As today is Halloween, I’d like to share with you something I watched that I found truly chilling. Marshall Curry’s powerful documentary, A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN, is just six minutes long. The film depicts a real event that happened in American history, a rally of 20,000 American fascists at Madison Square Garden in New York City on the eve of World War 2.
They were members of the Bund (“federation”), a fascist organization wrapped in the American flag. The main speaker is German immigrant Fritz Kuhn, who demands “our government shall be returned to the American people who founded it” in front of a massive painting of George Washington in the backdrop. The Americans give him the fascist salute. At the end, a woman sings “The Star Spangled Banner.”
When a protester rushes the stage, he’s beaten by brownshirts until police come and take him away, an incident that draws cheers from the crowd. Outside, protesters were being beaten and trampled by police.
Dorothy Thompson, a journalist married to Sinclair Lewis (who would write IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE), observed the rally. She wrote an article in the August 1941 issue of HARPERS, “Who Goes Nazi?”, in which she proposes a party game of guessing, among guests at a party, who would support the Nazis if they took over. She proposes that Nazism is not so much an ideology as a worldview that appeals to a certain psychology.
While this rally took place, Hitler was building his sixth concentration camp. Seven months later, World War 2 began.
Watch it here: