By Ben Kane
The date was February 20, 1939. It was George Washington’s birthday, and the occasion was being celebrated at a Madison Square Garden event in a way that the event planners thought President Washington would approve of. 20,000 attendees packed the building and eagerly awaited the event’s music, the marching, the flags, and the message of the “Pro American Rally.” Behind the stand where the speech was to be made hung a colossal depiction of Washington. Four American flags of equal size flanked him, but in between these flags, there was no empty space.
In between them were flags featuring a prominent swastika emerging from the letters “AV”, an abbreviation of Amerikadeutscher Volksbund–the German American Bund. A Night at the Garden, the Oscar-nominated short video directed by Marshall Curry, depicts a Nazi rally in America. This “Pro-American Rally” was a celebration of Nazi Germany, of Fascism, and of the wanton destruction of innocent lives. Hiding violent, misplaced hatred behind the thin veneer of patriotism, a Fascist tradition, Bund leader and native German Fritz Kuhn spoke following the Pledge of Allegiance. Several noteworthy lines from his speech are shown in the video:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow Americans, American patriots… You all have heard of me through the Jewish controlled press as a creature with horns, a cloven hoof, and a long tail… We, with American ideals, demand that our government shall be returned to the American people who founded it… if you ask what we are actively fighting for under our charter: first, a socially just, white, Gentile ruled United States; second: Gentile-controlled labor unions, free from Jewish Moscow-directed domination.”
Then, a pause, followed by shouts and fists. A plumber from Brooklyn named Isadore Greenbaum rushes the stage to attack Kuhn but is stopped before reaching him by a group of American Nazis who beat and restrain Greenbaum until the police arrive to take him away. Greenbaum, like a true American patriot, joined the Navy to fight against the forces of evil when Germany declared war on the U.S.
The beating of Greenbaum took place in front of the youths assembled on the stage behind Kuhn, the impressionable teenagers, children, who The camera zooms in on the youths as Greenbaum is taken away, and one of the children dances with glee at the violent spectacle. The parents taught their children to hate through these rallies and through youth camps like the Hitler Youth summer camps in Germany, who then likely taught that hatred to their children, and so on and so forth.
A Night at the Garden demonstrates the depth of depravity that unbridled jingoism and xenophobia invariably lead to. It is worth noting that airtime for a 30 second advertisement for the video was requested during a commercial break on Sean Hannity’s show on the FOX News channel, and the request was denied because the content of A Night at the Garden was considered inappropriate for their audience. There are several positive aspects of the film like the high production quality, the tasteful, unobtrusive music and text, and its historical significance, that warrant a positive review. However, it being scorned by FOX News is reason enough to recommend this to anyone interested in learning of the efforts of Fascists to gain traction and power in America once before.
Volume 73. Number 1. 2019