Turn back the clock to the early 1930s,
when Hitler became chancellor of Germany.
Repression of the Jews in Germany had begun with a government
policy of discrimination and exclusion of Jews from German life,
and Jewish life and property were now at risk.
Here in the United States, Hitler had appointed a personal propagandist,
with the title "Leader of the Hitler Movement in the United
And in meeting halls in places like Newark and Irvington that
had populations of German aliens and recent émigrés,
rallies were held by groups, first calling themselves "Friends
of New Germany" and later, the "German-American Bund."
Their leader was Munich-born Fritz Kuhn, who referred to himself
as "the American fuehrer".
His followers wore Nazi uniforms, brown shirts, or swastika lapel
pins, gave the Nazi salute, waved swastika banners, and sang the
German national anthem.
Reactions of Newark's Jews
In Newark, one of the nation's largest Jewish population centers
at that time, one Newark Jewish group organized to stop such pro-Nazi
meetings at Schwaben Hall on Springfield Avenue, and at Montgomery
Hall in Irvington, just over the Newark border.
Other Newark Jewish organizations worked together to mount boycotts
against the import of goods made in Nazi Germany.
Story is Now Told
The story of this piece of Newark history, and what Newark's Jews
did to stop this pro-Hitler encroachment in the Newark area is now
meticulously detailed and documented in an exquisitely-written book
"Nazis in Newark" by Warren Grover, a Newark native, who
devoted seven years to research and interviewing individuals and
their heirs on these 1930s happenings in the Newark area, and how
they were quashed by Newark Jews.
Grover makes clear, early on in "Nazis in Newark", that
the supporters of the Hitler regime, although they operated in American
cities with large German populations, were never large in number,
and were made up of about 60 percent aliens, and the rest Americans
of recent German descent. They represented a very small portion
of the larger population of Americans of German ancestry who were
Stopping the Newark Nazis
The efforts to quash the Nazis in the Newark area and to organize
boycotts involved multiple Jewish groups. However, the major efforts
were exerted by a muscular organization - The Minutemen - Who resorted
to every means possible, inside and outside the law, to crush the
proliferating Nazi activity in their backyard1.
They had the quiet, but unquestioned, backing of Newark's crime
boss, Longy Zwillman, one of America's major bootleggers during
the recently-ended Prohibition era, and a recognized leader in nationwide
Most of the Minutemen funding, however, came from donations from
Jewish businessmen through paid memberships and dues in the organization.
The core of the Minuteman organization seemed to have been drawn
from ex-prizefighters, taxi and truck drivers, movers, basketball
players, and young college students. Some had helped run booze for
Longy from boat-offloading to warehouse during the earlier Prohibition
The leadership of the Minutemen was taken over by Nat Arno, a
onetime prizefighter and a former associate of Longy Zwillman, in
1934, and he actively led the group for six years until 1940.
Their main occupation seemed to be breaking up meetings of the
Hitler-followers with fists, baseball bats, newspaper and rubber
covered iron pipes, and stench bombs.
Their attacks at Nazi meetings often resulted in the Nazis panicking
and running away. As one participant recalled: "We chased them
and beat them up...Nazi arms, legs, and ribs were broken and skulls
were cracked, but no one died."
How the Boycotts Succeeded
A portion of "Nazis in Newark" deals with how such Newark
groups such as the Jewish War Veterans joined with other Jewish
fraternal and welfare groups, and how they worked together to convince
the owners of Newark's department stores, and other merchants or
food distributors not to import or sell merchandise made in Nazi
Germany, and of some of the 'arm-twisting' and monitoring that was
done by the membership to make the boycott 100 percent effective.
Period Covered by Book
The book "Nazis in Newark" covers, essentially, the
period from Hitler's ascension to power to the eve of World War
II, when the 'commander' of the Minutemen, Nat Arno, was drafted
into the Army, and at about the same time, the German-American Bund
Uniqueness of Author's Book
In the course of "Nazis in Newark," author Warren Grover
delves into and describes, in illuminating ways not previously seen
in print, Newark's vibrant Jewish life, and the evolvement of Newark's
Jewish community as one of the largest and most active in America.
Among its approximately 65,000 Jews, there were, in the 1930s,
140 Jewish fraternal and family associations, Newark branches of
16 national organizations, eight athletic clubs, and three political
He provide details, previously little-known, of Newark's Jewish
leaders, especially in Newark politics where Newark had a Jewish
mayor from 1933 to 1941 -- Meyer C. Ellenstein -- and how he was
aided in snaring that post. He also talks about leaders in the clergy,
in business and in industry...in medicine and the professions...and
how they reacted individually and collectively to area Nazi incursions
that were harmful or upsetting to Jews.
"Nazis in Newark" is thus as much a detailing of Newark's
Jewish history as it is of Newark's pro-Nazi activities. And because
it was assembled with the aid of scores of personal interviews,
it has the read and feel, for the reader of hearing it from insiders
who were there and lived through it.
My Personal Reaction to Book
I, for one, thought to give "Nazis in Newark" a quick
glance when I brought the book home. However, when I opened it and
got started, I didn't put it down until four hours later.
It's that kind of a book.
As a son of Jewish immigrants who grew up in Newark, in the heavily-Jewish
Third Ward, and was familiar with many of the book's locales and
participants, I marveled at how meticulously author Grover had pieced
together the various strands of Newark's divergent Jewish life,
while never losing focus of the main object of his work -- the Nazi
encroachment in the Newark area.
"Nazis in Newark" embraces a telling not only of Jewish
history, but of Newark history, and American history. It provides
expertly-written coverage of the Newark area from 1933 to 1941 in
a clear way, while dealing with topics not previously touched upon
Credit to the Publisher
It is to the credit of Grover's publisher -- Transaction Publishers
-- based on the Rutgers University campus, that they have undertaken
to publish this monumental history by a native Newarker who was
also a former Newark history teacher and a well-connected Jewish
community leader -- a man who knew all the right buttons to press,
whom to interview and what archives to search to create this exceptional
and fascinating work.
"Nazis in Newark" serves yet another important function.
It marvelously augments and fills in many gaps in an earlier book
from the same publisher: "The Enduring Community: The Jews
of Newark and Metrowest" by Professor William Helmreich, published
Author Grover vs. Author Helmreich
What make's Grover's "Nazis in Newark" special, for
me at least, is that while Professor Helmreich's earlier Jewish
history of Newark filled a niche as a detailed history of Newark
Jewish life, mainly in the first half of the 20th century, it was
researched and written by a professor of sociology and Judaic studies
from New York City.
Warren Grover, on the other hand, writes as a native Newarker
who grew up there, went to school there (Weequahic High), worked
in and taught history there, and knows the history of Newark's now-disappeared
Jewish community intimately.
Author Grover has other outstanding credentials. He is a founder
of the Newark History Society. He also serves on the boards of the
New Jersey Historical Society and the Jewish Historical Society
of Metrowest (which includes Newark), of which he is the ex-President.
* * *
Published by Transaction Publisher, New Brunswick NJ 08903
Cloth edition: $49.95 (ISBN 0-7658-0193-0)
Paper edition: $24.95 (ISBN 0-7658-0516-2)
Available in Bookstores, at Amazon.com,
or from Transaction
Publishers at (732) 445-1245.
* * *
Postscript to "Nazis in Newark"
A block above the Newark line in Irvington, at the corner of Montgomery
Avenue and Hopkins Place, which was between Springfield and Clinton
Avenues, there was a meeting hall for German groups called "Montgomery
The Montgomery Hall property included the meeting hall and an
outside picnic area with tables -- all surrounded by a huge wooden
In the 1930s Hitler-era, neighborhood residents who were non-German,
and a few nearby Jewish families referred to the place as "Hitler
The rallies usually were short-lived and lasted until the anti-Nazi
Minutemen from Newark's Third Ward would race over and break them
The son of a neighborhood merchant doing business near Montgomery
Hall recalled for me recently that on VE Day (Victory in Europe)
when Germany capitulated, in the midst of the joy and happiness
that prevailed in the neighborhood, the now-outlawed Nazi sympathizers
got to Montgomery Hall and ran up the American flag, field downward
on the flagpole as a distress signal.
Again anti-Nazi activists were summoned to the scene, and local
and state police were called into quell the disturbance that followed.
The area was then shut down.
He also recalled for me that on VE Day, some of the neighbors
on Ellis Avenue "had constructed effigy's of Hitler, tied ropes
around them, tossed them over the telephone wires, and burnt them
Then, as an afterthought, he added "I just remembered; It
is a funny thing that during that time, even those whose roots were
from Berlin, suddenly became Austrian."