Since the United States is the most important country in the Americas, it is subject to special concentration by secret Nazi agents. One of the earliest of the secret agents sent to this country was an American, Colonel Edwin Emerson, soldier of fortune, mediocre author and fairly competent war correspondent.

Emerson lived at 215 East 15th Street, New York City and had an office in Room 1923 at 17 Battery Place, the address of the German Consulate General. Room 1923 was rented by a representative of the German Consul General. The rent paid was nominal and in at least one instance, to avoid its being traced, it was paid in cash by Hitler’s diplomatic representative. Prior to the renting of this room, Emerson had desk space with the German Consulate General for six weeks.

The May 15, 1933, issue of the Amerika Deutsche Post, a Nazi propaganda organ published in New York, carried an advertisement stating that the editor of this paper made his headquarters in Emerson’s room. This was the first indication that Emerson had arrived in this country to handle Nazi propaganda.

For many years Emerson had wandered about the globe covering assignments for newspapers and magazines and always bragging about his Americanism and his “patriotism.” One of his great boasts was that he was with Roosevelt’s Rough Riders during the Spanish-American war; what he never told was that Roosevelt brought him back from Cuba in irons.

From his room paid for by the German Consul General, Emerson launched the “Friends of Germany.” This organization was the chief disseminator of pro-Hitler and anti-democratic propaganda in the United States, but the Colonel directed the propaganda somewhat stupidly. The “Friends of Germany” held meetings with “storm troops” in full uniform; bitter attacks were made against Jews and Catholics at large mass meetings.

Visiting officers and sailors, from German ships docked in New York, appeared at these meetings to preach fascism and Nazism, until a wave of resentment swept the country. One of the keynotes of these talks was sounded by Edward F. Sullivan of Boston at a meeting held at Turnhalle, Lexington Avenue and 85th Street, on June 5th, 1934, when he repeatedly referred to Jews as “dirty, stinking kikes” and announced that he proposed to organize a strong Nazi group in Boston.

Anti-fascist demonstration. Washington DC, January.

Propaganda Minister Goebbels in Berlin became annoyed at the public reaction, and the entire Nazi foreign propaganda service was reorganized. Emerson was ordered back to Germany for explicit instructions on how to carry on propaganda without antagonizing the entire country.

In October, 1933, Royal Scott Gulden (who has no connection with the mustard business, but is a distant relative of the head of it), who had been cooperating with Emerson, tried to organize an espionage system to watch Communists. In this effort Gulden enlisted the aid of Fred R. Marvin, a professional patriot. At three o’clock on the afternoon of March 10, 1934, a very secret meeting was called by Gulden at 139 East 57th Street. Present were Gulden, J. Schmidt and William Dudley Pelley, head of the Silver Shirts.

The meeting decided to adopt anti-semitic propaganda—to play on latent anti-semitism—as part of the first campaign to attract followers. The country was in a serious economic crisis with considerable unrest throughout the land. Both Hitler and Mussolini got into power in periods of great unrest by promising peace and security to the bewildered people.

Men of means were terrified by fears of “revolution” and this group, directed by Emerson, began to preach that the revolution might come any minute and that the Jews were responsible for Moscow, the Third International, the Mississippi flood and anything else that troubled the people. When the meeting ended the “Order of ’76” had been born and Royal Scott Gulden appointed Secretary to direct espionage and propaganda.

One of the other early propagandists who is still active as a “patriot” was Edward H. Hunter, Executive Secretary of the Industrial Defense Association, Inc., 7 Water Street, Boston. Early in 1934, while the negotiations for the merging of the espionage order and the Silver Shirts were going on, this rooter for American liberty heard Germany was spending money in this country and on March 3, he wrote to the “Friends of Germany”:

“Under separate cover we are sending you twenty-five copies of our Swan Song of Hate as requested and you may have as many as you wish.

“Several times I have conferred with Dr. Tippelskirch and at one time suggested that if he could secure the financial backing from Germany, I could start a real campaign along lines that would be very effective.

“All that is necessary to return America to Americans is to organize the many thousands of persons who are victims of Judaism and I am ready to do that at any time.”

In the early days of organizing the Nazi web over the United States, the German agents received cooperation from racketeering “patriots” who saw possibilities of scaring the wits out of the American people by announcing that the “revolution” was just around the corner.

The country was in an economic crisis, the American people were bewildered and didn’t know which way to turn, there was considerable unrest in the land, and the Nazi agents and their American counterparts visualized in Hitler’s cry that “Communism and the Jews” were responsible, grand pickings from the scared suckers.

The American Gentile, backed by Nazi money, published the most insane rantings imaginable. But when one is inclined to dismiss them as insanity, one remembers that it was the same sort of stuff Hitler used in winning millions of bewildered Germans to his banner. The pre-election issue (October, 1936) of the Gentile will serve as an illustration of what they published and distributed through the United States mails:

Former Congressman Louis T. McFadden died on October 1 from a stroke. He was sixty years old. The American Gentile, however, implied that he had been murdered by Jews; Senator Bronson Cutting (killed in an airplane crash) also was murdered by Jews. Huey Long was murdered by Jews. Walter A. Liggett, the newspaper editor, was murdered by Jews, and it was an international ring of Jewish bankers who hired Booth to murder Abraham Lincoln.

Of course it was crazy, but the coal digger in Kentucky or the bedeviled farmer in the Middle West who couldn’t pay his taxes or the unemployed worker in an industrial center who couldn’t find a job did not know history any too well nor understand the workings of the economic system; and when they were told by newspapers brought to them by the United States Government mails that their economic difficulties were due to a Jewish-Communist plot, that Roosevelt was a Jew and was controlled by Jews and Communists, some of them were prone to believe it.

With this irresponsible propaganda, anti-Semitism grew. Men and women were attracted to the Nazi web without dreaming of the forces disseminating the propaganda of the motives behind them.

Adapted from Secret Armies: The New Technique of Nazi Warfare, by John L. Spivak (1939). Photographs courtesy of ep-jhu and Life Leave. Published under a Creative Commons license.