American Experience, January 2024
Once upon a time in America, Nazis banded together with the KKK and had support in suburban neighborhoods. They formed summer camps where little kids dressed like Boy Scouts, had swastika armbands, and built homes on cul-de-sacs called Hitler Street. Was this just an extreme example of protected free speech or something that should have been stopped in its tracks? In February 1939, more than twenty thousand Americans filled Madison Square Garden for an event billed as a “Pro-American Rally.” As images of George Washington hung next to swastikas, a series of speakers railed against the “Jewish controlled media” and called for a return to a racially “pure” America. The keynote speaker, a man named Fritz Kuhn, was the head of an organization known as the German American Bund. The rally was huge – demanding the largest police presence to date for any event in New York City history – but it was the culmination of a movement that had been brewing for years.
Nazi Town USA will tell the largely unknown story of this organization that had chapters across the country and represented what experts believe was a “very real threat of fascist subversion in the United States.” Organized into 70 different districts, the Bund held joint rallies with the Ku Klux Klan and ran dozens of summer camps for children centered around Nazi ideology and imagery. Life in some of the largest camps – including Camp Siegfried in Long Island, Camp Hindenburg in Wisconsin, and Camp Nordland in New Jersey – will be brought to life through extensive archival footage, photographs, and ruins that exist to this day. The Bund’s embrace of “Americanism” raises thorny issues – from questions of free speech to declarations of “America First”- that we continue to wrestle with to this day.
Co-Director, Peter Yost is a multiple Emmy nominated filmmaker and founder of Brooklyn-based Pangloss Films. He has directed and produced numerous critically acclaimed documentaries, including five films for the PBS science series NOVA and more than a dozen for National Geographic’s Specials Unit. His independent projects range from Tibetan refugees in India to cockfighters in Louisiana, to a feature documentary about the near bankruptcy of NYC in the 1970s. His most celebrated films include: Inside North Korea which was nominated for an Emmy for Best Long Form Documentary, the Emmy-Nominated environmental film The Color of Oil, and Solitary Confinement, which helped lead to the reform of incarceration policies in Colorado and elsewhere. Peter has been a guest on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and an invited speaker at Brown University, NYU, and Washington University in St. Louis, among others.
Co-Director, Edna Albuquerque has worked on awardwinning documentary films for more than 15 years, including for more than a decade at Pangloss Films. She has worked on projects ranging from an investigation of the international gold trade, to the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, to the Hubble Space Telescope. Growing up in Mexico and the Middle East, she has long been interested in telling stories that explore the complexity and diversity of human experience.