Research Outline

Anti-Defamation League


To understand the background and full story of the Anti-Defamation League, with a particular focus on how they thwarted Nazi-groups during the 1930s. As well, to identify other similar organizations which similarly worked against Nazi groups, and to recommend books, articles, movies, and/or biographies or documentaries about these organizations.

Early Findings

ADL Overview and Background

  • The ADL (Anti-Defamation League) was "founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of antisemitism and bigotry".
  • The organization was founded by Chicago attorney Sigmund Livingston, who "envisioned an America where those who seemed different were not targets of discrimination and threats, but were equals, worthy of shared opportunity and a place in the American dream". Those beliefs are the cornerstone of the ADL's values today.
  • Initially, the ADL was "founded on Jewish values that inform our work, how we operate and the changes we seek in the world. It has always meant stopping antisemitism and defending the Jewish people". Today, the organization has expanded beyond fighting antisemitism, a cause which they do still rally behind.
  • Specifically, the organization works to fight antisemitism, combat hate and protect at-risk communities, address discrimination in the justice system, help to build schools and communities that are inclusive and respectful, and advocate for Israel.
  • That said, the ADL is still "the world’s leading organization fighting antisemitism", and they work both globally and in the United States specifically for this cause.
  • The organization is headquartered in New York City and works primarily in the United States, though they also have global efforts in place.
  • The organization is present on social media, with accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

The ADL's Work in the 1930s

  • In the 1930s, as fascism spread throughout Europe and the United States, the ADL helped to educate Americans about the dangers of those beliefs and the sympathy groups they'd inspired.
  • In particular, the ADL singled "out the anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi agitation of the German-American Bund".
  • They also spoke publicly against Father Charles Coughlin and his radio broadcasts focused on antisemitism and pro-German propaganda.
  • "The ADL embarked on public education campaigns and jointly produced a monograph countering Coughlin’s anti-Semitic claims and proving that he plagiarized a speech by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda."
  • The organization further founded "the first independent fact-finding on extremist individuals and organizations, creating a trove of credible information" in response to antisemitic fervor brought on by the Great Depression.