A Princeton-Area Nazi Boys Camp and Civil Liberties in New Jersey in the 1930s

The people of Princeton were on edge one summer in 1934. Six miles away on the banks of the Delaware & Raritan Canal in Griggstown, 200 boys ranging in age between 8 and 16 from New York, Buffalo, and Philadelphia were camping in tents that bore swastika emblems, wearing uniforms apparently modeled on the “Brown Shirts,” singing and speaking in German, and conducting daily military-style drills under the supervision of Hugo Haas, a 23-year-old German immigrant they referred to as “der Führer” (the Leader). The camp opened on a day that turned out to be significant for the American Nazi movement, August 6, 1934, the same date as mass rallies in New York’s Madison Square Garden and other cities nationwide, representing a notable escalation of Nazi activity in the United States. A group then named the Friends of the New Germany sponsored Camp Wille und Macht (which translates to “Will and Power” and was also the name of a Nazi youth magazine in Germany) as a pilot program to test out the idea of a Jungenschaft (the German Youth Movement) summer camp for American children of German descent. It quickly drew both local and national censure, but also raised important questions about American civil liberties.

Madison Square Garden, May 17, 1934. There were multiple such rallies held in New York in this decade. Image taken from Kämpfendes Deutschtum: Jahrbuch des Amerikadeutschen Volkesbundes auf das Jahr 1937, found in the American Civil Liberties Union Records (MC001).

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