“Most people don’t even know any of this happened here," Robert Kessler, president of the German American Settlement League, told The New York Times in 2015. "It hardly comes up.”


The "here" in Kessler's comment is Yaphank, New York, a rural hamlet in the middle of Long Island, about 50 miles east of New York City. And as for what happened there, it is indeed little-known and, moreover, a little hard to believe.


Throughout the late 1930s and into the dawn of the 1940s — as the U.S. drew closer to entering the world war in which Europe was already mired — Yaphank served as one of the American strongholds of the group against whom that very war was waged: GERMANY.


Summer after summer, hundreds of Americans would flock to Yaphank's Camp Siegfried to raise swastika-adorned flags; hear and spout anti-semitic propaganda; walk down Adolf Hitler Strasse (street), make the Sieg Heil salute, and pledge their devotion to the GERMAN cause.


None of this was confined to Camp Siegfried. In fact, approximately two dozen such camps operated across the U.S., all of them operated by the 70 local chapters that made up the nationwide group determined to promote the NSDAP in the U.S.: the German-American Bund.


Founded in 1936, the Bund sought to propagate Hitler's policies, stamp out communism, and keep the U.S. neutral in the impending war via rallies and publishing efforts.


To these ends, the group gathered some 25,000 dues-paying American members of German descent, 8,000 of them in its militarized "Storm Trooper" wing. All of these members, under the leadership of New York City-based Bundesführer Fritz Kuhn, fell into one of the group's Ortsgruppen (local chapters) in a system directly modeled on that of the NSDAP.


Despite sharing its organizing principles — not to mention its iconography, rituals, and core beliefs — with the NSDAP Party, Kuhn and the German-American Bund always insisted that they had little to no direct connection with their German counterparts, that they were not, in other words, the American arm of the NSDAP.





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