these people may have just gone quiet essentially but.
00:46:14.370 --> 00:46:21.390
Bradley W. Hart: What disturbs me, I mean more than tracing the lineage is the way that the boons is now being appropriated by the by the extreme right, if you look at.
00:46:21.660 --> 00:46:27.270
Bradley W. Hart: And I do not recommend this personally, but if you look at far right forums, which I do for for purely research purposes, obviously.
00:46:27.930 --> 00:46:32.970
Bradley W. Hart: you'll see for its cocoon being invoked now, and you will see some of the people that i've written about.
00:46:33.390 --> 00:46:38.610
Bradley W. Hart: Who were forgotten figures at the time have now sort of gotten this second life, where people are citing.
00:46:38.910 --> 00:46:49.260
Bradley W. Hart: coons speeches about how the US has nothing to quarrel with Nazi Germany about as some sort of you know overlooked fact of the past, and so I think we all responsibility to try to confront that.
00:46:49.710 --> 00:46:55.740
Bradley W. Hart: And then that's why certainly why I wrote my book, the clan is adjusting i'll just keep my remarks brief i'm sure already best have lots say about this, but.
00:46:56.490 --> 00:47:04.830
Bradley W. Hart: The clan and the boone quarreled actually greatly with the one part of the country that the boone doesn't really get any kind of a stronghold in is the South.
00:47:05.160 --> 00:47:14.940
Bradley W. Hart: partially because there's not a lot of German Americans down there, necessarily, but the clan also as this sort of stranglehold and the Klan which remember is also heavily anti Catholic in this period.
00:47:15.780 --> 00:47:26.370
Bradley W. Hart: And and actually the boone has a number of Catholic Members because Germany is traditionally 50% Catholic, Protestant so so sort of the the hatred between extremist groups is actually an interesting element of us to.
00:47:27.720 --> 00:47:30.360
Randi Marshall: arnie do you want to talk to some of those connections, a little bit.
00:47:30.780 --> 00:47:40.290
Arnie Bernstein: Sure um I should point out, I went to high school in skokie Illinois at the time of the infamous skokie March I won't go into all the details, they have many people know about it.
00:47:41.790 --> 00:47:44.910
Arnie Bernstein: They call themselves Nazis, they were a bunch of folks it's what we're.
00:47:46.110 --> 00:47:48.090
Arnie Bernstein: What are their connections.
00:47:49.650 --> 00:47:54.900
Arnie Bernstein: I think ideological connections I don't know that they're you know necessarily the grandchildren great grandchildren these people, but.
00:47:55.260 --> 00:48:00.060
Arnie Bernstein: ideologically they're connected certainly they have you know things like stormfront.
00:48:00.630 --> 00:48:10.410
Arnie Bernstein: I actually saw a discussion of my book on stormfront very minor but my name was in big red letters, just in case anyone didn't understand that only been seen as a Jewish name the.
00:48:11.370 --> 00:48:24.060
Arnie Bernstein: You know they're out there um yeah I mean we saw the guy with the camp outfits hoodie so again somebody had to make that thing the you know they're connected they're connected better today.
00:48:26.010 --> 00:48:28.110
Arnie Bernstein: Certainly Fritz Kuhn is invoked.
00:48:29.460 --> 00:48:34.740
Arnie Bernstein: I when I was doing my research, there was a book, I found in his aide called a book.
00:48:36.030 --> 00:48:44.130
Arnie Bernstein: It was called they, too, were Americans to was all caps and brad You said the book yeah and it's um it was all.
00:48:44.520 --> 00:48:53.970
Arnie Bernstein: pictures and a family, I was really nicely put together, you know, for what it was there was barely mentioned Fritz kooning it interestingly enough, but, but because of his his fall from grace, I suppose.
00:48:56.100 --> 00:49:05.550
Randi Marshall: Yes, do we know it all have we seen any reporting or or discussions of Camp sick free participants have they talked about their experience.
00:49:05.880 --> 00:49:15.510
Randi Marshall: Have any I don't have you or anyone else, even been able to talk to them or children or grandchildren generations is there any firsthand accounting of i'm.
00:49:16.530 --> 00:49:21.780
Randi Marshall: Of the camp one audience Member wonders, you know what happened to them afterward kind of thing do we know.
00:49:23.370 --> 00:49:32.640
Bess Wohl: You know I searched for that a lot in my research and couldn't find first hand accounts, so I looked more to you know.
00:49:33.960 --> 00:49:44.760
Bess Wohl: You know, books like arnie's and and bradley's and also you know looked to accounts of people who have been in Hitler youth, and you know who had had been.
00:49:45.870 --> 00:50:01.290
Bess Wohl: In Germany at the time to sort of understand what it felt like to be a young person in that in that environment, but I don't know, maybe you guys found direct you know accounts by people who've been been young at Camp Siegfried I personally didn't.
00:50:02.850 --> 00:50:03.480
Randi Marshall: Go ahead right.
00:50:03.780 --> 00:50:14.670
Bradley W. Hart: yeah I will say I have not talked to anyone who actually was willing to talk, although I say in every public appearance or repeated here I mean if anyone knows, anyone who was involved in a suit was talking to you certainly reach out I have.
00:50:15.090 --> 00:50:16.590
Randi Marshall: talked to me to i'll do a.
00:50:16.650 --> 00:50:24.780
Bradley W. Hart: New thing he said i've actually been reached out to by people who have found strange artifacts and their attics and things like that, including photos of.
00:50:25.290 --> 00:50:33.000
Bradley W. Hart: moon camps, people who have suspected after their their parents or grandparents have passed away that they were potentially involved in these things.
00:50:33.360 --> 00:50:39.150
Bradley W. Hart: So I think my suspicion is that people just didn't talk about it, this was things that were put away.
00:50:39.570 --> 00:50:51.540
Bradley W. Hart: Both mentally and physically and now I think we actually are are living at that generational shift where people are discovering this past really for the first time, and so I think in the next few years we're going to see some really fascinating.
00:50:52.620 --> 00:50:58.200
Bradley W. Hart: accounts of of finding things literally an addict but also sort of rediscovering the sister.
00:50:58.830 --> 00:51:02.370
Arnie Bernstein: You can still find information on eBay things like that as well.
00:51:02.370 --> 00:51:05.400
Arnie Bernstein: Sometimes they're quick about taking a lot of that stuff off, but it's still.
00:51:05.460 --> 00:51:05.850
Randi Marshall: Out there.
00:51:06.120 --> 00:51:16.260
Arnie Bernstein: I did meet I didn't find anyone if they are in fact there was one guy a friend of his who he was involved in fighting these guys on the streets.
00:51:17.070 --> 00:51:26.460
Arnie Bernstein: A friend of his tried to get him to talk to me, he was in his 90s, he didn't want to talk, because he was still scared of potentially things that could happen to him.
00:51:27.750 --> 00:51:36.180
Arnie Bernstein: Now i've heard I don't know how true this is in some of the in German part Chicago there's a some of the bars in the back room.
00:51:37.410 --> 00:51:46.050
Arnie Bernstein: On hitler's birthday, they get together or something like that how true, that is, I don't know I didn't meet this was years ago I met a guy who had been in Hitler youth as a kid.
00:51:47.430 --> 00:52:03.240
Arnie Bernstein: And when he got out after the war was over, he realized what he had participated in and he was horrified and he devoted the rest of his life to peace classes, the lovely man and I, you know I want to think that a lot of the kids did that.
00:52:04.500 --> 00:52:22.680
Arnie Bernstein: There was actually a former what was called the OD which was their version of the SS they former member of the ot testify to the huge back and said, I want to be a better American i'm ashamed of what i've done and they you know they need were very complimentary towards and.
00:52:24.480 --> 00:52:34.620
Randi Marshall: Pride what what do we know about what the German Nazi party knew about these American efforts to support them in any way where they connected to them in any way.
00:52:35.340 --> 00:52:47.760
Randi Marshall: You know what audience members was their financing, you know what were what were the connections, if at all between what what Nazi Germany, new and you know pillar new and and what was going on in in America.
00:52:48.210 --> 00:52:52.140
Bradley W. Hart: Well, this is actually a fascinating question and it's one that we can't entirely answer.
00:52:52.710 --> 00:52:59.700
Bradley W. Hart: You know some of this documentation related to to the financing question is still being uncovered and digitize and things like that, but.
00:53:00.180 --> 00:53:06.180
Bradley W. Hart: The Nazis, or I mean Hitler himself is actually embarrassed by the booth at various points, so one of the reasons that friends of the new Germany fails.
00:53:06.810 --> 00:53:17.070
Bradley W. Hart: Is that they're afraid that that this extremist group is going to present Franklin Roosevelt with a cause to to declare war or to enter a war in Europe so.
00:53:18.390 --> 00:53:27.810
Bradley W. Hart: You have this sort of awkward relationship where certainly the German console the German Embassy in Washington, are very aware of the pundits front page news across the country various points.
00:53:28.170 --> 00:53:33.420
Bradley W. Hart: And there probably is covert support financially or certainly privately.
00:53:33.990 --> 00:53:39.900
Bradley W. Hart: But ostensibly, you have the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin saying don't support these guys at all, they might be a liability.
00:53:40.290 --> 00:53:49.770
Bradley W. Hart: And so the Germans, you know, and this is true for a host of extremist groups, including actually the America First Committee later on and Charles lindbergh and father coughlin who we mentioned but.
00:53:50.460 --> 00:54:00.450
Bradley W. Hart: there's there's sort of the German Foreign Ministry is desperately afraid that these groups might present Roosevelt with an excuse to either declare war or enter a war, and so they want to stay fairly hands off.
00:54:01.350 --> 00:54:08.790
Bradley W. Hart: We should say that the that Fritz Kuhn and a boon delegation does actually meet Hitler during the 1936 Olympics and they get this sort of.
00:54:09.630 --> 00:54:25.020
Bradley W. Hart: grainy sort of propaganda photo very much, unlike the types of PR material that that the German Foreign Ministry and propaganda ministries generally put out but Kuhn runs us on the front page of the of the boons paper and says look hitler's appointed me the American fewer type thing.
00:54:25.440 --> 00:54:27.210
Bradley W. Hart: And I could, if I could know about that.
00:54:27.990 --> 00:54:30.330
Arnie Bernstein: yeah it was it was a grip and grin it was.
00:54:31.950 --> 00:54:36.270
Arnie Bernstein: You know they didn't know they would marching you know it standard political thing here's a.
00:54:37.500 --> 00:54:43.770
Arnie Bernstein: You know here's your future you're going to meet this group, and that group so incomes, the German American been delegation.
00:54:44.070 --> 00:54:52.530
Arnie Bernstein: She shakes and he says Okay, so what are you doing so, this is what we're doing and Hillary says we'll go back and continue your fight well Quinn, said that good thought this was you know.
00:54:52.830 --> 00:54:57.420
Arnie Bernstein: The command on high you know, is really only okay very nice, you know go back.
00:54:57.780 --> 00:55:09.060
Arnie Bernstein: And a couple years afterwards when it seemed like Germans were pushing them away, I mean what you said, with brad about them being embarrassed me that I like say my lectures imagine being a Nazi so bad you embarrass Hitler they.
00:55:09.840 --> 00:55:19.200
Arnie Bernstein: But he couldn't went to try to get more support and instead they met him, they said we'll continue giving you propaganda, but we don't want anything to do with you.
00:55:19.470 --> 00:55:34.290
Arnie Bernstein: Otherwise, it was a you know he thought he was going to meet a somebody in the high command he meant a flunky, in essence, they said the monkey to him so when he came there They shouted sig heil at their rallies, but when he came back of course Kuhn, being the.
00:55:35.670 --> 00:55:40.530
Arnie Bernstein: order that he was said well we're going to have some changes we I had a great successful trip to Germany.
00:55:41.640 --> 00:55:53.040
Arnie Bernstein: And among the changes they said, instead of saying zeke hail they started saying free America, and they would we did the same cadence and they certainly raised their arms, you know the in the salute that the Nazi salute.
00:55:54.750 --> 00:55:58.920
Arnie Bernstein: But yeah for the most part the Nazis really kept them at arm's length.
00:56:01.710 --> 00:56:13.440
Randi Marshall: Okay um bass i've got several people asking how we can read or see your play which is lovely um are we hoping that it will come to a theater near us to sometime soon.
00:56:14.190 --> 00:56:24.630
Bess Wohl: Yes, we are it's I think it will be coming at least to New York in the next year or so and then hopefully to a theater new because I know we have.
00:56:25.800 --> 00:56:35.640
Bess Wohl: We have people on this from from around the world So yes, hopefully, you, you will be seeing in London was was the beginning but hoping it's coming to New York.
00:56:36.150 --> 00:56:44.820
Randi Marshall: Fantastic and for those watching, we have put all the information about all both bestest play and our authors books in the chat so.
00:56:45.210 --> 00:56:51.450
Randi Marshall: Please make sure to take a look, because all the details there in terms of the names of the books and everything else, because I know, everybody wants to know.
00:56:52.140 --> 00:57:08.610
Randi Marshall: There is no question here, besides the work that the three of you have done is there, additional research or particular either book or anything else that you guys have relied on or that you recommend for people who want even more information, after we're done here today arnie.
00:57:09.270 --> 00:57:18.600
Arnie Bernstein: If the FBI has what's called the vault and they have all the files on Fritz Kuhn and all the files and the German American blend.
00:57:19.590 --> 00:57:27.750
Arnie Bernstein: And they are both fascinating and deadly dull, at the same time on one of the files is just nothing but redacted names they stood outside.
00:57:28.440 --> 00:57:38.700
Arnie Bernstein: You know, one of the camps and broke down, you know Carter license plate things and it's all redacted so that's one resource also you can find on the Internet archive you can find the.
00:57:39.660 --> 00:57:49.920
Arnie Bernstein: Testimony from Fritz Kuhn from Helen vorhees and from other people when they they spoke to it wasn't back then, it was something else, but what became.
00:57:51.450 --> 00:57:55.890
Randi Marshall: Right anything that you would recommend for folks to take a look if they're interested in more.
00:57:56.250 --> 00:58:05.910
Bradley W. Hart: ya know I Those are all great resources, I mean there's a few recent books that have come out, I think you know we're living through a golden age of this kind of history, I mean people are discovering this there's a lot being written.
00:58:07.380 --> 00:58:16.890
Bradley W. Hart: A professor at Boston University of Charles Gallagher has a book that came out about a month ago called the Nazis of copley square talking about the Christian front, which was an adjacent organization.
00:58:17.580 --> 00:58:24.360
Bradley W. Hart: But, but I suspect that we are going to see a number of publications, I certainly i'm still actively researching this material so.
00:58:24.660 --> 00:58:25.500
Bradley W. Hart: It will be a lot coming out.
00:58:26.700 --> 00:58:32.610
Randi Marshall: And that's what I cannot thank you enough, this has been a fascinating conversation, and it went by awfully quickly.
00:58:33.060 --> 00:58:42.750
Randi Marshall: I think we could have talked for a whole nother hour, but i'm so grateful to all of you, so thank you for your time and your efforts and your knowledge i'm going to turn the program back over to Sydney and thank you.
00:58:43.320 --> 00:58:53.190
Sydney Yaeger: Do yeah I want to echo what Randy has said this was such an amazing conversation we were getting so many great comments in the chat and a brand it's actually funny that you mentioned.
00:58:53.970 --> 00:58:59.340
Sydney Yaeger: Father gallagher's book because we're actually doing a program with him soon, so you all should check that out.
00:59:00.270 --> 00:59:03.540
Sydney Yaeger: So yeah, I would like to thank all of our panelists Thank you Randy again.
00:59:03.960 --> 00:59:12.300
Sydney Yaeger: And I would also like to thank the New York City college of technology and the Holocaust Memorial and tolerant Center of Nassau county again for co presenting today's Program.
00:59:12.840 --> 00:59:20.790
Sydney Yaeger: Everything we do at the museum is made possible through donor support those of you watching we hope you'll consider making a donation to support the museum.
00:59:21.060 --> 00:59:34.410
Sydney Yaeger: or becoming a member and joining us for upcoming programs, including our other ones about Nazis in America, she can check out the links in the zoom chat have a great afternoon, and thank you for joining us, and thank you again to all our panelists and to our moderator this.
00:59:34.410 --> 00:59:35.070
Arnie Bernstein: was a great.
00:59:35.850 --> 00:59:37.320
Sydney Yaeger: Day thanks have a good afternoon.
00:59:37.830 --> 00:59:38.460
Randi Marshall: Thank you.
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In 1939, 20,000 Nazi supporters attended a rally organized by the German American Bund at Madison Square Garden. When Academy Award-nominated documentarian Marshall Curry stumbled upon footage of the rally, he was driven to create his Academy Award-nominated short film A Night at the Garden. In this Museum program, Curry and Professor Rebecca Kobrin discuss the film and the rise of Nazism in the United States.
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Florence Mendheim, a Jewish librarian at the New York Public Library, went undercover in the 1930s to spy on Nazis around New York City. Local Nazi groups in the New York area were distributing propaganda, setting up summer camps, and hosting large rallies. Mendheim was inspired to document and resist these groups. Learn more about her life and legacy in this Museum program.
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Although we are eighty years removed from WWII, there are still many who believe in Nazi ideology, including groups in the United States. However, there are people who are fighting against these groups, such as Eli Rosenbaum, former Director of the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) at the U.S. Department of Justice and an official in its successor unit; Karen Dunn, leading litigator in Sines v. Kessler; and Amy Spitalnick, Director of Integrity First for America. Learn more about their work in this Museum program.