Randy Dotinga in Christian Science Monitor:
On a February day in 1939, New York City cops gathered around Madison Square Garden to protect the 20,000 fascists inside and the surrounding protesters who numbered as many as 100,000. There wouldn't be a larger police presence in the city until 9/11. According to historian Arnie Bernstein, "the cops said they had enough men on hand to stop a revolution." The Nazi sympathizers in the arena, there to see the fascist German-American Bund organization, wouldn't have minded setting off a revolt. After all, in their minds, the man of the day – this was the Bund's “George Washington Birthday Celebration" – had helped spark a revolution as the "First American Fascist.” Outside, just as in Charlottesville, outraged protesters decried the hatred. "They were like what we saw in Charlottesville, a cross section of Americans," Bernstein says. "Young, old, black, white, Jew, gentile, people from political groups of all stripes, including Trotskyites and other fringe figures as well as more mainstream groups. It was a massive scene, and a few Bundists took punches as they left. Most tried to hide their identity as Bund members." The Bund and its toxic American fascism are largely forgotten now. But they were significant players in the America their time, says Bernstein, author of 2013's Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund. In a Monitor interview, Bernstein talks about the roots of the American fascist movement, the parallels to today, and why Americans should not despair.
Q: What started this movement?
The German-American Bund was born out of various factions and groups that came into being during the 1920s post-war era, when Germans immigrants and descendants of previous immigrant generations in the US were faced with enormous prejudices. These groups looked back to the Fatherland, the rise of Hitler and National Socialism for inspiration. They adopted uniforms resembling those of SS and brownshirts, created family retreats where they could espouse their ideals in private with like-minded individuals, printed their own newspaper, and held parades among with other activities. The Bund was led by Fritz Kuhn, who labeled himself “the Bundesführer." Kuhn was a German immigrant himself and a Hitler loyalist.