I am adopting a change of venue for my next novel, The Friends of Harry Braham. Instead of picking a European capital in which to set the action, I am sticking close to home. New York City and rural New Jersey will be the setting. As for the timing of the story, it will run from the fall of 1939 through the summer of 1941.
It is not that the events in Europe in the two years leading up to the entry of the US into the Second World War will be ignored. No, indeed it is those events that propel the story from Berlin, Warsaw and Peenemünde across the Atlantic and into the Big Apple. For those who believed that the activities of the supporters of the Third Reich were restricted to places like Prague and Vienna, the settings in this new book may be startling.
For example, the Long Island town of German Gardens, in what is now Yaphank, New York once boasted Adolf Hitler Boulevard and Herman Göring Streets. Houses there had swastikas set into their masonry fronts and Nazi parades were normal events. Up in the Yorkville section of Manhattan’s east side, bierkellers and hofbraus served up a mix of beer, brats and bellicose anti-Semitic rhetoric. The lure of the “New World Order” was well-accepted among the German immigrants of the area.
One place that piqued my curiosity was a place called Camp Norland, in Andover, New Jersey. Once upon a time, on the grounds now occupied by the local government and police offices a camp dedicated to creating an army of hundreds of recruits to the twisted cross flourished. In typical Hitler-Youth style young people of both sexes were sent to spend part of their summer vacations learning to march, sing and shoot so they could be ready for the great awakening that the Reich had planned for America. At the same time, the organizers and instigators of the activities at Camp Norland had more in mind than just teaching Aryan supremacy to willing children.
Back in the late 1930s Sussex county, New Jersey was about as remote as one could get. Located near Lake Iliff, off a back road and far from casual observers, the camp provided just the right atmosphere for stoking the fires of the German-American Bund. Like its brethren in the Ku Klux Klan, the Bund offered the extremists who applauded the global aims of National Socialism an open field upon which to display their twisted ideology.
That the place existed is well-documented and my first ex-father-in-law once told me about it when we were out and about on the county’s back roads in the 1960s. So, it came to me that there was no need to root around in European files for a likely setting, I had it right before me. In this book, Harry doesn’t have to go to Europe to find his villains, this time they come to him.
The period between the invasion of Poland in 1939 and the fall of France in the spring of 1940 was known as the “phony war” or “sitzkrieg” because until the Germans smashed through the Ardennes in May of ’40 inaction was the rule. Here in America, the public’s reaction to the war ran from indifference to boredom. The results of the World Series, and stories of the Hollywood elite captured more headline ink. Of course, those with relatives in the areas overrun by the Wehrmacht were quite worried, but the impact of another war for most Americans who had just come through the depression came in the form of jobs in the defense plants that were swinging into action.
So, keep your eyes on this website for updates. Harry is coming back!
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