Michael Kleen on fascist movements -- both exported from Europe, in the form of the pro-German Bund, and domestic, such as the Black Legion [above] -- in the United States during the Great Depression.
One such group was the Black Legion, a secret offshoot of the Midwestern Ku Klux Klan. An Ohioan named Dr. William Jacob Shepard formed the Legion during the late 1920s, but never intended the group to take on a life of its own. He was a Northerner who idolized the old South, and he “spouted, and apparently believed, the most rotund platitudes about southern chivalry.”[xxx] He was also a baptized Catholic who hated Catholics, and a doctor who did not shy away from violence.
His Black Legion donned black robes instead of white and held secret initiation rituals. “They were asked to endorse the standard nativist anti-immigrant, anti-Negro, and anti-Catholic positions,” Amann explained, and “pledge support to lynch law.”[xxxi] Initiates were often coaxed or deceived into coming to meetings, and then threatened with death if they did not join.[xxxii] The membership of the Legion was spread across Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and parts of Illinois, and the majority of members were urban and working class.[xxxiii]
The Black Legion became more violent and more revolutionary as time went on, bringing them closer to the European fascist model. Bert Effinger, their defacto leader during the 1930s, even planned “to kill one million Jews by planting in every American synagogue during Yon Kippur time-clock devices that would simultaneously release mustard gas.”[xxxiv]
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