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Nazi Camps and HUAC

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Michael Hiltzik has useful commentary to add to the story of Nazi youth camps in mid-30s New York. The scare over them led to the creation of the Dies Committee, later HUAC.

In Washington, panic about the camp rumors struck Rep. Martin Dies Jr. as a career opportunity.

Dies, a Democrat from the Texas gulf coast, was a slovenly excuse for a congressman. But he had made it onto the powerful House Rules Committee thanks to his connection with Vice President John Nance Garner, who had served in Congress with Dies’ father.

Dies Jr. made himself the leader of the anti-New Deal bloc in the House, a sort of proto-Tea Party group who swore never to vote “aye” on a tax bill or support any New Deal legislation. In May 1938, he offered a resolution calling for an investigation of the purported Nazi summer camps. House leaders saw a chance to keep the indolent Dies out of their hair, by providing him with a distraction. The probe was approved with Dies as chairman, and given a paltry $25,000 for investigating, enough for about a month.

Thus was born the notorious House Committee on Un-American Activities.

It’s again worth nothing here how awful John Nance Garner would have been as a president had FDR not run in 1940.

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