Nov 18, 2017

A Night At The Garden

A Night At The Garden
Marshall Curry (2017)
On February 20th, 1939, an event was held at Madison Square Garden that was attended by over 20,000 people.  It was organized by the German American Bund and promoted with a sign outside the venue which called the event a "Pro-American Rally".  Just over six months after this event took place, the Invasion of Poland began, and with it came the start of World War II.

This rally at Madison Square Garden has been all but forgotten with the passage of time, but director Marshall Curry has combined footage from the National Archives, the Sherman Grinberg Film Library, Streamline Films, and the UCLA Film and Television Archive into a seven minute long documentary that shines a light on this shameful night in our country's history to serve as both a history lesson and as a warning.

New York Daily News (New York, NY) - February 21, 1939

Attendees to the Pro American Rally that night in New York stood as Fritz Julius Kuhn led them in reciting The Pledge of Allegiance to a row of American flags.  Both he and the flags stood on a stage with a massive portrait of George Washington flanked by two swastikas on the wall behind them.  Following the pledge, the crowd erupted into applause and Sieg Heil salutes.  The footage continues to show part of a hate-filled speech that is interrupted by a protester who was beaten while the crowd watched on in what appeared to be delight.

This documentary isn't a work of fiction.  It doesn't show something from another planet or a parallel dimension.  This took place less than a hundred years ago in New York City at a venue that is known throughout the world.  This is our fellow citizens who have allowed public speakers to manipulate their ignorance, their fears, and their intolerance of others into a movement that led to the bloodiest war in the history of the humankind.  It is a phenomenon that we're seeing play out in the world around us today.  The symbols may have changed, and the rhetoric has been updated for the new millennium, but the method remains the same: incite the masses by playing into their ignorance, their fears, and their intolerance of others to serve the purpose of the fuhrer, whether that be a failed infantryman in the Bavarian Army, or a failed casino mogul.

We are living in dangerous times, and A Night At The Garden reminds us of where this can lead.  I hope that a documentary filmmaker in the future doesn't have a reason to piece together footage from the rallies that are being held in our time to teach others about what the rise of fascism looks like.