Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Montage of images and link description. Lindbergh Imagemap: linked to kids and home
The Film and More
Imagemap(text links below) of menu items
The American Experience
The Film & More
Reference
Interview Transcripts | Bibliography | Primary Sources


Arnold Foster on:
Lindbergh's Political Viewpoint

Arnold Foster Q: So in America First, he decided to take his position public. Characterize that for me.

AF: His view was that Germany was a good idea--Nazi Germany--that if it achieved, it would bring order to the world. He preferred to see Germany win over the Soviet Union. There was a period of time, of course, when the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were partners in league. And that's what motivated him. He was not motivated by an un-American, anti-democratic attitude. He was motivated because he sincerely, in my judgment, believed that Nazi Germany was on the right path.

Q: But he talked about the tide of color, overwhelming the white race. He talked about racial strength being vital-- politics being a luxury.

AF: That was Nazi propaganda, my friend, that he was taken in by. And I have to say to my own regret that there was much racism across the entire white world in those years. He was not unusual. He was part of the crowd in feeling that there was racial superiority in the white race.

Q: Do you remember any of those speeches that he made?

AF: Take, for example, his position when he spoke at the Madison Square Garden, where I attended the meeting--a filled meeting. Senator Wheeler was another prominent American there. He talked there about the eminent death of democracy, the death of human freedom, if the United States engaged in battle with Nazi Germany--then on the wrong side.

So that he misconceived even that Germany was fighting for human freedom. Human freedom was anathema to Nazi Germany. He was not, I should say, anti-Jewish at that point, which was a central concern of mine. He argued that the election promises made by Franklin Roosevelt meant that we would stay out of Europe's problems, and that the administration was violating its own commitments.

Q: What was the scene like there? How did the crowd respond? What was the feeling when he walked up to the podium?

AF: I would say that the crowd went crazy. It was an isolationist crowd. It was an American First Committee crowd--a committee to keep the American community from foreign entanglements. It was essentially an isolationist movement. Here came the most important, the most popular, the most respected American in the whole group of isolationists. And he was the role model for them.

Q: What happened to his speeches in '39, '40, '41?

AF: Well as he indulged in his isolationist philosophy on the public platform, he began to develop a counter movement to what he was arguing. And there were respectable, responsible voices in this country that began to condemn him for what appeared to be the motivations for his isolationist position, which was a pro-German attitude, an anti-British attitude.

Great Britain became an enemy to him. He began to couple Great Britain with the United States, which was on the wrong side of Germany so far as he was concerned. And then he began to develop his enemies-- all those he believed were trying to support France and England against Germany.

Q: Was he anti-Semitic?

AF: He was not. He may well have been from the very beginning. But as I recall it, in New York City at the Madison Square Garden, certainly I never heard the word Jew or an implication. Before that, he talked about the minorities that controlled the press, the radio...

Q: He talked about the Jewish problem. He wrote about it, without putting it in quotes. Did he really think that there was a Jewish problem?

AF: No. He deeply believed that the Jews wrongly opposed Hitler. And he said, "I understand why they would." But what they don't understand is that when Hitler succeeds, they'll pay the penalty of having fought him. Although I say, several times on several platforms, as I recall it, he said I understand the anti-Hitler attitude of Jews. But they shouldn't be pushing this country, which doesn't belong in that war across the ocean, into that war. And that's what he had against Jews.

He believed in the conspiracy concept. He believed that there was a conspiracy between the British, the Administration in Washington, and the Jews, and the internationalists. And he also blamed, I must say, a large chunk of the media. If there were television in those days, he would have included them, along with his attacks on radio and press.

back to Interview Transcripts | next


Program Description | Enhanced Transcript | Reference

THE FILM & MORE | SPECIAL FEATURE | TIMELINE | MAPS | TEACHER'S GUIDE

THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE | KIDS | SEARCH | FEEDBACK

WGBH | PBS Online

©

Exclusive Corporate Funding is provided by: