The German American Bund movement in Portland

My post last month about the Weimer/Heritage building mentioned the closing of Portland’s German American Club and accusations that the club and some of its members were “un-American.” More specifically, leading members of Portland’s German community (and undoubtedly similar people around the country) were under surveillance for being Nazi party sympathizers.

The Columbia River Basin Ethnic History Project (CRBEHP)  has in its collection a document (visible in a scan here) wherein Otto Uhle, mentioned in my earlier post as under suspicion for holding “un-American” views, was specifically named as a Nazi by an unnamed visitor to the German Aid Society in mid-1941 (not long before the United States entered World War II).

In the late thirties, Americans who were pro-Nazi agitated for U.S. support of Germany in a variety of ways, with the most notable being the formation of the German American Bund movement. The Third Reich government disavowed any connection to the movement, according to Alejandro de Quesada in his book “The US Home Front, 1941-45,” but the FBI kept a close eye on the Bund and similar organizations. de Quesada describes a Bund rally at Madison Square Garden in 1939 that attracted 22,000 people, who heard speeches denouncing “Frank D. Rosenfeld.”

Portland had its own Bund chapter, and the CRBEHP collection includes surveillance documents of the German American Bund.  Here is part of a report written after a Bund meeting in January, 1939:

It was the general opinion of those present that the Jew as a class has gone too far and too openly assumed too great a prominence in the United States and by so doing has put himself on the spot and as one man expressed it: The Jew is cornered, trapped, and slobbering. He has been found out and he will now have to pay.

One man stated that there is a fast growing Anti Jewish feeling in America and especially in Portland. One said that in his opinion it will not be more than 18 months till Jew and Gentile will be in a bloody war all over the country and as always in history the Jew will lose out. Another said that when America starts she will really show the old world how to handle such a matter, and that in the good old American way, necktie parties will be quite popular.

Another such surveillance report of a German American Bund meeting in Portland in 1939 tells of a visit from an “Indian,” who described efforts by a “New York Jew” who came to a Northwest-Indian meeting in Yakima and tried to rally Indians to demonstrate in DC. According to the speaker, the Indians rebuffed their visitor’s attempt to make them “the Goat for a Communist Demonstration” and he was “escorted off the reservation.” The speaker also noted that “the Jew control… will be broken by bullets or blood… The Indians were all well informed and well organized and at the proper time could be relied upon to do their part.”

The Bund movement collapsed when the United States entered World War II.  Dr. Uhle, whose office was above Geist Dry Goods at 3933 NE Union (in a building that still stands), was “sent east as far as Chicago,” according to the ‘Volga Germans in Portland’ website, and “upon his return to Portland after the war, Dr. Uhle was never allowed to practice at any of the bigger hospitals of Portland, so had his clinic on N.E. 7th and Fremont and placed his patients at Sellwood or Holiday [sic] Park Hospitals.”


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