Homeowners in Yaphank, New York, are suing the German-American Settlement League for violating the Constitution by restricting the community’s ability to sell homes to “non-white” individuals. The Settlement League only allows individuals from “German extraction” to purchase homes in the community and restricts homeowners from advertising the home for sale outside of the community’s bulletin board. Any buyer in Yaphank must be “sponsored” by the German-American Settlement League for consideration, and the president of the league says they have never sponsored a “non-white” individual. Therefore, homeowners Philip Kneer and Patricia Flynn-Kneer say they cannot sell their home and are filing a lawsuit against the German hamlet for “discriminatory and illegal” practices that violate the Fair Housing Act.
— deathandtaxes (@DeathAndTaxes) October 21, 2015
The Daily Mail reports that the German-American Settlement League, which rules over the Yaphank community, was formed in 1937 from the German-American Bund. However, it is the community’s dark past that has the Kneer family looking for somewhere else to call home. The community housed a U.S. pro-Nazi summer camp called Siegfried on the land in the 1930s and, according to the Kneers, still has a Nazi youth symbol displayed over a flag in the community clubhouse that has a shovel superimposed on top of it.
The organization claims that they only allow individuals of “German extraction” in the community to help “introduce, cultivate, and propagate in every direction true Germanic culture and to cultivate the German language, customs and ideals.” However, the Kneers believe the rules are discriminatory and speak to the community’s startling past involving Nazi-sympathizers. In fact, the lawsuit alleges that the community used to have a garden shaped as a swastika, housed a Nazi youth camp, and had their property seized after World War II but managed to get it back following the investigation. Photographs from Yaphank in the 1930s show the Nazi camp along with street signs named after Adolph Hitler and Joseph Goebbels. The town allegedly also held pro-Nazi parades and glorified the reign of Hitler.
The Kneer family says those traditions are still evident, as the community only allows white individuals to live in its close-knit hamlet of 50 homes and has yet to admit a non-white individual to the community. Therefore, the Kneers say the community has limited their ability to sell their two-story home and are violating the Fair Housing Act. In addition to requiring approval for all new home buyers by the German-American Settlement League, leasing is not allowed in the community and mortgages are difficult to come by because the home buying rules are too strict. The Kneers say they have been trying to sell their home since 2005 to no avail, now they are taking the matter to court.
— NYC Dept of Records (@nycrecords) October 20, 2015
Meanwhile, the president of the German-American Settlement League seems to agree with the Kneer family regarding the strict rules. Robert Kessler, the president, says he agrees that the rules are a bit strict. However, he says that acceptance in the community no longer focuses on ancestry background or appearance, but the lawsuit points out that a “non-white individual” has “never been granted full membership in to the community.” Kessler says a vote to change the background requirements for membership has been voted down each time it was presented but goes on to claim that the Kneers are only filing the lawsuit because they are “just bitter” about not getting the price for their home that they had hoped.
[Image via “Yaphank-map” by United States Census Bureau]