As I I have mentioned on several occasions, I am writing a book about the Nazi landing in Amagansett. On the Saturday night of June 13, 1942, four German saboteurs with boxes of explosives came ashore in a rubber boat from a submarine just off of Atlantic Avenue beach, intent on causing havoc in America. The story of how these men were apprehended is a long one (hence the book), but one interesting detail is that the operation was personally thought up by Adolf Hitler.
One year prior to the landing, almost to the day, he was a happy man on top of the world. His armies had swept through Poland, Holland, France and several other countries in Europe, and at his bidding, all on the same day of June 22, 1941, his army, now totaling 3 million men, swept into the Soviet Union on an 800-mile front bent on the conquest of that nation in short order.
Hitler was at the starting point on that day, at a headquarters called Wolf’s Lair near the borders of Poland and Russia. The only troubles he was having was getting England to give up and stopping America from sending weapons to England by sea. Why not strike at the heart of America, spreading terror and sabotage in war factories to bring America to heel? His advisors talked him out of it. America was not in the war. Why anger them?
Six months later, after Pearl Harbor, Hitler was in a whole different mood up at Wolf’s Lair. His armies had failed to get to Moscow. They had bogged down in the bitter winter at the city’s gates, their guns frozen, supplies unavailable, the Russians counterattacking. Simply to save the troops from freezing, he’d had to ask all German civilians to have their heavy winter coats available for shipping to the shivering soldiers at the front. And on top of everything else, America was now furiously in the war.
He called in his advisors again. And this time he told them to go ahead with the terror and sabotage plans for America. When the advisors still objected he flew into a rage. They were to follow his orders. By June, his first boatload of saboteurs had been trained and were on a sub heading to an isolated American beach: Amagansett.
In doing research for this book, I have learned another interesting thing about Hitler and the Germans, which I believe has relevance to an issue being discussed today in the run-up to our upcoming presidential election. Hitler seems to have gone mad right about that time in 1942. Eight years earlier, in 1934, he became President of Germany in a popular vote espousing the view that Germany’s troubles—poverty, depression, defeat and humiliation—had all been caused by the wealthy Jewish money lenders. The politicians were fools. He, this funny, charismatic day laborer and watercolor painter from Austria, had all the answers. And the answers were to get the 522,000 Jews in Germany thrown out of the country.
He passed ever-stricter laws against the Jews trying to get them to leave. He kicked them out of government, out of the professions and universities, he required they get special passports. He was not afraid to kill whoever got in his way. These 500,000-plus had come to Germany from other countries many years before. They were interlopers. He had his goons smash up their stores. He made them wear Stars of David. By 1937 there were only about 200,000 Jews left in Germany.
Since not all the Jews had left, he formulated a plan to have the remaining ones all shipped out to Madagascar, which at that time was a French protectorate. He’d need permission from the French. But he was sure they’d give it. Then an internal report said Madagascar only had facilities for about 5,000 families. It was impossible.
In June of 1938, President Roosevelt, aware of the German desire to send away all its Jews, invited all the countries in the world to a conference beginning on July 6 in Évian les Bains, France. Representatives of 32 countries and 63 private and voluntary organizations attended and during the next nine days tried to decide who could take in these unwanted German citizens in an orderly manner.
Hitler lent his support.
“I can only hope and expect that the other world, which has such deep sympathy for these criminals [Jews], will at least be generous enough to convert this sympathy into practical aid,” he said. “We, on our part, are ready to put all these criminals at the disposal of these countries, for all I care, even on luxury ships.”
The conference decided nothing. It ended without anybody making a meaningful gesture toward helping the German Jews.
Then on May 13, 1939, 937 Jews, all with proper papers, left Hamburg aboard the luxury cruise ship St. Louis bound for Cuba. As soon as the ship got out beyond German waters, the Captain, Gustav Schroeder, ordered his uniformed staff to treat them as if they were honored guests. They were wined and dined and entertained all across the Atlantic. At Havana, however, the government said their papers were no longer acceptable. The St. Louis tried to land in Florida, but the Coast Guard, at the request of anti-Semitic American immigration officials, ushered it away. Canada was the next country to refuse entry. Then Britain announced they would take 288 of them, but they wouldn’t let the St. Louis land in Britain. Instead, the ship could land in Antwerp, Belgium where a smaller British ship would carry those 288 to England. And so, the St. Louis went back across the ocean and at Antwerp, the British kept their word. The rest of the passengers found refuge in the Netherlands, France and Belgium.
On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded and then conquered Poland, Holland, Belgium and France. Now they were masters of almost all of Europe. And suddenly, in addition to the 600 remaining St. Louis passengers in Belgium, Holland and France and the 200,000 Jews still in Germany, Hitler now had to make a decision about an additional 8 million Jews in the rest of Europe and another 3 million in the conquered part of Russia.
Hitler, now unhinged, decided that if he could not force the Jews away, and as seemed likely, he would be overwhelmed in the war, he would go down taking all Jews with him. Just a month after Pearl Harbor, he expressed this very view to advisors. And he ordered a conference to take place in the town of Wannsee, where his second and third in command could explain to the civilian ministers of transportation, chemical manufacturing, railroads and building what their part would be in carrying out the “Final Solution.”
Toward the end of the conference in January of 1942, ministers asked whether loyal Germans with one Jewish grandparent would be spared, or whether those with a wife Jewish but working in the Nazi Party were eligible to be spared. New rules were decided upon. Booklets were printed up.
In doing this research, I wondered if other people, besides those in Germany, could be brought to the edge by a charismatic leader and then follow him over it. This sort of thing had happened in Turkish Armenia, in Kosovo and in Africa during the 19th and 20th centuries
Yes, it can happen anywhere. In 1963, an experiment was conducted at Yale by Professor Stanley Milgram. He told Student A that he would be asking questions of Student B and that if Student B answered the questions wrong, he, Milgram, would instruct that electric shocks be administered by Student A, who had an electric shock machine hooked up to Student B. The shocks would be low voltage at first, then higher. The idea, as explained, was to determine if Student B would perform better under the threat of electric shock.
Student A was not told that nobody would actually be receiving shocks. Student B was an actor, and would shiver and cry out on cue when supposedly receiving one.
The real subject of the experiment was Student A. Would he inflict increasingly serious injury on Student B? Turned out he would. The experiment was done over and over. Again and again, Student A administered what they believed to be increasingly serious shocks on Student B. Although many exhibited signs of anxiety and stress, 65% of the subject administered the highest level shock.
Here in the Hamptons, something heading in that direction began happening in 2007.
President George W. Bush, well aware of the increasing number of Hispanics who had come to America illegally, was persuaded by right- wing supporters to beef up the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by sending “fugitive operations teams” around the country in plain clothes and with weapons, to break into Hispanic residents’ homes at night and roust people out of their beds and bring them in for potential deportation.
Getting a warrant to do this was required, of course, but warrants were easy to get, because ICE was now an arm of Homeland Security and Homeland Security gave these things out freely. In other cases, raiders went in with an administrative warrant needing only supervisor approval. If you pound at a door and someone opens it a crack and you can a foot in, you’re in. That’s it.
Here in Springs, and then later in Westhampton and Riverhead, ICE teams conducted midnight raids on homes that others told them housed Hispanic residents. In one home on Copeces Lane in Springs, a grandmother answered a knock, and with that they charged in and, with five children between ages 4 and 11 screaming, forced 14 members of the Leon family out of their beds. But all had papers. All were here legally. All were members of the same family. This raid, another on Morris Avenue and one in Westhampton, all went off the same way. Other raids took place in Westhampton, Riverhead and Greenport.
In another case, a 12-year-old girl opened the front door in her pajamas and the agents swarmed in—the agents invaded this home in East Hampton even though they had already deported the person they were supposedly seeking.
One of these raids in East Hampton resulted in a report in The New York Times of April 10, 2007 with the headline U.S. RAID ON AN IMMIGRANT HOUSEHOLD DEEPENS ANGER AND MISTRUST. I wrote about many of these raids in this newspaper. I was horrified that children could be treated like this. The East Hampton Town Police Chief said he had not known about it, and if that night he had received a 911 call that intruders had entered a house, his officers might very well have gotten in a gunfight with the plainclothesmen from ICE.
It seemed the ICE agents thoroughly enjoyed doing this job. They’d made errors. Their bosses said they would be re-trained, but then President Bush decided he’d seen enough and the effort was abandoned. A year later, the government paid more than a million dollars to a group of 22 people whose rights were violated in the raids in the Hamptons and elsewhere in New York State. I don’t know how those in other towns in the country handled it during this time before the raids stopped.
At the present time, we are engaged in a very vigorous presidential campaign where one particular candidate, Donald Trump, is openly saying the 11 million illegal immigrants now in this country are at the root of what is wrong with America and, if he’s elected, “will have to go.” Fortunately, they have a place to go to.
He says if elected he will build a wall across our southern border, get the Mexicans to pay for it, and then he’ll have the time to figure out how to get them gone.
He also says that the “anchor babies” will have to go. These are the babies born here with illegal immigrant mothers who receive citizenship because of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The relevant clause in that amendment reads, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside.”
Two days ago, I heard an interviewer ask Sam Clovis, who has come over from the candidacy of Rick Perry to be the campaign manager for Donald Trump to explain how “anchor babies” fit into the Fourteenth Amendment. Here was his answer as I heard it: “We think we have started the discussion. So now we have to talk about it. There’s different ways of interpreting this.”
One can certainly debate whether or not the “illegals” are the cause of all our problems, but it should be remembered that we essentially invited them here. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, economists warned our government that a great prosperity was coming and we did not have the manpower, particularly in the agricultural business, to handle the very lowest paying jobs that would make it possible. Our government then made it known that customs agents on our southern border would not be looking too closely, and so they came.
And they have been doing a very good job. Recently, I met Jeb Bush in East Hampton and he said he had come into town at 5 a.m. and as the sun rose he could see all these illegals doing the landscaping and cleanup. No opinion with this, he said, just a fact about why the place was so beautiful.
One can make a pretty good case that we ought to seriously tighten our southern border at this point. But it is another matter to round up and send off 11 million “illegals” who are here, many with their wives and children. Tearing these families apart and sending them away is, other than for those who are guilty of crimes, inhumane. Instead, these people should be paying taxes like everybody else. They should be contributing for the schools and services. And whether they should be given citizenship after all this is certainly a decision that needs to be addressed. It is not being addressed.
A few weeks ago, two thugs in Boston beat a homeless Hispanic man with a metal pipe, then urinated on him, saying, “Trump is right!”
Trump said it was, “a shame, if true,” but that, “the people that are following me are very passionate.”
The major issue of the election of 2016 is not about any one particular candidate, in my opinion. It is about whether or not the American series of checks and balances in our Constitution will be able to weather the storm of those who think they know how to deal with complex problems that others do not, and are willing to urge us down a road that will result in revealing the worst that is in all of us.