Wednesday, 8 April 2015

jamboree or sieg heil, my coney island baby

Dangerous Minds curated an engrossing gallery of letters home from Summer Camp Siegfried on Long Island, New York that’s plenty to pique the curiosity about such a dark and unwholesome milieu.

The campgrounds were opened in 1936, like several other sites in America during the 1930s, under the auspices of groups sympathetic to Nazi ideologies—going by different names and not always successor organisations, called things like the Free Society of Teutonia, Gau-USA, Friends of New Germany (FONG) and finally the German-American Federation (Amerikadeutscher Volksbund). Their banner looks like something out of a Flash Gordon comic but still sinister and embarrassing enough. These camps and the sentiment that they promoted were not just in areas with a high proportion of German immigrants but also attracted membership from the disaffected and those unhappy with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal Policies that grew out of the global economic Depression that followed WWI; Germany was in a shambles and the group’s aim was to convince people that certain elements would led America down the same path.
The federation, however, was rather one-sided, as the Nazi government did not endorse the American organisation and especially disdained its leadership, one disenfranchised reactionary named Fritz Julius Kuhn. The Nazi Chancellery did not give the Bundesführer a very welcoming reception when a delegation visited during the 1936 München Olympiad, and eventually forbade any German national from holding membership in the Federation. Nonetheless, Kuhn still attracted followers, culminating in a huge and frightening rally of some thirty-thousand supporters in Madison Square. The group and cadet associations were eventually dissolved in 1941 as the US was compelled to formally enter the fray, and in addition to facing charges of tax-evasion and embezzling from the Bund, Kuhn and his partners got in trouble for counselling young people on how to avoid conscription and dodge the draft, but there is always a surplus of demagogues and charismatics.