The NAZI Party covertly approved of the unification of like-minded German political grouos in to the Friends of the New Germany (FDNA). The FDNA was founded after the NAZI seizure of power in Germany (1933). The principal leader was Spocknobel. The FDNA was organized like the NAZI Party. A quasi-military group was recruited and called the OS, based on the German SS. There was also a youth division. One of the principal goals of te FDNA was to politicize the German American population. They distributed German propoganda. They successfully infiltrated many German social clubs and "Arianized" them. Few members stood up to them. It should be noted that most German-Americans by the 1930s were throughly Amerinized. Relatively few spoke German and few were active in German social clubs and similar organizations. These groups were most popular with the more recent immigrants. The FDNA received covert support from the German Railroad offices in America and the German Consulate. Many of its leaders were German nationals. They distributed NAZI propganda in major U.S. cities. The groups' activities were conducted so overtly that they brought about a Congressional investigation. In additiion, Jewsish emigrees were beginning to publicize what the NAZIs were doing to the Jews. American Jewish groups began to boycott German products and German merchants--drawing more attention to the FDNA. The Congressional hearings were led by a Jewish New York Congressman--Sam Dickstein. The Congressional investigation unearthed evidnce confirming that the FDNA was dominated by the NAZIs. The NAZIs in response decicded to withdraw German citizens from leadership roles.
The Germans constitute the largest immigrant group in America. Germans settled many areas of the United States. Most of the Texas Germans were indeed Lutherans. [Olesch] Many German Catholics settled in St. Paul, Minnesota. and in Omaha, Nebr. as well all over the Midwestern states. A Slavic minority from Germany were the Sorbs in Texas. They were Lutherans and settled in Serbin and in Giddings, surrounded by other German farmers. They tried to escape total assimilation in Germany, but what did not happen in the old country happened in Texas. They were absorbed by the German communities within two generations. Now the Germans themselves are totally Americanized and hardly speak German anymore, except for some older people in Fredericksburg and New Braunfels. Admiral Nimitz was a native of Fredericksburg and spoke only German as a boy. One of the best known German immigrant groups are the Mennoites who settled in southeastern Pennstlvania who incorrently became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch.
After Hitler and the NAZIs seized power in Germany (January 1933), some German Americans were impressed and wanted to create an American NAZI Party. For the most part they were relatively recent immigrants not fully assismilated--a very small part of the German-American population. German immigrant Heinz Spanknobel, who was not yet a citizen, persued the desire and NAZI Deputy Föhrer Rudolf Hess approved of the effort (May 1933). The NAZI Party covertly approved of the unification of like-minded German political groups in to the Friends of the New Germany (FDNA). The existing groups were the Teutonia Association(1924-1932) and Gau-USA(1931-33)--NAZI Party unit The FDNA was founded after the NAZI seizure of power in Germany (1933). It was first founded as "THe Friends of the Hitler Movement", but quickly changed to the less charged "Friends of the New Germany".
The FDNA opened a New York City headquarters. There was also a strong organization in Chicago. The FDNA was organized like the NAZI Party. The principal leader was Heiz Spocknobel. He did not last long. He was quickly oused and subsequently deported because he did not register as a foreign agent (October 1933). A quasi-military group was recruited and called the OS, based on the German SS. There was also a youth division.
Ignatz Griebel served in the Germany Army during World War I. He emigrated to America after the War and became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He graduating from Long Island Medical College and set up a medical practice in New York City. He joined the U.S. Army as a medical reserve officer. He became the president of the Friends of the New Germany which became the German-American Bund. He was arrested by the FBI and during interogation revealed a great deal of information about a German spy ring. A federal grand jury subpoenaed him to testify in the espionage trial of the first German spy ring uncovered in America. Before actually testifying, Griebel managed to stowaway on the German liner Breman (May 10, 1938). Some believe the Germans spirited him away. He apparently had an intelligence code with him. FBI agent Leon G. Torrou at Hofmann's trial testified that Griebel was an “informer” and had provided information on his fellow spies. The FBI did not, however, indict him. He denied Bureau had been involved in Griebel's flight. Gribel reached Bremerhaven where German authorities arrested him for traveling without a passport. He was only fined 60 marks. One might have thought the Gestapo would have treated him more severely as an informer. Soon after the NAZIs annexed Austria in the Anschluss. He set uop a medical practice in Vienna, taking over the office the office of a Jewish doctor. After the War Austria anhd Germany were in ruins. Griebel apparently had the idea of returning tgo ASmerica as he was an American citizen. He went to the offices of U.S. occupation troops in Salzburg (august 19, 1945). He identifying himself as an American citizen, showing his medical school diploma. He requested repatriation. Capt. H.J. Downey who he spoke with remembered the Griebel case and instead arrested him. Downey reported that Griebel behaved like a misbehaving schoolboy and admitted his brush with the FBI. We are not sure what happened to him after that.
We know the FDNA had a youth division, but we have been able to find very little about it. We believe it was a very small group. Here we see 9-year old Hans Bisthos. (Note the German name Hans, almost all German-American families Americanized their first names.) He was from Union, New Jersey. Hans was one of 200 in the FDNA youth division. He was photographed August 8, 1934 on a camping trip near the Delaware Raritan Canal at Griggstown, New Jersey (figure 1).
One of the principal goals of the FDNA was to politicize the German American population. They distributed German propoganda. The Friends and later the Bund was part of a much wider NAZI effort to establish pro-NAZI organizations in foreign countries. The United States, while remote to NAZI Germany was important for two reasos. First was the potential power of the United States. The American role in deciding World War I was obvious. Second was the fact that America had the largest German population outside Germany. Hitler saw this important for both political and racial reasons.
One of the FDNA's most notable actions was storming the German language publication New Yorker Staats-Zeitung and demanding the publication of pro-NAZI articles. The FDNA successfully infiltrated many German social clubs and "Arianized" them. Few members stood up to them. It should be noted that most German-Americans by the 1930s were throughly Amerinized. Relatively few spoke German and few were active in German social clubs and similar organizations. These groups were most popular with the more recent immigrants.
Membership is an open question. The FDNA like to exagerate its membership to give an image of greater importance than was in fact the case. We note estimates of 5,000-10,000, but this isproibably an xageration.
The FDNA's pampflets and speeched followed Hitler's idelogy. There were attacks on Jews and Coomunists. The Versailles Treaty was another major target.
The FDNA was loud and visible, but support among German Americans was in fact minimal. There was no real effort to adjust NAZI principles to German Americans who were largely assimilated. It was in effect a very amateurish effort.
The FDNA received covert support from the German Railroad offices in America and the German Consulate. Many of its leaders were German nationals. They distributed NAZI propganda in major U.S. cities.
The FDNA' activities were conducted so overtly that they brought about a Congressional investigation. The Congressional hearings were lrequested by a Jewish New York Congressman--Sam Dickstein. He mananaged to convince the House of Represenatives to stablish a committee to investigate "Nazi activities" in the United states (January 1934). To avoid the appearance of aewish inspired effort, Representative John McCormack was chosen as chairman. The Congressional investigation unearthed evidnce confirming that the FDNA was dominated by the NAZIs meaning the German Government. The result was a flood of complaints to the German Embassy and Foreign Office. This was not what Hitler wanted. He bagan from a position of weakness. His stategy was to separate his enemies and concentrate on one at a time. He wanted for America to remain isolated from its World War I allies as long as possible.
Jewsish emigrees were beginning to publicize what the NAZIs were doing to the Jews. American Jewish groups began to boycott German products and German merchants--drawing more attention to the FDNA.
The NAZIs in response protests from the State Department decicded to disasociate themselves from the FDNA. Deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess acting through the Foreign Minister, Baron von Neurath, issued the Oktober Direktiv (October 1935). Hess ordered the FDNA leaders to return to Germany (1935). German citizens were ordered to withdraw from membership. Fritz Gissibl of te FDNA went to Germany (November). He attempted to persuade the Foreign Ministry to allow German citizens who had applied for citizenship to remain FDNA members. The Ministry turne him down. This essentially ended the FDNA as they were the core of the organization.
The FDNA held its convention of the Friends was held in Buffalo (March 1936). A new organization was created--the German American Bund (Amerika-Deutscher Volksbund). Actually very little changed, according to the German Foreign Ministry, "they are the same prople, with the same principles, and the same appearance". [Freytag] Fritz Julius Kuhn was elected Bundesführer or Bundesleiter. Kuhn was a newly minted American citizen (1934). Kuhn was born in Munich (1896). He studied chemistry at the University of Munich. He had served in World War I in the Bavarian Army as a lieutenant and was awarded the Iron Cross. After the War he worked as a chemist in Mexico. He emigrated to the United States and got a job as an industrial chemist at the Ford automobile plant in Detroit. Kuhn satisfied the requirement for American citizenship, but he learned nothing from the failure of the FDNA. He in fact pursued the exact same failed policies.
An FBI investigation uncovered a NAZI spy ring organized through the Fridnds of the New Germany anbd Germasn-American Bund. The result was a sensational trial (1938). This was the first public relevation that NAZI-front organizations were conducting not only ptopaganda activities, but espionage as well. The newspaper accounts were followed by a Hollywood film, "Confessions of a Nazi Spy" (1939). It was the first anti-NAZI Hollywood film and a courageous step for Warner Briothers. Amazingly for Hollywood, it was fairly accurate depiction of both the spy ring and activities to convert German-Americans to NAZIism.
Freytag memorandum, October 11, 1937 in Akien zur deutschen auswårtigen Amtes (baden-Baden: 1950) I, pp. 520 ff.
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