Nazis of Copley Square: The Forgotten Story of the Christian Front, 1939-1945

Monday, February 7, 2022 at 7 p.m.

The forgotten history of American terrorists who, in the name of God, conspired to overthrow the government and formed an alliance with Hitler.

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On July 14, 1939, two hundred Philadelphia police and a crowd of six thousand overflowed Philadelphia’s Metropolitan Opera House to hear famed “radio priest” Father Charles E. Coughlin commission a Mr. John F. Cassidy to lead his new Christian Front organization. Six months later, FBI agents burst into Cassidy’s home, arrested him, and seized military-grade rifles, 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.

In the recently published book, Nazis of Copley Square, Jesuit scholar Dr. 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. The Front’s antisemitism 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 offers a grim tale of faith perverted to violent ends, and its lessons provide a warning for those who hope to stop the spread of far-right violence today.

Dr. Charles R. Gallagher, S.J. is Associate Professor of History at Boston College. The author of numerous books and articles, he specializes in American Catholic history; Vatican diplomacy; U.S. diplomatic history; 19th- & 20th-century American social history; American religious history; and history of the Shoah (Holocaust).