The America of Trump’s Father
The America of Trump’s Father: an Aspirational Fascism Reigned in New York
October 2, 2019
One might have been confused about America’s actual loyalties during the brewing years of World War II if they happened to live in the greater New York City region. New York and its suburbs in Long Island and New Jersey had a vibrant community of first- and second-generation German Americans, the latter having included Fred Trump, Sr., a rising star in real estate and retailing.
Also active in the New York-New Jersey region was the German American Bund or “Amerikadeutscher Bund,” an organization that supported Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party and the goals and aspirations of the “New Germany.” The Bund had been created in May 1933 on the orders of German Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess. The first Bund leader was German immigrant Heinrich “Heinz” Spanknöbel, who initially called his group the “Friends of New Germany.” In fact, the “Bund” was nothing more than an overseas extension of the German Nazi Party and it took its orders directly from Berlin.
The Bund only accepted as members Americans of German descent. In 1936, the Friends of New Germany morphed into the German American Bund in Buffalo, New York. The group’s leader or Bundesführer was Fritz Julius Kuhn, a German immigrant and Nazi Party member, who received US citizenship in 1934. The general belief is that Kuhn was one of many Nazi members dispatched abroad in the 1930s by the nascent German Nazi Party to act as Nazi “eyes and ears” in the United States, Canada, and other countries. These recent immigrants, who would become Bund leaders across America, were later involved in espionage for the German Gestapo and military intelligence Abwehr before and during World War II.
The Bund established its national headquarters at 178 East 85th Street in the heavily German neighborhood of Yorkville in Manhattan. It mirrored the Hitler Youth in Germany by establishing several Nazi youth camps, most notably Camp Nordland, Camp Will and Might, Camp Bergwald in New Jersey, Camp Siegfried in Sussex County on Long Island in New York, and Camp Highland in upstate New York, outside of the town of Windham.
The height of the Bund’s activities was a February 20, 1939 rally at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. It drew some 20,000 Bund members and Nazi supporters. One German American who did not hide his far-right views was Fred Trump, Sr., the father of Donald Trump. On May 31, 1927, Fred Trump was arrested by police while participating in a Ku Klux Klan march in his home borough of Queens in New York. The elder Trump was publicly known to be a racist and he refused to rent his apartments in Queens and Brooklyn to African Americans. In 1927, there were few organizations for far-right extremists like Fred Trump to join. One was the KKK, which had its roots in the post-Civil War Reconstruction South. Another was Italian leader Benito Mussolini’s overseas “Fascisti,” which was primarily composed of Italian immigrants to the United States. By the early 1930s, far-right wingers in the American North were fast to embrace the Nazis and Kuhn’s Bund was able and ready to answer the call and begin recruiting to its ranks. Fred Trump’s FBI file – which includes the 1927 arrest at the KKK march – appears to be missing his pre-war and immediate post-war year activities. The file does not resume until the 1960s, when the FBI began monitoring the elder Trump’s association with Mafia syndicates in New York.
It is known that “Old Man Trump,” the appellation given him by folk singer Woody Guthrie in a 1950 song by the same title, continued his racist ways after the war. Guthrie, who had the misfortune of renting a unit in the Trump-owned Beach Haven Apartments in Brooklyn, penned the following lyric: “Beach Haven is Trump’s Tower. Where no black folks come to roam. No, no, Old Man Trump! Old Beach Haven ain’t my home!” It is also interesting that after the war, Trump insisted that he was of Swedish descent. In fact, Old Man Trump’s father, Frederick Trump, was an immigrant from Kallstadt, Bavaria. It was famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, a Nazi sympathizer, who stressed his Swedish descent to defend against charges that he was a supporter of Hitler. However, in both cases – Old Man Trump and Lindbergh – there was no question of their sympathies to the racial policies of Hitler and the “New Germany.”
Old Man Trump’s home and businesses sat in the midst of Bund activities and businesses that supported the Bund. One of the most popular newspapers among the German American community in New York and New Jersey was the Bund’s “The Free American and Deutscher Weckruf,” published from 1935 to 1941 in both English and German.
The newspaper served to rally the Nazi cause in New York and New Jersey. The paper advertised New York theaters like the Tobis, 86th Casino, 79th Street, and Bijou that screened propaganda films fresh from the studios of Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. Nazi Germany’s cultural inundation of the United States was a personal project of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.
In 1933, Trump opened the Trump Super Market in Queens at the corner of 78th Street and Jamaica Avenue. Since it was the first store of its type in Queens, it was an immediate success. Considering Old Man Trump’s political viewpoints, it is very likely that he purchased wholesale products, including meats from Bund butchers and German baked goods from Bund bakers, of which there were several in New York City for his store. Several German American-owned area businesses, including Maier’s Pork Store and Ehmer’s Pork Store, both on “Dritte Avenue” (Third Avenue) in Manhattan, and dairies like Karsten’s Milch of The Bronx and Astoria in Queens and Erb’s German Sweet Shop in Manhattan, kept the advertising-dependent “The Free American and Deutscher Weckruf” flush with ad revenue. Even large corporations like Philco, a manufacturer of radios, Texaco, Olympia Typewriter, and Simmons Mattress Company advertised in the Nazi newspaper. Nazi propaganda in German was broadcast on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from the studios of WBNX, first located in The Bronx and then moved to New Jersey.
Old Man Trump rented thousands of his apartment units in Jamaica Estates in Queens and Brooklyn to white Americans only. Bund supporters cheered Hitler for refusing to shake the hand of black American Olympian Jesse Owens after he won four gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Considering Old Man Trump’s previous membership in the KKK, he was undoubtedly cheering Hitler’s snub of Owens, along with the Bund in New York. Old Man Trump also suspiciously volunteered, after dodging the World War II draft, to construct Navy barracks and garden apartments in at least three highly sensitive Navy ports in Chester, Pennsylvania; and Norfolk and Newport News, Virginia. All three ports saw thousands of American and Canadian troops embarked for combat in North Africa and Europe. Some of these troop ships fell prey to German U-boats, which received intelligence on the Allied ship movements from Nazi agents in the very same port areas where Old Man Trump so “generously” bid on construction contracts with the Navy.
Today, Donald Trump, who has championed concentration camps for asylum seekers and homeless people, torn babies from their parents, and praised neo-Nazi marchers in Virginia, echoes the political vitriol of his father’s era Bund. Today, Trump is fond of demonizing Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden. In Trump’s father’s era such venom was directed by the Bund against New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, the late President Woodrow Wilson, President Franklin D. Roosevelt (who was sometimes referred to as “Frank Rosenfeld”), and prominent Jews, including New York US Representative Samuel Dickstein and Bernard Baruch, all of whom were labeled as pro-Bolshevik “internationalists.”
Donald Trump now uses the pejorative term of “globalists.” The same groups of “socialists,” “Communists,” and “Jews” singled out for attacks by the Bund are today targeted by Trump and his supporters under almost identical labels of “socialists,” “Communists,” and “globalists.” In Old Man Trump’s Nazi-imbued New York, the Soviet Union was condemned by Nazis as a Jewish Communist enterprise. The Bund paper published lists of Jews in charge of various Soviet republics and regions, naming, for example “Jude” (Jewish) officials in charge of Abkhazia, Ajaria, Azerbaijan, Bashkiria, Byelorussia, Far East Federation, Dagestan, West Siberia, Southwest Region, Kirghizia, Karelia, Crimea, Kirov Region, Gorky Region, Moldavia, Mari Region, Nenets Region, Omsk Region, Orenburg Region, Stalingrad Region, Sverdlovsk Region, East Siberia Region, Tatarstan, Ukraine, Chechenia, and Yakutsk Region. The list appeared to be a future execution list for the Nazis. The Bund championed Hitler’s dream of a Russia “cleansed” of “Jewish Bolsheviks.”
Donald Trump’s recent September 24 speech before the UN General Assembly was no different than the “America First” rantings of Lindbergh before audiences consisting of people who shared the racist beliefs of Old Man Trump. His son, Donald, kept a book of Hitler’s speeches of Hitler on his bed stand for a reason. Old Man Trump must have instilled in his family business heir a strong belief in the causes of the Nazis and the Bund.
After the Bund was declared an enemy organization in 1941 and the Allies defeated the Axis powers in the war, Old Man Trump began currying favor with New York’s Jewish community, making donations to Jewish philanthropies, including those involved with creating the State of Israel in Palestine. Just as other Nazis, including Adolf Eichmann in Argentina, tried to assume benevolent post-war profiles – even living among expatriate German Jewish communities – Old Man Trump became a close friend of Binyamin Netanyahu and other top Israelis and New York Jewish community leaders. Just as Old Man Trump was not really fooling anyone in pre-war New York, his son is not fooling anyone today with his fascist tendencies masked as “Making America Great Again.” These policies are driven as much by Trump family Nazi ideology as by political expediency and personal greed.