When Nazis Took Manhattan - 2019-02-20
On the evening of Feb. 20, 1939, the marquee of New York's Madison Square Garden was lit up with the evening's main event: a "Pro American Rally." The organizers had chosen the date in celebration of George Washington's birthday and had procured a 30-foot-tall banner of America's first president for the stage. More than 20,000 men and women streamed inside and took their seats. The view they had was stunning: Washington was hung between American flags — and swastikas. The rally was sponsored by the German American Bund, an organization with headquarters in Manhattan and thousands of members across the United States. In the 1930s, the Bund was one of several organizations in the United States that were openly supportive of Adolf Hitler and the rise of fascism in Europe. They had parades, bookstores and summer camps for youth. Their vision for America was a cocktail of white supremacy, fascist ideology and American patriotism.
At Madison Square Garden, the rally opened with the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag. The mood was jubilant. Attendees wore Nazi armbands, waved American flags and held aloft posters with slogans like "Stop Jewish Domination of Christian America." There were storm troopers in the aisles, their uniforms almost identical to those of Nazi Germany. "It looked like any political rally — only with a Nazi twist," said Arnie Bernstein, author of Swastika Nation.