Eighty years ago, on February 20, 1939, about 20,000 Americans gathered at Madison Square Garden for a rally. The world was roiling. Hitler was in the midst of constructing his sixth concentration camp. Seven months later, he would invade Poland.
In the cavernous arena, the crowd faced a stage, on which a row of American flags stood against a backdrop bearing a towering image of George Washington. They said the Pledge of Allegiance together and sang the Star Spangled Banner. They listened to speakers and cheered. Young men in starched uniforms stood at attention.
And everyone gave the Nazi salute. The reason these 20,000 Americans had gathered, after all, was to join with their fellow “American patriots” in support of the German American Bund, a pro-Nazi organization.