The day Madison Square Garden was packed with Nazis
Photo: DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images
Six and a half months before Adolf Hitler invaded Poland, in the Madison Square Garden in New York staged a rally to celebrate the rise of Nazism in Germany.
Inside, More than 20,000 attendees gave Nazi salutes a few meters from the portrait of George Washington flanked by swastikas. Outside, police and some 100,000 protesters gathered.
The organization behind the event on February 20, 1939, billed on the arena marquee as a “Pro American Rally,” was the German American Bund (“Bund” means “federation” in German).
The anti-Semitic organization ran Nazi summer camps for youth and their families during the 1930s.
Banners at the rally carried messages such as “Stop Jewish domination of Christian Americans” and “Wake up America. Crush Jewish Communism.”
“We, with American ideals, demand that our government be returned to the American people who founded it,” said Kuhn, a naturalized American who lost his citizenship during World War II. “If you ask what we are actively fighting for under our charter: First, a socially just, white, Gentile-ruled America. Second, Gentile-controlled labor unions, free from Moscow-led Jewish domination.”
Kuhn’s speech was interrupted by a Jewish-American man named Isadore Greenbaum who took the stage in protest. The police and security force quickly tackled him and proceeded to beat him up on stage, the crowd cheering as he was thrown off the stage, pulling down his pants in the process.
Police charged Greenbaum with disorderly conduct and fined him.
At the time the rally took place, Hitler was completing his sixth concentration camp; and the protesters, many of them American Jews, drew attention to the fact that what was happening in Germany could happen in the US.