America First: How the Swastika Spread from Suburban New Jersey
When Sarah Palin uses the phrase “America first” before a crowd of rabid “conservatives,” she is speaking in code, a winking allusion to The America First Committee. America First was a fascist front that agitated to keep the U.S. out of WW II. The Committee’s origins owe more to behind-the-scenes Nazi collaborator John Foster Dulles than Charles Lindbergh or Gerald Ford, cited in the attached Star-Ledger story as founders. Dulles, who wrote America First’s charter, went on to an appointment as Secretary of State under President Eisenhower, the nation’s first fascist chief executive, who gave us VP Richard Nixon, a black market rubber dealer during the war, attorney, Nazi collaborator and eventually scandal-ridden pariah in the White House. John Foster’s brother Allen was instrumental in recruiting Nazis after WW II for the CIA, and established a sweeping corporate-state propaganda system code-named “Operation Mockingbird” that was, and remains, in the business of mass perception management. John Foster Dulles was a partner at Wall Street’s Sullivan & Cromwell investment firm. Pre-Mockingbird Newsweek reported in 1940 that John Foster Dulles oversaw the incorporation of “a Swedish dummy owner” for Nazi engine parts producer “Bosch’s U.S. arm so that the Nazis could retain control.” Marc Masurovsky, a former Justice Department historian, discovered declassified documents revealing that “at least 300 companies continued doing business in Germany during the war.” Many of these corporations depended on Sullivan & Cromwell to maintain clandestine financial ties to Germany under Hitler. Dulles’s hope was that Germany would vanquish Europe and crush the Soviet Union. The America First Committee was one means to that end. Though ostensibly isolationist, a “peace” movement, America First was a covert op, its underlying intent was pro-Nazi, and, as a propaganda front, was a seminal step in the conversion of the United States into a fascist paradise with fiscal underpinnings of perennial war. – Alex Constantine
How the Swastika Spread from Suburban New Jersey
The intersection of Front Street and Flanders Avenue in Scotch Plains is a modest, tree-lined stretch of green lawns, electrical wires and tidy homes.
You’d never know that in the summer of 1941, it was considered an epicenter of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi propaganda machine in the United States, and ultimately targeted by federal agents bent on rooting out saboteurs.
Then, as now, there were widespread fears about America’s enemies plotting right in our own backyards.
These days, we remember World War II as a just war waged by the “Greatest Generation.” We believe Americans of all different creeds and backgrounds were united in the fight against fascism. But a much-discussed new book — as well as the long-forgotten Nazi ties of a New Jersey family headed by a former Plainfield High School teacher — reminds us just how fiercely many Americans fought to stay out of the war.
“People have forgotten the great hostility of that time,” Gen. George Marshall once said, as quoted by celebrated historian Lynne Olson in her new book “Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-41” (Random House).
At one point, Olson notes that Hitler’s operatives in America “oversaw the creation of a publishing house in New Jersey that put out anti-war” propaganda.
That publishing house was Flanders Hall Publishing, an operation hatched at Front Street and Flanders Avenue, in a building once owned by Plainfield High School teacher Adolf Hauck Sr.
What Olson’s book does not delve into is the extensive role Hauck and his sons played in an elaborate Nazi propaganda operation based in Scotch Plains. In the months leading up to the war, the Hauck family helped churn out countless books and other material approved by Nazi officials who reported to Third Reich propaganda czar Joseph Goebbels. Among their offerings were books written and praised by rabid anti-Semites as well as isolationist U.S. senators and congressmen, some of whom were sympathetic to Hitler and his regime.
How did one New Jersey family turn a sleepy town into a hive of espionage and Nazism? This story begins with a much more famous New Jersey resident: Charles Lindbergh.
“Lucky” Lindbergh captivated the world in 1927 when he made his trans-Atlantic flight from Long Island to France. Lindbergh became such an immense celebrity that he retreated to a reclusive home in East Amwell, just north of Trenton. It was there that the “Crime of the Century” unfolded — the kidnapping and murder of Lindbergh’s baby Charles in 1932 — thus thrusting the famed aviator back into the public eye.
The tragedy soured Lindbergh on celebrity and, to some degree, America itself. He lived in Europe during the early 1930s, developing a controversial admiration for Hitler’s regime.
Not surprisingly, as war engulfed Europe after Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939, Lindbergh stood steadfast against American intervention.
“I do not intend to stand by and see this country pushed into war,” Lindbergh said in September 1939, after briefly residing in New Jersey again, at his wife’s family estate in Englewood.
Lindbergh’s New Jersey family reflected the fierce divisions tearing the entire country apart. Lindbergh’s mother-in-law, Elizabeth Morrow, was a prominent supporter of American intervention and “turned her New Jersey estate into a sort of informal headquarters” for like-minded activists, Olson writes in her book, “a matter of considerable discomfort” when Lindbergh and his New Jersey-born wife, Anne, came to visit.
Charles Lindbergh may have been America’s most prominent isolationist. But thousands of other Americans with varying degrees of admiration for Germany and the Nazis also wanted no part of the war.
Among them was Hauck’s family. For decades, Hauck had been active in German-American charitable circles, according to Nazi exposé author John Roy Carlson. Hauck eventually befriended a Munich-born writer and activist named George Sylvester Viereck, who would go on to become “Nazi Germany’s chief publicist in the United States,” according to Olson. By 1941, Viereck was “one of the most closely watched men in America.”
Viereck and Hauck — and eventually his New Jersey-born sons Siegfried, Detlev and Adolf Jr. — were part of a robust movement bent on keeping America out of war with Germany.
The respectable arm of the isolationist movement was the America First Committee, founded in September 1939 by prominent Yale students such as Gerald Ford, Sargent Shriver and future Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart.
Other isolationist elements were far less respectable.
In 1939, more than 20,000 people attended a raucous rally organized by the Nazi-affiliated German American Bund at Madison Square Garden.
President Franklin Roosevelt eventually charged FBI head J. Edgar Hoover with the task of keeping an eye out for saboteurs and others who might be operating on behalf of the Third Reich in America. Among such operatives were Viereck as well as Hans Thomsen, Chargé d’Affaires at the German Embassy in Washington, who reported to Goebbels.
Viereck and Thomsen helped turn Scotch Plains into a center of Nazi propaganda in the United States.
In August 1941, the syndicated political column “Washington Merry-Go-Round” reported that an isolationist book by Illinois Congressman Stephen A. Day was “published by a firm registered at the State Department as paid by Nazi agents.”
That firm, the column added, was “Flanders Hall: Publishers, Scotch Plains, N.J.” and was said to be located at “none other than the residence of Professor Adolf Hauck, instructor of German at Plainfield High School.” Hauck’s sons were registered with the State Department as officers of the Flanders Hall Publishing Company — the working offices were actually located on nearby Park Avenue — and were “financed by George Sylvester Viereck.”
The Hauck Family
The column goes on to list a host of influential books and other materials put out by Flanders Hall, which was founded in September 1939, according to a New York Times report, which added that Hauck’s sons were listed as stockholders.
Thomsen vowed to his Nazi superiors that the New Jersey Nazi propaganda machine would have “great results in regard to the enlightenment of American public opinion,” Olson writes.
Flanders Hall even drew the attention of investigative writer John Roy Carlson, who drove out to the “pretty, sleepy little town” of Scotch Plains as part of an exposé he wrote about “the Nazi Underworld of America.” He spoke to Siegfried Hauck, who tried to put a pro-American spin on the vile material Flanders Hall published.
“We don’t touch that stuff here,” Hauck said “winking,” when asked if they dabbled in anti-Semitic material. Hauck stressed he simply wanted to keep America out of the war. Carlson later added: “In due time our Department of Justice trailed George Sylvester Viereck to the inconspicuous offices in Scotch Plains and soon established the fact that he ‘financed, controlled and directed’ (Flanders Hall).”
In November 1941 — just three weeks before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor catapulted the United States into World War II — Siegfried Hauck decided it was time to close up Flanders Hall. Hauck’s testimony to federal agents would later help send Viereck to prison for violating of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
Adolf Hauck Sr. remained a teacher at Plainfield High. Adolf Hauck Jr. became an accountant in North Plainfield until his death in 1995. Despite his family’s Nazi ties, he served with the Army in the Pacific during World War II, and was a founding member of American Legion Post 209 on Park Avenue in Scotch Plains, according to his obituary.
Detlev Hauck also served during the war, even writing a letter from Belgium to the Scotch Plainsmen newspaper, before later moving to Washington. Viereck, incidentally, also had a son serve in the U.S. Army. He was killed in Italy.
After the closing of Flanders Hall, Siegfried Hauck found work at a gas station outside of Scotch Plains. Carlson, the Nazi exposé writer, tracked him down while the war was raging. Hauck looked back on his past and eventually acknowledged something he probably never thought he would.
“America might win the war.”
Tom Deignan (tdeignan.blogspot.com) is a writer and teacher who lives in Woodbridge. He is a regular contributor to The Star-Ledger.