NYC Suburb With Nazi Roots Accused of Housing Bias

NEW YORK (Reuters) -
Youth march in a Nazi salute parade in Yaphank, N.Y. in 1939. (Getty Images)
Youth march in a Nazi salute parade in Yaphank, N.Y. in 1939. (Getty Images)

A New York suburb that was established by Nazi sympathizers in the years leading up to World War II still uses discriminatory housing practices to ensure its residents remain white and of German extraction, according to a lawsuit.

Philip Kneer and Patricia Flynn-Kneer, a couple who lived in Yaphank, a hamlet of 6,000 east of New York City, filed the lawsuit Monday in federal court in Islip. They accused the German American Settlement League of violating federal housing law.

“Since its incorporation in 1937, the GASL has excluded non-whites from its membership, recreational programs, and summer homes in favor of new residents with German ancestry,” the complaint said.

The league owns the land in Siegfried Park, a residential community in Yaphank, and rents out 50 lots to its members, according to the lawsuit.

The league was founded as an affiliate of the German-American Bund, an organization of Nazi sympathizers. Siegfried Park, then known as Camp Siegfried, was built to promote German culture in 1935. The camp hosted huge pro-Nazi rallies in the 1930s, when families would travel from New York on the “Camp Siegfried Special” train.

The complainants, who have German ancestry, bought their home in 1999 after being accepted as members. When they decided to sell they were barred from advertising the home and instead were required to use the league’s internal bulletin. That practice, coupled with the bylaws’ language regarding German ancestry, results in a closed community, the lawyer said.

“While you don’t have brownshirts parading in Yaphank today, you still have the discriminatory effects because of the rules in place, and nobody has done anything to change them,” said attorney Andrew Wilson.

Attempts to revise the bylaws have failed over the years, Wilson said, adding, “They want to keep it German.”