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Watch video: American Catholic response to Nazi threat

Watch video: American Catholic response to Nazi threat
Charles Gallagher, US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Jeanmarie,

There’s one question I can’t get out of my head about the Holocaust.

As a Jesuit priest researching American Catholics’ responses to the Nazi threat, I can’t stop wondering: Why did some people of faith endorse an ideology of hatred?

That’s why I’m intrigued by the dark past of the Christian Front, a Boston-based group that sought to foster antisemitism and pro-Nazi sentiment among Irish Catholics during World War II. Read this article or watch a short video to learn more about the disturbing history of the Christian Front.

How religious communities responded to extremism in the 1930s and ’40s has a lot to teach us about our choices today in the face of rising hatred and antisemitism.

American Methodists, Unitarians, Quakers, and many others played active roles in rescue and relief efforts for Jews. And yet, some radical church leaders were able to sway vast numbers of Christians toward antisemitism.

What makes people susceptible to hate? What motivated some Americans to sympathize with Nazis—even after our country had gone to war to defeat them?

Learn more about the Christian Front and why it’s important today to reflect on American responses to Nazism.

Sincerely,
Charles Gallagher, SJ
William J. Lowenberg Memorial Fellow on America, the Holocaust, and the Jews
Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies
US Holocaust Memorial Museum

It could be the plot of a James Bond movie: An SS officer in charge of setting up spy rings, a British intelligence agent running a counterespionage effort, and a militant Catholic group peddling Nazi propaganda.

But it's a true story that unfolded in New York and Boston from 1939 to 1945, lasting long after the United States entered World War II.

"There are heroes and villains, shades of darkness and light, and people whose actions demonstrate the goodness that is in all of us," said Charles Gallagher about his research on the Christian Front, a Boston-based group that sought to foment antisemitism and pro-Nazi sentiment in the Irish-Catholic community. Gallagher is a Jesuit priest, an associate professor of history at Boston College, and, at the Museum, the William J. Lowenberg Fellow on America, the Holocaust, and the Jews.

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