There have been many events in New York City’s past that history would like to forget, but a short documentary by filmmaker Marshall Curry is calling attention to one such incident. The subject of Night at the Garden, Curry’s short documentary which premiered on The Atlantic’s website last fall, is a German American Bund rally of 20,000 Nazi supporters that took place at Madison Square Garden in February 1939. The documentary, made up of historical footage that Curry stumbled upon in a historical archive, has just been added to the Oscars short list of potential nominees for the Academy Award.
Curry’s documentary presents the startling footage without narration as a cautionary tale to current audiences. In the film, German American Bund leader Fritz Julius Kuhn addresses a packed crowd while a giant portrait of George Washington looms in the background. The German American Bund was founded in 1936 by pro-Nazi ethnic Germans living in the United States. The organization ran several summer camps for Nazi youth throughout the United States and Camp Siegfried, a pro-Nazi planned community in Yaphank, Long Island with streets named after Hitler, Goering, and Goebbels.
A 1937 anti-Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden, Photo in public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Crowds of protestors gathered outside the Garden and a counter rally was held at Carnegie Hall to protest the ” un-American nature and utterances” of the Bund. Throughout the 1930’s Madison Square Garden also hosted many anti-Nazi rallies attended by public officials and religious leaders.
The rally shown in Curry’s documentary took place inside the third iteration of Madison Square Garden, a building designed by Thomas W. Lamb at 8th Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets. It closed in 1968 and was replaced with the current Madison Square Garden that sits atop the site of the original Penn Station designed by McKim, Mead, and White.