A Nazi Rally in New York City? It Did Happen Here

At the rally, flags with swastikas surrounded an image of George Washington.

One night in February 1939, 20,000 people gathered at Madison Square Garden to celebrate the rise of Nazism in the United States. Filmmaker Marshall Curry turned archival footage of that rally into a chilling, seven-minute film, A Night at the Garden, which he screened for FIT on April 11 as part of the college’s annual Holocaust commemoration. He called the short, his third film to be nominated for an Academy Award, “a cautionary tale of what can happen in America when we forget our better angels; demagogues can turn us against each other.” Describing the moment in which Nazi leader Fritz Kuhn enjoins the crowd to violently subdue a protester, Curry said, “I’d like to feel that this is ancient history, but parts of it feel unsettlingly familiar.”

President Joyce F. Brown introduced the screening, citing the rise of hate crimes and hate groups in the U.S. as evidence that Americans need to remember their history. Andrew Weinstein, professor, History of Art, interviewed Curry, and said, “It’s shocking that this [rally] has been overlooked.”

The film received a bit of inadvertent publicity from Fox News. Curry created a 30-second promo to be screened during conservative commentator Sean Hannity’s program. He soon received word that the CEO of Fox had rejected the spot because, she said, it is “full of disgraceful Nazi imagery.” As The Daily Beast pointed out, however, the network has shown Nazi imagery in, among other projects, a film by conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza. Coverage of the flap on Slate and elsewhere brought Curry’s video to a significantly broader audience. “It was the PR ad that kept on giving,” he said.

Watch A Night at the Garden online.

FIT’s Holocaust Commemoration Committee, the Diversity Council, and the School of Liberal Arts presented the screening.