We’ve previously written about General Smedley Darlington Butler, the decorated general who, after being forced into retirement by Herbert Hoover for denouncing Benito Mussolini, helped stop “The Business Plot” in 1933, a conspiracy to recruit American veterans into the equivalent on an American Nazi Party. While that plan failed, that same year saw the establishment of an explicitly fascist political organization in the United States: the Friends of New Germany, later rebranded as the German-American Bund.
The leader of the Bund was Fritz Kuhn, a German-born naturalized citizen and employee of the Ford Motor Company, who fancied himself the American Führer. At a rally organized by Kuhn at the Madison Square Garden in 1939, thousands of people wearing brownshirts gave the Nazi salute to the American flag, and “the Star-Spangled Banner” was immediately followed by a performance of “Das Deutschlandlied.”
However, Kuhn wasn’t long for the organization, or for the U.S. He was convicted on embezzling a paltry $1,217 from the Bund in late 1939, and sentenced to two years in prison. Kuhn didn’t let a little thing like incarceration stop him, though – according to FBI documents, Kuhn conspired with a 52-year-old man named Charles Harman, who was at the tail end on a ten year sentence for forgery, to extort money from Helena Rubinstein a “wealthy toilet preparations owner,” from Poland.