The 1930s Nazi Summer Camps In The USA

By Nolan Moore on Monday, December 7, 2015
Hitlerjugend_Allgemeine_Flagge
“You have to harden yourselves in your youth. You must learn to be hard, to stand privations without breaking down. We want this people to love honor and you already in the days of your youth must live up to this concept of honor.” —Adolf Hitler, 1935 speech

In A Nutshell

During the 1930s, there were plenty of pro-Nazi supporters in the US. And unfortunately, a lot of these anti-Semites had kids. Wanting to instill their children with a love for the Third Reich, many of these parents sent their kids to Nazi summer camps—all located in the United States.

The Whole Bushel

When we think of World War II, we generally picture it as Allies vs. Axis, the US vs. the Third Reich. The Germans followed Hitler, and Americans supported Uncle Sam. Of course, in real life, that dividing line sometimes got a little blurry. There were plenty of Germans who opposed Adolf Hitler, and as it turns out, there were quite a few Americans who thought the Chancellor was a pretty cool guy.

In 1936, a group of pro-Hitler Americans founded the German American Bund (bund means “alliance”). Led by Fritz Kuhn, the Bund wasn’t officially associated with the Nazi Party, but the group was full of die-hard Hitler-lovers nonetheless.

Under Kuhn, the Bund formed at least 70 chapters across the US. They created their own paramilitary group and even held a rally in Madison Square Garden, an event that drew in 20,000 spectators. But one of the weirdest things the Bund did was to create a series of Nazi summer camps across the US. That’s right. During the 1930s, American parents sent their kids to these creepy retreats where boys and girls played games, sang songs, and saluted the Fuhrer.

At the height of the Nazi summer camp craze, there were around 16 of these retreats spread out across the US. They were located in states like New York, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and California. And they all had unique names like Camp Siegfried, Camp Hindenburg, Camp Will And Might, and The Deutschhorst Country Club. The retreats catered to kids ages 8–18, and naturally, there was a whole lot of propaganda involved.

Kids were dressed up in Nazi uniforms and taught how to speak German. They flew Nazi flags, practiced military drills, and learned how to shoot. Children learned the Nazi salute, sang German ballads, and put on some pretty impressive parades. In some camps, they even grew swastika-shaped shrubs and built fake anti-aircraft guns. Needless to say, it was all very disturbing.

Of course, these camps didn’t last very long. The government kept a close eye on the German American Bund and their Third Reich retreats. In 1939, Fritz Kuhn was arrested for tax evasion and embezzlement, which kind of put a damper on the Bund’s plan to politically conquer the country. Without their leader at the helm, the Bund started to falter, as did the camps.

Eventually, the feds started shutting down the retreats, and after the US officially declared war on Germany in 1941, it became a crime to join the Nazi Party. As you might expect, that put an end to the pro-Nazi summer camps as the American government didn’t really approve of goose-stepping nine-year-olds.

Show Me The Proof

Featured image credit: Zscout370
Gizmodo: There Were American Nazi Summer Camps Across the US in the 1930s
NPR: Nazi Summer Camps In 1930s America?
Slate: American Boys at a Nazi Summer Camp, Upstate New York, Summer of 1937
Dangerous Minds: Scenes from Camp Siegfried