An aggressive dictatorship influences American elections through grassroots organizations and third-party political donations, for the sole purpose of keeping America neutral in the face of growing European tensions.

This dictator is Vladimir Putin but Adolf Hitler, and the grassroots organization is the German American Bund.

Fritz Kuhn established the National German American Bund within German American communities on Long Island. The guiding ideas of the original chapters were to promote the compatibility of German values and Americanization.

As membership climbed, those ideals shifted to antisemitism, Hitlerism and raising money for foreign Nazi causes. The center of promoting these values and raising money for Hitler was Camp Siegfried in Yaphank.

As families arrived to the camp, parents were encouraged to purchase Nazi war bonds, and children were taken for paramilitary exercises. During paramilitary exercises, children were given daggers and told to repeat; “When Jewish blood drips from the Knife, then will the German people prosper.  

Fundraising and military rituals netted over $123,000 for the Nazi war machine — and thousands of loyalists for Hitler. The actions of the camp went unnoticed, and it was seen simply as a summer camp until America got closer to joining World War II.

The Bund attracted attention from the FBI through a publicized connection between Nazi Germany and the Bund on financing a “Keep America Neutral” campaign.

This campaign included newspaper advertisements and political donations. Encouraged by the need to acquire membership rolls and their political connections, New York State assistant district attorney Lindsay Henry filed charges against the directors of Camp Siegfried for violating the New York Civil Rights law.  

The Civil Rights Law section 55 requires organizations to file membership rolls with the state.

The Bund, understanding access to the rolls could jeopardize all connections, kept its donors and members a secret. The case was to be heard in Bay Shore district court on Main Street (present day Siben & Siben Law office).

Defendants Ernst Mueller, Henry Wolfgang, Bruno Haehnel, Herman Schwarzman, Aldo Bielefeld and Henry Hauck were brought in and arraigned with crowds of onlookers watching as they marched in Nazi military uniforms into the court.

After the arraignment, the assistant district attorney realized the court facilities could not accommodate the crowds. The case was moved to Riverhead and the preceding judge was Barron Hill.

After refusing to cooperate with membership rolls in return for reduced or dropped charges, all six men were found guilty. Sentences for all six included one year in jail and $500 fines for each.

The convictions of the six camp leaders were later reversed, but Kuhn would go on to be convicted of embezzlement and fraud. Bund membership and Nazi loyalists remained secret despite efforts of law enforcement.

While the vast majority of Long Island were working toward a Nazi defeat, a sizable and covert population was fundraising for an American defeat. Today, headlines of Russian collusion prove we have failed on drawing a lesson of the past that no age is safe from corruption and foreign interference.

-The Mid Island Mail, German Bund Opens for Summer May 24, 1939
– The Mid Island Mail, Kuhn Aid arrested for Perjury, January 3, 1940
– The Mid Island Mail, Camp Siegfried Convictions Reversed, November 9, 1938

– Newsday, FBI Nabs 72 Bund in Long Island, July 9, 1942

-New York Times, How the Nazi tried to Steer politics, July 23, 1997
Top: Photos at desk (L-R) Henry Wolfgang, Herman Schwarzman, Bruno Haehnel and Aldo Bielefeld in Bay Shore.
(All photos courtesy of Nassau County Photo Archives)

A WWII-era scene from Camp Siegfried in Yaphank.

Henry Wolfgang leaving court with a friend who bailed him out, Joseph Schmierer (back).