Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund by Arnie Bernstein is a nonfiction book detailing the rise and fall of the American Nazi movement before World War II. This is an almost forgotten chapter in history, and even though we’d like to forget it, it seems wiser not to.
Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund is disturbing and scary. The book starts with a 1939 pro-Nazi rally held in Madison Square Garden bringing in tens of thousands of supporters – which today is difficult to fathom.
Bernstein focuses on one man, Fritz Julius Kuhn, a German who moved to the US, got a job for a known industrialist anti-Semite (Henry Ford), joined the German Bund and worked his way to the top, to the position of Bundesführer.
The Bund found many supporters of National Socialism (and claims of the “Jewish Problem”) but many high-profile opponents as well. My favorite chapter had to do with the Jewish gangsters (Meyer Lansky, Longy Zwillman, Bugsy Siegel among others) who, while not religious and sometimes even a cause of shame for their communities, took it upon themselves to protect “their people” – and even enjoyed it as well.
The author does not hide his disdain from the subject of the book, a bunch of ugly people doing ugly things. The book nonetheless covers a fascinating chapter in American history, showing how a fringe group can take the ideals this nation was founded on and manipulate them for their own purposes. Stupid people are dangerous in large groups and Mr. Bernstein proves it on every page.