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Context of 'February 20, 1939: Pro-Nazi German-American Bund Holds Large Rally in New York City'

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A photo of the February 1939 Bund rally in Madison Square Garden. The backdrop depicts President George Washington.A photo of the February 1939 Bund rally in Madison Square Garden. The backdrop depicts President George Washington. [Source: US Holocaust Museum]The German-American Bund, the most influential pro-Nazi movement in the US prior to World War II, holds a rally in New York City’s Madison Square Garden that attracts some 20,000 participants. The rally is to protest for the rights of white Gentiles, whom the organization calls the “true patriots” of America. The Bund is led by Fritz Kuhn, an outspoken anti-Semite; at its height, the organization boasts some 25,000 members along with 8,000 “Storm Troopers.” Although the group portrays itself as patriotic Americans, even combining images of George Washington and the Nazi swastika, almost all of the members are German immigrants with ties and/or allegiances to Hitler’s Nazi movement. Public opinion polls show Kuhn is considered the most prominent anti-Semite in the nation. The party has little support outside of a few large cities. Shortly after the rally, Kuhn is investigated, found to have close ties to Germany’s Nazi Party, and eventually jailed for embezzling funds from the organization, causing many members to depart. In December 1941, the US government will outlaw the organization. [The Holocaust Chronicle, 2009; US Holocaust Museum, 2010; US Holocaust Museum, 2010]

Entity Tags: Fritz Kuhn, German-American Bund

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Gary Lauck leaves a Danish courtroom in August 1995.Gary Lauck leaves a Danish courtroom in August 1995. [Source: Bjarke Oersted/Lincoln Journal-Star]American white supremacist Gary Lauck is convicted in Germany of smuggling illegal neo-Nazi materials into the country. Lauck has said he became a “Hitler fan” at age 11. He affects a fake German accent and has had his first name changed to “Gerhard.” Formerly a member of the National Socialist White People’s Party (the successor organization to the American Nazi Party), in 1974 Lauck founded the National Socialist German Workers Party/Overseas Organization (NSDAP/AO) after the NSWPP disintegrated. The NSDAP/AO is officially dedicated to promoting “a worldwide National Socialist-led White Revolution for the restoration of White Power in all White nations.” Lauck has attempted to bring such materials—including pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic propaganda, swastika armbands, pins, and other items—into Germany and other European countries since well before the reunification of East and West Germany (see November 9, 1989 and After). In the 1980s, Lauck succeeded in bringing almost 8 million pieces of German-language propaganda into Germany, including a German-language newspaper, Nazi Battle Cry, and an old Nazi propaganda film depicting Jews as rats. Lauck became a revered figure among Germany’s small but vocal neo-Nazi population, and had some success in bringing together a number of disparate neo-Nazi groups under his umbrella organization NS Kampfruf. In 1974 and 1975, Lauck was arrested by German officials and deported; in 1976, after being arrested with 20,000 Nazi posters in his possession, he served four months in a German prison and was banned from Germany for life. In 1995, he was arrested in Denmark on international warrants for disseminating illegal propaganda in Germany and handed over to the German courts. (Four days after his arrest, German authorities raided the homes of some 80 Lauck followers, and seized weapons, ammunition, and illegal literature.) He is sentenced to four years in prison and will be released in March 1999. After his release, he will return to the United States and begin disseminating Nazi propaganda via the Internet. [New York Times, 8/23/1996; Lincoln Journal-Star, 12/16/2007; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010; Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, 11/29/2011]

Entity Tags: National Socialist German Workers Party/Overseas Organization, Gary Lauck, National Socialist White People’s Party

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

A group of German civil rights lawyers files a lawsuit against the German government, demanding that the government attempt to extradite 13 CIA agents named in the alleged kidnapping of a German citizen. Khalid el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, says he was abducted in December 2003 at the Serbian-Macedonian border (see December 31, 2003-January 23, 2004 and January 23 - March 2004). He was flown by the CIA to a detention center in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was interrogated and abused for months. El-Masri says he was released in Albania in May 2004, and told that he was the victim of mistaken identity (see May 29, 2004). No government or body has yet taken responsibility for el-Masri’s kidnapping and brutalization. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other US officials have refused to address the case, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the US acknowledged making a mistake with el-Masri.
Accountability - “We are demanding accountability” with the lawsuit, says attorney Wolfgang Kaleck. For himself, el-Masri says, “I just want the German government to acknowledge what happened to me.” An American judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by el-Masri against the CIA and three US corporations in 2006 (see May 18, 2006). In January 2007, German prosecutors issued warrants for the arrests of 13 CIA agents, accusing them of wrongfully imprisoning el-Masri and causing him serious bodily harm. The US Justice Department refused the requests, citing “American national interests,” and the German Ministry of Justice dropped the request. The lawsuit seeks to force the German government to reconsider extradition for the CIA agents.
Extraordinary Rendition - According to human rights organizations, el-Masri’s case is an example of “extraordinary rendition,” where the US takes suspected terrorists to foreign countries where they are subjected to abuse and torture. A criminal lawsuit against CIA officers in conjunction with the el-Masri case is also ongoing in Macedonia; that case could end up before the European Court of Human Rights. And the American Civil Liberties Union has also filed a petition on el-Masri’s behalf through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a body that seeks to establish international laws. [Associated Press, 6/9/2008]

Entity Tags: European Court of Human Rights, Condoleezza Rice, American Civil Liberties Union, German Ministry of Justice, Khalid el-Masri, US Department of Justice, Wolfgang Kaleck, Central Intelligence Agency, Angela Merkel

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

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