World The Night the Nazis Took Over Madison Square Garden

21:23  14 november  2017
21:23  14 november  2017 Source:   The Daily Beast

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Oscar-nominated filmmaker Marshall Curry (‘Street Fight’) on his latest film, ‘A Night at the Garden ,’ chronicling the night 20,000 American Nazis invaded New York City. It showed a cold night in 1939, when 20,000 Americans gathered in Madison Square Garden to celebrate the rise of Nazism .

Just look to Nazi sympathizer Richard Spencer’s upcoming rally in Florida. But today we had a stark reminder that someone once stood on center stage at New York City's Madison Square Garden and tried to sell the notion that Nazism was as American as apple pie, as 20,000 applauded.

a room filled with furniture and vase of flowers on a table© Field of Vision Some months ago I came across footage of an event that I couldn’t believe had been left out of my history books when I was growing up. It showed a cold night in 1939, when 20,000 Americans gathered in Madison Square Garden to celebrate the rise of Nazism. I’ve watched the footage hundreds of times now, and every time I see it, it gives me chills.

Captured in beautiful 35 mm film, the night begins with a procession of adults and children marching into the packed New York City arena carrying American flags. The crowd of thousands recites the Pledge of Allegiance, and then, en masse, offers a Nazi salute to the stage, where a 30-foot portrait of George Washington is flanked by swastikas.

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Just look to Nazi sympathizer Richard Spencer’s upcoming rally in Florida. But today we had a stark reminder that someone once stood on center stage at New York City's Madison Square Garden and tried to sell the notion that Nazism was as American as apple pie, as 20,000 applauded.

Screen capture from video of the German American Bund rally at Madison Square Garden , February 1939. (YouTube/Field of Vision – A Night at the Garden ). American neo- Nazis and US white “There was a debate at the time over whether the Bund should be allowed to have a rally, which – like

It feels like a fictional scene in The Twilight Zone or The Man in the High Castle, but it’s not.

Fritz Kuhn, the organizer of the rally, takes the stage and welcomes his fellow “American patriots.” He attacks the “Jewish-controlled press” for criticizing him and calls for a “white Gentile-ruled United States.” He demands that the government “be returned to the people who founded it!”

Suddenly, a Jewish protester runs out on stage and is set upon by men in brown shirt uniforms who batter him with punches and tear off his pants before NYPD cops can hustle him out of the room.

It’s breathtaking to watch, and after finding the footage, I edited some of it into a short seven-minute film called A Night At the Garden. In the days since it was posted online, the film has gone viral—a surprising turn for 80-year-old archival footage, without any narration or interviews. But I think what makes the footage so striking is that it feels completely bizarre and at the same time, contemporary and familiar.

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In 1939, the German American Bund organized a rally of 20,000 Nazi supporters at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The short film, A Night at the Garden , premieres on The Atlantic today. “Watching it felt like an episode of The Twilight Zone where history has taken a different path.

It was all over in a moment—but it was a moment that horrified America: a bunch of Nazis beating up a Jew in the middle of Madison Square Garden . The bundesführer took the interruption in stride. Kuhn proceeded with his speech. And then it was over , and the thousands of Nazi faithful dutifully


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Thousands of community leaders, political figures, and Jewish citizens gathered at New York City’s Madison Square Garden last night to speak out against the Nazis ’ campaign to terrorize and “VICHY ORDERS CURBS ON JEWS IN COLONIES: French Decree Provides for Taking Over .”

"A Night at the Garden " is a short film that appeared at the New York Film Festival with rare footage of the 1939 Nazi rally in the heart of New York City. There have been many events at New York’s Madison Square Garden . He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture.

Watching it, we are reminded that demagogues have used the same tactics for generations. They attack the press, using sarcasm and humor. They wrap messages of cruelty and intolerance in the symbols of patriotism. They tell their followers that they are the true Americans (or Germans, or Spartans, or…), and exhort them to take their country back from whatever minority group has supposedly ruined it.

And these tactics work.

When the protester is beaten up and thrown off stage, there’s a long slow pan across the crowd of 20,000 spectators who are laughing and applauding like they’re at a WWE match. These New Yorkers, dressed in suits, hats, and skirts, loved their kids and were probably nice to their neighbors. But that night they couldn’t help but cheer as a speaker dehumanized people who would be murdered by the millions in the next few years.

We’d like to believe that there are clear lines between good people and bad people. But even “good” people are vulnerable to the charms of demagogues who are funny and mean, who assure us that decency is for the weak, that democracy is naïve, and that kindness and respect are just ridiculous political correctness. I think this footage is a reminder of that and a warning against complacency.

Seven months after the rally, The New York Times reported on a sermon delivered by the minister Halford E. Luccock. The article begins: “When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany’; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, ‘Americanism.’”

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