This look back at the United States in the years preceding World War II shines a spotlight on the historically ignored—though politically significant—group of homegrown antagonists that sought to protect and promote Hitler, leave Europeans (and especially European Jews) to fend for themselves, and elevate the Nazi regime.
In a well-written and well-researched new book, Hart relates the stories of American groups and leaders who marched the streets of our cities in the 1930s to prepare the nation for Hitler’s triumphant arrival. America has always had an alt-right fringe of bigots and racists ready when called upon to return their distorted view of 'greatness' to the United States ... Hart systematically describes the German-American Bund, the Silver Legion, radio preachers such as Father Coughlin and others ... Hart’s new book raises issues that are not limited to history. The streak in the American psyche for authoritarianism and racism is evident today. Hart’s Hitler’s American Friends should serve as a useful reminder of the calamity we must avoid.
Hart cogently makes the case that the rightist underbelly of American politics—more visible now than at any point since then—was more dangerous in the 1930s and 1940s than historians often assume ... In addition to saboteurs, secret agents, and opportunists in high places, Hart also reveals a distressingly large number of ordinary Americans who admired Hitler ... And that is what makes Hitler's American Friends more than what it could have been—a thinly veiled historical warning about the present. Writing in the age of Charlottesville and MAGA, Hart acknowledges the proverbial 800-pound orange-haired gorilla in the room, but for all the ugliness in his tale, he summons an engaging subtext of hope.
Hart convincingly shows that these Nazi supporters had the potential to sway public opinion to their way of thinking but were often stopped by their own hubris, greed, violence and some brave journalists and civic officials who helped unmask their views. An intriguing afterword explores what happened to these individuals and corporations during and after the war ... Readers interested in the history of Depression-era politics and social climate, or those curious about the dissemination of religious and racial prejudice will appreciate this book.