HINDENBURG PARK

HOME OF THE AMERICAN GERMAN BUND

In Glendale, close to the border of La Crescenta, is the picturesque Crescenta Valley Park. In 1925, the park was bought by the German-American League, a German heritage organization founded in 1905 that still exists. While a private park, it hosted many German cultural festivals featuring plays, traditional foods, and folk dances, and was also home to the Nazi organization known as the German American Bund.  After the death of Germany’s president Paul von Hindenburg in 1934, the park was renamed in his honor and a statue of him was erected. 

Your Ideal Pinic Grounds
Pro-American Rally, 1939
Mayday Festival

In the late 1930s, the German American Bund used the park to hold rallies featuring national fascist speakers, to sell pro-Nazi literature, and to fundraise. Members wore uniforms, armbands, and flew the American flag next to swastikas and the Bund’s flag. On April 30, 1939 the Bund held a rally in Hindenburg Park with the goal, as espoused on their flyer, to “expose the real enemies of our United States of America,” namely the Jewish immigrants who had fled persecution in Europe. When anti-German sentiment rose in 1939 in response to World War II, the park was renamed La Crescenta Picnic Grounds. 

The documentary Rancho La Cañada: Then and Now gives a brief history of the Bund in Hindenburg Park. Clip used by permission of John Newcombe. 

GERMAN DAYS AT HINDENBURG PARK WITH THE GERMAN AMERICAN BUND

The German American Bund frequently advertised their political activities at Hindenburg Park under the guise of “German Day” celebrations and picnics or May Day festivities, but subsequently hosted rallies in conjunction with charitable events for the American German Aid Society to raise money for Nazi Germany. 

Raising of the Flag
Hindenburg Park Bund march
Swastika Display, 1936

Clockwise starting top- left: 1. Bund choir group of the Friends of New Germany, 2. Children watch the raising of the German American Bund flag, 3. German American Bund members march, 4. Uniformed Bund members and family help to raise a large swastika display, 5. German American Bund members; left-front row is Hans Diebel, fifth-front row is Herman Schwinn.

The Hollywood Anti-Nazi League published the periodical News of the World and covered a Nazi rally, promoted as a “German Day” celebration, that took place in September of 1937 in Hindenburg Park.  

Further coverage in the paper mentioned a report by a Dr. Lechner who was chairman of the County Council of the American Legion, a veteran’s organization in the United States. The report concerned Nazi activities in Southern California and called out a man named R. Kunhe, identified in the report as a “leader of the Stormtroops” and “originator of a plan to nazify American youth” who was present at the rally. In his response to the American Legion, Kunhe attempts to defend himself by denying the charges of being associated with Nazism at the “picnic” even though he was seen saluting the flag and was associated with someone who was attempting to publish a magazine for children in line with the Hitler Youth.  

Page 2, Response to News of the World
Response to News of the World
Hindenburg Park event

GERMAN AMERICAN BUND CAMP - SUTTER YOUTH CAMP

Hindenburg Park also provided a meeting place for the Sutter Youth Camp, which was similar to the Hitlerjugend, or Hitler Youth, indoctrination program in Nazi Germany. The Sutter Youth Camp was one of nineteen Nazi Youth Camps established by the German American Bund in the United States before WWII. The Sutter Youth Camp was established and operated by Hans Diebel.

Camp Sutter, 1940
Camp in Giggstown, NJ
Camp in Andover, NJ

Top Image: German American Bund Camp in Giggstown, New Jersey, Bottom Image: German American Bund Camp in Andover, New Jersey

CRESCENTA VALLEY PARK

Hindenburg Park was sold to the County of Los Angeles in 1957 and was subsequently incorporated into Crescenta Valley Park located just east. The Tricentennial Foundation, an organization whose mission is to “restore and extend our dynamic German American heritage,” advocated for the rededication of the park as “Hindenburg Park.” In 2016, the foundation erected a prominent sign that said, in both English and German, “Welcome to Hindenburg Park,” and called it the “historic German section of Crescenta Valley Park.” Residents and the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys successfully petitioned the County to remove the sign.  

The Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission assembled a committee of community members to create a new sign designed to properly reflect the park’s history. A particular issue for the Commission was the use of the name “Hindenburg.” Paul von Hindenburg was a general and President of Germany from 1925 until his death in 1934. He appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany in 1933, a critical step in the Nazi Party’s rise to power. As Chancellor, Hitler consolidated political power, naming himself Führer und Reichskanzler (Leader and Chancellor of the Reich) after Hindenburg’s death. This led to the start World War II, and the murder of six million Jews and other people targeted because of their ethnicity, political beliefs, religion, sexual orientation or disabilities. The association of Hindenburg with Hitler, as well as the Bund’s well-documented Nazi activities in the park, led the committee to create a more historically accurate and nuanced sign that did not rededicate the park with its historical name, glorifying Hindenburg, Hitler or the ideologies that were spread in Hindenburg Park in the 1930s. The new sign features a map that nods to Crescenta Valley Park’s history of concerts, dancing, and the serving of traditional German food, while also acknowledging the pro-Nazi youth camp and rallies that spread racist beliefs.  

Modern Sign
Modern Sign

The last paragraph of the sign that has stood in Crescenta Valley Park since 2017 reads, 

"Although the events of the 20th century may seem distant, there continues to be a need to guard against all forms of hatred, racism, and totalitarian ideologies of all types. The American ideals of justice and equal opportunity still require our vigilant support."  

Copyright notice: Any materials under copyright in this exhibit are covered by the Fair Use provision of the Copyright Act.  Permission and preferred attribution were requested of all copyright holders.

Citations:

 

HINDENBURG PARK: HOME OF THE GERMAN-AMERICAN BUND: 

Giant Pro-American Rally. Flyer. Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, Community Relations Committee Collection. In Our Own Backyard: Resisting Nazi Propaganda in Southern California 1933-1945. California State University, Northridge Digital Library.  

Day of National Labor and Mayday Festival. Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, Community Relations Committee Collection. In Our Own Backyard: Resisting Nazi Propaganda in Southern California 1933-1945. California State University, Northridge Digital Library

Bust of Paul Von Hindenburg, Hindenburg Park, La Crescenta. Herman J Schultheis Collection. Los Angeles Photographers Collection. Los Angeles Public Library. Circa 1938. Tessa. Reprinted by permission of the Los Angeles Public Library. 

Deutscher Tag im Hindenburg Park. Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, Community Relations Committee Collection. In Our Own Backyard: Resisting Nazi Propaganda in Southern California 1933-1945. California State University, Northridge Digital Library.  

La Crescenta Park: Your Ideal Picnic Grounds. Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, Community Relations Committee Collection. In Our Own Backyard: Resisting Nazi Propaganda in Southern California 1933-1945. California State University, Northridge Digital Library.  

 

Rancho La Cañada: Then and Now. Written, edited and produced by John Newcombe, 2007. Used by permission of John Newcombe. 

 

GERMAN DAYS AT HINDENBURG PARK WITH THE GERMAN-AMERICAN BUND: 

Bund Choir Group. Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, Community Relations Committee Collection. In Our Own Backyard: Resisting Nazi Propaganda in Southern California 1933-1945. California State University, Northridge Digital Library.  

Children at Hindenburg Park. Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, Community Relations Committee Collection. In Our Own Backyard: Resisting Nazi Propaganda in Southern California 1933-1945. California State University, Northridge Digital Library.  

German American Bund, group photo. Los Angeles Herald Examiner Photo Collection. Los Angeles Public Library. 11 Dec. 1964. Tessa. Reprinted by permission of the Los Angeles Public Library. 

Swastika Display, Hindenburg Park. Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, Community Relations Committee Collection. In Our Own Backyard: Resisting Nazi Propaganda in Southern California 1933-1945. California State University, Northridge Digital Library.  

German American Bund Members March at Hindenburg Park. Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, Community Relations Committee Collection. In Our Own Backyard: Resisting Nazi Propaganda in Southern California 1933-1945. California State University, Northridge Digital Library.  

News of the World, Hindenburg Photo Collage, 18 Sept. 1937. Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, Community Relations Committee Collection. In Our Own Backyard: Resisting Nazi Propaganda in Southern California 1933-1945. California State University, Northridge Digital Library

 

R. Kunhe Letter to the American Legion. Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, Community Relations Committee Collection. In Our Own Backyard: Resisting Nazi Propaganda in Southern California 1933-1945. California State University, Northridge Digital Library.  

 
News Research Service headline reads: Sweet charity debased by Nazi camouflage. Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, Community Relations Committee Collection. In Our Own Backyard: Resisting Nazi Propaganda in Southern California 1933-1945. California State University, Northridge Digital Library.  

 

GERMAN-AMERICAN BUND CAMP—SUTTER YOUTH CAMP: 

Camp Sutter Pioneer May 1940. Camp Sutter Nazi Summer Camp in LA. "Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America.” Accessed 12 Feb. 2021. 

German American Bund Camp youth salute Hindenburg in Griggstown, New Jersey. “American Nazis in the 1930s-The German American Bund”. Bettmann Archive. The Atlantic, 5 June 2017

Youths at a German-American Bund camp stand at attention as the American flag and the German-American Youth Movement flag, right, are lowered in a ceremony at sundown in Andover, New Jersey, on July 21, 1937. “American Nazis in the 1930s-The German American Bund.” Associated Press. Ibid. 

 

CRESCENTA VALLEY PARK: 

“German-American History at Crescenta Valley Community Regional Park” sign. Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation. 

“Group Demands Removal of ‘Hindenburg’ Welcome Sign at La Crescenta Park.” KABC, 1 Apr. 2016

 

ADDITIONAL RESEARCH: 

Bell, L. “The Failure of Nazism in America: The German American Bund, 1936-1941.” Political Science Quarterly, 85(4), 1970, 585-599. doi:10.2307/2147597 

Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations. “Approved Motion on Hindenburg Sign as Amended.” 2 May 2016. Center for Conflict Resolution.