Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Long Island’s Nazi past
“Long Island,” he noted, “has a very checkered history.” As explanatory information about the exhibit from the Center states: “Long Island of the 1930s was not exactly a bastion of racial and religious acceptance. There was an active Ku Klux Klan in Suffolk County and the American Eugenics Society, a group that was trying to create a perfect Aryan race in the United States, was headquartered in Cold Spring Harbor.” (It was at the site of the present Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.)
“With the coming of war the [Nazi] Bund faded and Camp Siegfried was closed down,” it continued. The “self-appointed leader of the Nazi American Bund,” Fritz Kuhn, central to the Yaphank operation, had been convicted in 1939 of tax evasion and embezzling — from the Bund — and jailed. And after his release from Sing Sing on New York State criminal charges, he was re-arrested by the U.S. government in 1943 as an enemy agent. With the war’s end, the German-born Kuhn was deported to West Germany where he died in 1951. This ringmaster of Yaphank activities had intended to become “the American fuhrer” after succeeding with his fellow Nazis in “transforming America into a Nazi state,” said Professor Klipstein.
Professor Klipstein, assistant director of the Center, also detailed the activities in these times of major American figures, notably auto magnate Henry Ford and aviator Charles Lindberg, both given awards by the Nazi regime in Germany, hate radio preacher Charles Coughlin and U.S Senator Burton Wheeler.
And he told of, in contrast, strong anti-Nazi actions by New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and then Manhattan DA Thomas Dewey—whose work led to Kuhn’s imprisonment—and by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and here in Suffolk, the extensive efforts of a prosecutor, Lindsay Henry, which had much to do with the end of Camp Siegfried.