During the latter half of the 1930s, a surprising number of Nazi-themed summer camps sprouted across the United States. Organized locally and without the support of Germany, these summer outings bore a startling resemblance to the Hitler Youth. Here’s what these camps were like—and how, for a short time, the Third Reich came to America.
Parents lining up to give the Hitler salute. Children wearing uniforms adorned with swastikas. The stars and stripes raised alongside the Nazi flag. Looking back with hindsight, these images of summer camps appear ludicrous and deeply offensive. Yet, in the late 1930s, a small minority of Americans were subsumed by the same fascist fervor that had swept Nazi Germany.
While these retreats had obvious appeal to Nazi sympathizers, they were also part of a larger plan to awaken fascistic sensibilities in America and to foster the transition of the US into a Nazi stronghold.
Welcome to Nazi Camp, USA
These summer camps, organized by a grassroots organization called the Deutsche-Amerikanische Berufsgemeinschaft, or German American Bund (“bund” meaning “alliance” in German), were established in the US during the latter half of the 1930s.
By the time they were shut down at the onset of the Second World War, some 16 of these camps and family retreats had emerged, including Camp Siegfried in Yaphank, New York, Camp Hindenburg in Grafton, Wisconsin, Camp Nordland in Andover, New Jersey, the Deutschhorst Country Club in Sellersville, Pennsylvania, Camp Bergwald in Bloomingdale, New Jersey, and Camp Sutter near Los Angeles.
Camp Siegfried, among the most prominent of the retreats, was situated in the particularly pro-German hamlet of Yaphank on Long Island. Its streets, which were the scenes of regular Nazi parades, were named in honor of Hitler, Goering, and Goebbels. Attendees of this camp planted swastika topiary lawns and constructed fake artillery installations comprised of tin cans.