Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Records of the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League to Champion Human Rights, 1836-1978, bulk 1933-1975

Summary Information


This collection documents the work of the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League to Champion Human Rights, a group originally founded in 1933 to coordinate boycotts against Nazi Germany. It later investigated and reported on extremist and hate groups of many kinds, primarily within the United States.

At a Glance

Call No.: Ms Coll\NSANL,MS#1577
Bib ID 4079169 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League to Champion Human Rights (New York, N.Y.)
Title Records of the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League to Champion Human Rights, 1836-1978, bulk 1933-1975
Physical Description 331.84 linear feet (777 document boxes 4 record storage cartons 1 flat box)
Language(s) English .
Access You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection has no restrictions.

This collection is located both off-site and on-site. On-site materials include boxes 1-11 and oversize box 690. All other boxes are off-site. You will need to request off-site material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.



This collection has been arranged into eleven series.



This collection documents the activities of the NSANL from its founding until its final year. It contains extensive correspondence, administrative records, NSANL publications, investigative files, and photographs, as well as a large collection of publications and pamphlets produced by extremist groups and some government and civil rights groups.

  • Series I: Correspondence, 1917-1975

  • Series II: Investigative Files, 1928-1974

    These files document the NSANL's investigations of extremist groups and individuals. Most contain reports from agents who infiltrated these groups or interviewed members, sometimes joining the groups or by posing as members of other hate groups. The reports are often detailed, describing individuals, meetings, and conversations. Some files also include correspondence with group members, publications, meeting information, and photographs. The Investigative Files have been divided into five subseries:

  • Series III: Boycott Files, 1933-1947

    These files document the NSANL's efforts to boycott all goods and services coming from Nazi Germany. Boxes 409 and 410 contain index cards created by NSANL to cross-reference the files and are a valuable resource for navigating the series. A card was made for each company or individual the NSANL investigated. Each card lists what categories the company's information can be found under as well as the dates of all related letters. Information on the boycott can also be found in many other series, especially in Series I: Correspondence.

    The Boycott Files have been arranged into two subseries:

  • Series IV: Subject Files, 1919-1975

    This series contains information that the NSANL collected on a large number of subjects, especially political, social, and religious organizations. There are also files on committees and conferences, publications, individuals, and occasionally topics such as gun control and hate crimes. Files contain reports, publications, memos, notes, and correspondence by or about these subjects and have been arranged alphabetically.

  • Series V: Administrative Files, 1928-1975

    This series documents the NSANL's administration throughout the lifespan of the organization. It includes a large variety of reports; financial information; meeting minutes; internal memos; agendas for committees and events; lists and notes; drafts of articles and memos; proposals for campaigns; questionnaires collecting information on the boycott, membership, Jewish organizations, and local branches of Workman's Circle; open letters; subscription requests for NSANL publications; ballot information for the selection of board members; pledge cards promising donations or support for the boycott; contact information; scripts and speeches for radio broadcasts; and general information that did not fit into a category. Files are arranged first by document type and then alphabetically.

  • Series VI: Legal and Official Documents, 1933-1973

    This series contains files on legal cases that NSANL was involved in, including the discrimination cases involving City College and Columbia University and the Benjamin Freeman case. These contain clippings, court documents, and statements. The series also contains documents such as agreements, by-laws, certificates including the NSANL's charter and certificate of incorporation, permits, a petition urging congress to help return property stolen from Jews in Germany and Austria, resolutions to achieve goals, convention rules, and sworn statements from individuals

  • Series VII: Audio, 1958-1960

    This series contains a small number of audio recordings, which include James Sheldon's description of the NSANL library and several statements and interviews by others. Access to audio material is limited; please speak to an archivist about options for digitization.

  • Series VIII: Memorabilia, 1879-1933

    This series holds a small amount of artwork, printing blocks, stamps, buttons, original political cartoons, and cards from several organizations.

  • Series IX: Photographs, 1931-1959

    This series includes several sets of photographs. The evidentiary photographs provide evidence of the existence and actions of extremist groups and include images of members of the National Renaissance Party at a farmhouse in Beacon, New York, KKK rallies in Georgia, defaced buildings, and a letter and photo from a housing discrimination case, among others. There are also photos from Nazi Germany, such as images of German leaders, including Hitler, bombed buildings, and one photo from the concentration camp at Dachau.

    The series also includes photographs and a mockup for the book Heroes of the American Navy; photos of prominent members of NSANL including James Sheldon and George Wallace; photos of NSANL events, and publicity photos for the organization.

  • Series X: Publications, 1924-1978

    This series holds a collection of over 500 newspapers, newsletters, and bulletins and over 4,000 pamphlets collected by the NSANL, most from extremist groups or individuals. There are also some publications from civil rights groups, religious organizations, and government organizations.

  • Series XI: Press Releases, 1941-1974

    This series contains press releases issued by the NSANL to inform the public about their actions, events, and stances on a wide range of issues. It provides an excellent overview of NSANL activity. Titles and dates are listed for all releases.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection has no restrictions.

This collection is located both off-site and on-site. On-site materials include boxes 1-11 and oversize box 690. All other boxes are off-site. You will need to request off-site material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and their heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League to Champion Human Rights Records; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Material

James H. Sheldon Papers, Columbia University Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University

NSANL Publications, Yale University Library

Bertha V. Corets Papers, American Jewish Archive

Samuel Untermyer Papers, American Jewish Archive


Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

Ownership and Custodial History

This collection is on permanent loan from the New York Public Library.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Method of acquisition--gift; Accession number--Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League to Champion Human Rights.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Cataloged Christina Hilton Fenn 08/--/89.

Papers processed Brian Mackus, Columbia College '12 Haruna Otsuka, Barnard Collage, 12 Stefanie Patterson, Columbia College '12 Reuben Berman, Columbia College '14 Aaron Samson, Columbia College '16, Halley Luellanne Farrell, Columbia University '14 Carolyn Smith, archivist 2010-2013.

Revision Description

2013-06-04 xml document instance created by Carolyn Smith

2013-06-04 xml document instance updated by Catherine C. Ricciardi

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Anti-German boycotts Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Anti-Semitism Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Black power -- United States Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Civil rights Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Communism Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Conspiracy theories Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Embargo Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Fascism Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Germany -- Economic conditions -- 1918-1945 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Germany -- History -- 1933-1945 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Human rights Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Interracial marriage Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Ku Klux Klan (1915- ) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
National socialism Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Neo-Nazism Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Racism Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Radicalism Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Right-wing extremists Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Sheldon, James H Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Untermyer, Samuel, 1858-1940 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
White supremacy movements Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
World War, 1939-1945 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

The Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League to Champion Human Rights (NSANL) was founded in New York City in 1933. Its goal was the coordination of a systematic trade boycott of all German-made goods in an effort to weaken the economy of Nazi Germany. Under its original name, the American League for the Defense of Jewish Rights (ALDJR), the organization selected the well-known and respected corporate lawyer Samuel Untermyer as its first president.

During the 1930s, Untermyer contacted community leaders throughout the United States and worldwide, urging them to participate in the boycott and to create local chapters of the organization. The NSANL held several large meetings, including the Conference of Jewish Leaders, which invited rabbis from across the US, to coordinate boycott efforts and organize a campaign to raise funds. While many supported the boycott, some feared that it would only lead to more blame and further persecution of German Jews. Others believed that the problem should be handled by an older, well-established organization, rather than by a new one. Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver suggested that that the boycott would only succeed with the support of people from all faiths, and the name was changed to the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League to Champion Human Rights to reflect this idea.

The boycott operated by first identifying companies that sold German-made goods using a system of questionnaires, interviews, and correspondence with concerned customers. The NSANL then sent letters to these businesses asking them to participate in the boycott and suggesting alternative sources for the goods they needed. If a business did not comply, the NSANL urged others to boycott it. Lists of companies that sold German goods were published in the NSANL's journal, The Economic Bulletin. The NSANL also answered inquiries about specific companies and broadcasted information about the boycott over the radio.

Untermyer was president of the NSANL until his retirement in 1938. Led by its new president, former Boston University professor James Sheldon, the NSANL turned its attention away from the boycott as public opinion turned against Germany, and focused instead on anti-Semitic and hate groups within the United States. NSANL had several investigative branches that sent agents to collect information on these groups. The agents posed as sympathizers, sometimes even joining the groups or befriending members. Agents infiltrated the KKK, the Columbians, the National Renaissance Party, and many others. They reported their findings in detailed reports to the NSANL office, which exposed members in press releases and called for further investigation from the government. The NSANL also investigated discrimination cases, asking the New York Commissioner of Education and members of the Board of Education to conduct an investigation into the administration of City College after learning that several professors had past involvement with fascist and anti-Semitic groups and that Jewish students were not receiving credit for their work. In 1945, NSANL attempted to have Columbia University's tax exemption status revoked on the grounds of discrimination, citing falling numbers of Jewish students over the university's history.

The NSANL also collected thousands of extremist newsletters, bulletins, newspapers, and pamphlets from organizations and individuals as evidence of their viewpoints and activity.

The NSANL was less active in the 1970s, though it continued to collect and preserve publications until the death of James Sheldon in 1975.