What would American fascism look like? A 1939 New York rally offered more than a hint
‘We, with American ideals, demand that our government shall be returned to the American people who founded it.’
On 20 February 1939, roughly six months before Germany invaded Poland, Madison Square Garden in New York City hosted an event held by the German American Federation, a Nazi-supporting group led by the German-born US citizen Fritz Julius Kuhn. The event was attended by a crowd of roughly 20,000 people, nearly all of them Americans sympathetic to Kuhn’s cause. With its swastikas and unapologetically racist rhetoric, cheering crowds and barefaced appeals to US patriotism – including a massive, stage-centre portrait of George Washington – the footage from the event is jarring and surreal to watch today. Eerily prefiguring fictional alternative histories where Nazism came to be embraced in the US, including Philip K Dick’s The Man in the High Castle (1962) and Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America (2004), this little-known piece of US history hints at what American fascism might have looked like on a not-unimaginable alternative timeline.