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Nazis of Copley Square: The Forgotten Story of the Christian Front

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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 planni 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.


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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 planni 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.

38 review for Nazis of Copley Square: The Forgotten Story of the Christian Front

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael Reilly

    That's an eye catching title, particularly when the cover flap confirms that it is referring to Boston's Copley Square. I am interested in the story of a ring of dangerous Nazi spies operating out of Copley Square Hotel. This is a history of The Christian Front organization in Boston from the late 1930s through 1943. It was an anti-sematic, pro-Nazi group lead by Francis Moran. Moran was born in Boston. He joined a seminary to become a Catholic priest but then dropped out. He then had a variety o That's an eye catching title, particularly when the cover flap confirms that it is referring to Boston's Copley Square. I am interested in the story of a ring of dangerous Nazi spies operating out of Copley Square Hotel. This is a history of The Christian Front organization in Boston from the late 1930s through 1943. It was an anti-sematic, pro-Nazi group lead by Francis Moran. Moran was born in Boston. He joined a seminary to become a Catholic priest but then dropped out. He then had a variety of dead end jobs. In the mid 1930s Moran began to follow and support Father Coughlin, the right wing radio agitator. Coughlin was vehemently anti-communist. He was also an anti-Semite who believed that Communism was a Jewish movement. His term was "Judeo-Bolshevism". Moran fairly quickly became the leader of the Boston branch of The Christian Front, a group inspired by, and loosely affiliated with, Coughlin. Gallagher emphasizes the Catholic roots of this movement. The Christian Front was a particular Catholic doctrine that all Christians should unite to battle the forces of atheism. Another doctrine that motivated this movement was the idea of the "Mystical Body of Christ". All baptized Catholics were part of that body. An attack on any Catholic was an attack on all Catholics. The killings of Catholics in Spain, Mexico and Russia by Communists were attacks on all Catholics and they must be answered. Boston's Irish community was a fertile recruiting ground for The Christian Front. The Front opposed an alliance with England and favored supporting the Nazi's against the Russian Communist. The anti-English policy resonated with the traditionally anti-English opinions of most Boston Irish. There was also a significant history of anti-Semitism in Boston's Irish community which predisposed it to the Front. Gallagher traces Moran and the front in great detail. It seems, despite some rhetoric by Gallagher, that the Front had little impact. Moran managed to organize public meeting with hundreds of people at places like Hibernian Hall in Dorchester and the Dudley Street dance hall but the group had no real impact on politics. No elected official ever courted or accepted their support. They never won an election. They were never able to organize any big march or public demonstration. Most sensible people seemed to have considered them cranks. Gallagher does establish that by 1941 Moran had become an agent of the German Nazi Government. The German consul to Boston, Herbert Scholz, recruited him to serve as a German agent. Gallagher shows a weird episode where Moran suddenly started lobbying for the US Army to adopt one particular type of rifle. It turns out that this was part of a German plot to favor that rifle because they had captured all of the plans for it. Gallagher shows the FBI and other Federal agencies bumbling around Moran. His mail was read. He was under surveillance. He was reported on, but nothing happened. The Police Commissioner of Boston arrested him, seized some of his publications and then let him go. Gallagher says it was a publicity stunt. This is an archival history. Gallagher has done very impressive work finding and analyzing public records, Government dossiers, British and German espionage documents, FBI surveillance records and the huge amount of documents produced from FOIA requests. He seems to make sensible judgments and inferences from his reading of the documents. As a Boston person, I would like to have heard more about the Bostonians who supported The Christian Front. Who went to the meetings? Are any of them still around? Where they life long anti-Semites? Did they regret their involvement? What was it like to be a member of the audience at one of these meetings? Of course, I am doing the entirely unfair thing of criticizing an author for writing the book he wanted to write rather than the book I wanted him to write. The movement petered out in 1943. Moran went into the army. Because of his background he was put in a squad for politically suspect soldiers. When he was discharged he drove a taxi for a while and then got a job at the Boston Public Library, ironically in Copley Square, as a reference clerk. He died in West Roxbury in 1971. Gallagher apparently did not attempt to interview anyone who knew Moran from 1943 to 1971. Gallagher notes several themes from this story that are still relevant. Moran's rhetoric and his ability to convey anti-Semitism without explicitly saying it, are techniques still in use. The Governments pervasive but ineffective surveillance of domestic extremist still persists. It seems however that there is no real direct link or connection between today's right wing religious extremists and The Christian Front the way the current racist organizations are direct descendants of the KKK. I noted one odd thing. In reading the acknowledgements at the end of the book I noticed that Gallagher thanked "my Jesuit Community of St. Mary's Hall at Boston College". A second's Googling confirmed that Gallagher is a Jesuit priest. He is typically referred to as "Charles Gallagher S. J." Neither the cover, title page, author bio nor the introduction mention that he is a Jesuit priest. This book is focused on the theological and specifically Catholic basis of the The Christian Front. There is much discussion of the connection between the Church hierarchy at the local Boston level and at the Vatican level. I would have found it helpful to know that Gallagher was discussing these issues from the position of a Jesuit priest. If I was reading a book on controversial issues in the US Army I would want to know if the author was a member of the Army. I am not arguing that a priest can't write an objective history of issues involving the Church. I am saying that it is fair to the readers to let them know when an author has an interest in the institution being discussed. It also would have lent more credence to Gallagher's discussions of fine point of Catholic theology to know that he was trained in the subject.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ronnie

    This is a damnable book on all levels. I first read about in a review in the Sunday Globe. I wish that there was a greater level of interest in this book. Catholicism. Anti-judaism. Suborning the ideals of Christianity with the evil of National Socialism--Nazi....The weddness of Irish Hatred of Englishism because of past practices of English horrors against the Irish. Treason. Aiding and abetting foreign agents against your own country. One person revolutionary is another person political hero. This is a damnable book on all levels. I first read about in a review in the Sunday Globe. I wish that there was a greater level of interest in this book. Catholicism. Anti-judaism. Suborning the ideals of Christianity with the evil of National Socialism--Nazi....The weddness of Irish Hatred of Englishism because of past practices of English horrors against the Irish. Treason. Aiding and abetting foreign agents against your own country. One person revolutionary is another person political hero. This country was founded on revolution...contesting the right of Mother/Father English the right to dictate what can and cannot be done. None of the characters in this book win the Epinard of Grace award. The investigators...the agents german and irish....American politicians ..the religious right-left-center all dawdled in their own way. Its funny this book was the born because of the antics occurring in Washington. Violations of the Foreign Agent act have always occurred. What the author fails to mention that these behaviours were the preceptors of what occurred in the Joe McCarthy years.. Again I say this is a damnable book. I just wish more people would read this book. Its stunning in its breadth and scope.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Hunt

    When Gallagher tells the story of the Christian Front set in 1930s and 40s history, he is well-researched, highly-readable, and delivers a truly intriguing tale. His forays into trying to equate the modern evangelical right with violent religious Nazi sympathizers of over 80 years ago were unconvincing at best and manipulative at worst. Without the introduction and conclusion, this book is well-done. I read it for the history, and on that score it delivered.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Phil

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    Mitch Williams

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    Cath

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    Karen Brewer

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    Joseph

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    Mark Makowski

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    Jerome

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    Madeleine Lemos

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    Paula

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