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Is Fighting Fascism really an American Tradition?

August 21, 2017

There have been a great deal of memes floating around on social media in the past week, many of them in response to the White Supremacist violence that took place in Charlottesville.

Many of these memes address white supremacy and fascism. However, as is the case with most memes, they tend to oversimplify reality and sometimes distort reality.

Take the meme here on the right. It says, Anti-Fascists disrupting a large gathering of white supremacists. The image clearly is from WWII, with the US military deploying troops, getting ready to do battle with Nazis. Now, it is possible that many US soldiers who were drafted into WWII, believed that they were fighting fascism, but that does not necessarily mean that the military and political leadership in the US was deeply committed to fighting fascists and disrupting white supremacy.

It is important for us to critically look at this history and investigate what exactly the US was committed to before, during and after WWII, particularly as it relates to fighting fascism.

Did the US Fight Fascism in Germany?

In Christopher Simpson’s little known book, The Splendid Blonde Beast: Money, Law and Genocide in the Twentieth Century, the author makes it clear that US financial institutions played a major role in rebuilding Germany after WWI. Entities like J.P. Morgan & Co., National City Bank, Brown Brothers, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs and the Bankers Trust Company all provided significant loans and made major investments in the German economy.

Simpson also notes that there were several law firms that played a major role in facilitating the financial transactions that US banks made with Germany during the 1920s and 30s. One of the most notable law firms was Sullivan & Cromwell. Sullivan & Cromwell was a major player, not only with relations between the US government and the German government, the law firm dealt with numerous other governments the US had relations with, so much so, that Sullivan & Cromwell became known as the revolving door with the US State DePartment. Many of the Sullivan & Cromwell lawyers either transitioned into positions in the US State Department or began in the State Department and then entered the law firm.

Two of the most notable lawyers who got their start at Sullivan & Cromwell, were brothers Allen and John Foster Dulles. Throughout the 1920s and 30s, the Dulles brothers played a major role in building relationships with Nazi Germany and after WWII they were rewarded positions in the Eisenhower administrations as Secretary of State (John Foster Dulles) and the Director of the CIA (Allen Dulles).

The relationships that the Dulles brothers developed with Nazi Germany would pay off after WWII, since they would recruit hundreds of Nazi scientists, military leaders and intelligence agents to come work for the US. Christopher Simpson documents this history in his ground-breaking book, Blowback: The First Full Account of America’s Recruitment of Nazis, and its Disastrous Effect on Our Domestic and Foreign Policy. One of the highest ranking former Nazi Generals to be recruited by the CIA, was Reinhard Gehlen. Gehlen was recruited specifically because he was one of the Nazi Generals in charge of the Eastern Front and had a great deal of intelligence on the Soviet Union. You can read all the details about this dynamic in Mary Ellen Reese’s book, General Reinhard Gehlen: The CIA Connection.

Doing Business with Fascists instead of fighting them

Another major reason to be critical of the claim that the US was committed to fighting fascists during WWII was based on the fact that many major US corporations were operating factories in Nazi Germany or manufacturing products to sell to Nazi Germany. One such company was IBM, which contracted with Nazi Germany to develop a punchcard system that was used to track Jews and other prisoners in concentration camps.

Edwin Black (who appeared in the video clip above), in his book the, Nazi Nexus: America’s Corporate Connections to Hitler’s Holocaust, cites a 1945 US Army report, which called the Ford Motor Company, “the arsenal of Nazism” with the full consent of the automotive company based in Dearborn, Michigan.

The Ford Motor Company operated factories throughout Germany during WWII, for both automobile manufacturing and for the production of munitions for the Nazi army. (Nazi Nexus) In addition, the Ford Motor company was manufacturing vehicles that were used by the Nazi military up until at least 1944, mostly at their facilities in Detroit/Dearborn. This dynamic is also well documented in Charles Higham’s important book, Trading with the Enemy: The Nazi-American Money Plot 1933 – 1949.

Fighting Fascism means fighting White Supremacy

A third important dynamic that we need to come to terms with is that the US government was not really interested in what was happening to the Jews in Nazi Germany. The US had its own brand of anti-Semitism that was growing during the 1930s. This anti-Semitism impacted policy at the highest level, especially when it came to how the US government responded to the Jews who were attempting to flee Nazi Germany.

The US government ultimately denied entry to Jews we were fleeing Nazi Germany. The US literally turned away a ship of 900 German Jews in the late 1930s and shortly afterward, it rejected a proposal to allow 20,000 Jewish children to come to the US for safety.

In David Wyman’s book, The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust 1941 – 1945, the author makes it clear that the US did very little to actually prevent what Nazi Germany was doing to the Jews. In addition to not taking in Jews who had already fled Nazi Germany, the US did not intervene directly to put a stop to the death camps. US knowledge of the concentration camps was made clear by at least 1942, yet there was no strong effort to bomb the rail lines leading into the camps, the very same rail lines that were used to bring millions of Jews to work or be exterminated in camps all over Germany and German occupied territory. This failure on the part of the US political and military leadership to prevent the deaths of millions of Jews is well documented in Raul Hilberg’s book, Perpetrators, Victims and Bystanders: The Jewish Catastrophe 1933 – 1945. Many US troops were certainly appalled to learn what was happening in the German concentration camps near the end of the war, but dismantling those camps was never a priority of the US political and military establishment.

A few other important points to raise in regards to the question of whether or not Americans have a strong history of fighting fascism are as follows:

  • After the Fascists were defeated in Germany, Italy and France, the US military often suppressed the anti-fascist forces in those countries and replaced them with the fascist collaborators that the resistance forces were attempting to defeat. Part of the reason the US military was ordered to restore power to fascist collaborators was because they did not want the resistance forces to take power, since the resistance forces were often made up of communists, socialists or anarchists.
  • While the US did round up roughly 11,000 German Americans during WWII and put them in internment camps, that number pales in comparison to the 120,000 Japanese Americans that were forces into internment camps. This disparity reflected to racial politics of the US government, which was much more interested in punishing people of Japanese descent than German descent.
  • Cherokee scholar Ward Churchill, in his book, A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust Denial in the Americas 1492 to the Present, refers to the Nazi concept of Lebensraum, which means living space. Churchill argues that the forces removal of Native nations in the US is what influenced Hitler in his adopt his racial policies towards Jews that ultimately led to their extermination.
  • After WWII, the US initiated the Marshall Plan as a form of economic recovery for Germany. However, as Michael Zezima, author of the book, Saving Private Power: The Hidden History of the Good War, notes, the Marshall Plan was really a massive subsidy to US corporations and former Nazi companies, so that they could continue to expand their influence in Europe.

While a great deal more can be said to challenge the claim that the US has a strong tradition of fighting fascists, this brief summary should be enough to get you to question this claim.

However, one should follow up with the books that are cited in this post and we certainly encourage you to do your own investigation into this matter.

If you wanted an actual example from this time period where Americans really fought against fascism, check out the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

The Abraham Lincoln Brigade were some 2,800 US volunteers that participated in fighting against the fascist forces during the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939). These men and women were part of an effort that included forty thousand other men and women from 52 countries that fought against fascism in Spain. You can see from the photo here, that many African Americans were part of the effort to fight fascists in Spain in the late 1930s. This is the history we need to reclaim. This is the history we need to teach.

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