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Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund Hardcover – September 3, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

Review

[An] engrossing retelling... (The New York Times)

Impeccably researched and forcefully written. (Chicago Tribune)

...told with relish and undisguised disdain. (Kirkus Reviews)

...fast-paced...a fresh account of a well-documented era. (Publishers Weekly)

"As there are few other works specifically on this topic - none aimed at a popular audience and many out of print - this is an adequate overview of the history of the Bund. Recommended for those interested in the time period and the U.S. Nazi movement." (Library Journal)

This is narrative nonfiction at its best, a gripping tale that's impossible to put down. (Karen Abbott, author of American Rose)

"This is a breathtaking story of a lost piece of American history--a powerfully written, expertly researched tale packed with fascinating characters and riveting action." (Jonathan Eig, New York Times best–selling author of Luckiest Man)

"Arnie Bernstein is a master storyteller…Here's a book with a cast of bigger-than-life characters…A powerful, riveting story." (John McNally, Award-winning author of The Book of Ralph)

No novelist would have dared to pass off the bumptious Fritz Kuhn, his dim-witted associates, or his improbable harem of divorced socialites as real-life characters. But for a few years in the 1930s, the Bundesführer purveyed his bizarre blend of Hitler-worship, Jew-hatred, and star-spangled patriotism to audiences of thousands--while the likes of Walter Winchell, Thomas Dewey, Fiorella LaGuardia, and Meyer Lansky worked separately and sometimes together to bring him down. Swastika Nation reminds us that when it comes to the politics of hatred, truth is stranger than fiction--and nothing is new under the sun. (Arthur Goldwag, author of The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right)

Swastika Nation is the frightening, compulsively readable story of the rise of the German-American Bund of the 1930s. Arnie Bernstein chronicles the unlikely coalition of crusading politicians, moonlighting Hollywood icons, and tough-guy Jewish mobsters who found common cause in fighting the specter of homegrown Nazism at a time when it really could have happened here. His book is a vivid and enlightening look at a largely forgotten episode of American history. (Gary Krist, New York Times bestselling author of City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago)

Bernstein wraps his arms around an amazing cast and spins a tale that will readers breathless--it's that good. An astonishing read by a wonderful writer. (Gregg Olson, New York Times best-selling author of Starvation Heights)

About the Author

ARNIE BERNSTEIN learned firsthand about American Nazis as a high school student, when a group of neo-fascists threatened to march in his neighborhood, known for its large Jewish population. He has been interviewed by the New York Times, BBC Radio, NPR, PBS, and numerous documentaries. He's lectured at DePaul University, the Chicago History Museum, and other venues, and appeared on C-SPAN's Book-TV. Bernstein's nonfiction tale Bath Massacre: America's First School Bombing was honored as a Notable Book of the Year by the State Library of Michigan. He lives in Chicago.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1 edition (September 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250006716
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250006714
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #729,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Arnie Bernstein is a nonfiction writer based in Chicago. He's been honored by the Illinois State Library and his book "Bath Massacre: America's First School Bombing" was named a Notable Book by the State Library of Michigan. He loves taking forgotten stories in history and recreating them in vibrant new tellings for today's readers.

When it comes to philosophy, Arnie follows the words of notable sage Groucho Marx: "I must say I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a good book."

Customer Reviews

The book is well documented.
C. M Mills
In fact, just the information alone from his interview with Meyer Lansky's grandson is worth reading this fascinating and important book.
M. Lynch
His style is one of "look how smart and flashy I am," instead of letting the story emerge from his writing.
Paul

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jtorriani on September 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In spite of the sensational title, This is an excellent book on the German American Bund, Which existed in the US before our entry in WWII. I was amazed at how large this pro Nazi group was and gratified by the opposition to it from non-Jews. It is shocking how large this group was and how they openly imitated German Nazism

An interesting part of the book, in discussing opposition to the bund, is several chapters on Jewish gangsters who except for Meyer Lansky are unknown today.

I was also unaware of the role of Walter Winchell, who gets bad press nowadays, but seems to have exerted a positive role in this case. Tom Dewey and Mayor LaGuardia also appear in the book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Man of La Book on June 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund by Arnie Bern­stein is a non-ficiton book detail­ing the rise and fall of the Amer­i­can Nazi move­ment before World War II. This is another for­got­ten chap­ter in his­tory, and even though we’d like to for­get it, it seems wiser not to.

Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund by Arnie Bern­stein is a dis­turb­ing, scary but very read­able his­tory book. The book starts with a 1939 pro-Nazi rally held in Madi­son Square Gar­den bring­ing in tens of thou­sands of sup­port­ers – an even which today is dif­fi­cult to fathom.

Mr. Bern­stein focuses on one man, Fritz Julius Kuhn, a native Ger­man who moves to the US, gets a job for a known indus­tri­al­ist anti-Semite (Henry Ford) joins the Ger­man Bud and dili­gently gets to the top, to the posi­tion of Bun­des­führer. Even­tu­ally Kuhn is brought down by Fiorello La Guardia, Thomas Dewey, and oth­ers when they had had enough of his shenanigans.

The Bund finds many sup­port­ers of National Social­ism (and the “Jew­ish Prob­lem) but many high pro­file oppo­nents as well. My favorite chap­ter had to do with the Jew­ish gang­sters (Meyer Lan­sky, Longy Zwill­man, Bugsy Siegel among oth­ers) who, while not reli­gious and some­times even a cause of shame for their com­mu­ni­ties, took it upon them­selves to pro­tect “their peo­ple” – and even enjoyed it as well.

The author does not hide his dis­dain from the sub­ject of the book, a bunch of ugly peo­ple doing ugly things. The book is a fas­ci­nat­ing chap­ter in Amer­i­can his­tory show­ing how a fringe group can take the ideals this nation was founded on and manip­u­late them for their own pur­poses. Stu­pid peo­ple are dan­ger­ous in large groups and Mr. Bern­stein proves it on every page.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Pat on September 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Just when you thought there was nothing new to learn about WWII, here comes Arnie Bernstein's new book "Swastika Nation, Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund" filled with celebrities, journalists, politicians, gangsters, business magnates and a story so dramatic and even comical at times, you can't believe it has not been told before.

Bernstein's thoroughly researched and fascinating book tells the compelling story of Fritz Kuhn, a Nazi even Adolf Hitler would not endorse, who led the Bund in the late 1930s. Kuhn, a chemist who worked for Henry Ford (a passionate anti-Semite), was a petty thief in Germany before coming to the U.S. and eventually taking leadership of this political organization. Mixing messages of American patriotism and freedom with National Socialism, the group even aligned themselves with George Washington before finally being exposed as hoping to undermine the U.S. government in favor of Nazi Germany.

Kuhn was a blustery, orator short on facts and long on propaganda, and as the supreme leader his actions went unquestioned. Here was a man who raised the concerns of President Roosevelt (who Kuhn insisted was Jewish), New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, and District Attorney Thomas Dewey (later governor of New York). However, a bewildering and laughable aspect of the married Kuhn's life was his hilarious and juvenile romantic escapades with dubious women, paid for with funds from the Bund treasury. It led to his downfall.

I thoroughly enjoyed this well-written and entertaining book, including the added bonus of little-known celebrity tidbits about Walt Disney, Jean Harlow, Henry Ford, Jack Ruby and others. Most importantly, this is a true story where justice prevailed. A great read!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tom on December 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover
On the plus side:

1) Fritz Kuhn's German-American Bund is a fascinating subject.

2) Author Arnie Bernstein's research is top-notch.

On the negative side:

1) The text reads like Bill O'Reilly's former tabloid television investigative show, Inside Edition. To say that Bernstein tends toward hyperbole would be an understatement. Also, Bernstein fills in the blanks using descriptive fictional elements with relish, going where no academic historian would dare.

2) Here's an author who is quite enthralled with his title. If I had $5 for every time I came across the phrase, "Swastika Nation," in this book I'd make reservations tonight for a gourmet dinner for two at the pricey Tournedos Steakhouse in downtown Rochester and have money left over.

3) The importance given the anti-Bund Jewish gangsters is out of proportion to the main topic.

4) I realize this is the internet age and images of Fritz Kuhn and the Bund can be easily accessed but the author and publisher stumbled badly by not providing any photographs.

But don't let the negatives stop you. As I said, it's a fascinating subject and the book is well-researched. Sure, Bernstein's writing style is way over the top, but it will also keep the pages turning for those who dread the staid histories of academicians.
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