Nazi-Era Rule Keeps US Community White: Lawsuit
Couple says residents are required to be 'of German extraction'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 25, 2015 5:30 PM CDT
The Swezey-Avey House is seen on the corner of Main Street and Mill Road in Yaphank, New York.   (Wikimedia)

(Newser) – "You feel like a caged animal here." That's how Philip Kneer describes living in Yaphank, a hamlet on Long Island that has a dark history. As the New York Times reports, the community sprung up around a Nazi summer camp in the 1930s. Nearby streets were named after Nazi leaders, the flag of the SS guards was raised, kids wore German uniforms, and a resident shaped a hedge to look like a swastika. Though the streets have since been renamed, a clause in Yaphank's bylaws requires that residents be primarily "of German extraction"—something Kneer and his wife are trying to change. They're suing the German American Settlement League, a local organization that owns their land, saying the bylaw in question is strictly illegal.

Both of German descent, the Kneers bought their house from a friend in 1999 and say the league's board noted their ethnic background in approving the sale. It was only afterward that they realized how white the neighborhood was, the couple says. Then in 2006, they decided to sell the house but say the community bylaws meant the property could only be advertised in the league's meeting minutes, per ABC News. The Kneers say this was meant to keep outsiders from moving in; they asked for the bylaw to be changed but were apparently ignored. The league's president tells a different story, though: "People in other parts of town look at us and think this is closed to non-Germans. That's just not true," he says. The Kneers are "just bitter they couldn't get the price they wanted for their home."