Although German-American societies in this area have always managed in the past to present a last-minute outer semblance of unity to the rest of the world at crucial moments, it appeared certain yesterday that the time is not far off when the over-weaning personal ambitions of Louis Zahne will force a schismatic showdown.
Zahne, chairman of the German-American Independent Voters’ League and uncrowned king of the Friends of New Germany, will face a grimly determined opposition when he returns from his junket into the middle West, where he is trying to form branches of the Voters’ League as a weapon of greater individual power.
When Zahne withdrew his candidacy for chairmanship of the political committee of the German-American Conference last Friday night, he served tacit notice that he planned to use other methods of bringing that organization over to the extremist views whose outstanding spokesman he has become.
Significant, too, was the omission from the committee of Dr. Herbert Schnuch, national chairman of the Friends of New Germany and Zahne’s closest crony, and of Dr. Alfons Richter, secretary of the German-American Conference.
Schnuch is generally believed, despite his titular place in the Friends, to rank second in importance in that organization to Zahne, who modestly refers to himself as its “public relations director.”
Richter, although he has made no public statement, is known privately to be on the more conservative side of the fence, along with those who are eager for German-American political representation but who object to being too closely identified with Hitlerism.
Teutonic sympathies have now been split into three clearly defined camps.
First is the Steuben Society, which in the past always has considered itself the political voice of German-Americans.
This group has come under attack by the second group, represented by the German-American Conference and nearly all its affiliates, exclusive of the Friends of New Germany. Conference leaders feel the Steuben Society has been far too lacking in courage in its stand, and has taken, “lying down” all purported assaults in this country on the fair name of German-Americandom. They insist, however, on maintaining their organization as an entity apart from any suspicion of Reich influence, and while they admit friendliness for the Nazi regime, they claim it to be purely racial and emotional
Third is the blood-and-thunder group, led by Zahne and Schnuch. This takes in the Friends of New Germany and the German-American Independent Voters League, which, although ostensibly separate units, have identical leadership.
All three groups are mutually jealous of each other, if not in a state of open clash.
Steuben spokesmen view Zahne’s barnstorming tour of the East and Middle West as a direct challenge to their national position of prestige in the eyes of German-American voters.
Conference leaders, whose ambitions have not yet extended beyond the boundaries of the metropolitan area, are determined to prevent Zahne and his cronies from capturing that organization.
Zahne himself, vain and cocky, is convinced he will sweep everything before him and will fulfill the destiny predicted for him by Dr. Ignatz Griebl at the recent German Day celebration, who referred to the former realtor as he “American Hindenburg.”
On only one question is organized Germandom in this section united: it is solidly behind former Mayor John F. Hylan in his campaign for the Governorship.
This unity, it was explained, is due to a strong resentment among citizens of Teutonic blood over the major parties’ choice of Jews as their candidates.
In short, while some of the German-American leaders would proceed more cautiously than others, thus far not one has been discovered who is sincerely friendly toward the Jews.