Weekend Heller: The Nazis At Madison Square Garden

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There have been many events at New York’s Madison Square Garden. As a kid, I went to the Ringling Brothers Circus at the venue on 8th Avenue and 49th/50th Streets. (Now, I live near the current one on 7th Avenue and 31st/32nd streets, where i’ve seen everyone from Bob Dylan to the New York Knicks). However, I was not alive for the most “notorious” event at the earlier Garden on 8th Ave, when Fritz Kuhn, leader of the German American (Nazi) Bund held an “Americanization” rally there on February 20, 1939. It was there, like in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this year, where Nazi sympathizers and white supremacists rattled off their hatred of Jews, President Roosevelt, and others. The rally, attended by 20,000, a fraction of those belonging to the Bund, was protested by huge crowds of anti-Nazis, who were held back by 1,500 NYC police officers. As World War II began in 1939, the German American Bund disappeared and Kuhn was arrested for embezzlement, and later deported to Germany.

I just stumbled across “A Night At The Garden,” an important short film with rare footage of the rally in the heart of New York City, and an onstage protester was wrestled to the ground by Bund storm troopers. When I would look at photos and read reports of this activity, I was thankful that it was in the past. However, decades ago, walking through the German dominated Yorkville section of New York, I encountered the vestiges of the 1930s. This film brings it back.

“A Night At The Garden” is directed, produced and edited by Marshall Curry. Release is through Field of Vision. The film is played before feature films and was part of the New York Film Festival. And it can be seen here.

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