U.S. Nationalist Youth Groups


Figure 1.--Uniformed German America Bundists at the 1939 Madison Square Garden rally.

A variety of nationlist groups have been formed in America. Some early Scout-like organizations formed at the turn of the 20th century. While these grops had a very nationlisdtic focus, they were ecentually joined with the Boy Scouts of America. There were limitations with American nationlist groups because of the great diversity of the United States. Nationalist groups thrived where there was a common ethnic idenity. This of course did not exist in America. Thus what was occurred was the organization of ethnic groups. The strongest such group was German Americans, a small group of whom was inspired by Hitler's NAZI New Order. Various groups were formed which by 1936 had become the German-American Bund. The Bund organized a youth section and ran summer camps during the 1930s and early 40s. Hitler wanted a strong NAZI orienterd German group to organize in America, but he wanted it to be done quietly. He did not want to stir America from isolationism. The Bund led by Fritz Kuhn did all it could to make headlines, even holding a mass rally in New York' Madison Square Garden. The Bund's activities frightened many Americans and inspired a series of Congressional investigations. The Bund was disbanded when Hitler declared war on America after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Contemporary right-wing groups such as the Klu-Llux-Klan, Aryan Nation, and others often involve children, but not as a separate, uniformed youth group.

Scouting Groups

Several groups were organized in the early 1900s at the same time as the Boys Scouts in England. The groups reflected the interest in organizing heatlful outdoor activities for boys. The American groups were highly nationalistic, but were eventually combined with the Boys Scouts of America. While Lord Baden Powell is most associated with the founding of Scouting. Two Americans and the organizations they founded played very important roles. Certainly, Baden-Powell had supplied the basics for Scouting in America along with Ernest Thompson Seton, founder of the Woodcraft Indians, and Daniel Carter Beard, founder of the Society of the Sons of Daniel Boone. Seton and Beard brought emphasis on the Native American and American frontiersman influences in outdoor activities of American Scouts.

Woodcraft Indians

The American author and illustrator, Ernest Thompson Seton, created the Woodcraft Indians in 1902. It was designed for boys aged 12 to 15 years and was based on North American Indian lore and outdoor life. In 1906 he added the Little Lodge of Woodcraft Indians for younger boys and girls, which in many ways was the fore runner of Cubbing, even though it took the Boy Scots many years to establish Cubbing--well after most other countries had established the program. Seton visited London in 1906 and met with Baden Powell to exchange ideas. Baden Powell eventually incorporated some of Seton's ideas and later credited Seton with being one of the fathers of Boy and Cub Scouting.

Sons of Daniel Boone--Boy Pioneers

American Daniel Carter Beard founded the Sons of Daniel Boone in 1905. The name for this organization was obvious. More than any other man, Daniel Boone was responsible for the exploration and settlement of Kentucky--the western frontier of 18th century America. The Sons of Daniel Boone, renamed the Boy Pioneers, was in the 1900s, the largest boys organization in America. Beard was an advocate of Scouting and eventually his organization joined the Scouting movement.


Figure 2.--Here is a small poster printed during the 1930s in Germany for the Deutscher-American Bund, promoting the youth section, known as the Jugendschaft. This copy came from a Bund member in Buffalo, New York. The poster shows the symbol of the Jugendschaft and there is an illustration of a young drummer boy with the traditional "Flame Drum" made popular by the Hitler Youth in Germany. Originally they would have been for posting on walls, trees, etc., with words written under the figure that would announce work details, ceremonial events, marches, hiking, sports activities, etc.

German Orientation

A variety of nationlist groups have been formed in America. There were limitations, however, because of the great diversity of the United States. Nationalist groups thrived where there was a common ethnic idenity. This of course did not exist in America. Thus what was occurred was the organization of ethnic groups. The strongest such group was German Americans, a small group of whom was inspired by Hitler's NAZI New Order. A variety of political organizations were founded by other ethnic organizatiins, including the Irish, Italian, Japanese, Jewish, and other immigrant groups. For the most part, however, these were social organizations. Most immigrant groups pursued political goals through the established political parties. This was also true of the Germans, but beginning in the 1920s, some German immigrants entering the United States brought with them the ideology of the rising NAZI party. This was not unlike other immigrant groups with brought with them anarchist, communist, and other radical ideologies with them. It was the Germans, however, that were most strident, especially after the seizure of power by Hitler in 1933. The coming of the Depression after the 1929 stock market crash brought many prospective adherents to thise who wanted to radically reshape American society. While the Communists were much more numeerous, it was the American NAZIs who were most strident and associated with one single immigrant group. The Germans were a huge potential pool of recruits. In the 1920s, about 25 percent of Americans identified as being German Americans.

Hitler's Objectives

Hitler's view of the United States seems to have viewed over time. At one time he was impressed with the rise of the United States and its rapid industrial expansion and technical innovation. He subsequently came to feel that America was dominated by a Jewish dominated capitalist class. It is unclear to what affect he really believed this. Certainly he was disturbed by President Roosevelt's unrelenting moral criticism. Hitler also had conflicting interests as far as NAZI Party organization in the United States. On the one hand he was interested in a strong part organization forming in America. Given the size of the American German population, it was by far the largest group of ethnic Germans living outside Germany. On the otherhand, the neutrality of the United States in the coming European War was of great importance to Germany. Despite public statements, Hitler was well aware of how American involvement in the War could change the power ballance. Hitler had a strong sence of the potential danger of the United States. (Despite the fact that in 1941, the United States was the only country Germany ever declared war on--following the Japanese attack on Peal Harbor. As a result what he wanted was a pro-NAZI American group that would quitely organize. He did not want to rouse America from isolationism. What he got was the German American Bund led by Fritz Kuhn who did everything he could to make headlines and publicize NAZI policies.
German-American Organizations

NAZI oriented German groups went through a series of reorganizationd, most orchestrated from Berlin. The NAZI Party after seizing power in Germany sought to foster sympathetic political organization around the world. The better know operations are thiose in neighboring groups which because of their closeness to Germany and attitudes of the individuals, many of whom before the Versailles Treaty were once within the boundary of the Reich or the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. America while further away included much lager numbers of Germans. Hitler never discussed this pubically. His primarily method of operation was to focus on one country at a time so as not to incourage countries opposed to him to unite. Thus he did not begin talking about the Aedaten Germans until after he had Austria. He did not begin fousing on Danzig and the Polish Corridor until after he had Czechoslovakia.

Silver Shirts

William Dudley Pelley's Silver Shirts Legion or simply Silver Shirts are sometimes mentioned in documentaries about the 1930s. Pelley began as a newspaper publisher, but failed. He tried his hand at movie making. He wrote 16 silent film plots which he couldn't sell. He of course blamed Jews for his failure. He had a vision of abgels leading him to heaven (April 1928). He then went back to publishing. He founded the pseudo-religious white supremacy The New Liberator. [Lavine, pp. 178-180.] He then moved to Asheville, North Carolina, and founded the Silver Legion of America. He was aan admirer of Adolf Hitler and European Fascism. On the same day that Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germay, Pelley created the Silver Shirts. Pelley saw himself as seizuing power in a silver revolution and becoming the American dictator. They were of course a knock off of Hitler's Brown shirts. [Heym ] This was more of an attempt at a para-military group than a youth organization. The group's emblem was a a bright scarlet 'L'. It had a three-fold meaning: Loyalty to the American Republic, Liberation from materialism, and, of course, the Silver Legion itself. The uniform of the Silver Legion was a cap like the worn worn by the Hitler Youth and U.S. Army. They also wore a destinctibe silver shirt--completely unsuitable for a youth group. The shirts had a scarlet red emblem. Members wore a solid-colored tie, we are not sure about the color. The uniform was completed with blue corduroy trousers and leggings. The size of the group is not known with any surity. Some estimate suggest about 10,000 people may have joined. Anither estimate suggests that by 1934 there masy have been as many as 15,000 members. We believe that all of the boys involved were the choldren of Legion members. Most members were \working-class, affected by the Depression. We are not sure about ethnicity. Membership declines after 1934 when President Roosevelt's New Deal begann to generate more optimism among unemployed Americans. Just before the outbreak of World War II, menbership had declined to about 5,000 members. And inthecaftermnath of Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United Srates in the War, the Silver Shirts ceased to exist. Pelley had more influence with the Skyland Press, which may have distributed 1 million Fascist oriented publications annually. [Lavine, p. 185.] After the outbreak of World War II, Pelly was arrested for sedition and received a 15 year sentence. [Hoke, pp. 222-223.] Pelley died in 1965. His final effort group before he died was Soulcraft which still exists on-line.

Contemporary Groups

Contemporary right-wing groups such as the Klu-Klux-Klan, Aryan Nation, and others often involve children, but not as a separate, uniformed youth group.

Sources

Heym, Stefan. (1938). Heym was a German Jewish refugee. He edited a Germa-language anti-Fascist newspaper in New York (1937-39).

Hoke, Henry. Itís a Secret (Pamphlet Press, 1946).

Lavine, Harold. Fifth Column in America (New York: Doubleday, Doran and Co., 1940).





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Created: May 1, 2000
Last updated: 6:07 PM 3/8/2011