Somehow the “Friends of Hitler” always draw a capacity house. It is true that these German-American sympathizers of the Nazi administration do not meet in large halls; but they do gather in certain places in such compact numbers that one gets the impression there are more of them than there are. The vigor with which extemporaneous heckling is carried out also lends a note of importance to sessions, which might otherwise be regarded as a minor group of debaters meeting casually in the park or at the weekly sewing circle.
On appointed nights approximately 300 persons wedge their way into auditoriums in New York, Newark, and nearby cities. Frequently they pay ten cents apiece for the privilege of sitting or standing in the audience, while Hitler’s mercenaries in the United States render a flamboyant appeal for New Germany. In all justice to the Friends of Germany it must be admitted that these paid speakers earn their money. Their material for discussion is limited to a distressing extent and could be summed up in a few terse declarations. When one disregards other attractions of the evening to go to a Nazi meeting, and, topping it all, pays an admission charge, certainly one is entitled to three hours’ activity. While the text of the speakers is limited and often repeated for the sake of volume, they do provide new gestures or vary the routine of the old ones with such effect that one, who is interested in the Hitler cause, can come away with the feeling that he has seen the same show twice.
COME TO SPEAK, NOT LISTEN
After having observed a number of these meetings one becomes convinced that the elocutionist’s display of spirit, pathos, humor, and other emotions, suitably accompanied by gestures, is not the greatest attraction for a large majority of the audience. On the contrary, the principal attraction lies in the possibility of gaining the floor at crucial moments and expounding one’s own point of view. These meetings provide excellent practice for amateur orators who study spellbinding at home but who are restricted in practice. Here machinists, truck drivers, and laborers of all sorts may test their untried powers of elocution, and they do so, many of them glancing slyly at telltale notes, which testify to hours of preparation at home. Here they may hear the candid plaudits (or boos) of a palpable audience. Perhaps their calling is neither in the machine shop nor the garage. It may be the political rostrum. They have as an inspiring example of the boys who made good in one-time Housepainter Hitler himself.
THE RUN OF A SPEECH
For the enlightenment of those who cannot get around to Friends of Germany meetings, a brief but complete summary of speeches given at all Hitler meetings during the last two months is here set forth:
Germany should have more armament as a matter of prestige and protection. France is a vicious designing nation, fully appreciative of the superiority of the German nation and desirous of keeping that race in its present unmerited place. Russia is also no goodâ€”too red. Poland is just as bad, because she continues to hold the Polish Corridor, essentially German territory. Churches are almost no good. Their medieval conception of divinity and morals are not in keeping with modern enlightened thought. Reparations are also no good. How can Germany pay when she has no money? However, the nation has covered herself with glory by thus far meeting the demands of her world war conquerors. Socialism is bad. Communism is worse. Capitalism is the greatest of all evils. Let the world boycott German goods for all the good it will do. Germany can survive. After so much sacrifice already made for German independence, another great war would be merely a drop in the bucket in view of the ultimate Nazi objectives. Jews are no good. Jews form the Communist group that threatens the downfall of Germany. Jews form the capitalismus which has already caused the downfall of Germany.
Unless the reader cares for embellishments, he need not attend Nazi meetings, for the essence of all sessions is embodied in the above paragraph.
HOW THE REAL SHOW BEGINS
The hot spots of the evening are attained by hecklers, who gain the floor during the closing minutes of scheduled speeches by Herr Wiegand, Hitlerite extraordinary of the New York clique, Herr Myer of Hudson County, and other Herren from near by points. When these unannounced speakers rise, the audience usually snaps out of its attitude of polite indifference and prepares for a show. The boys from the gallery dismiss broad assertions on national policies and impersonal statistics on trade and armament with a single guttural, “Ach”. Then they get down to the meat of things, personalities. And the audience withdraws its cuffs from yawning mouths and sits at expectant attention. It is seldom disappointed.
Most amusing accounts of the evening are drawn from some former soldier’s recollection of life among Jewish defenders of Germany at the front. This subject is full of gags. About the Jew who was sent to the rear with an infected ingrown toenail. About the epidemic of infected toenails that immediately followed. About the thriving “front” business establishments at the rear, which were set up by retired Jewish soldiers. About the business acumen of these boys who bought and sold watches, rings, personal effects, and military equipment. About the soldiers who went to these improvised pawn shops to look at their watches when they wanted to know the timeâ€”for no one in camp was left with a timepiece. About the boys who went to the pawnshops to gaze at pictures of sweethearts, which, together with valuable frames, had been “hocked” for wine and food money. And about the boys who scurried to the pawnshops to redeem their bayonets when an attack was imminent.
ONE DEFENDS THE JEWS
During a Friends of Hitler meeting in Newark recently, made tense by the impending arms declaration of Adolf Hitler, a modest little fellow gained the floor, dropped his modesty, and for ten minutes held spellbound the anti-Jewish audience with an eloquent defense of the Jews. He pointed out that in military life he had served with Jewish soldiers, and he paid tribute to their courage and the supreme sacrifice of many whom he “had been privileged to call ‘Kamerad’.” He cited the ascendancy of Disraeli to power in England and the invaluable service of that Jew to his country. He recalled contributions of Jews to Germany’s literature and scientific development. He pointed out the reciprocal benefit of Jews in American affairs. And he terminated his declarations with the announcement that Germany “under the mad leadership of-Adolf Hitler is rapidly approaching an asylum among nations from which it will never be able to escape”.
He marched from the auditorium while an amazed audience caught its breath. A half hundred speakers sued for the floor on their recovery. Those who were given the opportunity to speak concluded that the orator was anti-German. As the meeting again assumed its even tenor it was decided that “A Cohen is always a Cohen, whether he is known as Cohen or Ludwig”.
This particular meeting broke upâ€”as all Friends of Hitler meetings doâ€”with the Nazi salute, a series of “Hail Hitlers !” and the singing of the Hitler anthem. A few thoughtful souls walked from the room before these closing ceremonies were completed. And on their faces there was an expression that easily could have been mistaken for disgust.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.