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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 [1] | Down­load Pt. 2 [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 [3].) “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 [4], 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. 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?