Mayor Reserves Decision on Plea to Lift Ban on German Day Fete After Stormy Hearing
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Mayor Reserves Decision on Plea to Lift Ban on German Day Fete After Stormy Hearing

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At the close of a stormy hearing before Mayor John P. O’Brien yesterday it appeared certain that the mayor would not permit the projected German Day celebration, sponsored by the United German Societies, to take place next Sunday in the 165th Regiment Armory. The decision, which was reserved, was expected to be handed down late last night.

After three hours of fiery debate, headed by Samuel Untermyer, opposing the demonstration, and Rev. William Popcke, defending it, the session closed with evidence apparently in favor of the affair’s continued suspension.

Untermyer charged Heinz Spanknoebel, Nazi agent to the United States, with being a “brigand” and “bandit”, and declared that evidence at hand would secure the deportation of Spanknoebel and other aliens propagandizing Hitlerism under the guise of being connected with the “Friends of New Germany” organization.

Only three men spoke in favor of the celebration: Popcke, Morris Ernst, and Harry Weinberger, the last two favoring permission only on the grounds that suspension would set a “dangerous precedent for privileges of free speech and assembly.”

Over three thousand interested spectators and participants crowded the hearing-room, corridors and the environs of the city hall when the hearing finally got under way after three o’clock. Large detachments of police and detectives were on hand and part of the proceedings were broadcast.

Despite their announced decision to remain away from the hearing, a representation of the United German Societies, headed by the Rev. William Popcke, acting president of the organization, was on hand. Heinz Spanknoebel, chief Nazi propagandist in this country, who was ordered to attend the hearing by the mayor, was not present. It was explained he had been called out of town.

Rev. Popcke, in presenting the plea of the organization, denied that the German Day celebration had any political motives and insisted its sole purpose was to honor the memory of the first German settlers in this country. He denied having any knowledge of any of Spanknoebel’s activities or anything about him personally.

He declared that the committee in charge was willing to drop Spanknoebel from the speakers’ list, explaining that the committee had agreed to do this after the dispatch of a letter to the mayor stating this could not be done.

He was questioned by Mayor O’Brien and by Mr. Untermyer, the president of the American League for the Defense of Jewish Rights, who sought to establish that the

United German Societies was now under the domination of the Nazis.

Morris Ernst, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, supported Popcke in his plea for a rescinding of the mayor’s ban on the grounds that it was a denial of the traditional American right of free speech and assembly. He cited Hitler’s autobiography, “My Battle”, to support his contention that the best way to handle the Nazi threat was to expose it to open ridicule.

From more than a dozen participants at the hearing came severe denunciation of the New York Nazi group. Charges were flung at the absent Spanknoebel as being a paid employee of the Hitler Government, sent here to create sympathy for the Nazi leader’s racial aims and to reproduce his practices in the United States.

Mr Untermyer presented the mayor with samples of Spanknoebel’s publications, in which he asserted the President of the United States and other American figures and institutions were scurrilously libelled He declared that Spanknoebel had been subsidized by the Hitler government to the extent of 10,000,000 Marks. In attacking the Nazi organization in this country, Mr. Untermyer said he saw no different between Spanknoebel and other Hitlerites “even though they masquerade as ambassadors.”

Magistrate Charles Brandt, Jr., in describing his withdrawal from the United German Societies, declared that many members of that group are restrained from leaving or declaring their honest opinions for fear of consequences to their relatives in Germany.

A representative of the American Federation of Labor announced the unfavorable attitude of his federation toward the Hitler Government and charged that union tradesmen fleeing from Hitler’s persecution were afraid to do otherwise than denounce unions in the United States for fear of consequences which would be visited upon their families in Germany.

Victor Ridder, ousted member of the United German Societies, appealed for the suspension of German Day celebrations, and described how they were being sponsored by Nazi elements of the organization, which, he said, in recent weeks had succeeded in coercing all old elements of the organization into following the dictates of Adolf Hitler.

Ber###d Deutsch, president of the American Jewish Congress, also condemned the proposed German Day celebrations as a Nazi propaganda stunt and demanded that the United States armory should not be used as a rostrum for their un-American viewpoints.

Edgar H. Burman, commander of the Jewish War Veterans, shortly before the session was called to order, told a reporter for the Jewish Daily Bulletin that forty organizations, including his own, the American Legion, the American Federation of Labor, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and others, were prepared to stage a counter-demonstration in the event of the mayor’s acquiescence to the demands of the United German Societies.

Mayor O’Brien was in receipt of a letter yesterday morning in which the United German Societies declined to attend the public hearing which the mayor had set for the afternoon. In the letter it was said that Spanknoebel could not attend the hearing as ordered by the mayor Tuesday, but reiterated the request that the mayor permit the celebration to be held. Copies of speeches to be delivered at the meeting would be furnished the mayor in advance, the letter promised. It declared that Spanknoebel could not be withdrawn.

The decision to send the letter was adopted at an all-night meeting of representatives of the United German Societies at the Turn Hall.


The mayor’s action came yesterday after the United German So-

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