Winner of a Catholic Media Association Book Award
The forgotten history of American terrorists who, in the name of God, conspired to overthrow the government and formed an alliance with Hitler.
On January 13, 1940, FBI agents burst into the homes and offices of seventeen members of the Christian Front, seizing guns, ammunition, and homemade bombs. J. Edgar Hoover’s charges were incendiary: the group, he alleged, was planning to incite a revolution and install a “temporary dictatorship” in order to stamp out Jewish and Communist influence in the United States. Interviewed in his jail cell, the front’s ringleader was unbowed: “All I can say is—long live Christ the King! Down with Communism!”
In Nazis of Copley Square, Charles Gallagher provides a crucial missing chapter in the history of the American far right. The men of the Christian Front imagined themselves as crusaders fighting for the spiritual purification of the nation, under assault from godless Communism, and they were hardly alone in their beliefs. The front traced its origins to vibrant global Catholic theological movements of the early twentieth century, such as the Mystical Body of Christ and Catholic Action. The front’s anti-Semitism was inspired by Sunday sermons and by lay leaders openly espousing fascist and Nazi beliefs.
Gallagher chronicles the evolution of the front, the transatlantic cloak-and-dagger intelligence operations that subverted it, and the mainstream political and religious leaders who shielded the front’s activities from scrutiny. Nazis of Copley Square is a grim tale of faith perverted to violent ends, and a warning for those who hope to curb the spread of far-right ideologies today.
A great, but deeply unsettling, revelation...A searing examination of how a city-where for nearly four centuries the phrase 'cradle of liberty' has slipped effortlessly off the tongue with a distinct Boston accent-played host to a group whose leading figures spoke favorably of Nazi Germany...This book is more than an account of Boston in wartime. It is a warning. -- David M. Shribman * Boston Globe * [A] well told, expertly researched, and much-needed history of the Christian Front, an organization that presages today's far-right activity...Riveting. I found the result startling. -- Paul Moses * Commonweal * A fascinating and terrifying story of terrorist plots, secret efforts to undermine the Allied war effort, and the stoking of antisemitic attacks...The language of the Christian Front-the barely coded appeals to antisemitism, the embrace of economic populism, and the effort to paint themselves as patriotic victims of discrimination-has a strong contemporary echo in the rhetoric of the US far right. -- Robert Philpot * Jewish Chronicle * Takes a searing look at the Christian Front, an American extremist group that weaponized Catholicism...With historical complexity and suspenseful intrigue, Nazis of Copley Square reveals one of America's secret and most disturbing domestic enemies. * Foreword Reviews * An eye-opening look at the Christian Front, a far-right political movement founded in 1939...Gallagher also explains how the Christian Front's 'interlac[ing] of Christianity and patriotism' influenced today's religious right, and analyzes how political extremists exploit free speech protections. This vigorously researched chronicle uncovers a dark chapter in American history. * Publishers Weekly * Fascinating...Gallagher sheds valuable light on one of the darkest episodes in Irish American history. -- Tom Deignan * Irish Central * In the US, in the lead-up to WWII, a dangerous fascist movement sprang up through the Catholic church, drawing on priests, powerful lay people, and working-class parishioners. The movement, known as the 'Christian Front,' actively worked to support Nazi Germany in the US. Its history has mostly been swept under the rug, but Gallagaher is determined to shine a new light on it in his powerful new study. * CrimeReads * An amazing whodunit that will keep readers glued to every page. * Choice * Shows that we cannot understand right-wing extremism without examining its violent history and the integral role of certain religious doctrines, which these ringleaders mobilized to justify violence, exclusion, anti-Semitism, and even collaboration with Nazi spies. -- Eric Grube * New Books Network * The rare book by a scholar that is such a page-turner it is hard to put down, Gallagher's Nazis of Copley Square is a potent brew of spy story, detective story, and frank, fearless account of how a significant wing of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States spawned a movement aimed at defending Hitler and sabotaging America's war effort. -- David I. Kertzer, author of The Pope and Mussolini Writing about American Nazi sympathizers who rooted their rage in mainstream Catholic theology poses a remarkable challenge. Pluralist society already has a hard enough time confronting violent hatred underwritten by sincere religious faith; historians writing about such subjects face the second challenge of achieving empathy with their subjects without sacrificing moral opprobrium. Charles R. Gallagher meets both challenges with aplomb-and throws in some thrilling World War II spy stories to boot. Highly recommended. -- Rick Perlstein, author of Reaganland When historians speak of Americans who supported Hitler's Third Reich, they generally refer to Father Charles Coughlin or the German American Bund. In his excellently researched and rivetingly written book, Gallagher reminds us the danger was more widespread. A movement of far-right American Catholics not only fostered sympathy with Nazism but spread virulent anti-Semitism. The Nazis of Copley Square laid the groundwork for today's Christian nationalism. When we hear those ideas expressed today, we are shocked. Gallagher demonstrates they have roots reaching back many decades. The danger was real then. And it is real today. -- Deborah E. Lipstadt, author of Antisemitism: Here and Now A virtuoso piece of historical detective work that dramatically enhances our understanding of right-wing (and Catholic) anti-Semitism and radicalism during the turbulent 1930s and 1940s. -- John T. McGreevy, author of American Jesuits and the World: How an Embattled Religious Order Made Modern Catholicism Global Valuably excavates this buried past...One reason it is important to study the history of the Christian Front is that it elucidates the origins of the Christian right in the United States-roots that run deeper than the rise of Evangelical Protestants in the 1970s and 1980s or McCarthyism in the 1950s...[An] illuminating and compelling book. * DigBoston * Gallagher breaks new ground by diving deep into...the Christian Front's activities in Boston...A great book that should be read by all. -- Joe Allen * CounterPunch * Extraordinarily well crafted and narrated...Gallagher has produced a masterful work in its analysis of the theological roots of an organisation that threatened great political and social harm. This book provides a timely, important reminder of the wider effects religious ideas can have in public life. -- David Mislin * Journal of Ecclesiastical History *