Today is Independence Day in the United States, a day when we honor America's Founding Fathers. It is interesting to look back in history to see how America's iconic figures have been appropriated for causes that are directly opposed to our country's democratic tradition.
The German-American Bund was a pro-Nazi movement comprised primarily of ethnic Germans living in the United States who were fanatical supporters of National Socialism in Germany and wanted to import Nazi ideals to the United States. At its height of popularity in 1939 the German-American Bund had over 50,000 adherents with a nationwide network of 'Gaus' and training camps. The Bund was loyal to Adolf Hitler, naturally, but also celebrated George Washington as one of its heroes. The Bund organized its national meetings to coincide with Washington's birthday, and the largest event, which was attended by more than 20,000 members, took place in New York's Madison Square Garden on February 20, 1939. The centerpiece of the event was a 30-foot tall image of George Washington (see photo above). At the event, George Washington was honored as "America's first Fascist" - as well as a leading anti-Semite:
In fact, George Washington's alleged anti-Semitism celebrated by the German-American Bund was based on false quotes. Washington welcomed Jews to America, and in his Good Will Address to the Hebrew congregation of Newport Washington promised the immigrants freedom from all bigotry and discrimination.
In his book Hitler & America (see my review) the historian Klaus Fischer wrote that Hitler's confidants wisely advised him to steer clear of the German-American Bund. Hitler's true American friends were the isolationists in the Republican Party.