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Well-Known Midwest Admirers of Nazism


| Henry Ford |

| Charles Lindbergh |

| American Bund |

Detroit car-manufacturing magnate Henry Ford was fascinated by the Nazi regime, as it reflected his own anti-Semitic sentiments. Hitler gave Ford a medal for his support.

Michigan-born and Minnesota raised, Charles Lindbergh admired the German people and government—and at one point planned to move to Berlin.

A Nazi movement sprouted in the U.S., but never grew into an autonomous, lasting political force. It died after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

Lesser-Known Midwest Admirers of Nazism

| Der Staats-Anzeiger | Frederick Kaltenbach | Charles Coughlin |

Minneapolis: "The Capital of Anti-Semitism in the United States"

JCRC (Jewish Community Relations Council)

Deep in the Heart of the American Heartland, a virulent German-language newspaper with national distribution disseminated Nazi print propaganda among its devoted readership. Taking aim at Jews, Germany’s enemies and American leaders, the Staats-Anzeiger advocated the aims of Hitler’s Third Reich and tried to discourage U.S. involvement in Europe’s growing disaster.

Born to German immigrants, this Iowa native became an avid Nazi propagandist. Educated in Germany, married to a German and in Berlin until the war’s end, Kaltenbach was one of most important “radio traitors” to push Nazi Germany’s agenda. Having become fully acculturated in his adopted country, the U.S. government indicted Kaltenbach for treason after it entered WWII.

an Email sent to TRACES' Bulletin Board:

Subject: pro-Nazi Americans
Name: [withheld upon request]
Date: 10 June 2004
     I want to tell my story about my early encounter with the Nazis. It was about 1943. My parents worked days, and I was instructed to go to the home of one of my first grade classmates and wait for them to pick me up after they had finished work The family I stayed with was sort of an after-school care family—a German family. The mother and father were not around much but the German-speaking grandmother took care of us children. She was very good to us, and I have no complaints.
     I remember that the basement of the house was packed with food, and German men would stop in during the day and evening play cards, drink beer and smoke cigars—all speaking in German. I had no idea what was going on.
     The youngest boy in the family (he must have been about 4 or 5 years old) asked me if I wanted to see his father’s secret room. Being a curious child I told him I would. He then led me to a secret stairway where we ascended some stairs into a large attic room. The room was carpeted; there was blackout on the windows, a big desk, a Nazi flag, and boxes of guns and ammunition. The little boy opened one of the boxes and gave me a Nazi arm band, telling me I should wear it or I might be killed. I wore it home! My parents were shocked, made me burn the arm band and forbid me ever to go back to that house again. I remember the name of the family and the house is still there. My parents and grandparents never spoke of the incident, and I doubt if they ever reported it.
     I never knew quite what it was all about. Would you have any idea what was going on there?

(the Kaltenbach image courtesy of the State Historical Society of Iowa; the Staats-Anzeiger image courtesy of the State Historical Society of North Dakota)

|Charles Coughlin |



Charles Coughlin

A Canadian-American Catholic priest and early-20th-century popular radio figure, “Father Coughlin” first took to the Detroit-area airwaves in 1926, broadcasting weekly sermons over the radio. By the early 1930s the content of his broadcasts had shifted from theology to economics and politics. Just as the rest of the nation was obsessed by economic and political matters in the midst of the Depression, so too was Father Coughlin. He predicated his finely developed theory of what he termed “social justice” on economic reforms. An early Roosevelt supporter who coined the famous expression “Roosevelt or ruin” he later turned against FDR and became one of the president’s harshest critics. His program of “social justice” was a radical challenge to capitalism and many of the political institutions of his day.

Coughlin’s early support for President Roosevelt was based on his image of FDR as a social reformer. Roosevelt’s rhetoric during his inaugural address promised to “drive the money changers from the temple”—music to Coughlin’s ears, since a core part of his own message was monetary reform. When FDR failed to follow-on with additional radical reforms, however, Coughlin turned against him. By 1936, he supported a third-party candidacy against FDR’s reelection bid.

Throughout the 1930s Coughlin used his popular weekly radio program—which averaged 3.5 million listeners every week—and his magazine, Social Justice, to spread his ideas and attack his enemies. From 1934 onward Coughlin’s targets included Roosevelt, individual Jewish leaders, and Jewish institutions—all branded as Communists.

            Coughlin, a rightwing populist, advocated a form of corporatism influenced by Italian Fascism. In 1934 Coughlin organized the National Union for Social Justice through which he argued that neither capitalism nor democracy had a future in America. In 1938 the National Union developed into the Christian Front which was even more ardent in its support of fascism and became a mouth piece for Nazi propaganda. Subsequently, as war loomed in Europe, Coughlin supported isolationism, charging that Jewish financiers were secretly behind efforts to involve the U.S. in the war.

            By the late 1930’s Father Coughlin’s broadcasts were increasingly anti-Semitic and politically controversial. Then, in the 1940s, the Vatican, American-Jewish leaders and the U.S. government pressured Coughlin to stop broadcasting and return to his parish.

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