Has Providing Safe Haven for Hitler’s Nazis Come Home to Roost?
Blowing the Lid Off Nazi Influence on Domestic White Supremacist Terror Groups in America
Most Americans know little, if anything, about Nazis among us. Real Nazis. Not those ascribed the word as an irreverent slur or epithet because of their extreme, far-right beliefs in authoritarian ultranationalism. Those would be fascists. The word “Nazi” is actually an abbreviation of Nationalsozialist — one belonging to the National Socialist German Worker Party which existed from 1920 until 1945 when it was declared illegal after the defeat of Adolf Hitler and his totalitarian Third Reich regime. Hitler was both fascist and a Nazi. But it is this latter category to which I am referring. Nazis. Among us.
My curiosity about Nazis in America was piqued recently by a wildly addictive Netflix series, Hunters, starring Al Pacino, released earlier this year. Set in New York City in 1977, Hunters follows the adventures of a troubled young Jewish man, bent on revenge for the murder of his beloved grandmother under very suspicious circumstances. Ultimately, he uncovers — and is taken in by — a secret group of Nazi hunters fighting a clandestine war against a cabal of high-ranking Nazi officials in hiding, who are working underground to create the Fourth Reich. More relevant, however, I discovered that many of the Nazis hunted and scenarios depicted, albeit through creative license in this series, were, in fact, real.
Indeed, the mission to find Nazis alive in America has become a race against time; they are obviously quite old now. But as recently as March, a seemingly ordinary 94-year-old, Friedrich Karl Berger, in Tennessee, was deported to Germany by a federal judge — 75 years after the end of World War II — for being “part of the SS machinery of oppression that kept concentration camp prisoners in atrocious conditions of confinement.” Berger, who had served at a subcamp of the Neuengamme concentration camp system near Hamburg, was still collecting a pension for truly despicable wartime service. He was guilty of working prisoners “to the point of exhaustion and death,” as well as aiding and abetting the deaths of hundreds of prisoners, forcefully evacuated onto two ill-fated ships at anchor in the Bay of Lubeck, which were mistakenly bombed by the British Royal Air Force in March 1945 as the Allies approached the subcamp. Berger’s luck began to run out when, unbelievably, an index card bearing his name and the work he did in the camp system was discovered on one of those sunken ships years after the bombing.
The real scandal, however, lies in how Nazis like Berger are being discovered and rooted from their oft-cozy lifestyles in America. How, indeed, were they normalized and their Nazi complicity scrubbed in the long shadow of World War II and the Holocaust?
To blow the lid off Nazi influence and their undoubted legacy in Trump’s America, it is critical to detail that, in the 1950s, America gave thousands of these Nazis and their collaborators across Europe — many implicated directly in heinous war crimes on behalf of their Führer — a clear path to migration as “war refugees” in America. This was done with the full knowledge and consent of American immigration authorities and the direct assistance of CIA officials, many of whom fought diligently through the Department of Justice for the official records of their activities to remain secret.
In his 2014 book, The Nazis Next Door: How America Became A Safe Haven For Hitler’s Men, Pulitzer-Prize-winning investigative reporter Eric Lichtblau detailed that, back in the early ’70s, then-Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman (D-NY) received a confidential tip that the former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service knew that dozens of Nazis were living in America, yet they weren’t acting upon it. Holtzman subsequently discovered not only that the information was true, but also that the CIA had covered the tracks of Nazis like Adolf Eichmann who had fled to Argentina to escape prosecution. Eichmann, head of the Gestapo’s Jewish affairs office, who had implemented the genocidal policy to exterminate millions of Jews and other “undesirables” in gas chambers was ultimately hung in Israel.
The eventual release of internal CIA documents — some 600-pages long—provided hard evidence regarding the most notorious Nazi cases. But perhaps, the most damning disclosures arise from the CIA’s involvement with Nazi émigrés to scavenge postwar intelligence and German wartime technology—competing directly with Russia’s KGB. In fact, “the government’s collaboration with persecutors,” many of whom “were indeed knowingly granted entry” to America, occurred even though government officials were aware of their crimes. “America,” the report said, “which prided itself on being a safe haven for the persecuted, became — in some small measure — a safe haven for persecutors as well.” Such disclosures led to the 1978 Holtzman Amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act, which deemed “deportable” anyone who participated in Nazi-sponsored persecution. Accordingly, the Department of Justice has hunted Nazis in America — how convincingly is up for debate — advancing 133 such cases for deportation, successfully winning 109.
Without doubt, American propaganda about being “a safe haven for the persecuted” from World War II needs to be revisited.
We rescued Jews and other displaced peoples, we have been told, people who had been stripped of their possessions and dignity and subject to the Third Reich’s unthinkable atrocities in concentration camps. The truth, however, is far more startling — and sinister.
Did America and the Allies defeat Hitler? Absolutely. But were survivors of those camps immediately liberated and welcomed by America and surrounding countries with open arms? Decidedly not. In fact, Lichtblau uncovered that these tortured souls who had survived Auschwitz were kept in place for years after Hitler’s defeat, forced to live under the same wretched, barbaric conditions instituted by Hitler’s Nazis. America’s notoriously anti-Semitic WWII general, George S. Patton — the general so beloved and eulogized by conservatives like Bill O’Reilly as an American folk hero — had deemed them less than human. Indeed, Patton wrote in his diary that the camp Jews were “locusts,” “lower than animals,” “lost to all decency,” “a subhuman species without any of the cultural or social refinements of our times.” More scandalously, they were still being monitored by many of the same Nazis who had ruled the camps under Hitler’s regime.
“As matters now stand,” President Harry Truman wrote in a fascinating letter to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower — based on the reports of Earl G. Harrison, the representative on the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees overseeing Patton’s activities — “we appear to be treating the Jews as the Nazis treated them except that we do not exterminate them.”
Was Patton alone in his demeaning, anti-Semitic beliefs? Absolutely not. Two of the most widely admired Americans of the 20th century, Henry Ford — whose automobiles transformed American transportation — and Charles A. Lindbergh — the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean — were, seemingly, Nazi lovers.
In his 2003 book, The American Axis: Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, and the Rise of the Third Reich, author Max Wallace meticulously detailed a 1940 White House luncheon conversation between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and U.S. Secretary Henry Morgenthau. “If I should die tomorrow,” Roosevelt told Morgenthau, “I want you to know this. I am absolutely convinced that Lindbergh is a Nazi.”
On his 75th birthday in 1938, Ford became the first American recipient of the Grand Cross of the Supreme Order of the German Eagle, an award Hitler had created a year earlier as the highest German honor bestowed upon a foreigner. Two months later, at an embassy affair in Berlin, Hitler’s second-in-command, Herman Goring, Chief of the Nazi air force, presented Lindbergh the same medal. Only four others had previously been bestowed the honor. The distinguished lot included dictator Benito Mussolini — eventually executed by firing squad in 1945 — who inspired Hitler through his founding and leadership of the National Fascist Party of Italy after his coup d’état in 1922.
Hitler’s ‘American Model on Race’ En Vogue Again
The brief history lesson aside, more important are the extrapolations that could reasonably be made regarding how Nazi philosophy outlived the fall of the Third Reich to remain alive and well in America. The Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe. Rah-rah. But it now begs the question: How were the descendants of old-monied friends of Nazis — Ford, Lindberg, et al. — indoctrinated, and what influence have they had on the founding, longevity, support and advocacy of white supremacist hate groups? The American Nazi Party has survived many incarnations since its inception in March 1959.
That racism is systemic against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in America is challenged only by white nationalists and those in Trump’s cult like Attorney General Bill Barr, acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf, and Trump’s “African American over there,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson. In fact, let it be known that Hitler drew inspiration from American racism in the late 19th to early 20th centuries.
In Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law, James Q. Whitman notes that, in Mein Kampf, Hitler lauded America as the the poster child for progress toward racial citizenship by “excluding certain races from naturalization.” Whitman observes that discussion of such influences has been taboo because the crimes of the Third Reich are seen as “the nefandum, the unspeakable descent into ‘radical evil.’”
But fuck that “taboo” now. Such discussions are not only germane; they are critical in Donald Trump’s America.
Trump’s overtly racist and xenophobic policies that have left 545 migrant children at the Southern border lost to their parents should see him prosecuted at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Moreover, when democide has become policy under Trump’s regime, he must be removed expeditiously. Trump’s patently and demonstrably false, vacillating claims — the latest being that “herd immunity” is a legitimate means to constrain the coronavirus pandemic — have already taken 230,000 American lives. Further, his administration’s deliberate inaction when they initially thought Covid-19 would be “relegated to Democratic states” is undeniably criminal.
Liberals ridicule Trump for his ignorance of history. However, more accurate is that his knowledge is very selective. Not only does Trump know Patton’s history, he venerates him. Additionally, it’s not difficult to draw parallels between Trump’s and Hitler’s propaganda style — Trump’s ex-wife Ivana validated his reverence for My New Order, a book of Hitler’s collected speeches, safe-guarded in a cabinet by their bed. But more importantly, it takes very little investigative work to connect the dots between America’s rabid neo-Nazis like Richard Spencer and white nationalists like Stephen Miller, Trump’s far-right, anti-immigration senior policy advisor — a seemingly “accidental Jew.” Then there is William H. Regnery II, founder of the National Policy Institute, a white-supremacist think tank and lobby group, credited with expanding the alt-right, to which Miller’s compadre Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, is affiliated. Regnery II’s grandfather, William H. Regnery, was a founding member of the America First Committee, which bankrolled a campaign against fighting Nazi Germany during World War II. And voilà, there is Spencer, president of Regnery II’s National Policy Institute, who reveres organizations that resemble the German Nazi Party. Known for his public advocacy of violence against nonwhites, Spencer has advocated for the enslavement of Haitians by whites and the ethnic cleansing of racial minorities from the United States.
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) undoubtedly know about many, many such connections.
Since 2006, the FBI has reluctantly warned about “ghost skins” — hate group members who “blend into society and covertly advance white supremacist causes” — including within law enforcement. As recently as last month, in fact, DHS deemed white supremacists the deadliest domestic terror threat facing the United States. Two of their draft documents refer to extremists trying to exploit the “social grievances” driving lawful protests.
“This draft document,” said John Cohen, who oversaw DHS’ counterterrorism portfolio from 2011 to 2014, “seems to be consistent with earlier intelligence reports from DHS, the FBI, and other law enforcement sources. The most significant terror-related threat facing the US today comes from violent extremists who are motivated by white supremacy and other far-right ideological causes.”
In 2016, it took the advent of a presidential candidate with clear German heritage and an unquestionable, racist past to reawaken awareness that domestic white supremacist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan were still very much alive and well in the Grand Ole USA. But it was the shock of the 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va. — complete with tiki torches — which reminded us that there’s nothing virtuous in finding common ground with evil. Proud Boys founding member Jason Kessler had helped organize that rally, bringing together Klansmen, anti-Semites, Southern racists and militias.
Former Vice President Joe Biden declared that it was the Charlottesville incident — and Trump’s pronouncement that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the ensuing street fight — that became the lightning rod for his run for the presidency. Trump’s dog whistles — his ability to “speak in code,” as his former fixer Michael Cohen describes it —had already conjured up the likes of Richard Spencer and David Duke, who consistently runs for public office. That Duke is a convicted felon and former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan is, well, par for the course. In 2020, the Trump-endorsed “future Republican Star,” Laura Loomer, further exemplifies Trump’s bigoted agenda.
American democracy under Trump will go up in flames. A totalitarian dictatorship is Trump’s real goal. Indeed, the current occupant of the White House has already determined not to leave office in a peaceful transition of power, should he lose the upcoming election. Take him at his word. He’s a brawler, well versed in the art of of that deal — Hitler style.
RELATED LISTENING: “How Thousands Of Nazis Were ‘Rewarded’ With Life In The U.S.” — Fresh Air, NPR, November 5, 2014
RELATED ARTICLE: Koch brothers’ father did business with the Nazis, book claims — just like Prescott Bush, Henry Ford & some U.S. corporations
— A who’s who of powerful American corporations and business leaders worked with the Third Reich, Ben Norton, Salon, January 13, 2016