If the term “America First” sounds familiar, for those who were around 75 years ago it meant more than so-called patriotic nationalism. It meant fascism, racism, intolerance and anti-Semitism — including a final solution to the “Jewish problem” by eliminating Jews from the United States.
In the Sept. 8, 1944, JT, a year before VJ Day and the end of World War II, a story reported on the America First Party’s convention in Detroit, where members nominated Gerald L.K. Smith (founder of the racist and anti-Semitic Christian National Crusade) as its 1944 presidential candidate.
“A proposal for the deportation of U.S. Jews to a ‘late designated area’ within the next five years and the sterilization of those that remain in this country after that period, was prepared for presentation to the America First Party’s convention here but withdrawn at the last moment,” the story read.
The plank was submitted for the party’s platform by former “Silver Shirter” Homer Mairtz. The Silver Shirts were a fascist organization fashioned after Hitler’s Brown Shirts.
Meanwhile, in an opinion column in the same issue, JT editorial staff categorized the America First Party and its platform as “dangerous.”
“Today in America, in the midst of a war to destroy Hitler and all he stands for, we are witnessing a spectacle which, on the basis of past experience, we cannot ignore. We refer of course to the recent convention in Detroit of the America First Party.”
Although Smith overrode Mairtz’s more heinous proposal, the party’s substituted resolution was nonetheless chilling, prompting the JT opinion writer to urge readers to be vigilant.
“Thus in the midst of a national campaign in which both major political parties have pledged themselves to create a better post-war world, we find a political party in America raising the Jewish issue. This is dangerous stuff. We cannot afford to ignore it.”
Flashback is a feature that honors the JT’s 100th anniversary. Have a particular date you’d like us to look at? Let us know.