The Harlem Riots As Seen Through Nazi Eyes

Ebay has/had and interesting photo of La Guardia and two police officials taken by a Life photographer in December 1943 up for sale in Europe. The photo is not particularly flattering for La Guardia, who is seen as significantly shorter than the two police officials who virtually crowd him as he leans against and wraps his arms around a banister.

If it weren’t for the somewhat bemused look on one of the police official’s face and the casual arms behind the back of the other, this might appear to be a photo of an arrested and cornered man.

(Note the foreground rifle, presumably whitened by the powerful flash and held by an officer).

And, as interesting as the photo is, it’s the back of the photo and the pasted, typewritten text which really stands out.

The text is in Geman and titled “Freedom from Want”. After transcribing it, running my transcription through a German spell check, and then using a Google German>English translation tool, I was able to come up with this text:

This picture from the American magazine “Life” shows the Mayor of New York La Guardia in a New York police station, during the food riots in Harlem, New York’s Negro district. He orders more food to be brought to the starving Negro district to fight the riots . While Roosevelt, as one of the Four Freedoms, promises the rest of the world “freedom from want” in the event of an American victory, the mayor of his country’s largest city has ordered welfare measures for its own starving population. Make the world see how freedom from want should, in reality, be laughed at. 22/14/1943

Nazi Germany and the other Axis powers were, of course, at war with the U.S. since December 1941. The text on the back of the photo (which presumably accompanied the photo in an article in a war-era German newspaper or magazine), sought to highlight the poor model that America presented to the world when racism and discrimination continued to undermine the internationally/publically espoused ideals of the United States.

Paris in Harlem!

The images speak for themselves. Burlesque, 5x a month in 1932:

LGA in East Harlem

La Guardia’s Apartment, before he moved to Gracie Mansion, was located on 5th Avenue at 109. Today his view would have been something like this:

A contemporary real estate site describes the location in this way:


1274 Fifth is a six-story building, built in 1934, along the fabulous 50-block stretch of Fifth Avenue above 109th Street, offering gorgeous pre-war architecture, unprecedented space, and beautiful natural light. This pet-friendly building is steps from Central Park and has an on-site super.

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Building Amenities

  • Pre War
  • Washer/Dryer in building
  • Elevator
  • Mail Room
  • Laundry Room
  • Live-In Superintendent

LaGuardia lived in an apartment in this East Harlem building, which sits on the corner of East 109th Street, when he was elected mayor in 1934. Robert Moses offered a move to Gracie Mansion, but LaGuardia decided to stay in his apartment for another eight years before finally moving to the East River.

Harlem, as the Sum of Its Residents