Arnie Bernstein

Swastika Nation

Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund

St. Martin's Press 2013

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in European StudiesNew Books in German StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network October 31, 2013 Marshall Poe

Occasionally you hear shrill news reports about American Nazis. Judging by the pictures of them, they are almost always skin-headed morons who can’t put...

Occasionally you hear shrill news reports about American Nazis. Judging by the pictures of them, they are almost always skin-headed morons who can’t put two words together (other than “Sieg Heil” or some such). Often it’s not clear whether they are really Nazis or are just parodies of Nazis. Or maybe, hoping for a sick laugh, they’re just having us on.

One thing is clear: they are very, very few. I can say with some confidence that National Socialism is not popular in the United States and never has been. Yet as Arnie Bernstein points out in his book Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund (St. Martin’s Press, 2013), there was a brief moment when some Americans took National Socialism seriously, namely the 1930s. This fact, of course, is hard for us to wrap our minds around. It is, however, important to remember that there was a time when Fascism was not seen as pure evil, but rather as a viable alternative to democratic Capitalism and authoritarian Communism. Fortunately for Americans (but unfortunately for the American Nazis), the “German-American Bund” was led by someone who was, well, not very serious–one Fritz Kuhn. He was not a skin-headed moron. He was, as Arnie makes clear, an opportunistic, philandering, unprincipled, pilfering buffoon. So much the better for us. Listen in to this fascinating–and largely forgotten–story.

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