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   Records of the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League to Champion Human Rights, 1836-1978 [Bulk Dates: 1933-1975].

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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.

COinS Metadata available (e.g., for Zotero).

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\NSANLMS#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 Dates: 1933-1975].
Physical description:331.84 linear ft. (777 document boxes, 4 record storage cartons, 1 flat box)
Language(s):In English and German
Access: This collection has no restrictions. The following boxes are located off-site: 12-689 and 691-783. You will need to request this material from the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.  More information »



This collection has been arranged into eleven series:

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Scope and Content

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 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:

Subseries II.1: General, 1928-1974

This subseries consists primarily of reports on companies and individuals written by investigators from the Bureau of Propaganda Investigation and the Department of Investigation, occasionally accompanied by clippings, correspondence, publications, or other evidence. They are filed alphabetically by organization or individual.

Subseries II.2: United States Congress House Un-American Activities Committee, 1940-1974

This small subseries contains a copy of National Socialism Illustrated Booklet: Department of State Information on National Socialism and The Nazi Party, Special Committee on Un-American Activities and an unpublished appendix to a report containing fliers, publications, letters, research, and other information on many extremist organizations.

Subseries II.3: Ku Klux Klan, 1939-1956

This subseries contains several boxes on the NSANL's investigation of the KKK. Reports from agents include information on the KKK's hierarchy (appointment of new leaders, for example), membership lists, photographs, and copies of KKK documents. It also includes James Sheldon's analysis of illegal activity in the KKK which could be used by the state to shut the organization down and cancel its charter and preparations for statements in court.

Subseries II.4: The Columbians, Inc., 1934-1954

These documents relate to NSANL's investigation of the Columbians, a white supremacist group based in Georgia. It contains agent notes, legal statements, internal correspondence, membership lists, publications, photographs, and legal documents.

Subseries II.5: National Renaissance Party (NRP), 1941-1969

This subseries contains investigations into the National Renaissance Party, an American neo-Nazi group that operated in the US from the 1940s through the 1970s. It includes agent reports, correspondence with the organization, and publications. Photographs of NRP members and rallies can be found in Series IX: Photographs.

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:

Subseries III.1: Boycotted Goods and Services, 1933-1942

This subseries is comprised of an alphabetical file of product and service categories. It documents the NSANL's efforts to identify specific goods and services sold by German companies, create and share boycott lists, and find suitable alternatives. Many of the files contain letters from concerned individuals asking for copies of the lists or for help in replacing German supplies with American-made items. Many also asked the NSANL to verify that specific products were not made in Germany or that particular companies did not have German ties. The NSANL's responses are included, and in some case the research material is present as well. To search for companies or individuals by name within the broader categories, refer to the index card file in boxes 409-410.

Subseries III.2: General Files, 1933-1947

This subseries contains a broad range of documents, including boycott lists, lists of alternatives, statements on companies, reports on trade activity in the US and other countries, and an index card file of notes taken on items imported from Germany and studied by the NSANL, among many others. It is filed alphabetically by topic or name.

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.

Subseries X.1: General, 1924-1978

This series holds the bulk NSANL's publications collection. Local, national, international, and foreign newspapers make up a large portion of the series, and newsletters are the second most numerous. Many of these publications are not linked to a larger group or movement, but represent the views of individuals and small groups that were able to print and distribute their newsletters nationally. Also included are diplomatic publications from foreign embassies in located in the United States, especially Russia and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan). With regard to post-war extremism, the NSANL collected publications from Charles Coughlin (Union Party), Gerald L.K. Smith (America First Party), the Black Panthers, Defenders of the Christian Faith (Gerald and Gordon Winrod), British Union (Oswald Mosley and other British fascists) along with many others.

Subseries X.2: American Foreign Press Digests, 1945-1948

This series contains digests of foriegn language newspapers found in the US. The digests were prepared by news agencies and contain lists the newspapers that were read, summaries of articles, and translated quotes. They have been arranged alphabetically by language.

Subseries X.3: Black Protest Periodicals, 1949-1971

Most of the newspapers and newsletters in this series were published by organizations such as the Black Workers Council, the Student Organization for Black Unity, and the Student National Coordinating Committee. They discuss hate crimes, segregation, the experiences of black soldiers serving in the Vietnam War, and marches, boycotts, legal action, and other protests. Although they focus mainly on the United States there are articles on struggles in other countries, especially South Africa. The series also contains a few publications published by white racist groups that promoted segregation, such as Southern Digest. Periodicals are arranged alphabetically.

Subseries X.4: German Publications, 1916-1945

This series contains right-wing, nationalist newspapers, published mainly the Nazi party. They were published by cities and regions, and by individual groups such as youth groups. It also contains a small amount of earlier propaganda from World War I.

Subseries X.5: NSANL Publications, 1933-1965

This series contains right-wing, nationalist newspapers, published mainly the Nazi party. They were published by cities and regions, and by individual groups such as youth groups. It also contains a small amount of earlier propaganda from World War I.

Subseries X.6: Pamphlets, 1836-1974

This subseries contains over 4,000 pamphlets on a wide variety of subjects, including race issues, civil rights, foreign policy, war, religion, and many political and social ideologies, among others. They cover multiple viewpoints from extremist groups as well as those writing against them, and from religious groups, politicians, and government organizations. Pamphlets are arranged alphabetically by title or author.

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.

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Using the Collection

Partially Offsite

Access Restrictions

This collection has no restrictions.

 The following boxes are located off-site: 12-689 and 691-783. You will need to request this material from the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

Restrictions on Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Curator of Manuscripts/University Archivist, Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML). The RBML approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; 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.

Finding Aid available in repository and online; folder level control.

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

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About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries. Rare Book and Manuscript Library; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

Cataloged 08/--/89 Christina Hilton Fenn

Papers processed 2010-2013 Brian Mackus, Columbia College '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

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion January 28, 2014 Finding aid written in English. Finding aid adheres to that prescribed by Describing Archives: A Content Standard.
    2013-06-04 xml document instance created by Carolyn Smith
    2013-06-04 xml document instance updated by Catherine C. Ricciardi

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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.


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Anti-German boycotts.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Black power United States.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Civil rights.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Conspiracy theories.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Germany--Economic conditions--1918-1945.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Human rights.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Interracial marriage.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Ku Klux Klan (1915- ).PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
National socialism.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
National socialism.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Right-wing extremists.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Sheldon, James H.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Untermyer, Samuel, 1858-1940.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
White supremacy movements.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
World War II.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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History / Biographical Note

Historical Note

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.

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