Charles Lindbergh and America First

Charles Lindbergh making a radio address in 1940, in which he reiterates his belief that the United States is not in any danger from Nazi Germany.

Charles Lindbergh making a radio address in 1940, in which he reiterates his belief that the United States is not in any danger from Nazi Germany.

Courtesy of the United States
Holocaust Memorial Museum

After making his historic trans-Atlantic flight in 1927, Charles Lindbergh busied himself with other pursuits. Although he made important contributions to aerospace engineering, medical technology, and the environmental movement, Lindbergh was also a famous Nazi sympathizer during the 1930s. He was a member of America First, an isolationist organization that was not only opposed to the United States entering another World War, but was also against providing aid of any kind to refugees of the Nazi regime. It was thought that assistance would indirectly entangle the United States in foreign conflicts and siphon away money for domestic affairs.

When America First was established in September 1940, France, Poland, Norway, Denmark, and Czechoslovakia had already fallen to the Nazis. Many other European countries, such as Hungary, Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia were allied with Germany. However, America First members believed that the geographical distance between the United States and Europe would protect the former from Nazi aggression, thus negating the need for armed intervention. Furthermore, Americans like Lindbergh admired the Nazi Party's seeming ability to improve the German economy and impose law and order after the chaos of the Weimar Republic. Other Americans were sympathetic to the plight of the German people, with whom they had more in common with than Jews or non-whites. Lindbergh, for example said:

Our bond with Europe is a bond of race and not of political ideology. If the white race is ever seriously threatened, it may then be time for us to take our part in its protection, to fight side by side with the English, French and Germans, but not with one against the other for our mutual destruction.

For Lindbergh and those who shared his views, there was no reason for (white) Americans to choose sides in a European conflict, when the interests of white people would be better served by acting as a bulwark against the encroachment of non-white peoples in Western societies.

Although Lindbergh was not as antisemitic as Henry Ford or Fr. Coughlin (he would always deny being antisemitic when confronted with the issue), he did believe that Jews exercised an undue level of influence in American life. In a 1941 speech in Des Moines, Iowa, Lindbergh said that:

Instead of agitating for war, Jews in this country should be opposing it in every way, for they will be the first to feel its consequences. Tolerance is a virtue that depends upon speach and strength. History shows that it cannot survive war and devastation. Large Jewish ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government constitute a great danger to our country.

Given Lindbergh's influence as an American hero and the general antipathy towards increased immigration, the Jewish community found it difficult to lobby on behalf of their European breathren without increasing domestic antisemitic sentiments.

Works Cited

Gordon, David. "America First: the Anti-War Movement, Charles Lindbergh, and the Second World War, 1940-1941." The New York Military Affairs Symposium Home Page. (accessed June 4, 2008).

Greear, Wesley P. American Immigration Policies and Public Opinion on European Jews from 1933 to 1945. Master's Thesis. (accessed June 4, 2008).

Medoff, Rafael. "Lindbergh's Public Statements Were More Troubling Than His Private Affairs." The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies Home Page. (accessed June 4, 2008).

Ranfranz, Pat. "Charles Lindbergh's Nonintervention Efforts and America First Committee." Charles Lindberg: An American Aviator Home Page. (accessed June 4, 2008).