“A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN”

“A Night At The Garden” is a Field of Vision film © Marshall Curry 2017

On a February night in 1939, the Nazi-supporting German-American Bund, held a 20,000-strong rally at Madison Square Garden. We revisit the night that occurred at the same time as Adolf Hitler completed work on his sixth concentration camp overseas.

Aired on November 20, 2017.

TRANSCRIPT

♪♪

> THOSE DISTURBING IMAGES ARE FROM THE EVENING OF FEBRUARY 20th, 1939.

PLACE, NOT NAZI GERMANY, RIGHT HERE.

LITERALLY.

LOOKING AT NEW YORK'S MADISON SQUARE GARDEN ON THAT COLD WINTER NIGHT, GARDEN HOSTED A RALLY OF OVER 20,000 PEOPLE WHO CELEBRATED BOTH BEING A NAZI AND AN AMERICAN.

ON THAT VERY SAME DAY ADOLF HITLER WAS FINISHING CONSTRUCTION OF HIS SIXTH CONCENTRATION CAMP, DICHOTOMY OF THE TWO EVENTS IS CHILLING.

THIS NAZI RALLY WENT LARGELY FORGOTTEN BY HISTORY.

BUT TOOK PLACE JUST BEFORE GERMANY BEGAN ITS SIEGE OF EUROPE.

BACK TO 1939, MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, SHOW YOU EVENTS OF THAT FATEFUL NIGHT.

TAKE A LOOK.

[ APPLAUSE ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ APPLAUSE ]

I PLEDGE UNDIVIDED ALLEGIANCE TO THE FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND THE REPUBLIC FOR WHICH IT STANDS, ONE NATION, INDIVISIBLE, WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.

[ APPLAUSE ]

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, FELLOW AMERICANS, AMERICAN PATRIOTS, I'M SURE I DO NOT COME BEFORE YOU TONIGHT AS A COMPLETE STRANGER.

YOU ALL HAVE HEARD OF ME.

THROUGH THE JEWISH CONTROLLED PRESS, AS A CREATURE WITH HORNS, A CLOVEN HOOF AND A LONG TAIL.

WE, WITH AMERICAN IDEALS, THE MEN THAT OUR GOVERNMENT HAVE -- TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WERE FOUNDED.

IF YOU ASK WHAT WE'RE ACTIVELY FIGHTING FOR UNDER OUR CHARTER, FIRST, A SOCIAL JUST WHITE -- RULED UNITED STATES.

SECOND, GENTILE CONTROL OF LABOR UNIONS, FREE OF JEWISH DOMINATION.

[ SHOUTING ] ♪♪ [ CHEERS AND APPLAUSE ] ♪ OH, SAY, DOES THAT STAR-SPANGLED BANNER YET WAVE ♪ ♪ O'ER THE LAND OF THE FREE ♪ ♪ AND THE HOME OF THE BRAVE? ♪♪ [ CHEERS AND APPLAUSE ] ♪♪ ♪♪

> JOINING US NOW, THE MAN WHO PIECED TOGETHER THAT POWERFUL DOCUMENTARY, ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE MARSHALL CURRY.

NICE TO HAVE YOU WITH US.

GREAT TO BE HERE.

THANK YOU.

AS YOU WATCH THAT, PART OF YOU THINKS YOU'RE WATCHING ONE OF THE ALTERNATIVE HISTORY TYPES OF FILMS THAT WE SEE.

WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF GERMANY HAD WON WORLD WAR II.

THEN YOU'RE BROUGHT BACK TO REALIZATION THAT THIS IS MADISON SQUARE GARDEN SHORTLY BEFORE WE GO TO WAR WITH GERMANY, HALF A MILLION AMERICAN SOLDIERS ARE GOING TO DIE.

FASCINATING STORY BUT PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ABOUT IT.

HOW DID YOU DISCOVER THIS STORY?

I HAD A FRIEND WRITING A SCREENPLAY TAKING PLACE IN 1939 IN NEW YORK AND WE WERE OUT TO DINNER AND HE MENTIONED THIS TO ME.

NO WAY, THAT DEFINITELY DIDN'T HAPPEN.

I WOULD HAVE HEARD ABOUT A RALLY IN MADISON SQUARE GARDEN LIKE THAT.

HE SAID LOOK IT UP.

I WENT HOME AND GOOGLED AROUND.

NOT ONLY HAPPENED BUT THEY FILMED IT.

SHORT CLIPS USED IN OTHER HISTORICAL DOCUMENTARIES BUT MOST OF THEM VERY BRIEF.

I THOUGHT WHERE IS THE REST OF THE FOOTAGE?

GOT ARCHIVAL RESEARCHER I KNOW AND HE STARTED TRACKING IT DOWN.

SOME IN NATIONAL ARCHIVE, SOME IN UCLA ARCHIVE, OTHER PLACES.

GATHERED TOGETHER AND WATCHED IT, JAW JUST DROPPED.

YOU'VE DONE MARVELOUS FILMS, WHEN YOU SAW THIS IN ENTIRETY, YOUR JAW DROPPED, BUT WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST THOUGHTS?

WAY THEY COMBINED SYMBOLS OF AMERICA AND PATRIOTISM WITH A PHILOSOPHY THAT'S SO UN-AMERICAN WAS REALLY AMAZING TO ME.

GEORGE WASHINGTON WITH SWASTIKAS, CHILDREN BRINGING AMERICAN FLAGS AND PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE BUT ALL IN SERVICE OF HORRIFIC PHILOSOPHY.

AND IT WAS KIND OF A CAUTIONARY TALE ABOUT HOW DEMAGOGUES HAVE DONE THIS FOR A LONG TIME AND IN MY OPINION ARE STILL DOING IT TODAY.

LET'S TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE ASPECTS OF THIS.

THE EXISTENCE OF THIS GROUP, THIS ORGANIZATION, AND THE FACT THEY CAN PACK 20,000 PEOPLE INTO MADISON SQUARE GARDEN.

I THOUGHT THE MOST HAUNTING SCENE THERE, MENTIONED THIS TO YOU IN VERY END WHEN YOU SEE THE SHADOW OF THE RAISED HITLER SALUTE UP IN THE BALCONY AND SEE WHAT IS PLAYING OUT ON THE FLOOR IN FRONT OF IT.

BUT THING THAT LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T REALIZE IS NOTION OF NAZIISM HAD BEEN EMBRACED BY MANY IN AMERICAN AND IN EUROPE, ESPECIALLY GREAT BRITAIN.

TALK ABOUT THAT AND THIS ORGANIZATION IN THE U.S.

IN AMERICA WE HAVEN'T TALKED ABOUT THIS STORY.

WHEN HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF AMERICANS BEGAN BEING KILLED BY NAZIS AND MILLIONS OF NON-AMERICANS WERE KILLED, WE DECIDED TO RUB THIS PART OF OUR HISTORY OUT OF THE BOOKS.

BUT -- AND TO BE FAIR, I THINK THE VAST MAJORITY OF AMERICANS WERE REPULSED BY THE NAZI PHILOSOPHY.

WHEN THIS HAPPENED, THERE WERE INTERESTING OLD 'NEW YORK TIMES' ARTICLES THAT WE ACTUALLY HAVE ON THE WEBSITE FOR THE FILM, WHICH IS ANIGHTATTHEGARDEN.COM.

AND YOU WITH READ THE CLIPPINGS.

THERE WAS LOT OF DEBATE IN NEW YORK ABOUT WHETHER THE GROUP SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO HAVE RALLY.

MAYOR LaGUARDIA WAS VERY OPPOSED TO THE GROUP BUT FELT LIKE -- I THINK CALLED THEM BIGGEST CONGLOMERATION OF INTERNATIONAL COOTIES EVER GATHERED BUT HE FELT THAT COOTIES WERE KILLED BY LIGHT.

WANTED TO SHINE A LIGHT.

WANTED NOT TO TAKE AWAY FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS AND LET THEM SPEAK BUT -- THE IDEA THAT 20,000 PEOPLE COULD GATHER HERE INDICATES THERE WERE MANY THOUSANDS WHO DIDN'T HAPPEN TO COME OUT THAT NIGHT.

AND WE KNOW, FATHER KAUFLIN HAD A RADIO SHOW THAT REACHED MANY PEOPLE WHERE HE SPOKE ABOUT MUSSOLINI.

AND CHARLES LINDBERGH, EARLY SUPPORTER TALKING ABOUT NAZI RESURRECTING THEIR SOCIETY.

I WAS STRUCK BY THE MARQUEE OUT FRONT OF THE OLD MADISON SQUARE GARDEN THAT ANNOUNCES A PRO AMERICAN RALLY.

SAYS HOCKEY AND BASKETBALL AFTERWARDS.

YOU THINK PRO AMERICAN?

SYMBOLS, RAISED HAND SALUTE, HEAVY GERMAN ACCENTS YOU'RE HEARING.

AND GROUP DID HAVE OVERWHELMINGLY GERMAN CULTURE TO IT.

GERMAN-AMERICAN BUND WAS LARGELY THE GROUP.

AMERICANS BUT LARGELY OF GERMAN EXTRACTION.

I THINK THAT'S ONE OF THE BIG REASONS THEIR PHILOSOPHY DIDN'T GAIN EVEN MORE TRACTION.

SHOULD PROBABLY BE A CAUTIONARY POINT TODAY BECAUSE THE NEO-NAZIS TODAY AND THE EXTREME RIGHT-WING ANTI-IMMIGRANT, ANTI-MUSLIM AND ANTI-SEMITIC GROUPS AREN'T SO FOOLISH AS TO HAVE PEOPLE WITH GERMAN ACCENTS LEADING THE GROUP.

WEARING THE UNIFORMS.

DON'T LOOK LIKE NAZIS BUT AMERICANS.

EVEN MORE SKILLFULLY THEY WRAP THEIR PHILOSOPHY IN THE RHETORIC OF PATRIOTISM AND AMERICA.

LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT THE MAN SHOWN COMING UP ON STAGE AND THEN SWARMED AND BEATEN AND EVENTUALLY DRAGGED OFF THE STAGE.

SWARMED AND BEATEN FIRST BY THE PEOPLE IN UNIFORM ON THE STAGE, THEN PULLED OFF THE STAGE BY THE POLICE.

WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT HIM?

HE WAS A YOUNG PLUMBER'S ASSISTANT FROM BROOKLYN.

GREENBAUM, A JEWISH GUY.

SAID HE DIDN'T PLAN TO GO ON STAGE, JUST SPONTANEOUSLY -- HE SAID HE COULDN'T BELIEVE HOW HORRIBLE THE THINGS BEING SAID UP ON STAGE WERE, HE HAD TO RUN OUT AND TRY TO DO SOMETHING.

HE WAS ARRESTED THAT NIGHT FOR DISTURBING THE PEACE.

AND THE NEXT DAY CHARGED, FINED $25 I THINK.

AND IT WAS INTERESTING WHEN THE MAGISTRATE WHO SENTENCED HIM SAID YOU REALIZED THAT SOMEBODY COULD HAVE BEEN HURT BY WHAT YOU DID UP ON THAT STAGE, HE SAID DO YOU REALIZE THAT MY PEOPLE COULD BE HURT BY THE RHETORIC THAT'S COMING OUT OF THAT STAGE?

PROPHETIC.

SURE ENOUGH, AT THAT POINT, HAD NOT FULLY GOTTEN UNDER WAY BUT VERY SOON, MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WOULD LOSE THEIR LIVES.

DO WE KNOW ANYTHING MORE ABOUT HIM AND HIS LIFE AFTER?

I BELIEVE HE JOINED MILITARY.

'WASHINGTON POST' DID AN INTERESTING FOLLOW-UP A COUPLE OF DAYS AGO BASED ON OUR SHORT PIECE AND WE SPOKE TO HIS GRANDSON RECENTLY WHO SAID THAT THIS MOMENT HAD ALWAYS BEEN A POINT OF PRIDE FOR HIM, THAT HE HAD GOTTEN UP ON STAGE AND CHALLENGED THE PHILOSOPHY EVEN IN A SMALL WAY.

NOTION OF ONE VOICE CHALLENGING 20,000 VOICES.

RIGHT.

SPEAKING OF VOICES, IN TERMS OF THE TECHNIQUE OF THIS FILM, YOU CHOSE TO DO THIS WITHOUT ANY NARRATION.

WHY WAS THAT?

WELL, I'LL TELL YOU, WASN'T MY FIRST THOUGHT.

I ORIGINALLY, WHEN I GATHERED FOOTAGE, ASSUMED I WOULD INTERVIEW A HISTORIAN OR HAVE NARRATION TO SET IT UP.

I THOUGHT WELL JUST CUT THINGS TOGETHER FOR THE FIRST STRUCTURE AND DECIDE WHERE TO INSERT THE OTHER PIECES.

AND WHEN I DID MY FIRST EDIT AND WATCHED IT THROUGH, I REALIZED THERE WAS A HUGE POWER IN JUST LETTING PEOPLE PARACHUTE INTO THIS EVENT AND WITNESS IT, AS IF THEY'VE TIME TRAVELED BACK AND CAN SEE WHO THESE PEOPLE ARE AND SEE IT FOR THEMSELVES.

IT'S JUST A POWERFUL PIECE OF FILMMAKING.

AND MARSHALL CURRY, WE APPRECIATE YOUR TIME.

THANKS FOR BEING WITH US.

THANK YOU.

Announcer: FUNDING FOR THIS

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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