American Boys at a Nazi Summer Camp, Upstate New York, Summer of 1937

The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Aug. 5 2014 11:11 AM

American Boys at a Nazi Summer Camp, Upstate New York, Summer of 1937

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 11.07.06 AM

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

Audrey Amidon, of the National Archives’ Motion Picture Preservation Lab, recently shared this film of German-American boys at a Nazi summer camp in Windham, New York, in the summer of 1937.

The German-American Bund, a pro-Nazi organization active in the second half of the 1930s, made the film to promote its summer camp experience. Amidon notes that the film stock reflects “excessive projection,” indicating that the movie had been shown many times, likely for recruitment purposes.

Advertisement

In Germany, the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls expanded throughout the mid-1930s, becoming mandatory for children between 10 and 17 in 1936. Summer camp, hikes, and outdoor adventures were major components of the indoctrination practiced by these youth groups. Nazi ideology held that a vigorous outdoor life would bond children together and make them strong.

The approach would have been familiar enough to American parents, who had begun sending children to summer camps as a restorative and character-building measure starting in the early 20th century. Many of these camps were sponsored by religious or other interest groups, and featured a common slate of activities (the campfire, swimming lessons, arts and crafts) that could be leavened with songs and activities particular to the camp’s special interest.

The Bund camp followed this recipe, as the video shows, while adding a military touch to the proceedings. The children wear shorts with lightning bolts (the insignia of younger echelons of the Hitler Youth) and practice flag drill.

The Bund reached the height of its popularity in 1939, when a rally at Madison Square Garden, held on George Washington’s birthday, drew 20,000 people. The American government outlawed the organization in December 1941, after the United States entered World War II. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The End of Pregnancy

And the inevitable rise of the artificial womb.

Doctor Tests Positive for Ebola in New York City

How a Company You’ve Never Heard of Took Control of the Entire Porn Industry

The Hot New Strategy for Desperate Democrats

Blame China for everything.

The Questions That Michael Brown’s Autopsies Can’t Answer

Foreigners

Kiev Used to Be an Easygoing Place

Now it’s descending into madness.

Technology

Don’t Just Sit There

How to be more productive during your commute.

There Has Never Been a Comic Book Character Like John Constantine

Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 23 2014 1:51 PM Is This the ISIS Backlash We've Been Waiting For?
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 5:53 PM Amazon Investors Suddenly Bearish on Losing Money
  Life
Outward
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 6:55 PM A Goodfellas Actor Sued The Simpsons for Stealing His Likeness. Does He Have a Case?
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:45 AM The United States of Reddit  How social media is redrawing our borders. 
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 23 2014 5:42 PM Seriously, Evolution: WTF? Why I love the most awkward, absurd, hacked-together species.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.