FATHER Charles Edward Coughlin, the infamous radio priest of Detroit, in 1939 called for the creation of a Christian Front against “Judeo-Bolshevism.” Acolytes like John Cassidy in New York and Francis Moran in Boston led a holy war against Communists and Jews to resist what they perceived as an effort to Sovietize America. These Catholics, who came to embrace anti-Semitic violence as theologically permissible, launched terrorist plots in New York and served as Nazi spies in Boston.
NAZIS OF COPLEY SQUARE by Charles R. Gallagher, associate professor of history at Boston College, exposes how the priests of the Christian Front drew upon some of the most vibrant theological movements of the Catholic Church to justify evil. Their Sunday sermons aimed to stamp out Jewish and Communist influence in the United States.
The front—police-abetted antisemitic street gangs—were acting on convictions which Gallagher calls theological anti-Communism. And because fronters believed Communism to be a Jewish plot, “they extended the Vatican’s blessing to incorporate anti-Semitism, sacralizing their war on Jews.”
Its leaders preached hate, praised Hitler, and engaged in violence. Gallagher’s engrossing story of the Christian Front’s struggle against the Jews of America parallels the Nazi war on the Jews of Europe albeit without, thankfully, resorting to gas chambers and crematoria. (Harvard University Press, 313 pages, $29.95)