The name may not seem as alarming as what it stood for, except to those who know their history. It was the Efdende Organization, located at 267 St. Nicholas Ave. in Ridgewood — Efdende being the German acronym for “Friends of the New Germany,” and that New Germany being the Third Reich. It was one of the headquarters of the many German-American Nazis and their supporters living in Queens and Brooklyn.
Just a few blocks away, at the corner of St. Nicholas and Palmetto Street, stood the Ridgewood Grove Arena. On April 8, 1934 a group of more than 5,000 American Nazis and sympathizers met at the arena to call for a “boycott against the boycotters,” meaning a boycott of Jewish merchants who stood against Hitler. Like other pro-Nazi groups, the Friends of the New Germany sought a more “neutral” American stance on the German dictator. The chairman of the meeting was Joseph Schuster, a printer who lived on Madison Street in Ridgewood.
Expecting violence, the New York Police Department concentrated 100 patrolmen equipped with tear gas bombs and 50 more detectives at the arena. Violence came, in the form of a clash between the Nazis and the antifascist National Blue Shirt Minutemen, Jewish War Veterans and communists — the latter being our allies, for the most part, in the world war to come.
Five years and five months later, Nazi Germany invaded Poland, touching off the worst conflict in human history. America was not directly involved until the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Four days after that, Germany declared war on the United States, and America returned the favor. Pro-Nazi groups in Ridgewood and elsewhere went underground.
How many of the new immigrants in Ridgewood today know of its Nazi history?