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Under Cover — My Four Years in the Nazi Underworld in America

by John Roy Carl­son
1943, E. P. Dut­ton, 544 pages
Down­load Pt. 1 | Down­load Pt. 2

In Under Cover—My Four Years in the Nazi Under­world in Amer­ica, John Roy Carl­son penned the account of his suc­cess­ful infil­tra­tion of the vig­or­ous Nazi Fifth Col­umn that existed in the United States before and dur­ing World War II. Pos­ing as a sym­pa­thizer and activist on behalf of the Nazi cause, Carl­son gained access to the inner sanc­tum of the traitors—great and small—who sought to replace the Stars and Stripes with the Swastika. In Under Cover, the author chron­i­cles the oper­a­tions and ide­o­log­i­cal tenets of a large (and fre­quently over­lap­ping) group of orga­ni­za­tions that oper­ated on behalf of the Third Reich (and also Impe­r­ial Japan). As Carl­son illus­trates in the book, the “small fry” domes­tic fas­cists are often cats’ paws for larger, more promi­nent polit­i­cal and eco­nomic fig­ures. Many of the orga­ni­za­tions were actu­ally directed and financed by the Deutsches Aus­land Institut—the for­eign sec­tion of the Nazi party of Germany.

Among the most vir­u­lent of the above-ground Fifth Col­umn groups was the German-American Bund, com­posed largely of U.S. cit­i­zens of Ger­manic extrac­tion. On pages 110 and 111, Carl­son high­lights a Bund meet­ing at which those in atten­dance viewed news­reel footage of Nazi con­quests. This is fol­lowed by a brief his­tory and oper­a­tional overview of the organization:

“ . . . When the blis­ter­ing cam­paign in Poland was shown on the screen and a bomb heaved from an air­plane laid waste an area teem­ing with life, the audi­ence went into hys­ter­ics. When a Ger­man sub­ma­rine was shown tor­pe­do­ing a help­less Allied ship and the ship turned tur­tle, sink­ing stern first, the sea dot­ted with human beings crawl­ing like bee­tles, the audi­ence roared lustily! ‘Won­der­ful!’ Wunderbar!”

Author Carl­son sets forth the Bund’s early his­tory. Note that founder Fritz Gis­sibl was an asso­ciate of Hitler, dat­ing his con­nec­tion to the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch in Munich. Like many domes­tic fas­cists, Gissibl’s Bund ally Heinz Span­k­noebel was an employee of Henry Ford, one of Hitler’s ear­li­est finan­cial back­ers. Ford sup­ported many domes­tic fas­cists and their move­ments, as well as back­ing Hitler. (Carl­son details Ford’s asso­ci­a­tion with White Russ­ian exiles in the pub­lish­ing of the anti-Semitic tract The Pro­to­cols of the Elders of Zion, as well as the financ­ing of Hitler. For more about this sub­ject, see—among other programs—FTR#511.) “The foun­da­tions of the Bund were laid in 1924. It orig­i­nated with the Chicago unit of the Teu­to­nia Club when that club raised a pla­toon of storm troop­ers mod­eled directly on Hitler’s Brown­shirts, and adopted the swastika. The Teu­to­nia Clubs were orig­i­nally founded in Detroit by Fritz Gis­sibl, a Ger­man alien who was with Hitler in the Munich beer hall Putsch. Eight years later, under Heinz Span­k­noebel, a for­mer worker for Henry Ford, the Friends of the Hitler Move­ment was founded in Detroit and in other cities.”

Also on page 111, the author high­lights the “Amer­i­can­iza­tion” of the bund—its trans­for­ma­tion into a “patri­otic” Amer­i­can orga­ni­za­tion in order to make it more mar­ketable. Like many domes­tic fas­cist move­ments the Bund rep­re­sented itself as “patri­otic.” As Dr. John­son noted cen­turies ago—“patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Note that Bund leader Fritz Kuhn was also a Ford employee.

“When Hitler became Chan­cel­lor on Jan­u­ary 30, 1933, Span­k­noebel was called to Ger­many. On his return to Amer­ica, the Friends of the Hitler Move­ment changed its name to Friends of the New Ger­many—(Fre­unde des Neuen Deutsch­lands) and con­tin­ued to func­tion under that name. In the mean­while, Fritz Kuhn, also work­ing as a chemist in Henry Ford’s plant, became the fuehrer of the Detroit regional group. In Decem­ber, 1935, a merger of all the scat­tered ‘Friends’ was effected and Kuhn was appointed supreme Bun­des­fuehrer. In June, 1936, the ‘Friends’ were Amer­i­can­ized to the German-American Bund (Amerkadeutscher Volks­bund) and launched on a national cam­paign of trea­son under the guise of star-spangled ‘patriotism.’”

Dis­missed by some as unim­por­tant, the Bund and other, sim­i­lar orga­ni­za­tions were any­thing but triv­ial. On page 112, author Carl­son notes the impor­tance of the Bund, as well as the net­work­ing that domes­tic fas­cist groups did with impor­tant per­son­ages, includ­ing mem­bers of Congress.

“ . . . The influ­ence wielded by the Bund in our polit­i­cal dis­sen­sions must not be under­es­ti­mated. The Bund was the spear­head of the anti-Democratic cru­sade and set the pat­tern for the Chris­t­ian Front and the Sil­ver Shirts and count­less oth­ers like them. Viewed over the years, the swastika-heiling period was a tem­po­rary expe­di­ency staged to arrest pub­lic opin­ion and enthrall the admi­ra­tion of frus­trated and simple-minded Amer­i­cans in the lower classes of our society.”

Still more about the Bund, this also on page 112:

“The Deutsches Aus­land Insti­tut launched a two-pronged pin­cer attack on our Democ­racy. Lead­er­ship on the first ‘Fifth Col­umn’ was entrusted to German-Americans, while the sec­ond was entrusted to care­fully selected can­di­dates of non-German ‘one hun­dred per cent Amer­i­can’ ancestry—the Edmond­sons and Pelleys—whose job it was lit­er­ally to trans­late Nazi pro­pa­ganda into Eng­lish terms and serve it as ‘patri­o­tism’ to those who would swal­low it as such. The Amer­i­can wing of the Nazi psy­cho­log­i­cal Fifth Col­umn pen­e­trated Park Avenue soci­ety, or busi­ness and indus­trial cir­cles and even­tu­ally pro­jected itself deep into the halls of Congress. . . .”

One can not stress too heav­ily that these sub­ver­sives and trai­tors rep­re­sented them­selves as “patri­ots.” On page 113, Carl­son notes the “patri­otic” makeover that the Bund under­went. Note that much Third Reich pro­pa­ganda and many spies came to the U.S. on the Hamburg-Amerika Line, one of the com­pa­nies that fea­tured the Bush fam­ily in part­ner­ship with the Third Reich. (For more about the Hamburg-Amerika Line and the Bush/Nazi con­nec­tion, see—among other programs—FTR#’s 273, 361, 475.)

“ . . . It was the boom period for espi­onage in which the boats of the Hamburg-Amerika Line played a promi­nent role. Dr. Colin Ross, a Nazi of Scot ances­try, toured Amer­ica pho­tograph­ing our indus­tries, har­bors, power plants and ral­ly­ing Hit­lerites in our key cities. ‘Ger­mans in Amer­ica, too, have expe­ri­enced their Ver­sailles,’ he wrote. ‘A man will arise and rally them, a Ger­man Thomas Paine.’”

More about the Bund and its “Amer­i­can makeover,” this from pages 113 and 114:

“In the mean­while, the Bund had so antag­o­nized most Amer­i­cans by its swastika-heiling phase that orders came from Berlin to cut out pub­lic singing of the Horst Wes­sel Lied, shelve the Sam Browne belts and march­ing boots and ‘go Amer­i­can.’ The party line changed, as a bucket of red-white-and-blue paint was applied to make overnight ‘patri­ots’ of the Nazis. The Deutscher Weck­ruf became The Free Amer­i­can. And no longer pro­fess­ing to con­vert the United States to National-Socialism, the Bund became nation­al­ist and iso­la­tion­ist, showed great con­cern for the wel­fare of the Repub­lic and adopted the slo­gan: Amer­ica First.”

“Amer­ica First” became the title of an orga­ni­za­tion devoted to keep­ing the U.S. out of World War II. Although some of its mem­bers were sin­cerely opposed to war, the major­ity were of fas­cist per­sua­sion, many of them Ger­man spies. “Amer­ica First” echoed the slo­ga­neer­ing of fas­cist move­ments in other coun­tries, includ­ing the Croix de Feu in France and the Falange in Spain—both cov­ered at length in the Cot’s Tri­umph of Trea­son and Chase’s Falange. On pages 498 and 499, Carl­son relates:

“ . . . Mussolini’s fas­cist sys­tem was first described as ‘nation­al­ist.’ The French fas­cist orga­ni­za­tion Croix de Feu, which devel­oped into a Vichy instru­ment was called ‘nation­al­ist.’ The Nazi party is the National-Socialist Party. The Japan­ese War Party is a ‘nation­al­ist’ party. All these coun­tries had their ‘Ger­many First,’ ‘France First’ and ‘Spain First’ par­ties. Recall that the motto of Sir Oswald Mosley’s Black­shirts was ‘Britain First’ and Stahrenberg’s slo­gan of the Amer­i­can National-Socialist Party was ‘Amer­ica First, Last and Always.’ ‘Amer­ica First’ can be no dif­fer­ent in its con­no­ta­tion and ulti­mate out­come despite the sin­cere intents of some of those who mouth it. ‘Amer­ica First’ is a cry unwit­tingly used by Liberty’s hangmen.”

If patri­o­tism is—as Dr. John­son observed—“the last refuge of a scoundrel,” then reli­gion is usu­ally the first. A stag­ger­ing num­ber of the fas­cist Fifth Col­umn orga­ni­za­tions in the U.S. pro­fessed to be “Chris­t­ian.” Most promi­nent among the fas­cists march­ing behind the façade of Chris­tian­ity was the infa­mous Father Cough­lin — the dri­ving force behind the Chris­t­ian Front. Rail­ing against Pres­i­dent Roo­sevelt, Jews and any­thing that stood in the way of the Third Reich’s path of con­quest, Couglin used Social Jus­tice as his pri­mary bully pul­pit. After the war, it emerged that he was actu­ally in the pay of Third Reich intel­li­gence. Invok­ing the name of Jesus to sup­port every­thing Christ con­demned, fas­cists and fas­cist insti­tu­tions mas­querad­ing as Chris­tians abounded within the Fifth Column—the Rev­erend Ger­ald Win­rod, the Chris­t­ian Mobi­liz­ers, The Cross and the Flag, ad infini­tum. Indeed, author Carl­son was able to infil­trate the Fifth Col­umn by pos­ing as a fas­cist pam­phle­teer, pub­lish­ing The Chris­t­ian Defender. This ingra­ti­ated him to the traitors.

Among the Chris­t­ian prelates oper­at­ing on behalf of the Nazi cause was the Rev­erend Nor­man Vin­cent Peale. Best known as the expo­nent of “the power of pos­i­tive think­ing,” Peale long graced the pages of pub­li­ca­tions like Reader’s Digest and his name became syn­ony­mous with whole­some, main­stream Amer­i­cana in the post­war years. Prior to and dur­ing the war, how­ever, Peale fronted for Edward A. Rumely, a spy and agi­ta­tor for Ger­many dur­ing both World Wars. Like so many oth­ers, Rumely, too, ben­e­fited from his asso­ci­a­tion with Hitler bene­fac­tor Henry Ford. Note that another of Rumely’s fel­low trav­el­ers in the Fifth Col­umn move­ment was Frank Gan­nett, founder of the news­pa­per chain that bears his name. On pages 474 and 475, Carl­son writes:

“Rumely is boss of the Com­mit­tee for Con­sti­tu­tional Gov­ern­ment and sec­ond in com­mand to Frank E. Gan­nett, pub­lisher of a string of news­pa­pers and founder of the com­mit­tee in 1937. As soon as the Sen­a­to­r­ial inves­ti­ga­tion was over, Rumely lit­er­ally went under­ground and erased his name from the Com­mit­tee sta­tionery. But he con­tin­ued to run it by appoint­ing a docile Protes­tant cler­gy­man as ‘act­ing chair­man and sec­re­tary’ who vis­ited the office only occa­sion­ally. He was the Rev­erend Nor­man Vin­cent Peale, once a joint speaker with [Amer­i­can fas­cist] Mrs. Eliz­a­beth Dilling and the Rev­erend Edward Lodge Cur­ran [key aide to Father Cough­lin] at a ‘pro-American mass meet­ing spon­sored by more than 50 patri­otic orga­ni­za­tions’ at the Hotel Com­modore in New York. . . . Rumely’s friend­ship with Henry Ford dated prior to the sum­mer of 1918 when Ford rushed to Wash­ing­ton in an unsuc­cess­ful attempt to save Rumely from being indicted. . . .”

When eval­u­at­ing the sig­nif­i­cance of the Fifth Col­umn for con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­cans, it is impor­tant to remem­ber that there was no de-Nazification process for the United States after the war. The Nazi con­spir­a­tors in this coun­try not only went untouched, many of them became promi­nent, or con­tin­ued in posi­tions of promi­nence. In addi­tion, some of the most heinous Third Reich alumni were imported into this coun­try under the aus­pices of the Gehlen spy orga­ni­za­tion, Project Paper­clip and the Cru­sade For Free­dom, where they joined their domes­tic Amer­i­can part­ners in cor­rupt­ing post­war Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. Not­ing the rise of the reac­tionary Chris­t­ian forces in this coun­try, one must won­der if they are heirs to Father Cough­lin and his ilk.

In FTR#476, we viewed the pol­i­tics of Joseph Schmitz, for­mer Inspec­tor Gen­eral of the Pen­ta­gon and now head of the par­ent com­pany of the Black­wa­ter secu­rity firm. (For more about this, see FTR#476.) Son of domes­tic fas­cist John G. Schmitz, Joseph was described after his res­ig­na­tion in dis­grace from the Pen­ta­gon as “obsessed with Von Steuben and all things German”—a ref­er­ence to Schmitz’s pro­found affin­ity for Gen­eral Von Steuben and his descen­dants. The elder Von Steuben fought on the Amer­i­can side in the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War and is thought to have been the first Inspec­tor Gen­eral of the U.S. mil­i­tary. Joseph Schmitz even changed the seal of the Inspec­tor Gen­eral to the coat of arms of the Von Steuben fam­ily. Is it pos­si­ble that he was an admirer of the Steuben Soci­ety, a branch of the Third Reich Fifth Col­umn in the United States? On pages 118 and 119, Carl­son describes the Steuben Society:

“ . . . Aris­to­crat in its class, the Steuben Soci­ety hated the Bund because of its dif­fer­ence in tac­tics, shunned wild Nazi talk and avoided in recent years the pub­lic heil­ing of Hitler, while the Bund con­tin­ued as before. . . . It goes back to his [Steuben Soci­ety Pres­i­dent Theodore H. Hoff­man] trip to Ger­many and his recep­tion by Hitler. Hoff­man told the story in a by-lined arti­cle in the Decem­ber 20, 1934 issue of the Deutscher Beobachter pub­lished in New York: ‘Who­ever thinks that National-Socialism rules by oppres­sion, is mis­taken. . . . My per­sonal impres­sions of Hitler were that he is an ide­al­ist, an unusual orga­nizer and a man of tremen­dous energy. It is my con­vic­tion that he is hon­est and sin­cere in his endeav­ors not only to unite the Ger­man peo­ple, but also in his deter­mi­na­tion to break the chains of slav­ery. . . . He is the one man who filled the life of the Ger­man nation. . . . with new hope of the future. . . .’”

Is this what Joseph E. Schmitz thinks today?

Discussion

7 comments for “Under Cover — My Four Years in the Nazi Underworld in America

  1. I am amazed — hav­ing just watched the events at the Lin­coln Memo­r­ial on 8/28 — that this sce­nario is replay­ing in Amer­ica, that toxic (but heady!) com­bi­na­tion of fer­vent patri­o­tism and reli­gion. I pre­dict that Glenn Beck will more and more por­tray him­self as a revival­ist reli­gious leader, mak­ing more and more ref­er­ences to “God” (while his audi­ences are bliss­fully unaware that the Mor­mon god is not the Chris­t­ian one), and aggran­diz­ing power for him­self and the politi­cians he supports.

    Posted by Eliza Howarth | August 29, 2010, 8:24 am
  2. I have a hard cover 1943 orig­i­nal copy of Under Cover for sale. 544 pages. Pulp paper, some edge burn­ing oth­er­wise in great shape
    Extremely enter­tain­ing book that drew con­sid­er­able legal atten­tion in its time. Email for a coloured photo.

    price$100.00

    Non nego­tion­able.

    Posted by Colwyn G.Beynon | February 10, 2012, 9:16 pm
  3. Mr. Beynon–

    Good to see that you’re fol­low­ing this web­site and famil­iar with the land­mark work of John Roy Carlson.

    Don’t know that $100.00 is some­thing the lis­ten­ers would want to pay.

    It’s avail­able for down­load for free here!

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | February 10, 2012, 9:35 pm
  4. Any­body ever read “Behind the Egypt­ian Sphinx”? Con­gress held hear­ings on this book in 1963 — escapted nazis run­ning around Egypt, Syria, and Iraq– pos­ing as Islamists — orga­niz­ing ter­ror groups — I found a copy in an archive — made a copy for myself before they burn it

    Posted by Louise Hodges | October 26, 2012, 7:48 am
  5. Henry Ford’s fin­ger­prints are everywhere.

    Posted by Alex Kogut | February 21, 2013, 4:30 pm
  6. I read that Heinz Span­k­noebel was “called to Ger­many” in 1933; I also read he was deported in 1933.
    So was Spanky called, deported or both?

    Posted by Alex Kogut | February 22, 2013, 2:30 pm
  7. http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/135982/english-nazi-club-revealed?print=1

    Secrets of Eng­lish World War II Upper-Class Nazi Club Revealed by a Venet­ian Dandy
    A new film about England’s avowed anti-Semites stirs a cham­pion of Euro­pean tol­er­ance, lib­er­al­ism, and civ­i­liza­tion
    By Vladislav Davidzon|June 26, 2013 12:00 AM

    Venice, with its grandil­o­quent man­ner and grandiose style, has for almost half a mil­len­nium pro­vided refuge to a cer­tain kind of Eng­lish dreamer who would not coun­te­nance the drab and gray shores of Eng­land. The list of illus­tri­ous and dis­solute Eng­lish expa­tri­ates, hon­ing their art in this most glo­ri­ously decay­ing of cities, stretches from lumi­nar­ies like Byron, Ruskin, Hous­man, and Brown­ing to minor eccentrics such as the Alpin­ist and lit­er­ary gad­fly Hor­a­tio Brown [1], or the nov­el­ist, mad­man, and mys­tic Fred­er­ick Rolfe [2], aka “Baron Corvo,” who went com­pletely native and became a gon­do­lier. I went there to visit the lat­est exem­plar in this odd­ball tra­di­tion of exiles, the British travel writer and his­to­rian Robin Saikia—author of The Red Book: The Mem­ber­ship List of The Right Club–1939, which pro­vides [3] star­tling and unset­tling insight into upper-class Eng­lish anti-Semitism dur­ing Hitler’s rise to power.

    The Red Book is a pri­mary source for this year’s doc­u­men­tary release Churchill and the Fas­cist Plot (now avail­able in some regions for view­ing online [4]), by Peter Nichol­son, one of England’s best-known doc­u­men­tary film­mak­ers. A charm­ing made-for-TV thriller, its nos­tal­gic con­fec­tion of news­reels of march­ing armies, jagged shots of men in trench coats pass­ing fold­ers in dark alleys, and women whis­per­ing malig­nant secrets over cups of tea in south Kens­ing­ton is inter­spersed with inter­views of the three or four his­to­ri­ans who have done the most to bring the story to light. Though its pri­mary focus is the espi­onage caper and the col­or­ful back story of the intrigues, its far more dis­qui­et­ing rev­e­la­tion is that the iso­la­tion­ist ten­dency and incli­na­tion toward appease­ment was more deeply rooted in the mid­dle and upper strata of British soci­ety than our a pos­te­ri­ori vic­to­ri­ous and self-congratulatory selves might like to admit. My visit to the dandy Saikia in Venice revealed a dark world of reac­tionary intrigue, along with its inverse poten­tial of a capac­ity for redemp­tion through humane reflection.

    ***

    Arriv­ing at a dis­creet minor palazzo on a small canal behind Campo Santa Margherita, the his­tor­i­cal nucleus of Venice’s bohemian life for the last cen­tury, I found Saikia in his idyl­lic gar­den, smok­ing and sip­ping cham­pagne in the twi­light, sur­rounded by a clus­ter of white Siamese cats. Half Indian and half Eng­lish, the tweedy Saikia has an impos­ing patri­cian nose that peeks out from below his expan­sive Cae­sar dome of a fore­head, and his jet-black shoulder-length hair belies the fact that he has just turned 50. His upper-crust English-weirdo résumé of eccen­tric affec­ta­tions is unim­peach­able. Dur­ing his post-colonial child­hood in Zam­bia, his mother kept a pet lion named Alexan­der that slept in his bed. He has flown around the world teach­ing “Received Pro­nun­ci­a­tion” to pro­fes­sional elites in the Arab world, the post-Soviet sphere, and Far East Asia. He admits that he has had the oppor­tu­nity to “pol­ish the pro­nun­ci­a­tion of the occa­sional Russ­ian oli­garch” with his patented method of teach­ing Eng­lish elo­cu­tion, and that he holds the dis­tinc­tion of being the only British writer to receive roy­al­ties from the sale of a cock­tail he invented: the “Death in Venice” (straw­berry aqua­vit, Ciroc vodka, ver­mouth), which is served at Win­ston Churchill’s favorite water­ing hole, the bar of the Excel­sior on the Venice Lido.

    Indeed, the balmy and pleasure-seeking Lido is his spir­i­tual home, and Saikia is the author of its sole English-language lit­er­ary his­tory, The Venice Lido. The book [5] includes a per­cep­tive chap­ter on the his­tory of the Jews in Venice, to me the first clue in his iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with the tribe, and a vivid descrip­tion of what might be Europe’s most remark­able Jew­ish ceme­tery. There is also an amus­ing anec­dote about the Jew­ish pas­try chef who suc­cess­fully sab­o­taged a cer­e­mo­nial lunch given by Mus­solini for Hitler on the lido by spik­ing the cof­fee with salt. John Julius Nor­wich, the English-speaking world’s pre­mier his­to­rian of Venice, is an avowed fan of the book, and when pressed Saikia admit­ted to me that on occa­sion he and Lord Nor­wich “drink bub­bly and dis­cuss mat­ters Venetian.”

    Still, the care­fully cul­ti­vated appear­ance of the friv­o­lous run-of-the-mill Eng­lish dilettante-dandy is mis­lead­ing. Saikia is as (mys­te­ri­ously) proud as any Eng­lish­man to have grad­u­ated from the old­est and most aca­d­e­m­i­cally rig­or­ous Eng­lish schools, includ­ing Win­ches­ter Col­lege, fol­lowed by Oxford. And yet despite his prove­nance, he is man­i­festly ill at ease with the estab­lish­ment he was born into and con­sid­ers him­self an out­sider. The prod­uct of an inter­ra­cial mar­riage, Saikia vividly recalls the social oppro­brium his par­ents encoun­tered from many quar­ters of British and Indian soci­ety when they mar­ried in the late 1950s. His father, the scion of a very grand Assamese tea-planting dynasty, escaped India’s repres­sive social pro­scrip­tions to make his way, only to run up against England’s own spe­cial brand of prej­u­dice. The fam­ily soon decamped again for newly inde­pen­dent Zam­bia, and Saikia led a peri­patetic child­hood bounc­ing between his Eng­lish prep school, the African bush, and the Indian plan­ta­tion, which made him, in his own words, “an hon­orary Jew.” In all three places he encoun­tered and observed at first hand what he terms the “the cor­rupt­ing and degrad­ing con­se­quences of racial prej­u­dice and polit­i­cal cor­rup­tion,” which in turn became the source of his inter­est in debunk­ing racist and anti-Semitic secret soci­eties in England.

    The Right Club was one such secret soci­ety, part of a con­stel­la­tion of reac­tionary right-wing social clubs that existed in Eng­land prior to the begin­ning of World War II. A “patri­otic soci­ety” whose upper– and middle-class mem­bers would gather for din­ners and rous­ing dis­cus­sions of the “Jew­ish prob­lem,” it was founded by a well-connected Scot­tish aris­to­crat and par­lia­men­tary nonen­tity named Capt. Archibald Henry Maule Ram­say, who served as con­ser­v­a­tive MP for Pee­bles and South Mid­loth­ian. Scan­dal­ized by the anti­cleri­cism of the Repub­li­can and Anar­chist Left, he began mak­ing rad­i­cal speeches dur­ing the Span­ish Civil War call­ing for the for­ma­tion of a united Chris­t­ian front. He pro­ceeded to gather around him­self a pesti­lent group of reac­tionar­ies, many of them lumi­nar­ies of British anti-Semitic thought like the Irish-American William Joyce (later known as Lord Haw-Haw [6]), Anthony Ludovici, A.K. Chester­son (who was no less opin­ion­ated and no less anti-Semitic than his famous writer cousin, G.K. Chester­ton, but lack­ing genius and wit), and Arnold Spencer Leese, a vet­eri­nar­ian who com­bined his fas­cist pol­i­tick­ing with a fanat­i­cal oppo­si­tion to kosher meat slaugh­ter­ing and titled his auto­bi­og­ra­phy [7] Out of Step: Events in the Two Lives of an Anti-Jewish Camel Doc­tor. Ludovici was a for­mer assis­tant to Rodin, a spe­cial­ist on Niet­zsche, and an ide­o­log­i­cal eugeni­cist with links to the rural British right wing who wrote chill­ing vol­umes such as Jews, and the Jews in Eng­land; The Quest of Human Qual­ity: How To Rear Lead­ers; and In Defense of Aris­toc­racy: A Text Book for Tories.

    Though the club offi­cially dis­banded with the onset of the war, and the mem­bers at the high­est level of British soci­ety melted away, a ded­i­cated nucleus of activist mem­bers soon began to hold secret meet­ings with pow­er­ful (and now infa­mous) pro-Nazi fig­ures in Britain—including Adm. Barry Domville and British fas­cist leader Oswald Mosley—with the express objec­tive of achiev­ing a nego­ti­ated peace with Nazi Ger­many. Ram­sey inscribed the names of each new club mem­ber in a thick and totemic leather-bound ledger, the epony­mous Red Book.

    One of the last mem­bers to join the Right Club was an Amer­i­can named Tyler Kent. A 29-year-old cipher clerk at the Amer­i­can Embassy in Lon­don, Kent was intro­duced to Ram­say and the club by Anna Wolkoff, a staunchly anti-Semitic White Russ­ian and the daugh­ter of an Impe­r­ial Russ­ian navy admi­ral who had been reduced to run­ning a gen­teel estab­lish­ment in South Kens­ing­ton, the “Russ­ian Tea Rooms.” The Wolkoffs, accord­ing to Saikia, “had fallen on hard times and were an embit­tered pair”: Their tea rooms soon became a gath­er­ing place for “dis­af­fected émigrés like them­selves and the exiled Russ­ian Prince Yuri Gal­izine, along with pro-Nazi Britains” who shared their fanat­i­cal hatred for Jews and Bol­she­viks. Wolkoff led the aris­to­cratic women in the group in nightly out­ings plas­ter­ing anti-Semitic posters on back-alley walls in London.

    After the out­break of war Ram­say gave Kent the Red Book for safe-keeping, think­ing that his flat would be the best hid­ing place for this radioac­tively com­pro­mis­ing doc­u­ment, since Kent held diplo­matic immu­nity as a mem­ber of the Amer­i­can lega­tion. Kent, mean­while, was pil­fer­ing copies of top-secret pri­vate telegrams between Churchill and Roo­sevelt, which were being passed by way of embassy back chan­nels. These telegrams, emblem­atic tokens of the “spe­cial rela­tion­ship,” con­tained Churchill’s open, frank, and urgent beseech­ing of Roo­sevelt for Amer­i­can assis­tance in the war. As the cor­re­spon­dence was being con­ducted extra-constitutionally in both the United States and in Britain, they con­sti­tuted polit­i­cal dyna­mite on both sides of the Atlantic.

    Ramsay’s involve­ment with Kent was a con­cern of para­mount impor­tance to British secu­rity author­i­ties since Ram­say, as a mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, enjoyed par­lia­men­tary priv­i­lege: If Kent handed over his stolen doc­u­ments to Ram­say, it would have been impos­si­ble to pre­vent their pub­li­ca­tion, which may very well have sab­o­taged Britain’s war ini­tia­tive and set in motion the com­plete takeover of Europe by the Third Reich.

    Sir Maxwell Knight, the head of MI5 and an eccen­tric and a remark­able char­ac­ter [9] in his own right—he went on to become a nat­u­ral­ist with 34 books to his name, as well as serv­ing as the model for Agent M in the James Bond novels—had built his career infil­trat­ing the fetid under­ground of Britain’s myr­iad right-wing cir­cles. Knight had been keep­ing Kent and the other Right Wing Club mem­bers under sur­veil­lance for some time. As their plans crossed the Rubi­con from nox­ious stu­pid­ity into the realm of exis­ten­tial threat to the British empire, he mas­ter­minded a sting oper­a­tion in which Kent and his accom­plice Wolkoff were duped into accepting—and agree­ing to pass along—a let­ter to Berlin sup­port­ing the pro­pa­ganda efforts of the trai­tor­ous broad­caster William Joyce.

    On May 20, 1940, Kent’s flat was raided and he was arrested; the Red Book’s fas­ten­ing was forced open. U.S. Ambas­sador Joseph Kennedy, him­self a Nazi sym­pa­thizer in the 1930s, was brought to the apart­ment to observe British Intel­li­gence break open the book’s lock and cat­a­log its con­tents and per­son­ally waived Kent’s right to diplo­matic immu­nity. Kent and Wolkoff were impris­oned for seven and 10 years respec­tively. The British Cab­i­net decided to extend the invo­ca­tion of “Defense Reg­u­la­tion 18B,” the anti-terrorism laws of their day, and the pre­cur­sor of our own, which enabled Churchill to imprison or intern any­one sus­pected of Nazi sym­pa­thies for the dura­tion of the war.

    Capt. Ram­say was also interned for sev­eral years, until Sep­tem­ber 1944 when, in a “breath­tak­ing act of chutz­pah” (Saikia’s words yet again), the first thing he did upon his release—the war was not yet over—was to resume his seat in Par­lia­ment. He then called for a motion to rein­state the 1275 Statute of Jewry, a per­ni­cious piece of medieval anti-Semitic leg­is­la­tion first intro­duced dur­ing the reign of Edward I that, among other things, required Jews to wear a yel­low badge and that also out­lawed usury. Ram­say died an unapolo­getic fascist.

    For sev­eral years the actual Red Book has resided in the Wiener Library [10] for the Study of the Holo­caust and Geno­cide in Lon­don. The first time its totemic con­tents are to be made pub­lic, read­ers will dis­cover that the new edi­tion includes Ramsey’s list of Right Club mem­bers pub­lished in fac­sim­ile, with notes on every peer, diplo­mat, mem­ber of the armed forces, and par­lia­men­tar­ian who joined the club. I inquired of Saikia his view of the fraught issue of posthu­mously dis­hon­or­ing the descen­dants of the Right Club mem­bers, some of whom are from fam­i­lies still promi­nent at the high­est lev­els of British soci­ety. He replied, with a wry smile, that “if they have noth­ing with which to reproach them­selves, then I am sure they would take the book in good part.”

    “This isn’t just a musty cor­ner of Eng­lish his­tory,” Saikia elab­o­rated. “And in a way, the Wolkoff-Kent spy story is a sec­ondary issue. What is of great impor­tance is that the prin­ci­pal demons of the Right Club—Arnold Leese, A.K. Chester­son, and Anthony Ludovici for example—are the ide­o­log­i­cal fore­fa­thers of today’s far right in Britain. Leese and Chestert­son were in dif­fer­ent ways found­ing fathers of the National Front and the BNP [British National Party]. The racial ‘solu­tions’ pro­posed by Ludovici and the idea that Eng­lish blood should not be con­t­a­m­i­nated by for­eign immi­grants still have cur­rency today. There is a mes­sage here, I think, for all extrem­ists whether they be Chris­t­ian, Mus­lim, or Jew­ish, for whichever peo­ple of whichever book.”

    The one redemp­tive story unearthed by Saikia is to be found in the post­war evo­lu­tion of the only Right Club mem­ber to have reneged on his racist past. “For me, the story of Prince Yuri Gal­izine, the White Russ­ian noble­man, is one of the most mov­ing and inspir­ing sto­ries I have come across when research­ing this book,” Saikia said. “Gal­izine began by join­ing the Right Club shortly before the Sec­ond World War, and as a result of his con­sid­er­able lin­guis­tic skills he was recruited into Allied intel­li­gence and ended the war inves­ti­gat­ing the Nazi crimes in mul­ti­ple con­cen­tra­tion camps, includ­ing Natzweiler-Rudhof. He began the war with a closed mind and ended it with a deeply stricken con­science. He wrote an impas­sioned paper for Allied intel­li­gence propos­ing meth­ods by which pro­pa­ganda could be turned to good effect in the cause of peace and tol­er­ance, which fell on deaf ears,” Saikia added. “Iron­i­cally he forged a highly suc­cess­ful career as a PR tycoon in the ’50s and ’60s. He had the courage to change his mind. The rest of these men never changed their mind.”

    The great insight that Saikia has drawn from his research is that the intel­lec­tual frame­works of exclu­sion and hatred devel­oped by nativists in reac­tion to suc­ces­sive waves of Jew­ish immi­grants in the early 20th cen­tury are now being applied to the Roman­ian con­struc­tion worker and the Pol­ish nanny. “While it is true,” he told me, “that there are new ‘enemies’—in Eng­land it’s the Mus­lims, Afro-Caribbeans, East­ern Europeans—anti-Semitism remains deeply ingrained at all lev­els of British soci­ety. Though British Jews are for the most part suc­cess­ful (though not always rich) and hard work­ing, and at the top lev­els, promi­nent and influ­en­tial in cur­rent affairs, they are still dis­cussed behind closed doors as being par­a­sit­i­cal usurpers of the national her­itage. No amount of leg­is­la­tion can remove such deeply ingrained prej­u­dices, which is why avowedly xeno­pho­bic orga­ni­za­tions such as the NBP get such dan­ger­ously high lev­els of votes.”

    “There is hope however”—he fin­ished with a flour­ish. “The voice of the extrem­ist is always the loud­est; we mod­er­ates and lib­er­als need to turn up the vol­ume.” Thus, hav­ing made a com­pelling and stir­ring argu­ment for the virtues of tol­er­ance, lib­er­al­ism, and civ­i­liza­tion, he pro­ceeded to open another bot­tle of champagne.

    Posted by Vanfield | July 1, 2013, 12:02 pm

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