‘When 20,000 American Nazis Descended Upon New York City’

America has faced movements dark before, not only from abroad, but sometimes from within. It’s worth reminding ourselves, today, that in little over six years’ time after Nazis gathered in Madison Square Garden, the United States – through countless, painful losses and sacrifices – rightly destroyed the very nation that inspired those gathered in 1939.

There was a malevolent cunning to these filthy men, as they mixed worthy American symbols with their own unworthy foreign emblems of a bigoted & murderous ideology. For it all, how detestable – then and now – were those who allied themselves with a foreign dictatorship against their own free society:

In 1939, the German American Bund organized a rally of 20,000 Nazi supporters at Madison Square Garden in New York City. When Academy Award-nominated documentarian Marshall Curry stumbled upon footage of the event in historical archives, he was flabbergasted. Together with Field of Vision, he decided to present the footage as a cautionary tale to Americans. The short film, A Night at the Garden, premieres on The Atlantic today.

“The first thing that struck me was that an event like this could happen in the heart of New York City,” Curry told The Atlantic. “Watching it felt like an episode of The Twilight Zone where history has taken a different path. But it wasn’t science fiction – it was real, historical footage. It all felt eerily familiar, given today’s political situation.”

Rather than edit the footage into a standard historical documentary with narration, Curry decided to “keep it pure, cinematic, and unmediated, as if you are there, watching, and wrestling with what you are seeing. I wanted it to be more provocative than didactic – a small history-grenade tossed into the discussion we are having about White Supremacy right now.”

“The footage is so powerful,” continued Curry, “it seems amazing that it isn’t a stock part of every high school history class. This story was likely nudged out of the canon, in part because it’s scary and embarrassing. It tells a story about our country that we’d prefer to forget.”

2 thoughts on “‘When 20,000 American Nazis Descended Upon New York City’

    1. Hmm, I wonder — the very fact that it’s even possible is bad enough. The Madison Square Garden meeting was on 2.20.1939, so one would have to consider whether there were any conflicting Klan meetings taking place elsewhere in New York that evening…

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