The rise of Nazism before World War II wasn’t limited to Germany. The German-Americna Bund (Amerikadeutscher Volksbund) formed in Buffalo, New York, in 1936, to promote a favorable view of Nazi Germany. It quickly grew to 70 local groups around the country, with 20 training camps where kids aged 8-18 practiced military drills and wore Nazi-style uniforms. By 1939, 20,000 people attended the Bund’s Pro American Rally in Madison Square Garden.
When Prohibition ended in 1933, Jewish American gangsters who had been running liquor businesses suddenly had more time on their hands, and they decided to fight back against the Bund. In Newark, New Jersey, Abner “Longie” Zwillman formed a secret organization called the Minutemen to fight the Nazis. The Minutemen, who operated from 1933 to 1941, would break up Bund meetings using their fists, baseball bats, and stink bombs. The Minutemen were based in New Jersey, but Jewish gangsters around the country fought the Bund, including in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles.
To help us learn more, I’m joined on this episode by Leslie K. Barry, author of the historic novel, Newark Minutemen: A True 1930s Legend about One Man's Mission to Save a Nation's Soul Without Losing His Own, whose uncle was a Minuteman in Newark in the 1930s.
Our theme song is Frogs Legs Rag, composed by James Scott and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons. The image is: “German American Bund parade in New York City on East 86th St.,” World-Telegram photo, New York, 1937, Public Domain. The audio clip is from the German American Bund Rally on February 20, 1939, and is in the Public Domain.
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Kelly Therese Pollock 0:00
This is Unsung History, the podcast where we discuss people and events in American history that haven't always received a lot of attention. I'm your host, Kelly Therese Pollock. I'll start each episode with a brief introduction to the topic, and then talk to someone who knows a lot more than I do. Be sure to subscribe to Unsung History on your favorite podcasting app, so you never miss an episode. And please tell your friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, maybe even strangers to listen too. Today, we'll be talking about Nazis in the United States and the Jewish mobsters who work to stop them. The rise of Nazism before World War II, wasn't limited to Germany. In 1933, under the authority of Nazi Deputy Fuhrer, Rudolf Hess, a German immigrant to the United States, named Heinz Spanknobel, formed an American Nazi organization called The Friends of New Germany. The organization was based in New York City, but had a presence in Chicago as well. The five to 10,000 members demanded that German language newspapers print pro Nazi articles, and used propaganda to counter the Jewish boycott of German goods. Following Congressman Samuel Dickstein investigations of Nazi and fascist groups in the US, Congress formed the Special Committee on UnAmerican Activities, which was authorized to investigate Nazi propaganda activities and certain other propaganda activities. The conclusion of the investigation and hearings was that the Friends of New Germany was a branch of the Nazi Party in the United States. In 1935, Hess ordered the leaders of the group back to Germany and the Friends folded. On March 19, 1936, the Amerikadeutscher Volksbund or German American Bund formed in Buffalo, New York as a follow up to the Friends. The elected leader of the Bund was Fritz Julius Kuhn, an American citizen who had been born in Germany, and was a veteran of the Bavarian infantry during World War I. The Bund was a huge organization, which divided the US into three Gaue: east, west and midwest with 70 Ortsgruppen (local groups) at the next level down. Each Gau had a leader called a Gauleiter, as well as staff to manage operations. The Bunds also set up around 20 training camps, including Camp Nordlund in New Jersey, Camp Siegfried in New York, Camp Hindenburg in Wisconsin, Deutschhorst Country Club in Pennsylvania, and Camp Sutter in California, resembling Hitler youth camps in Germany. The campers, boys and girls, aged eight to 18, were taught to speak German and sing German songs, like "Deutschland Deutschland Uber Alles." Campers marched in military drills, and practiced shooting rifles, all while wearing their Nazi style uniforms. The Bunds held many rallies and parades, but their most audacious event was held on February 20, 1939, in Madison Square Garden in New York City. More than 20,000 people attended the Pro American Rally, scheduled to celebrate George Washington's birthday. A 30 foot tall banner of Washington, whom they hailed as the first fascist was flanked by US flags and swastikas. The speeches were filled with anti semitic rhetoric and American boosterism. National PR Director of the Bund, Gerhard Wilhelm Kunze, pointed to the threat of white nationalism that ran through American history as protecting the Aryan character of the nation, pointing to such policies as anti miscegenation laws, The Chinese Exclusion Act, and Jim Crow laws. The speakers called FDR Rosenfeld instead of Roosevelt, claiming he was under the control of rich Jews. The rally also drew 1000s of protesters, and the NYPD had 1700 officers on duty.
New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia had allowed the rally to go forward agreeing with the American Jewish Committee that free speech for everyone included free speech for Nazis. Some protesters managed to enter the rally itself. 26 year old Jewish plumber Isadore Greenbaum made his way to the stage just as German born Fritz Kuhn was saying, "Wake up you Aryan, Nordic, and Christians to demand that our government be returned to the people who founded it." Greenbaum fought his way through the guards, jumped on stage, pulled over Kuhn's microphone, and yelled, "Down with Hitler!" As Greenbaum's grandson later remarked, "He had a black eye and a broken nose, but he said he would have done it all again." Greenbaum was arrested and fined for disrupting the rally. He later fought the Nazis with the US Navy in World War II. Greenbaum wasn't the only Jewish American to stand up to the Bund. Abner "Longie" Zwillman of Newark, New Jersey who had run a liquor business during the Prohibition formed the secret organization called the Minutemen to fight the Nazis. The Minutemen, who operated from 1933 to 1941, would break up Bund meetings using their fists, baseball bats and stink bombs, and they once attempted to bomb Fritz Kuhn's car. Jewish boxer Nat Arno was one of the first recruits in the group, which may have numbered as many as 200 people, mostly working class Jewish Americans in their 20s, although the active group was likely smaller. The Minutemen were based in New Jersey, but Jewish gangsters around the country fought the Bund, including in Chicago, Minneapolis and Los Angeles. In 1939, a New York District Attorney prosecuted Fritz Kuhn for embezzling $14,000 from the Bund. He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. While he was in prison, his citizenship was canceled, and he was interned by the federal government during World War II and deported back to Germany after the war. The German American Bund collapsed soon after the Madison Square Garden rally. Support for Nazis in the US faded when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, and France and the UK declared war. In 1941, the US government outlawed the German American Bund. To help us learn more, I'm joined now by writer Leslie K. Barry, author of the novel "Newark Minutemen: a True 1930s Legend About One Man's Mission to Save a Nation's Soul Without Losing His Own." But first I'll play a short clip of audio from the 1939 Madison Square Garden rally, which is in the public domain.
Unknown Speaker 8:19
"Introducing the next speaker, I do so with a feeling of personal affection. We love him for the enemies he has made. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Fritz Kuhn."
Fritz Kuhn 8:42
"Ladies and gentlemen, fellow Americans, American patriots, I'm sure I do not come before you tonight as a complete stranger even for those of you for who I have not had the honor to face for the first time. You all have heard of me through the Jewish controlled press as a creature with horns, a cloven hoof, and a long tail. They will say that I'm putting over on you a hocus pocus and that I'm not what I'm appear to be, that what I say to you is propaganda prepared for me by Mr. Goebbels, at the urging of Chancellor Hitler. For of course, no German American citizen can express an opinion that does not conform to the standardized order of the beat prescribed by us for sentries, Rabbi Wise, [indecipherable] and Dickstein. However, you can believe me when I say that I have not the honor to be in in the confidence of the Führer. They will surely accuse us of far reaching ambition unless you aliens, Nordics, and Christians wake up, and not only speak out in terms of tongues, to the men that our government shall be returned to the American people who founded it, but also will put your shoulders to the wheel and act understandingly. We, determined American Bund, organized as American citizens with American ideals and determined to protect ourselves, our homes, our wives and children, against the slimy conspirators, who will change this glorious republic in the, into the inferno of a Bolshevik paradise. We, I say we will not fail you, when called upon to give every lawful support in our power in the fight to break the grip, and the parasite hand of Jewish communism, in our schools, our universities, our very homes."
Kelly Therese Pollock 11:19
Hi, Leslie, thank you so much for joining me today.
Leslie K. Barry 11:22
Oh, thank you for having me, Kelly. This is a really interesting angle for me to be presenting on.
Kelly Therese Pollock 11:28
Yeah, so I am just so blown away by the story. You know, it's one of these, like, a lot of the stories that I cover on this that I just I can't believe I didn't know it before. I can't believe it's there in history. And I had no idea. So talk me through a little bit how you first came to know about these Newark Minutemen, and got interested in this story.
Leslie K. Barry 11:52
Yeah, so it's interesting. You know, people often ask me if I had planned to write or wanted to write or have written before, and I wasn't really looking for this story. It sort of, it sort of found me. And the spark of it was that, I guess about six years ago now at my mom's 90th; and so my mom's 96, and still going strong here. But at her 90th, my sisters and I said, "Let's, let's have 90 people there. Let's let's get all the old cousins and friends and everything, and so we rounded everybody up." And so just to give you some background, my mom born in 1925, she grew up grew up in Newark, New Jersey, and she was the youngest of five kids. And her parents were immigrants who came over during one of the pogroms. And so they were this classic melting pot, immigrant family. And so growing up with all that family, we'd heard all these stories of, you know, everything from the Crash of '29, to the Great Depression, and the brother, one brother stealing milk from the other and how poor they were. And then, of course, you know, the wars. And she said, they lived through three pandemics, and we're only living through one. So. So anyway, we grew up with all these stories. And at this event, they started talking about another story that we were partially familiar with. And that was about her older brother, my Uncle Harry. And they started talking about Harry, he was a prize fighting Golden Glove boxer back in the 30s, of which a lot of Jewish boys were back then. And so they went on about that. And we knew about that story, because there's a newspaper article, everybody in our family has a Golden Glove, we, we have that. But then they started talking about, they said, "Esther," my mom, they said, "Remember when Harry used to come home at three o'clock in the morning, and your mom would yell at him for being out there beating up the Nazis?" And I kind of did this double take and I'm like, "What do you all mean, beating up the Nazis? We're in NewJersey?" I said, "You mean when he was in the war?" And they're like, "No, no, no, there were these Nazis in America." And, and they said, you know, especially New Jersey, because that was one of the most populated places and where a lot of the immigrants settled. And it was an organization or a party called the German American Bund. And they were literally a Hitler shadow party, whose goal was to rule America from the inside out and become an unofficial Nazi Party and put a president up for candidate and my uncle was part of a group that was recruited to stop them.
Kelly Therese Pollock 15:02
It's just it's such a wild story. You know, it feels like one of these, like alternative histories, you know, like, what might have happened, but it really happened.
Leslie K. Barry 15:10
Right? You know, there was a story. I don't know if you've ever heard of "Plot Against America." But that was a story that was a dystopian novel. And I always tell people, and that's where actually Charles Lindbergh does become president. I always tell people, This is the real life prequel to that story. And that would have happened if, if this had all come true.
Kelly Therese Pollock 15:31
Yeah. So you start with these family stories with your mom and other relatives talking about this. What are some of the other ways that you dug into this? Because then you did more research to to find out like, what the heck was going on? And why? Why don't we know about it?
Leslie K. Barry 15:47
Yeah, no, I, I became possessed with with the story because like you I had never heard of it either. And I asked my kids, I said, "Did you did you guys learn this in history?" And they're like, "No." And so I became obsessed, possessed with finding out really and truly about this story. And first, just to give you a little bit idea about who these people were, who this party was, so again, Great Depression, before World War II, we're this incredibly divided country. You know, we think we're divided now; it was, we were way divided back then nobody wanted to go back to war. Everybody lost trust in America. And so sneaking in an in, in that void, was this group called The Bund. And they were heavily funded by Germany, nationwide. And at the top, they had a fuhrer, American fuhrer. His name was Fritz Kuhn, who divided our country up into three sections. And within each section, there were 1000s of cells, all reporting up to him just like the it was like a Nazi prototype of what was how it was structured in in Germany. And he created a corporation, it was actually that was a brilliant part of what he did it. It was a corporation with six divisions. And like, so one of the divisions was this training division where they would literally train, it was the soldierhood, and they would smuggle they smuggled in Nazi uniforms. They trained groups of men, you know, with guns, with uniforms, they would actually use our guns from our NRA, because back then the NRA was, if you were a member, they would give you a gun for free. So they took our guns, they went to our National Guard, and were trained. They were both trained by some of their officers from World War I, but also some of our National Guard trained them in rifling, and all of that. And they conspired to commit espionage and sabotage. And that was so one of the units or divisions. They had a newspaper division. And one of the most interesting divisions they had was a real estate division that bought up 25 pieces of real estate across the country, and Fuhrer Fritz Kuhn turned these large parcels into Nazi youth camps. And that was that was part and one of the most chilling parts for me that and and I have a website, I'll give you at the end, and you can go on there, I've put pictures and everything. But basically, they mirrored the camps in Germany: it was Nazi youth, you only spoke German, you studied "Mein Kamf" and all the other, I mean, from our side, it's propaganda, but all of the other documents. There was physical training, like hard physical training for I'm talking 12 year old boys and girls. And it was interesting, one of the resources, so to get back to your question, "Where did I find some of this information?" There were two really, really interesting pieces of information beyond some of the things I found. But one of them and I'll go through each of them, but one of them was this book called "Wunderlich's Salute." And it was written by it's an out of print book. And it was written ,in the 1970s, by a social studies teacher who came across these Nazi youth camps. And in fact, I believe he had one of the children of the children in his class or something, somebody told me the story. Anyway, he became fascinated with this subject, so fascinated that he quit his job and went around the country finding the children that had been at our American Nazi youth camps, interviewing them. And I was able to find this book and I sent away for it and it actually came and when I opened it, actually a couple letters fell out from the children or well, they're grown children now. But so that was really interesting to get some of the firsthand stories from these kids that lived at these camps. And the bottom line was, the goal was, this was a piece of Germany in America. And you were living it, you know, as a German, not a German American. And eventually, as a German, you would take over America. America would be German. So in terms of how I found this, it it, it started with my mom after that, that event, we took my sisters and I took sort of took my mom on the road, and she's 90 or 90 years old, and we made her visit all our old cousins, and all the memories, they as they were talking, you know, all these stories came out. And so started interviewing my mom about the time one of her cousins lived right next door to I'll have to get into this a little bit more, I guess. But the the the boxers were actually under the Mafia, the Jewish Mafia. And she lived right next door to the hideout of the Mafia. And she would talk about the different interactions, and her dad was actually the barber to the Mafia. But just to continue down this line a little bit. After we took my mom on the road, started peeling away the story, my mom went to the school in Newark that all the Jewish kids went to called Weequahic High School. And she's part of the alumni. And so we wrote the alumni, my cousin and I, and we said, "Do you all have any stories about this group that that my uncle was in called The Newark Minutemen, who was a resistance group that actually fought this, this rising party?" And I got all these stories back about these. "Yes, my uncle was a Newark Minuteman, he was a boxer. He was a Newark Minuteman." And so I got all of those stories. And then I found 1000s of pages of only recently unsealed FBI documents that had testimony from everybody from the Bund to the children in the Nazi camps, and archives from some of the Justice Department. And then one of the most interesting pieces that I found was these two brothers in Chicago, one was a newspaperman, one work for the FBI. They were recruited by the newspaper to go undercover for six months. This is a couple years before my story starts. So they went undercover, really got into the inner circle, and ended up writing this 14 Page newspaper daily story. And I happen to I'm really into ancestry. And I went on and I created their family, the two brothers. And at the bottom, one of the footnotes was that the diaries of John and James Metcalf were in the Hoover Institute, over here at Stanford. And so I said, "Okay, that's interesting." And, you know, I'd never really been to an archive before, but I became a member and I went over there, and it was unbelievable. I, I found these 12 boxes of diaries of the two brothers. And I took, you know, well I ended up meeting the the son of one of the brothers, and he gave me permission. And I took some of the scenes that were, again, chilling scenes of initiation and oaths, oaths to Hitler, and notes, you know, there were little pieces of paper from restaurants where you could tell they were like, turning and hiding and writing down notes that, you know, oh, my God, I'm gonna, you know, whatever they would find out. But anyway, I incorporated a lot of these stories into into my story. So those were some of the big pieces of information that I found.
Kelly Therese Pollock 24:24
Yeah. So there's no shortage of information here. And, you know, you mentioned the FBI files have just recently been unclassified, but the rest of it was out there. And there are people who were still alive who knew about this. So why is this a story that we don't know more about? You know, why, why has it been? And especially for you, who's whose uncle was part of this? Why, why is this hidden history?
Leslie K. Barry 24:49
Well, it's a great question. And I actually struggle with this question because it's amazing to me that it's not and you know, one knee jerk reaction is, "Well, gosh, maybe it was just upstaged by what happened next." But another reason I think it could be is that what happened was the reason that first of all, this was allowed to happen in our country was because of First Amendment rights, you know. Whether you were Nazi or communist or FDR, that was really socialist, whatever, whatever you were, I mean, because of First Amendment rights, you could go out there and do and say and look like what you wanted to, on the surface. And our Supreme Court was so divided when anybody would challenge it. Know, everything was just stuck. And so, our government, what happened was, they knew there was a huge threat coming. And so what they did was, so at the time, the real power in our country was the Mafia, both the Italian and the Jewish Mafia. And why? Well, you know, remember, this is the Great Depression, in 1929 there'd been a stock market crash. Everybody lost their money, except who? The Mafia because they became organized crime during the 20s, during Prohibition, walked away with all hundreds of millions of dollars in cash. So they had the money, they had the power, they controlled the elected officials. So our government went to them. And they went to the Jewish Mafia. They went to Meyer Lansky, who was like, you know, Al Capone was sort of in charge of the Italians. Meyer Lansky was in charge of the Jews. And they said, "We we need to do something about this. We need your help, and we'll pay you," and Meyer Lansky said, "You don't need to pay me that's okay. Just look the other way. And we'll take care of this for you." And in fact, the Italian, the Italian Mafia offered and the Jewish Mafia said, "No, no, we got this." And so what happened was Meyer Lansky he was sort of head of the whole Jewish part of the the mob. But one of his right hand men, his name was Longie Zwillman and Longie controlled Newark, New Jersey. And Longie in fact, was it dollar wise, I think the numbers are he made more money at 22 years old, he started, than any other mob guy during the Prohibition. So he's very powerful guy, and he puts the mayor into office and all that. And in the 30s, the mob also ran sports betting. And Longie had the biggest den or network of, of boxers. And so he went and he talked to one of his retired boxers Nat Arno, and they said, between Meyer and Longie and Nat they're like, "Look, we've got this disciplined group of guys, they are a network. And if let's turn them into our our resistance group, and if you need one guy, if you need 10, if we need 100, 200, we can call them at a minute's notice ala, Newark Minutemen. And and so that's what my uncle was, a Newark Minuteman, you know, essentially working for the mob, called up to go out and either break up rallies of the Bund, take photos, surveil, go undercover. One of the few was actually Nat Arno's son just sent me something recently. He just found it. It was on his father's letter letterhead. It was the Newark Minutemen letterhead to Nat Arno president or whatever, Commander.
One of the things that we had never had real proof of this. It was just anecdotal before, but on this document, literally, I would say a month ago, it just he found it and it was just published. There were actually notations of FBI, guys that the FBI asked the Newark Minutemen to follow. Because there was always this sort of controversy was the FBI involved? Were they not involved? I mean, to me, this is this is our stories where they were but this is like proof that they were so that's kind of hot off the presses. So, okay, so to answer your question, "Why, why was what why wasn't this known?" Well, it was a secret that the government did not want people to know. It was the Mafia and and often any time that news came up Longie would say, "Go make sure that news doesn't get published," and it wouldn't. And so that could be part of it. If you were to research this, you would find dribblings here and there, but unless you knew what you were looking for, it's it's really hard to find the story of the well there's there's two parts of the story, right? There's the Nazi party that was taking over, over America. Why was that buried? And then why was it buried about the Newark Minutemen who helped stop them and rally other groups to help?
Kelly Therese Pollock 30:36
So you've got all this information, this incredible story, and the way you chose to present it was as a novel. So can you talk some about that, that decision, what that allows you to do with the story?
Leslie K. Barry 30:50
Yes, so the genesis of my story, I actually first wrote the screenplay, and then I wrote the novel. And so in the movie business, there's sort of this unwritten law that if you know, you can make a movie an action movie, or more of an emotion movie, and, you know, action movies are violent, and, and, and often seen as superficial, and emotion movies are often considered boring. So I said, "Okay, I want to mix this sort of violence and unrest, with drama." And so I decided to sort titanic- model, take a romantic, very, like, star- crossed relationship, that's very full of conflict, layered over this time of conflict, so that you have both. And my story, basically, it follows this, this Jewish boxer who happens to fall in love with the daughter of the enemy. And, and so, you know, that's where the conflict is. Now, people often ask me, "Well, you know, is it true, or is it not true, or what part of it is true?" And so my, what I, what I sort of calculate is, I say, "Basically, 85% of my story is true, and filled with facts and quotes and all of that. The hero, the hero and the heroine are both based on true characters, or multiple characters. The love interest is fictionalized." And again, I did that to make it sort of attention getting,epic, and also in hopes that it would maybe wake up especially during these times, wake up people to being aware, and perhaps wake up a little hero inside of you that if you are aware, you know, stand up and say something, or, or do something or be somebody on whatever level level that makes sense.
Kelly Therese Pollock 33:09
Yeah. So you know, one of the interesting things, of course, about this story is that, you know, what, when you think of like, the Nazis, and the people fighting them, it's like, okay, Nazis: bad guys, Americans fighting them: good, guys. And this is such a more complicated, nuanced story, because, you know, as you mentioned, these, these are gangsters. These are people who in their lives, probably sometimes do things that are, you know, not all good and pure. So, can you talk a little bit about that, and what what that sort of nuance means and looks like, and you know, how you sort of write a story with a, you know, someone who's a gangster as the protagonist?
Leslie K. Barry 33:49
Yes. So I, that's a very astute question of you. So, you're right, in that what we have here is, you know, bad guys versus bad guys. And at the time of the story, we didn't know how bad the Nazis were. So, if you were reading this in 1935, you might say, "Well, I don't know whose side I'm on here, because everybody's killing everyone." So what I what I actually did, and, and this is my first novel, I, you know, started a couple of, but this is my first completed novel, I should say. And several editors said to me that my approach, which was because of your point, I decided to write this in fourth person narration, both both bad guys, you know, being first person. And it was, it was hard. And, and my editors kept saying, "You know, this is too ambitious for you to do for a first novel," but I was like, no, because what I want people to say, I mean, it was ambitious, so they were right, but, and I don't know if it's perfect, but I said, "I want people to be empathetic to both sides until they know the punch line." And I wanted people to feel like the side of the mob, that, you know, I wanted them to understand their motivations and their the things they did right and wrong and when they were sad and happy, and the same thing on on the Nazi side, and I wanted you to maybe be a little confused of who's whose side I am on. I think the best job I did on that was the heroine. So it's basically fourth person perspective. It's the hero, the heroine, Longie's woman who's the head of the mob, and Fritz Kuhn, who's the head of the the German, Nazi German American Nazis, I should say. And it's the heroine who is really the arc of the story, who is the one who changes and she's the daughter of, of the enemy. And, you know, I've been told that it was a really interesting journey with her because at first you're like, "You know, oh, my gosh, Jewish guy can better never be with her." And then you watch her change. And then other things happen. I won't give the whole thing away. But you discover other things that you're like, okay with that. But no, I, I think making it, some of my favorite shows, and movies, and stories are the ones where you are sort of rooting for the villain. And that was an interesting exercise to try to get you to love him. But I also have to say something: that one of one of the greatest actually, things that happened was, I got to spend so much time with my mom, learning every single detail of her life, and putting myself in her shoes. And I came away with this, oh, my gosh, this was a parallel universe that you or I could never understand. It was a different time. And it's almost hard to judge, if, you know, your family was part of the mob, or your family was part of the German American Nazis or the communists or whoever, because you just didn't understand, again, who to believe who to trust. And all you knew is you needed to put food on your children's table. And what was the route to do that, and especially Jewish boys back then, or Jewish families too, you couldn't get hired, you couldn't go to school, you didn't have a lot of choices. So you boxed and the mob ran the boxers. And, you know, hopefully, that's as far as you went. But some went farther. And I think it's dangerous for us to judge that sitting here comfortably shut in, in our homes.
Kelly Therese Pollock 38:03
I noticed in the acknowledgments that you said you learned to box, when you were writing this. Can you talk a little bit about that? What it was like to box and what perspective that gave you then?
Leslie K. Barry 38:14
Yes, so I was I was writing these boxing scenes and I'm like, okay, I can read all I can about right hook left hook, but I really wanted to understand what it felt like to be in a boxing environment. So I did it more kind of for that than the actual punching part. But there was a local guy who unfortunately since has passed, but boy, he was a an archetype of his own. He was a maybe an 80 year old guy who had been a boxer all his life, in our part of our community. And he was just so, life was just so simple. You know, you get in the ring. You follow the rules, you box, there's a winner, there's a loser. And some of the stories he told me, it was about more of the stories and about the the community that that really, like sort of touched me and internalized. And there it's a brotherhood, it's a brotherhood, and in fact there was a screenwriter as part of our team that was came up with this version of the story and he made it so that like the the internal boxers, the Mafia guys were going against each other. And I'm like, "No, no, that just doesn't happen. You punch the guy and then then you're friends. You said there's a brotherhood." And I think that was my my biggest takeaway other than maybe I don't I don't think I got any black eyes, but I did get in the ring. I made my sister get in there with me too. So that was maybe we did punch each other a little hard, but.
Kelly Therese Pollock 40:00
So you mentioned that this started with a screenplay. Is it being made into a movie? What? What's going on with that?
Leslie K. Barry 40:07
Yeah. So, you know, with the last couple years here, we've had some steps forward and steps backwards. But we still have a team. And right now we're just trying to find the best director, I guess that movie hasn't been moved out a year. That's what would have. That's what happened. We had a great director, his movie got pushed a year. And so we're talking of whether we should wait together or we're talking to some other folks too. But it's sizzling, it's still sizzling and not gonna let it go. It's, it's so timely. It is such a timely story. And there's several different ways to approach it. You know, there's the epic Titanic. There's the Peaky Blinders type approach. There's the, you know, classic, more of a not Inglorious Basterds. I would never try to get to that height of a movie. But yeah, so we're trying to find now move a couple of the puzzle pieces to see who can take it forward today.
Yeah, so I'm sure we could keep talking about this all day. But is there anything else that you want to definitely make sure we talk about?
I guess just two things. One is, you know, these people often ask me who these boxers were who these boys were. And during this time, Jewish boxers during the 20s, and 30s, it was called the Golden Era of Boxing, and Jewish boxers made up a third of all the fighters. And they won, it was 26 world titles, which was amazing, an amazing number for back then. And people often ask me why why was, you know, Jewish boxers, such a big ethnic group in the 20s and 30s. And I sort of thought about that. And one thing was, I said, "Okay, well, you know, these guys were sons of, or sons or nephews, or whatever of these immigrants who had fled from, from Russia with the Cossacks, you know, with, you know, attacking them and all of that. And so they came from this DNA. But the other thing was it just a practical reason was that I mentioned just a second ago that back then, an 18, year old, 16, 17, 18 year old, 20, whatever year old Jewish boy didn't have a lot of opportunities. And so it was money. And you know, they would get $100 A fight, or sometimes even more, the Minutemen used to get $100, every time they went out, you know, there were stories of by the time a guy was 22, he saved $5,000 in the bank. So, you know, again, it was this interesting community of guys. And then the other thing is, my biggest lesson is was, I was so fortunate to have my mom around to get this story, truly when I did, and I'm so lucky that she's, she is still around at her age. And so my my message is, go out and talk to your parents, your aunts, your uncles, all that generation and get that legacy. Because it's, it's just amazing to understand who you are and where you came from, and how history repeats itself, unfortunately, or fortunately. So that's, that's one of my big takeaways,
Kelly Therese Pollock 43:45
And how can people get your book?
Leslie K. Barry 43:47
It's been out now for a year plus, the paperback, and the ebook's been a little bit longer. So you can go on anywhere that you would get a book online and some of the stores but certainly Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all that. And I do have a website that I've tried to put a lot of the backstory up if anybody's interested in this further, and there's several talks that I do. There are newspaper articles and updates about the movie, and that basically is the website is Newark, as in Newark, New Jersey, NewarkMinutemen.com. And by the way, if anybody hears this, that has people from their family that were Minutemen, there's a there's a way to send me a message on my website, please do that. And I have a gallery of pictures of Minutemen that I make, you know, getting bigger and bigger. So I'd love to anybody who who has stories or or or photos of their uncles or grandfathers or whatever that were Minutemen, please send along.
Kelly Therese Pollock 44:52
Excellent. I will definitely put a link to your website and for people to find the book as well. It's it's just such to a fascinating story. I, you know, I'm still wrapping my head around the fact that it really happened. But I'm really, really excited to have learned about it.
Leslie K. Barry 45:10
Thank you and thank you for I'm glad I found your website because I love the whole Unsung History and finding out about our, our, our legacy as a country as well.
Kelly Therese Pollock 45:21
Yeah. Well, Leslie, thank you so, so much for speaking with me.
Leslie K. Barry 45:25
All righty. Thank you.
Thanks for listening to Unsung History. You can find the sources used for this episode @UnsungHistorypodcast.com. To the best of our knowledge, all audio and images used by Unsung History are in the public domain or our used with permission. You can find us on Twitter, or Instagram @unsung__history, or on Facebook @UnsungHistorypodcast. To contact us with questions or episode suggestions, please email Kelly@UnsungHistory podcast.com If you enjoyed this podcast, please rate and review and tell your friends.
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Amazon best selling author, Leslie K. Barry is most recently a screenwriter, author, and executive producer. Her previous professional work includes executive positions with major entertainment companies including Turner Broadcasting, Hasbro/Parker Brothers, Mattel, and Mindscape Video Games. Other areas of business include executive for the first e-shopping platform called eShop and marketing for Lotus Development, the US Post Office, and AOL. She was an Alpha Sigma Tau at JMU (James Madison University) in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley and attended a grad program at Harvard. She has spent the last twenty-five years with her husband, Doug Barry, in Tiburon, CA raising their four kids, Zachary, Brittany, Shaya, and Jackson, and their dog, Kona. On the side, she’s devoted to genealogy where she has uncovered many ideas for developing untold stories that help us appreciate the context of history, preserve lessons of the past, and honor memories through family storybooks. For fun, she likes to travel, ski in Sun Valley, Idaho, play tennis, and visit her family in Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina, where she most enjoys Maryland hard crabs and hush puppies, Ledo’s pizza, and chocolate horns. You can visit her website at NewarkMinutemen.com.