Monday, May 7, 2018

o The Milwaukee Turners enthusiastically support the plan to rename Milwaukee’s Fourth Street as Vel R. Phillips Ave. The Turners own and operate what is probably the oldest non-residential property on Fourth Street, the national landmark Milwaukee Turner hall. The Milwaukee Turners were founded in 1853 by immigrants and refugees from Germany who became strong abolitionists and allies of Frederick Douglass. Turner Hall includes a 1911memorial to over 20 of its members who gave their lives in the fight to end chattel slavery and to save the Union.
o “We would be honored to have Vel Phillips’s name included in the address for our historic building,“ stated Milwaukee Turner President Arthur Heitzer

Milwaukee Turners President’s Report, April 16, 2018

Community involvement
Bylaws revision
Leases and building developments

In the last year, I have worked to strengthen our organization and to bring it back to more fully reflect the principles and commitments of our founders, who strongly believed that physical fitness should be combined with social commitment and responsibility.

Working with Katharina, our part time Executive Director who celebrated her 10th anniversary with us, I have been contributing some commentary in our monthly newsletters, ranging from a factual analysis of the racist manifestations in Charlottesville VA; to the loss of two of our outstanding women, Nora Schulze and Charlotte Bleistein, outstanding leaders in both physical and intellectual accomplishments. As you should see in tonight’s program, I have been honored to encourage us helping us to provide overlooked recognition to one of the most outstanding women in U.S. and in German history, a Milwaukee Turner, Mathilde Franziska Anneke.

1. Upon realizing that the number of our members had declined, I have worked hard – with a number of others – to recruit and encourage others to join. This includes people all of national origins, and skin colors – something very important in our city in particular. We have made some progress in this regard, and I hope that a renewed membership committee can move this forward.

2. While our physical activities have continued and blossomed in various ways, I have sought and supported community involvements, especially two initiated by our Vice President Julilly Kohler. Most notable is our Confronting Mass Incarceration Initiative, which brought a top flight speaker here in the fall, and has encouraged university partnerships to allow incarcerated persons to study and use their time positively. This initiative is continuing on a serious level.

3. Working with an extremely talented and committed group of our board members, we now have a proposed new set of bylaws, which will be presented for consideration tonight, and to be voted on at a special membership meeting on May 21, 2018. We hope that this will strengthen the governance and operation of our society, and bring us to a higher level.

4. Finally, while we own this historic building and parking lot, for financial and related reason, we have leased out most of it, in a rather complex series of arrangements. This has kept us operating and allowed us to maintain and improve this structure. We are now in negotiations with a very good operator who will work well with the Pabst operation which operates the ballroom, and things look positive for engaging a new, full-time restaurant operator, who is open to being open much more and restoring a discount or similar benefits to our members.

This is but a brief overview. I thank you all for your support and kind consideration.

Respectfully submitted.
Art Heitzer

Mourning the loss of two amazing Turner Women:

It’s been a rough and wild few months, for me, Milwaukee Turners, and those who share the values that the Turners have stood for. From Washington, Korea, and also in Germany, we’ve heard disturbing and even dangerous voices, as well as some strong responses, good and bad. But right now I’ll just focus on two amazing women we won’t be seeing with us any more.
This summer we lost two of our most powerful and impressive members, Nora Schulze and Charlotte Bleistein.
Nora had been a strong leader of the Ladies Auxiliary for decades, but that was just one of her latest roles. In the Turner tradition, she was not only a long time Phy. Ed./gym teacher at MPS, but she also singlehandedly brought sanctioned interscholastic girls’ gymnastic competition back to MPS. She was honored by numerous halls of fame including by the state Turners. She had close links with a church in this area, but also in Zion, IL, where she went to college; Zion’s a historic completely planned and religiously oriented settlement which has long been racially integrated, probably from the start.
As Audrey Demunck wrote, “If there ever was a Turner who lived by the motto ‘Sound Mind in a Sound Body,’ it would be Nora.  Rightly described as “statuesque,” Nora competed in some 14 national Turnfests and frequently won trophies and medals, not to mention at International Turnfests in Germany. She was a Turner leader at the local, state and national levels, both in the Sheboygan and Milwaukee Turners. She kept our Turner programs alive with her enthusiastic leadership, including gymnastic classes for all ages, and the Ladies Auxiliary.
Charlotte Bleistein was profiled by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this spring, “Yoga not a stretch for 102-year-old longtime attorney from Greendale.” The article reviewed her yoga approaches and accommodations, but noted that “yoga past age 100 is just her latest impressive accomplishment.” A law school grad in 1939, she started at the National Labor Relations Board, in part because “women lawyers weren’t hired by law firms back then,” an experience she could have shared with Sandra Day O’Connor, later the first female U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Charlotte later hung up her own shingle, and practiced out of her home.  That was in Greendale, another planned community, this one a program of the New Deal federal government.
Charlotte introduced me to many things, one of them the nearby Painesville, a community that had been named after Tom Paine, who was considered a most influential figure for the early Turners.  The Painesville Memorial Association last met on September 17, 2017, but Charlotte didn’t quite make it to that.
“A self-proclaimed life long socialist,” as the MJS wrote, Charlotte could be seen at many civic events. On her last day, September 16, she was at Fightin’ Bob Fest (named for former WI Senator Bob LaFollette), a large progressive gathering where the Milwaukee Turners had a booth, and our tradition was lauded by one of the main speakers. Between these two events, Charlotte passed away in her sleep.
It is a gross understatement to say that both Nora and Charlotte will be deeply missed. We need to find, nurture, and promote more like them – which will be very hard but also very important to do.

Thoughts On Charlottesville by Art Heitzer

From Turner Board President Art Heitzer:

[NOTE: this summary & analysis by our president is being shared for educational & discussion purposes, and has not been voted on by the Milwaukee Turners Board as a statement of policy or formal position.]


The day after a “white nationalist” gathering led to violent attacks directly killing one and wounding many others in Charlottesville, VA last month, President Donald Trump observed that there was“hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” He later asserted that there were “very fine people” and bad people on both the “Alt-right” and the “alt-left.”[1]

Many have criticized him for these and his other related remarks.[2] [So what are the facts?]

1.  About 1,000 mostly white males came to Charlottesville, VA on August 11-12, 2017 to participate in a “Unite the Right” rally, also stated to be in defense of a monument to Confederate General Robert E. Lee, in what the city government had renamed as Emancipation Park.  This gathering included “white nationalists,” neo-nazis, supporters of the KKK, and a variety of newer groups, and included prominent white supremacists who were scheduled to speak.  They have been called  the “alt-right,” a term coined by one of their leaders, Richard Spencer, and also used by Steve Bannon, who as head of Breitbart News declared it was “the platform for the alt-right.”[3] Bannon was the “Chief Strategist” to President Donald Trump at the time of the violence in Charlottesville.  He has since given up his position in the White House and returned to head Breitbart.

1A. Many of them marched in a (tiki) torchlight parade on Friday night August 11th,    surrounding a church where Black clergy and others gathered to express their opposition to racism and hatred.  The marchers chanted the nazi slogan “Blood and soil” (from “Blut und Boden”),[4] “You will not replace us,” and “Jews will not replace us!”[5] They confronted and attacked a group of University of Virginia students and staff who were by a monument to UVA founder Thomas Jefferson.  Friends of UVA library employee Tyler Magill, reported that he was hit in the neck by a torch during that attack; he later suffered a stroke which his doctors attributed to recent trauma to his neck. He is 46 years old and white.[6]

1B. As seen live on national cable news on Saturday morning, the white nationalists included many in black uniforms dressed much like riot police, carrying shields and clubs, and wearing helmets.  Some were armed with pepper spray; others openly carried assault rifles which is evidently allowed in Virginia, an open carry state. With them were others carrying flags with the nazi swastika,  neo-nazi symbols, and confederate flags.

2.  On Friday evening in a church, and on Saturday at Emancipation Park, many more thousands of mostly Charlottesville people gathered to show their opposition to white supremacy.  While Donald Trump called them the “alt-left,” there is no such entity.  These local residents and students were of many colors and ethnicities.  Among them were some people called Antifa (short for Anti-fascists), who are decentralized, autonomous and sometimes anarchists (who are against authority).  Antifa believe that white racist groups are a threat when they take the public space and intimidate people of color and others, and that to prevent this they should be physically confronted if necessary.[7]

3.  Absent an imminent threat to violence, mainstream U.S. law interpretations hold that expressing racial hatred and supremacy is protected free speech, and the same for advocating violence or genocide if such action is not imminent (a “clear and present danger”). This is not true in many other nations where “group defamation” is recognized and is not considered protected.  In Germany, based on 12 years of nazi rule and the the Holocaust, it has been illegal since the nazi defeat in 1945 to publicly display the  swastika , and nazi parties are banned. This was true under the U.S. occupation of Germany, and has continued since.  In the U.S., millions of persons were forcibly imported, killed, enslaved and sold over a period of some 250 years; this was justified by an ideology of white supremacy based on skin color. That ideology was then also used to justify denying African Americans equal rights for most of another century. This legacy has not been recognized as justification for similar measures here which  the U.S. had mandated against the nazis in Europe, and which are still in force today. There is some irony in this, as the London Economist noted, “indeed, the Nazis were inspired by Jim Crow laws and studied segregation as a possible model for German society.”[8]

4. On Saturday August 12, Charlottesville and Virginia police corralled the armed “white nationalists” together with thousands of anti-racists, and for approximately one hour stood on the perimeter with little or no intervention, as members of the “alt-right” kicked and clubbed people of color and protesters. Some of the anti-racists fought back at times, but without similar weaponry.

4A. DeAndre Harris, a local African American teacher and DJ, was brutally beaten on the ground right across from the police station, breaking his wrist and a tooth, among many injuries, and requiring eight staples to his head. This took place without any prompt police intervention. Afterwards he and other witnesses reported little interest from the police or FBI. After two weeks, single charges each of “malicious wounding” have been brought against two white males: an admirer of Hitler from Ohio and a second man in Georgia for being a part of this attack, which included at least six people repeatedly punching, kicking and beating Harris with metal poles as seen and video recorded by a journalist who was interviewed on Democracy Now.[9]

4B. Another white supremacist from Maryland who claims to be a KKK Imperial Wizard pointed a pistol and evidently shot a round into the crowd, towards an anti-racist with an aerosol can used to burn a white supremacist flag; the alleged shooter has been charged, including with discharging a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school.[10]

5.  The City of Charlottesville had tried to locate the “alt-right” demonstration to a different location but in response to a lawsuit by the ACLU, a judge upheld their “right” to rally at the park. After watching rather than trying to stop the violence, city authorities declared an “unlawful assembly.” In responding to attempts by Virginia’s governor to blame the ACLU for the violence, its VA Executive Director replied, “In fact, law enforcement was standing passively by, seeming to be waiting for violence to take place, so that they would have grounds to declare an emergency, declare an ‘unlawful assembly’ and clear the area.”[11] The ACLU later said they were misled by the white nationalist rally leaders who promised to be nonviolent, and the ACLU also said it would consider whether not to intervene on behalf of armed groups or where there was a potential for violence.[12]

6.   All of the incidents and attacks described above were well before a nazi sympathizer from Ohio drove his car into and then back over innocent protesters, killing a white Charlottesville paralegal, Heather Heyer and seriously wounding 19 others.

7.  Some people who oppose racism believe that the best approach is to ignore rather than confront such organized racist manifestations, even if that means to allow them to take the public space. This includes the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has litigated, researched, and done much education regarding what it considers to be hate groups, and argues that counter-demonstrating against racist extremists gives them publicity they would not get otherwise. Some  liken the antifa to being similar to the racist right, in tactics if not in ideology. Some suggest creative alternatives to confrontations.[13]

8.  The current controversy has been linked to the attempts to remove from the public space monuments to leaders of the confederacy, who took up arms against the United States in order to defend the institution of slavery.  The vast majority of these monuments were not erected shortly after the war, but were established at the height of the Jim Crow period, in which Blacks were denied equals rights, including the right to vote.  From about 1880 through the 1920’s, this followed the violent destruction of reconstruction governments throughout the South, in which poor whites and poor blacks had united to establish governments which provided for equal rights, established free public schools for the first time, and many other reforms.  These fusion governments were protected by federal troops until 1877, when violence and terror tactics were used to disfranchise African Americans and intimidate or their white allies. The KKK was the primary organization used to reverse Reconstruction and re-establish white racial rule. As late as 1898 the duly elected government of Wilmington NC had persisted, only to be overthrown in what has been called the only coup d’état in U.S. history, accompanied by killing many Blacks and forcing over 2,000 to flee. This was a history that these monuments do not tell.  Rather they were erected, according Univ. of North Carolina History Prof. Karen L. Cox “as part of a campaign to paint the Southern cause in the Civil War as just and slavery as a benevolent institution, and their installation came against a backdrop of Jim Crow and oppression of African Americans. The monuments were put up as explicit symbols of white supremacy.”[14]

9.  The Milwaukee Turners was founded by German immigrants and refugees from the failed democratic revolution from 1848-49.  They were strong abolitionists.  The founder of the Milwaukee Turners and at least six American Turners served as Generals in the Union army.  After President Lincoln agreed with the appeals by Frederick Douglass, and many others (including Karl Marx) that it was necessary to arm African Americans to fight for the Union cause, the Civil war took a decisive turn.  While the troops  were generally segregated, and only whites could be officers, it was a Turner general who was honored to command the African American troops which then seized and occupied the capital of the confederacy, Richmond Virginia, near the end of the Civil War.  In 1911, as Jim Crow was being strengthened in the South — accompanied by monuments which are now being challenged and removed — the Milwaukee Turners established their Civil War monument to honor 26 members who gave their lives for the Union cause and to abolish slavery.

– Art Heitzer,


[2]John Oliver’s Aug. 13, 2017 indictment was among the most powerful, at

[3] See

[4]‘Blood and soil’: Protesters chant Nazi slogan in Charlottesville – CNN

[5]“Jews Will Not Replace Us” in Charlottesville – YouTubeVideo for “jews will not replace us”? 0:42 ; and ‘Jews will not replace us’: Vice film lays bare horror of neo-Nazis in America, at

[6]University librarian suffers stroke after UVA protest injury (Cville Nazi ……/University\_librarian\_suffers\_stroke\_after\_UVA\_protest\_inju…

[7]“Who are the antifa?” Mark Bray, The Washington Post, Aug 16, 2017, at:…/who-are-the-antifa/

[8]See “How Germany responds to ‘blood and soil’ politics” – The Economist, and compare to a contemporary left view from Berlin, at by U.S. expatriate Victor Grossman, August 18, 2017 at

[9] See DeAndre Harris Was Savagely Beaten by White Supremacists in Virginia. Why Only Two Arrests So Far? Democracy, Aug. 31, 2017, at\_harris\_was\_savagely\_beaten\_by.  This British tabloid report, contains graphic photos of his injuries, at


[11]ACLU of Virginia Response to Governor’s Allegations that ACLU is Responsible for Violence in Charlottesville, August 14, 2017, at

[12]“After Backing Alt-Right in Charlottesville, A.C.L.U. Wrestles With Its Role,” by JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN (“It indicated on Thursday that, in evaluating whether to take free-speech cases involving public gatherings, the group would consider the potential for violence at the event and whether protesters were going to be carrying firearms.”), at

[13] See, e.g., “Punching Nazis, counterprotests are not the only way to oppose white supremacy,”

[14] “The whole point of Confederate monuments is to celebrate white supremacy – The memorials are a legacy of the brutally racist Jim Crow era.” by Karen L. Cox August 16, 2017, at:\_inl&utm\_term=.e2c6f6fd931e

Recordings of Past Events:

MILWAUKEE TURNERS welcomed author Harvey Kaye author of

The Fight for the Four Freedoms: What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great. A free event sponsored by Boswell Books and The Milwaukee Turners.

Click here to watch the vimeo recording

MILWAUKEE TURNERS welcomed historians Paul and Mari Jo Buhle with

The Legacy of the 1848er’s and Progressive German Immigrants from the Civil War to the 1890’s. For Women’s History Month & marking 150 years after the U.S. Civil War, the Milwaukee Turners presented a program featuring renowned historians Mari Jo Buhle and Paul Buhle. The Buhles discussed the contributions of women and the German language press to progressivism and socialism in Wisconsin and the USA.

Click here to watch the vimeo recording.


Become a member of the historic Milwaukee Turners!

Join the Milwaukee Turners »