This is the fifth, and last, of a series of articles, based on an investigation of Nazi Germany, conducted for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
In Germany any good Nazi will say, “Ah, you Americans! You had better hold your tongues about Nazi Germany. Some day you will have the same thing over there. Wait and see!”
The Nazis are not alone in this attitude. Many foreigners believe that Fascism in one form or another will eventually sweep the world. Well-informed persons prophesy that France and England, and perhaps the Scandinavian countries, will do as Russia, Poland, Italy, Germany and Austria have done â€” install a dictatorship. But few believe that coming dictators will be fashioned after Hitler.
The consensus of American opinion, gathered from hundreds of Americans in Germany, was that the Yankee sense of humor would not allow a rigid Fascism, except in war.
“We would laugh a Nazi movement into the ground,” one American remarked; and with few exceptions his countrymen agree. American wise-cracks have proven more effective in overcoming ceremony and discipline than has violent rebellion abroad.
Some say that in the White House there is already a dictator, and they advance as proof the surrender of congressional powers, the NRA, bank holidays, and labor camps. As yet, however, we have no indication that Congress will not meet again in January or that in November, 1936, we will not go to the polls and designate whether Mr. Roosevelt will return to private life or remain at the head of the American government.
It is interesting to toy with the idea of National Socialism in America. One might write a farce using as settings a typical American background, giving leading roles to rabid German militarists, and tracing the reactions of the Joneses to their disciplinarians. With a former house plasterer, Herr Schmidt, of the National Socialist Party, at the head of the government, here are a few episodes in the history of Nazi America:
WHAT ROOSEVELT WOULD DO
Franklin D. Roosevelt would move into a hospital “for his health’s sake.” Having been a Democrat, he would be unable to communicate with the world. The windfall in the form of magazine and newspaper syndicated articles normally coming the way of ex-presidents would be out of the question. The American press would be coordinated into an expression of Herr Schmidt’s views. All sentiment to the contrary would be regarded as unprintable. Herr Schmidt’s armed men, drawn from the jobless who marched on Washington, would wait around the hospital door, anticipating an opportunity to prove their patriotism by shooting the former president.
The “army of unemployed” would be put in snappy uniforms. The more rabid elements of the country would either be jailed or elevated to commissioned posts in the political army. A number of persons drawn from American aristocracy would be quick to realize upon which side their bread is buttered and “democratically” ally themselves with the political army. In its composition would be many well-meaning, sincere people who would feel that the United States has been wronged by other countries in post-war treaties. War with Japan would be advocated for possession of the Island of Yap; hard feelings would be engendered toward France, Britain, Italy, and Poland for their debt defaults; and the red-menace would become headline material for the dailies. The righteous and brave army would make 150,000 arrests throughout the country, throwing into dismal prisons, where bedding consists of heaps of straw, the majority of Democrat and Republican leaders and businessmen who also happen to be business rivals of members of the political army.
YOU GOT TO SAY IT!
Almost all telephone conversations would begin with, “Hail Schmidt!” and end the same way. Friends passing on the street would raise their right hands in salute and, “Hail Schmidt!” Those failing to return the greeting would be subject to imprisonment; and many poor immigrants would be beaten because they would not be familiar with the American language or the American Nazi customs to shout, “Hail Schmidt!” when the Nazi Party flag passed or when strangers greeted them. There would be much heel-clicking, and patriotism would rise to such heights that any utterance not favorable to Herr Schmidt would be considered high treason.
The movement in America would not be complete without a persecution. The brunt of this would fall on the shoulders of the Catholics or Jews, traditional scapegoats. Perhaps both. But because of the numbers of Catholics in the United States, and because the Irish police and politicians throughout the country have the means and the spirit to crack open a few Nazi skulls Jews would probably be the victims in this case.
All newspaper and magazine stands would be littered with such pamphlets as “The Jew The International Pest!” and newspaper headlines would carry such information as “Our Leader Schmidt Demands Jew Extermination”, and “Jewess Cohen Commits Suicideâ€”May Others Do Likewise.”
All plays, movies and books would be submitted to Nazi censors, who would cut out lines with sin, sex, suggestion, and undue levity. “Hot-cha” music would be barred. And “suggestions” would be made as to how the work might be improved from the Schmidt viewpoint. Love scenes would be undertaken with profound philosophical discourse between the lovers on the Leader’s aims for social rebirth of the nation.
JIMMY JONES & FAMILY
Jimmy Jones, disgusted with conditions under the new rulers of America, would go to England, where he would tell the press he is “plumb disgusted with Nazi America.” During the following week Herr Schmidt’s political army would round up the Jones family remaining in the United States and throw them into prison.
One fine morning, Joe Johnson, former publisher of the Sykesville Crier, now in charge of America’s foreign affairs, would come beaming into the Leader’s office. “Look, I got an idea,” he would announce. “American ships ain’t got enough passengers. All we gotta do is pass a law forcing all citizens to travel on our boats. Ain’t that a dinger?” The new government heads are enthusiastic over the idea, pass it in record time (that is, Schmidt scrawls his name on the proposal), and American shipping faces a boom eraâ€”until furious foreign ambassadors and ministers rage into Schmidt’s office. “Don’t you know sections so-and-so of this and that trade treaty?” they demand. Schmidt has not heard of the treaties, let alone of the sections. He repeals the law by signing another paper.
AN EXCHANGE OF FUNCTIONS
The Governor of Illinois would be placed in one of the many newly-organized prisons, where he would spend his days digging latrine trenches for the amusement of his uniformed guards. In his place the country’s most famous murderer would maintain order by personally thrashing and shooting everyone he didn’t like.
The Leader’s heart will be touched by the poverty of his people, so he will pass a law giving two million unemployed work, subsidizing marriages, and otherwise scattering hope and money. The day after the enactment of the laws, various executives file into the Leader’s office to announce, “We have come for the money to subsidize marriages, to get going on public works, and to distribute among the people. Where is it?”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” says the Leader. “Have we confiscated the funds of all other parties? How about the Boy Scout funds? Have we taken over all the property of Jews who have left the country? How about the lotteries? And what did we get from these birds we’ve sent out with tin cups? The banks are just about broke, but I think we can bleed them for a little more, even though it may mean inflation. And some of you birds get busy thinking of a few new taxes, the old ones bachelor tax, entertainment tax, beer tax, hotel taxes, and such aren’t big enough.”
The executives edge out the door; but before they reach the corridor, the Leader cautions them, “And if the people begin talking about being hungry again, give them a few mammoth parades and have our official spellbinders get busy with their patriotic speeches. Have the newspapers turn out more ’rounded the corner’ articles.”
EIGHT CIGARETTES DAILY
A few hundred thousand American unemployed would be given work in labor camps. They would live in squalid quarters reeking with disinfectant; eat the plainest of food, the scene of which is far from savory; and earn enough money to buy eight cigarettes a day. In the afternoon periods they would drill and hear lectures setting forth reasons for war with other countries. There would be no objection to this because the political army would not allow argument.
Under Herr Schmidt the children of America would be taken off the play fields to be drilled in army maneuvers. They would be taught the salute and “Hail Schmidt!” greeting. Every now and then in all parts of the country they would meet, fifty or a hundred thousand at a time, to parade through city streets singing patriotic, anti-Jewish, and anti-foreign songs. In schools they would be taught that Jews, Negroes, Chinese, and Japanese were inferior races; and, fearing the taunts of their playmates and older acquaintances, they would be forced to surrender their friendships with comrades of these races. They would be instructed in the injustices done the United States and told that some day they must be prepared to right these wrongs by slaughtering the people of other countries. They would be induced to report to the political soldiers any chance unpatriotic word uttered by their parents or brothers.
Lawyers, who had defended anti-Nazi men in courts in the past, would be disbarred and might be imprisoned. Doctors would be forced to abandon their professional ethics to serve the dictates of Schmidt. When Nazi gangsters beat up a Jew they would sign documents alleging that the victim had fallen down the stairs.
MORE TURNING OF TABLES
Employers who had refused to give work to Nazis would be publicly humiliated, forced to kneel before the persons to whom they had refused jobs and ask forgiveness. Jews and anti-Nazis would be forced to accept as equal or senior partners in their business Nazi workers; and where there existed a Jewish-Aryan partnership, the Jew would be forced to surrender his rights and holdings to his partner. Nazi employees, long rankling under some real or fancied abuse, would have their employers sent to prison on false accusations.
The Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States, and statute books would be voided, and without a new Nazi constitution the American people would have no means of knowing what was right and what was wrong. Tens of thousands of persons would be thrown into prison without charges, without trial, and without sentence. There would be nobody to whom they might appeal their case. In the hands of a formerly low court official, now the supreme judge, the justice of America would rest.
Institutions endowed by Jews would bear large placards, “No Jews Allowed.” Amusement resorts would not permit Jewish attendance, and in many public places Jews would be humiliated. Plans would be made for the sterilization of Jews marrying Christians; other Jews would face sterilization on suspicion of being insane, criminal, or prostitutes. Jews found talking with Christians of the opposite sex would be threatened; and all Christians marrying Jews as well as the offspring of such unions would be damned as enemies of the nation. Christians could easily be divorced from their Jewish mates.
All American newspapers would become nothing more than Schmidt government communiques. By official order the killing of a California senator in prison would be described as suicide. Well-substantiated stories of wholesale political murders would be narrated as “suicides” or “deaths from natural causes” in strict compliance with definitely outlined versions handed out by the government. Editors speculating on the future of the country, however mildly, would have their papers closed down and be thrown into prison. Foreign correspondents would be forced to report favorably on conditions in Nazi America. If they failed to do this they would either be imprisoned or told that the American government would no longer protect them from acts of violence by Nazi gangsters lying in wait for them.
A secret police organization would be created for the purpose of gaining the confidence of Americans and imprisoning those who do not favor Schmidt. Friends would be induced to betray friends for a consideration or for patriotic reasons. Tension would be created among members of families.
All international organizations, political, social, and commercial, would be coordinated with the Nazi policies of America. The Italian societies would meet to hear pro-Schmidt lectures, and they would be persuaded to write home on the benefits of Schmidt government. Their mail would be opened to see that no unfavorable matter went out of the United States; and their telephone conversations would be overheard.
To force the American people to become aware of the danger of aerial invasion from Canada and Mexico, placards attached to large tin replicas of aerial bombs placed on the sidewalks would warn, “Security from Air Raids.” Nearby stores would feature in their show windows gas masks and other defensive paraphernalia. To sensationalize the peril, the government would one day announce that a Canadian war plane had flown over New York dropping pamphlets warning of war. No one, however, will be able to obtain one of these pamphlets.
Masonic and all secret orders would be closed, or they would see fit to disband. Soapbox orators would be clubbed from their rostrums and thrown into concentration camps. No public meetings of any kind would be allowed unless their nature were minutely described to Nazi officials and permission given. American political soldiers would attend all religious services and public meetings; and if the tone of speakers met with their disapproval, the meetings would be violently broken up.
In the public squares of cities, towns and villages great bonfires would be made of all American and foreign literary works not meeting with the approval of American Nazi politicians. Hundreds of writers would be cast out of the country or thrown into concentration camps because their books, however popular, contain sentiment contrary to the philosophy of the Nazi American leaders. Originality of thought or personal liberty as advocated or described in these books would go up in flame.
To make possible his absolute dictatorship, Herr Schmidt would cause his lieutenants to set fire to the national capitol. A few minutes after the discovery of the fire, Schmidt would announce, “This fire is the work of Communists. It was set as a signal for a general Communist uprising throughout the American Reich. We must fight this plot with bloodshed and the sternest disciplinary measures.”
Foreign newspapers, reporting true conditions in the United States, would be barred from the mails. Powerful apparatus would be erected to distort radio broadcasts from abroad, so that people could not learn from them about conditions in their own country. When Halifax stations would query at regular intervals, “Herr Schmidt, where did you put the brand that set fire to the capitol?” Americans would be unable to hear the broadcast.
Canny Herr Schmidt, cognizant of the fact that many Americans, after 160 years of freedom, are loathe to give up their rights without a struggle, would organize the country into a series of checks and balances that might be applied against any dissenting faction. Herr Schmidt personally would be in charge of the Civil Service, his political army, the national forces, workers’ organizations, church bodies, and the youth movement. These forces would be maintained distinctly and separately and could be mustered should any one faction rebel.
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.