In February of 1939, when World War II was just getting started, a Nazi rally was held at Madison Square Garden, in New York City. At first glance, one might be tempted to think that a celebration or an inauguration was being held. After all, a banner featuring a larger-than-life George Washington hung from the ceiling, flanked by the American flag. And, banners in red, white and blue flooded the arena with color.
However, these weren’t the only decorations. Smaller banners featuring the swastika — a symbol that was perverted by the Nazi movement — were hanging between the flags. And, men in uniforms had swastikas on their armbands, as well. This event wasn’t an inauguration but rather, a Nazi rally.
According to All That Is Interesting, the rally was hosted by the Bund, the largest and “best-funded” of the American Nazi groups. Founded in Buffalo, New York in 1936, the Bund existed to promote the Nazi ideals among Americans. As can be viewed below, not everyone was pleased about the Bund’s presence, as America and Germany were on opposite sides of the war. Despite this, rallies were regularly held in the U.S. in the years leading up to World War II.
At the Bund rally held in Madison Square Garden, approximately 20,000 Nazi supporters from around the country showed up. Reportedly, the idea was to rally American supporters of the Nazi party to convince more people that supporting Germany was a noble cause. One key speaker was German-born American citizen Fritz Kuhn. During his speech, he spoke of Americans who had previously clung to their anti-Semitic views (including Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh). He then appealed to the Christian values that many Americans could relate to and incited fear that Jews needed to be abolished.
Likely fed up with the torrent of hate, a Jewish man named Isadore Greenbaum rushed the stage. Those who were present were likely amused as he was dragged from the arena then eaten up by American brownshirts. For his “disorderly conduct, he was arrested and fined $25. At the time, Greenbaum likely felt his efforts were in vain. But to this day, they are remembered and remain inspiring.
Watch the video below:
After the incident, Greenbaum explained that his intention was not to disrupt the rally. However, he had become enraged when the Nazi supporters openly discussed the persecution of other Jews. His protest became the beginning of both the fascist and the anti-fascist movements which, as you may know, are more relevant than ever.
At the time, the American Jewish Committee openly denounced the rally. They argued in the New York Times that though they did not support the rally, they could not prevent it from taking place as it would deny the followers freedom of speech.
To see more pictures of from the Bund rally, click here.
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Sources: All That Is Interesting
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