Southbury Community Trust Fund and Jewish Federation of Western Connecticut
On September 25, 1937, Wolfgang Jung purchased 178 acres of land in Southbury, Connecticut for the German-American Bund, intent on building a Nazi camp. Similar camps were popping up around the nation, in an effort to promote an antisemitic and pro-Nazi agenda. The residents of Southbury quickly united to fight back against this Nazi invasion of their town. Organized by the Reverend M.E.N. Lindsay, the Reverend Felix Manley, First Selectman Ed Coer and town leaders, the townspeople established a zoning commission whose first ordinance forbade land usage in the town for “military training or drilling with or without arms except by the legally constituted armed forces of the United States of America.” The ruling effectively closed Southbury to the Bund. Southbury was the only Government that stood up to Nazis before the end of 1937.
Until 2012, this important story was not well-known to many people in Southbury, let along people who lived elsewhere. In November 2012, a documentary film about the events of 1937 premiered to a full auditorium at Pomperaug High School: "Home of the Brave: When Southbury Said NO to the Nazis". Residents of the town, whether they were born and raised here or had moved here more recently, have since felt enormous pride in the story. The story has now become part of the local, state and national discussion.
In November, 2022 the Town will come together again to revisit the story, reflect on what has been learned since 2012, and explore the salient messages this story has for young and old alike.
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Honoring Scott Sniffen, Director of “Home of the Brave: When Southbury Said No to the Nazis”. Followed by reception with musical performances by Linda Goodman and Femina Melodia.
Welcome and Introduction: First Selectman Jeff Manville and Region 15 Superintendent Josh Smith.
Showing of "Home of the Brave" and Q&A with Scott Sniffen, director of the documentary. Moderated by Chris Gardner.
Panel Discussion: Using the Southbury Story in K-12 education. Moderated by Barbara Mechler (former Assistant Superintendent and Teacher); Steven Armstrong, Connecticut Department of Education; Carrie Chiappetta, Assistant Superintendent Region 15; Erin Birden, Teacher in Residence for Diversity and Cultural Competence and Natalia Reid, Longmeadow Elementary School student.
Panel Discussion - Historical Insights: Southbury Versus the Bund. Moderated by Melinda Elliot, President of Southbury Historical Society and Author of “No Swastikas in Southbury”; Arnie Bernstein, author of “Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund”, and James Calaski, a researcher on the German American Bund.
Reverend Lindsay’s Sermon and the Town Resolution – Reflections by Southbury Clergy on Their Meaning and Significance Today. Moderated by Rabbi Eric Polokoff; Monsignor Joseph Donelly, formerly of Sacred Heart Church, Rev. Shawn Garan, United Church of Christ-Southbury, Rev. Abigail Johnson, St. James Lutheran Church, Rev. Donna Cassity, South Britain Congregational Church and Rev. Tony Lorenzen, Mattatuck Unitarian Universalist Society.
Commemorative Dinner with author Michael Benson, Senator Chris Murphy (via video) and musical performances; Other recognitions and proclamations. Keynote Speaker: Michael Benson, author of “Gangsters vs. Nazis: How Jewish Mobsters Battled Nazis in Wartime America”. Musical performances by Jim Tornatore, Karen Lampiasi, Meg Capen, Alyce Cognetta Bertz, Gary Bertz and Katherine Mombo. A new poem by Sandy Carlson, poet laureate of Woodbury. Cost: $50 per person. (Deadline to buy tickets was November 9.)
Dedication of Historical Road Marker to be placed at Church. Dedication of new display of Southbury's Zoning Laws from 1937.
Historic Tours lead by Pomperaug High Students of Historic South Britain. .
Bund Hike. Take a hike with the Southbury Land Trust and the Southbury Historical Society through the part of the property that the Bund owned in 1937. The hike is moderately difficult. Hiking poles are recommended. Dogs on leash are welcome. Click to view the flyer.
Please note that the schedule is subject to change.
The Southbury Library is holding a Special World War II Film Series during the month of November. Registration is required. Click on the film's link to register.
In the News
Links to Related Documentaries
Links to Museums and Archival Information
After publishing a children’s historical fiction book called Lois’s Story: A Young Girl’s Inspiration Helps to Stop Hate and Fear, Ed Edelson and Rabbi Polokoff worked with Erin Birden (Region 15’s Teacher in Residence for Diversity and Cultural Competency) to prepare an Educator’s Guide and an Inquiry Model for using the book in fourth Grades. The book is available at the Southbury Historical Society and at the Southbury Public Library. You can view the Educator’s Guide and the Inquiry Model at these links, as well as the video from the June 2022 webinar sponsored by the CT Department of Education:
Stephen Armstrong is the Social Studies Consultant for the Connecticut Department of Education. He has served as a classroom teacher, department chairperson, and school administrator in the Manchester Public Schools and West Hartford Public Schools. Steve is an instructor in the History Department at Central Connecticut State University, where he works with pre-service teachers. He is a past president of the Connecticut Council for the Social Studies and the National Council for the Social Studies and is also past president of the Association for the Study of Connecticut History.
Michael Benson is one of today’s most popular American history writers. He is the author of Gangsters vs. Nazis, Carmine the Snake, Lord High Executioner, Escape From Dannemora, The Devil At Genesee Junction, Betrayal In Blood, Killer Twins, and The Burn Farm among others. On TV, he has appeared on ABC’s 20/20, People Magazine Investigates, Murder in the Family, Evil Twins, Evil Kin, Evil Stepmothers, Southern Fried Homicide, Snapped, and Deadly Sins. During his three decades as a professional writer, Benson has worked closely with: a former gangster for a biographies of several mobsters, a retired Army Intelligence agent during the tense days after 9/11 for a book about the CIA, and a retired FBI agent for a book about National Security. He has co-written two books with a former New York Police Department “Cop of the Year”; explored the Grassy Knoll in Dallas with a former KGB agent while researching his much-acclaimed Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination; collaborated efficiently with an astronaut; covered the Stephen Hayes triple-murder trial in New Haven, Ct., for the New York Post, and partied with the Hells Angels on both coasts.
Benson has a B.A. with honors in Communication Arts from Hofstra University. He is the winner of an Academy of American Poets award, and was in 2016 named a Wheatland-Chili High School Graduate of Excellence.
Arnie Bernstein is a narrative nonfiction writer who enjoys telling the forgotten tales of history. His book Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund was praised as a definitive story by The New York Times, Publishers, Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, and many others. His other books include Bath Massacre: America’s First School Bombing and The Movies Are: Carl Sandburg’s Film Reviews & Essays. Arnie lives in Chicago where he teaches writing and roots for the White Sox. He is a typewriter devotee and writes all his first drafts on three vintage manuals: a Royal Quiet Deluxe, an Olympia SM-9, and Smith-Corona Skyriter. Check out his website at www.arniebernstein.com.
Alyce Cognetta Bertz is the concertmaster of the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra. She recently returned from summer tour of concerts in Connecticut, Vermont,
Martha’s Vineyard, Colorado, California and Burning Man Project in Nevada. Alyce is also a teacher and mentor to young violinists who study with her in
Southbury at her Geodesic Dome studio. Alyce is currently working on her next album entitled Time is Now. She performs on an exceptional Italian violin made by Postiglione in 1869.
Gary Bertz is an acoustic guitarist. He plays with Hot Acoustics, guitar and violin duo. Concert Tours have included Amsterdam, Copenhagen,Montana, New York, Florida, California and Wyoming. Gary has played shows internationally with Leon Russell, Steven Stills, Bonnie Raitt, Hot Tuna, Todd Rundgren, The Ramones and Ritchie Havens.
Erin Birden is a pre-K-12 educator and Southbury resident who currently serves as Teacher in Residence for Diversity and Cultural Competency in Region 15 Public Schools. She has lived and worked in Region 15 for eight years. She works alongside Region 15 staff to develop and implement instruction that is inclusive of all people and representative of multiple perspectives. Erin earned her doctorate in Instructional Leadership. She serves on the Middlebury and Southbury Equity and Inclusion Council and cares deeply about the Southbury and Middlebury communities as well as teaching and learning. Erin serves as an advisor to multiple student-led organizations in Region 15, a founding member of Connecticut Math Teachers’ Circle for Social Justice, and is a member of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Educator Network in Connecticut. She is also a new parent and looks forward to raising her child in this community.
Erin’s educational background:
James Calaski is a police Detective Sergeant who serves in Glen Rock, New Jersey. His investigative experiences have come in handy researching the German American Bund. His master’s thesis was titled The German American Bund as a Fifth Column Threat During the Interwar Years: An Examination of the FBI Investigation. Living near the sites of two old Bund camps, Nordland and Bergwald, James has explored the area and has collected many artifacts along the way. He enjoys helping others by searching for their family histories and discovering the stories of old houses. James is married to his high school sweetheart and they have two children.
Meg Capen has enjoyed a professional singing career as a mezzo soprano. She has sung in Europe, New York and throughout New England, giving performances in vocal solo recitals, oratorio and operatic performances. She has performed operatic roles with the Connecticut Lyric Opera and Opera Oggi of New York, and has been a guest soloist with the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra and the Waterbury Chamber Concert Series. She is currently the soloist for the First Church of Christ Science, in Southbury, CT. Meg is also a board certified music therapist with a private practice in Music Therapy.
Sandy Carlson is a poet and educator living in Woodbury, where she currently serves as poet laureate. Sandy, who hosts the podcast People and Their Poems and leads the Orenaug Chapter of the Connecticut Poetry Society in the Woodbury area, is the author of five books: Seventeen Park Lane, Silent Spaces, Always True, Slow Passage Home, and, most recently, Bearing Witness to the Wind. Over the years, she has published essays, reviews, and short works of fiction in various periodicals in the US and in Ireland. You’ll
find Sandy’s podcasts and information about her books on her website, sandycarlson.net.
Donna Cassity has been an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ for 25 years, and a Registered Nurse for the last 38 years. She has served as an interim pastor and chaplain throughout her ministry helping churches who are going through transitions and change. Currently, she is the Interim Transitional Pastor at South Britain Congregational Church. Donna lives in Southbury and is a mother of three adult children, grandmother of five, and friend to many. When she’s not working, Donna loves planting flowers, going for walks and playing with her spoiled, standard poodle, Bella or at the park with her grandchildren.
Dr. Carrie Chiappetta is the Assistant Superintendent for the Pomperaug Regional School District 15. Prior to this, Carrie had numerous positions within the Stamford Public Schools including Director for School Improvement and Professional Development for Secondary Schools and K-12 Director for Math and Science. Carrie was also a middle school mathematics teacher where she received numerous awards including the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. In 2006, Carrie received the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship. She was selected as one of fifteen teachers throughout the country to work with a U.S federal agency in the DC area to improve STEM education for all students. After a year in the DC, Carrie returned to Stamford to assist in the improvement achievement for all students at the district level. Carrie worked to help the city’s schools close the achievement gap, improve teacher practice, and increase student achievement for all students. She also was the creator of the Stamford STEMfest, a day filled with free STEM activities for people of all ages. Carrie has presented at numerous conferences in the United States as well as in Mexico, Germany, the UK, and Ireland, and has visited schools in countries such as Russia, Egypt, and Japan. She has written educational articles and co-authored papers, one of which is titled Professional Development Across the World: An International Perspective on Mathematics Education. Carrie’s focus in Region 15 includes curriculum and instruction but also equity and inclusivity to ensure that all students feel accepted and valued.
For 18 years, Monsignor Joseph T. Donnelly was assigned to Sacred Heart Church of Southbury and was a prominent member of the religious life in town. He was an important member of the Three Amigos who helped to bridge the misunderstandings between the Abrahamic religions (Catholic, Jewish and Muslim). A native of Waterbury, CT, he was known and loved by so many in Southbury before retiring in 2021. He was appointed Episcopal Vicar of the Western Region of the Archdiocese of Hartford, 2019-2020. He retired to Senior Status in 2021 and continues to consult and work with regional parishes.
Ed Edelson is the former First Selectman of Southbury. He led the committee to produce the documentary “Home of the Brave” in 2012 and continued to present the film to groups since then. In 2020 he published a children’s historical fiction book called Lois's Story: A Young Girl's Inspiration Helps Stop Hate and Fear. Ed and his wife Christine moved to Southbury to open Cornucopia at Oldfield Bed and Breakfast. Before that he had a corporate career with an international energy company. Ed and Christine have three children and six grandchildren.
Melinda K. Elliott is the president of the Southbury Historical Society. She enjoys historical research and sharing her latest finds through her writing. Melinda is the author of two published books, Connecticut Schoolhouses Through Time and Southbury Through Time: Remnants of Our Past. Her newest book, No Swastikas in Southbury will be released in February 2023. Melinda and her husband Ray have three children, all living nearby, and seven grandchildren to spoil.
Femina Melodia is a women’s a cappella group founded and directed by Jan Gregory. For the past 22 years we have presented Spring and Fall concerts, for the most part making our home here at B’nai Israel. We enjoy the wonderful acoustics in the space but even more we appreciate the warm welcome we have received from Rabbi Eric and members of the congregation. Femina Melodia joined the B’nai Israel choir, Makhela, for this year’s Pride Shabbat and we look forward to marking the 85th anniversary of When Southbury Said NO to the Nazis.
Reverend Shawn Garan recently became the 21st Senior Minister at the United Church of Christ of Southbury. He previously served as the Associate Pastor at Second Congregational Church of Greenwich, CT. Shawn and his wife Ashley have 3 children: 11 year old twins and a 1 year old. Shawn is a military veteran and has degrees from UConn and Alliance Theological Seminary. He is currently in his third year of psychoanalytic residency at the Blanton-Peale Institute in Manhattan, NY and preparing to begin his Doctor of Ministry degree soon after that.
Chris Gardner is Director of Communications for the Department of Psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine. He promotes the work of the department's nearly 1,000 faculty members and trainees via the web, social media, and a monthly newsletter. He maintains the department's portfolio of over 70 websites and manages its messaging service and media relations. Prior to working at Yale, Chris enjoyed a 20-year career at the Republican-American newspaper in Waterbury, CT. He received two first place awards for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper & Press Association for uncovering wasteful spending in municipal government. He is the former Chairman of the Board of Newtown Youth and Family Services in Newtown, CT. He serves as Senior Burgess on the Borough of Newtown Board of Burgesses and is an elected member of the Newtown Legislative Council. He is also Newtown's "Keeper of the Flag," in charge of maintenance and upkeep of the town's iconic Main Street flagpole.
Linda Goodman has been involved in choral singing for over sixty years. As a special education teacher for thirty-five years, she used music to comfort and educate children. She has been director of Mahkelah, B’nai Israel’s adult choir, for eighteen years and is currently the temple’s Director of Sacred Music. In that role she leads a variety of worship services, celebrating with congregants during happy occasions and comforting congregants at sad times. Linda is grateful for the opportunity to work with Mahkelah. A diverse group of singers from a variety of backgrounds, this choir consistently makes a beautiful and inspiring sound, transporting congregants to a higher spiritual plain.
Reverend Abby Johnson is the senior pastor at St. James Lutheran Church in Southbury. This is her first congregation; she previously served as a hospital chaplain and in camp ministry. Abby earned her Masters of Divinity at United Lutheran Seminary, Philadelphia. Her academic interests lie in social and ecological ethics, particularly how faith can foster responses to environmental injustice. She's an artist and outdoor adventure sport enthusiast, accompanied by her dog Thule, the unofficial greeter at church.
Karen Lampiasi, soprano, graduated from the Hartt School of Music Mus.Ed/Voice, Westfield State University Masters in Education and had a career in education K-8. She has been a soloist and an organist in many Churches throughout New England. She is now retired with her husband, Jack, and they live in Heritage Village. They have 2 children and 5 grandchildren.
Rev. Tony Lorenzen currently serves as the full-time minister with two small yoked congregations in Connecticut, The Mattatuck Unitarian Universalist Society and The Unitarian Universalist Church in Meriden. He has served a number of congregations in Massachusetts and Texas. He has a spiritual direction practice and a robust online ministry with regular posts to social media, including two different video series on YouTube, “A Morning Walk” and “Monthly Spiritual Challenge.” He lives with his wife, The Rev. Tuesday Jane Rupp, an Episcopal priest, in Woodbury, CT. His theological interests include public theology, the work of James Luther Adams, New Testament literature and history, and the spirituality of friendship. He enjoys playing the guitar, chess, cribbage, writing fiction, and reading.
Rev. Tony was born and raised a Roman Catholic in Fitchburg, MA and grew up in Leominster, MA. He attended Fitchburg State University (then Fitchburg State College) and Harvard Divinity School, graduating in 1994. Upon graduating from HDS, he taught theology in urban Catholic high schools in Massachusetts for eight years. He was the 2002 Green Party Candidate for Lt. Governor in Massachusetts. He left the Catholic Church in 2003 and entered the fellowship process to become a Unitarian Universalist Minister. He was ordained by his home congregation, First Unitarian Universalist Church in Leominster, MA on June 3, 2007. He completed a three year training program in spiritual direction at HeartPaths Dallas in 2012. He published a novel, Saint Somebody Central Catholic in 2017. Among his many community involvements over the years, he has served on the board of directors of the Woodbury Community Services Council, the board of the Milford (MA) area Humanitarian Coalition, and was a founding member of the Montachusett (central MA) MLK Coalition, a member of the board of directors of the Keller (TX) Farmer’s Market, and a long time member and leader of the UU Christian Fellowship. He recently served two terms as a Good Officer of the Clara Barton chapter of the UU Ministers Association and a term on the elected town meeting of Milford, MA
Barbara Mechler retired from her role as New Fairfield Schools Assistant Superintendent in 2014. During her thirty-four-year career in education, Barbara taught in Naugatuck and Meriden in a variety of roles: elementary school principal, reading consultant, and classroom teacher. A CT native, Barbara holds an undergraduate degree in Education and postgraduate degrees in Reading and Educational Leadership.
Rabbi Eric Polokoff is the founding rabbi of B’Nai Israel of Southbury, serving the congregation since 1997. He gives great attention to his roles here as a teacher, pastor, speaker and community leader. His interests and activities begin locally and extend beyond our community: Moderator of the Southbury Clergy Association, Executive Committee of the Connecticut Community Foundation, and Executive Committee of CT ADL and an ADL Associate National Commissioner. He is also known locally as one of The Three Amigos, working with a Monsignor and Imam to extend interfaith understanding.
Rabbi Eric’s educational background:
Natalia Reid is a student at Long Meadow Elementary School. In 2022 she started, and is President of Upstanders Club – a club where members learn how to act upon their pledge “When I see something wrong happening to someone I will say something or help in any way I can”. all kids can feel safe from bullying. Natalia loves to help others and also loves to read, draw, play the drums and piano. She wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up. Natalia lives in Southbury with her parents and two sisters.
Scott Sniffen has enjoyed 25 years’ experience shooting television, commercial, feature, documentary and business communication films. As an accomplished director of photography Scott has specialized in digital cinema and has DP’d 3 independent feature films. A recent project is the Emmy nominated documentary “Home of the Brave”, a film documenting a town’s fight against a Nazi group in 1937. Another new documentary is “Haiti: Day by Day” which aired on CPTV and the Pitney Bowes’ 100-year milestone doc also aired on CPTV. Other work includes Lifetime TV’s Health Corner with host Joan Lunden, commercials for Mt. Dew’s Pitch Black, Puritan’s Pride, The Beardsley Zoo, a special for Turner Classic Movies with Alec Baldwin and Gene Wilder, Steven Spielberg’s “Survivors of the Shoa” program and projects for ESPN, ABC television, Disney and others. Corporate work includes projects for Pitney Bowes, White Plains Hospital, Pfizer, IBM, Lancôme and Estee Lauder.
Jim Tornatore is a performer; director; music educator; music liturgist and composer. As Artistic Director of Newbury Musical Theatre Company (based in Southbury since 2008) Jim finds it particularly gratifying to work with young performers and is interested advancing the Arts in Southbury. A resident of Southbury since 2006, Jim is also Vice-Chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission.