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?