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The chilling, little-known story of the rise of Nazism in Los Angeles, and the Jewish leaders and spies they recruited who stopped it. No American city was more important to the Nazis than Los Angeles, home to Hollywood, the greatest propaganda machine in the world. The Nazis plotted to kill the city's Jews and to sabotage the nation's military installations: plans existed The chilling, little-known story of the rise of Nazism in Los Angeles, and the Jewish leaders and spies they recruited who stopped it. No American city was more important to the Nazis than Los Angeles, home to Hollywood, the greatest propaganda machine in the world. The Nazis plotted to kill the city's Jews and to sabotage the nation's military installations: plans existed for hanging twenty prominent Hollywood figures such as Al Jolson, Charlie Chaplin, and Samuel Goldwyn; for driving through Boyle Heights and machine-gunning as many Jews as possible; and for blowing up defense installations and seizing munitions from National Guard armories along the Pacific Coast. U.S. law enforcement agencies were not paying close attention--preferring to monitor Reds rather than Nazis--and only Leon Lewis and his daring ring of spies stood in the way. From 1933 until the end of World War II, attorney Leon Lewis, the man Nazis would come to call "the most dangerous Jew in Los Angeles," ran a spy operation comprised of military veterans and their wives who infiltrated every Nazi and fascist group in Los Angeles. Often rising to leadership positions, this daring ring of spies uncovered and foiled the Nazi's disturbing plans for death and destruction. Featuring a large cast of Nazis, undercover agents, and colorful supporting players, Hitler in Los Angeles, by acclaimed historian Steven J. Ross, tells the story of Lewis's daring spy network in a time when hate groups had moved from the margins to the mainstream.


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The chilling, little-known story of the rise of Nazism in Los Angeles, and the Jewish leaders and spies they recruited who stopped it. No American city was more important to the Nazis than Los Angeles, home to Hollywood, the greatest propaganda machine in the world. The Nazis plotted to kill the city's Jews and to sabotage the nation's military installations: plans existed The chilling, little-known story of the rise of Nazism in Los Angeles, and the Jewish leaders and spies they recruited who stopped it. No American city was more important to the Nazis than Los Angeles, home to Hollywood, the greatest propaganda machine in the world. The Nazis plotted to kill the city's Jews and to sabotage the nation's military installations: plans existed for hanging twenty prominent Hollywood figures such as Al Jolson, Charlie Chaplin, and Samuel Goldwyn; for driving through Boyle Heights and machine-gunning as many Jews as possible; and for blowing up defense installations and seizing munitions from National Guard armories along the Pacific Coast. U.S. law enforcement agencies were not paying close attention--preferring to monitor Reds rather than Nazis--and only Leon Lewis and his daring ring of spies stood in the way. From 1933 until the end of World War II, attorney Leon Lewis, the man Nazis would come to call "the most dangerous Jew in Los Angeles," ran a spy operation comprised of military veterans and their wives who infiltrated every Nazi and fascist group in Los Angeles. Often rising to leadership positions, this daring ring of spies uncovered and foiled the Nazi's disturbing plans for death and destruction. Featuring a large cast of Nazis, undercover agents, and colorful supporting players, Hitler in Los Angeles, by acclaimed historian Steven J. Ross, tells the story of Lewis's daring spy network in a time when hate groups had moved from the margins to the mainstream.

30 review for Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America

  1. 5 out of 5

    Shae McDaniel

    Sorry, I need to just sit and stare at a wall in unblinking horror for the next few hours. Holy crow. Mr. Ross does an incredible job of detailing just how close we came on multiple occasions to utter disaster only to be saved by the dogged persistence of an amateur spy ring run by a Jewish lawyer. Leon Lewis and his crew are heroes, full stop.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jon Boorstin

    Before WWII, before Hitler was seen as our enemy, winning over Los Angeles was vital to his plans for gaining influence in America – it’s port, it’s airplane factories, and most of all Hollywood, megaphone to the world. Anti-semitism was a fact of life here, embraced by many, and the Nazis were trying to exploit it as a path to power, as they did so effectively in Germany. The FBI wasn’t interested, already obsessed with hunting Communists, and the LAPD had strong fascist sympathies. Who would s Before WWII, before Hitler was seen as our enemy, winning over Los Angeles was vital to his plans for gaining influence in America – it’s port, it’s airplane factories, and most of all Hollywood, megaphone to the world. Anti-semitism was a fact of life here, embraced by many, and the Nazis were trying to exploit it as a path to power, as they did so effectively in Germany. The FBI wasn’t interested, already obsessed with hunting Communists, and the LAPD had strong fascist sympathies. Who would stop them, or even slow them down? Well, a group of Jews, funded by Hollywood moguls. Steve Ross has dug deep and told the story well, concentrating on the Jewish leader who inflitrated Nazi organisations with Christian secret agents, and the German Consul his principal antagonist, a patriot who was appallingly effective at containing the movie industry, but detested his Nazis bosses. A remarkable story, with much resonance in the era of Trump.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    Note: I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review! I wanted to like this, I really did. I'm a big history buff, and this particular era of American/world history has always fascinated me. This, however, really sort of let me down. The subject was fascinating, but the execution just didn't really do much for me. It read more like a long, tedious history book a lot of the time and I found myself getting easily distracted by other things. I'm not a quitter, I rare Note: I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review! I wanted to like this, I really did. I'm a big history buff, and this particular era of American/world history has always fascinated me. This, however, really sort of let me down. The subject was fascinating, but the execution just didn't really do much for me. It read more like a long, tedious history book a lot of the time and I found myself getting easily distracted by other things. I'm not a quitter, I rarely ever DNF a book, but I came sadly very close with this one. It just dragged, bogged down a lot of jargon and too much to muddle through at times. I found myself sometimes skimming, just wanting to at least make it to the end. History needs to be made engaging, and I was not engaged at all. It was quite a let down.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kitty

    Fascinating and chilling. I had no idea that Nazi operatives were so active in America and LA in particular. Let's all be thankful for brave people like Leon Lewis and his spy ring. I listened to the audio book of this, which I wouldn't particularly recommend. The reader always had a sinister tone, which was sometimes appropriate, sometimes just odd. Fascinating and chilling. I had no idea that Nazi operatives were so active in America and LA in particular. Let's all be thankful for brave people like Leon Lewis and his spy ring. I listened to the audio book of this, which I wouldn't particularly recommend. The reader always had a sinister tone, which was sometimes appropriate, sometimes just odd.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Maggie Anton

    As a LA native and current resident, I found Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America fascinating. I knew that Glendale had been headquarters for American Nazi Party but all the rest was new. It was scary to see how much antisemitism there was, both locally and in the US, before WW2. Scary as well to see the parallels to today's rise of white nationalism. It was also sad to read how the Jewish-led movie industry put profits over alerting people to the dange As a LA native and current resident, I found Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America fascinating. I knew that Glendale had been headquarters for American Nazi Party but all the rest was new. It was scary to see how much antisemitism there was, both locally and in the US, before WW2. Scary as well to see the parallels to today's rise of white nationalism. It was also sad to read how the Jewish-led movie industry put profits over alerting people to the danger of what was happening in Germany. I only gave 4 stars because I found it difficult to keep track of all the spies and spied-upon. Yes, Steven J. Ross gives us a cast of characters in the back, but who wants to keep interrupting the story to look up who's who? Surely he could have made this easier for readers. Even so, this is an important story that needed to be told.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    This was an interesting bit of history that I didn't know much about. It seems like these sorts of radical counter-culture groups are an ever-present background noise - generally with more bark than bite (though not with no bite) - but in this case they seem to have at least had some degree of backing from the Nazi government, which makes their "let's dress up and play army" games take on a lot more of a sinister tone. I am somewhat cynical about the extent to which many counterfactual overthrow This was an interesting bit of history that I didn't know much about. It seems like these sorts of radical counter-culture groups are an ever-present background noise - generally with more bark than bite (though not with no bite) - but in this case they seem to have at least had some degree of backing from the Nazi government, which makes their "let's dress up and play army" games take on a lot more of a sinister tone. I am somewhat cynical about the extent to which many counterfactual overthrow and terrorist plots could have been successful, so in this book, I was torn between awe at how important Lewis's work is, and my natural inclination to assume that these guys were probably not competent enough to pull it off in the first place. Unlike modern day "terrorist stings", though, Lewis does not seem to have been trying to entrap random people - he was going into active Nazi cells and pulling out important information. I have no doubt that the stories have grown a little grander since they happened, but I suspect that the reality of the situation was a fair amount closer to the awe-inspiring scenario than my cynicism would have me believe. I'd say it's worth a read, if only because it's not something I've come across before. 3.5 of 5 stars

  7. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    I really enjoyed this book. I love history especially about World War II and the Nazi regime....shocking how close to home this stuff was....but a great read...just a lot of names to keep track of.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kay

    Deep-diving into the history of law enforcement in Los Angeles led me to this book and I'm so happy it did. So many of my questions were answered in regards to the attitudes of Americans towards Germany and pivotal events the led up to WWII. Even with the understanding that most Americans gave zero fucks about (or cheered on...) the atrocities occurring in Europe, I was slightly taken aback by the sheer amount of pro-Nazi support in high-ranking public positions in Los Angeles. Mayors, sheriffs, Deep-diving into the history of law enforcement in Los Angeles led me to this book and I'm so happy it did. So many of my questions were answered in regards to the attitudes of Americans towards Germany and pivotal events the led up to WWII. Even with the understanding that most Americans gave zero fucks about (or cheered on...) the atrocities occurring in Europe, I was slightly taken aback by the sheer amount of pro-Nazi support in high-ranking public positions in Los Angeles. Mayors, sheriffs, police chiefs, judges, teachers and lawyers... These are men and women who went on to shape important public policies in the city and county for decades after WWII. Audiobook was not the greatest format for me due to the number of key players, but this well-researched piece of work serves as a reminder of a harsh reality: Los Angeles does not have a progressive track history. Side note: Probably not going to trust anyone who calls Crescenta Valley Community Regional Park "Hindenburg Park". You're probably a Nazi, I don't make the rules.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Richard Moss

    An important account of how a Jewish lawyer and his small band of intrepid operatives exposed and disrupted Californian Nazi groups in the 1930s and 1940s. Ross successfully shows that although the leadership of these far right and antisemitic groups was thankfully not of great quality, they were dangerous enough to mount what might have become effective plots to murder prominent Jewish figures in Hollywood and sabotage the defence industry. Without the efforts of Lewis and his agents, they may w An important account of how a Jewish lawyer and his small band of intrepid operatives exposed and disrupted Californian Nazi groups in the 1930s and 1940s. Ross successfully shows that although the leadership of these far right and antisemitic groups was thankfully not of great quality, they were dangerous enough to mount what might have become effective plots to murder prominent Jewish figures in Hollywood and sabotage the defence industry. Without the efforts of Lewis and his agents, they may well have succeeded. There is also convincing evidence that Hitler's Germany was funding and assisting the groups to not only target the Jewish community but to undermine the US government, keep the country out of the war, and eventually foment a pro-Nazi takeover. What is remarkable is that the official intelligence agencies showed little interest in the pro-Nazi groups, being more focused on Communist activity. Early attempts by Lewis to interest the FBI and politicians in his work gained limited traction. It was only when the US finally joined the fight against Germany that the agencies turned to him for the evidence to convict and imprison Nazi sympathisers. There is considerable bravery on show here both from Lewis, the public face of this fight, but also the undercover spies who risked their lives by infiltrating the hate groups that began to become more mainstream as the 1930s progressed. Ross also exposes just how widespread antisemitism was in 1930s America, and how it became a fertile ground for Nazis to exploit, and not just among those with German ancestry. This is a fine tribute to a courageous and resourceful group of people, and a chilling hint of what could have been an alternative path for the US. It could also serve as a warning for today. Ross is perhaps not the greatest prose stylist, and occasionally the cast and timeline becomes a little convoluted, but he supplies enough narrative drive to accompany his meticulous and groundbreaking research, ensuring he does justice to this important and sobering story.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Redpoet

    This is an amazing book and an even more amazing story. I learned about much that for some unknown reason I never knew.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Natalie L.

    An amazing story. Leon Lewis, the man who planned and implemented the dismantling of the Nazi ring here in the USA, is a true unsung hero.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Not the best writing in the world but the story is fascinating.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    From a 21st century vantage point, the moral struggles of the Second World War and the fight against Hitler seem obvious. He was a genocidal madman, all good people joined in opposing him. For those living at the time, it was far from simple. In 1933, Hitler was an authoritarian and eccentric European ruler. Anti-Semitism was mainstream. German-Americans were the single largest European ethnic group. A shifting alliance of native-born American fascist groups like the Silver Shirts, German-Americ From a 21st century vantage point, the moral struggles of the Second World War and the fight against Hitler seem obvious. He was a genocidal madman, all good people joined in opposing him. For those living at the time, it was far from simple. In 1933, Hitler was an authoritarian and eccentric European ruler. Anti-Semitism was mainstream. German-Americans were the single largest European ethnic group. A shifting alliance of native-born American fascist groups like the Silver Shirts, German-American organizations, and outright Nazis spies plotted campaigns of propaganda, terror, murder, and revolutionary violence, to culminate in an American Final Solution. Los Angeles, home to the major movie studios and vital defense installations, was a key target. The police were bought off or complicit, ex-Klansmen who saw the Nazis as allies. The only defense was Leon L. Lewis, a Jewish lawyer and Anti-Defamation League leader who became an amateur spymaster, running teams of agents to monitor and subvert the American Nazis from within. On one level, the Nazis were really not good at security. Lewis, and his aide Joe Roos, managed to get agents into the inner circles of the Bund and the Silver Shirts again and again. They successfully instigated leadership fights between various figures in the covert organization and German diplomatic corps, and kept tabs on a host of subversive behavior. On the other hand, there were hundreds to thousands of activatable Nazi agents placed all through key industries, as well as corps of hardened SA style street fighters. The Nazis made several plays to get arms for murder and revolution. Whatever their scanty ability to actually carry out their plans, they certainly wanted to kill Jews. Most bleakly, despite Lewis and Roos' hard work, law enforcement was hardly interested in Nazis up until Pearl Harbor. The police were actively on the side of the Nazis, and the FBI and House-Un-American Activities Committee was more concerned with Communists than Nazis. American Jews had few friends in power, though those friends (include then Colonel George Marshall) did their best. When war was declared, the FBI and military security apparatus used Roos' files to make wholesale arrests, on almost no information. There's a way in which history repeats. The movie studio bosses were the tech tycoons of their day, the highest paid individuals in America. Many of them were Jewish, and they funded Lewis's efforts. Yet despite their own self-interest, the 'below-the-line' technical work of movie-making was rife with anti-Semiticism, and the Nazi diplomatic corps had a final cut to maintain 'neutrality' in movies. The business of Hollywood was business, not principles. Just like how today's Big Tech hides between 'free speech' while letting neo-Nazi propaganda run wild on their platforms. I'm still unsure how much of a threat Hollywood Nazis really were, but it's indisputable that a few brave men and women ably confounded them.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Marcella Wigg

    American sympathies towards Nazism in the years preceding Pearl Harbor are chronically under-covered in high school history classes, so while I was familiar with the fact that far more Americans had antisemitic attitudes and sympathized with the then-rising German regime in the 1930s, the sheer number of prominent Nazi sympathizers in the Los Angeles area alone is pretty interesting to read about. And despite the Nazi-sympathetic isolationists' claims that Jews were cowardly and unwilling to sta American sympathies towards Nazism in the years preceding Pearl Harbor are chronically under-covered in high school history classes, so while I was familiar with the fact that far more Americans had antisemitic attitudes and sympathized with the then-rising German regime in the 1930s, the sheer number of prominent Nazi sympathizers in the Los Angeles area alone is pretty interesting to read about. And despite the Nazi-sympathetic isolationists' claims that Jews were cowardly and unwilling to stand up in the face of intimidation, in a decade when law enforcement was content to look the other way at fascist tendencies due to the perceived greater threat of communism, American Jews, most prominently Leon Lewis of the Anti-Defamation League, coordinated anti-fascist German-Americans' infiltration of the Silver Shirts and other elements of the fascist underground in Los Angeles. At personal risk, members of his extralegal spy ring tracked the various fronts of the Nazi threat in the U.S. in the 1930s, from private plans to commit genocide against "the Jewish bankers" to the sabotage on the production line of military equipment that might eventually serve the war effort against the Germans. It's also interesting to read about Nazi plans for victory. Since I've never lived in a pre-World War II world, it can be hard to remember sometimes that there was no inevitability to the victors of the war except in hindsight; in the lead-up to the war, many Americans sympathized with Hitler. Meanwhile, Hitler and Goebbels were both not oblivious to the influence of Hollywood film, which made L.A. a particularly strategic target for a place to gather influence. Ross' portrait of Gyssling was also interesting, a reminder of the varieties of opinion of the Third Reich even among its diplomats. One of the things that stood out to me most throughout this book was law enforcement's complicity in continuing to allow virulently and openly anti-Jewish, pro-Nazi hate groups to continue to flourish in Los Angeles because they opposed the "larger foe" of the Soviet Union. Eventually, these attitudes became less permissible to law enforcement, but it's a valuable insight into institutional attitudes in the era and how the institution is not always right, as judged by history.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Donald Luther

    Most who are familiar with American history leading up to World War II know about America First and, possibly, the Silver Shirts. But there is an impression that those groups simply disappeared after Pearl Harbor and that, even during their peak periods, they were fringe groups without much influence and with a small membership. This is a very thorough chronicling of the very large number of Nazi-supported, anti-Semitic organisations that sprouted up in southern California during the 1930s and e Most who are familiar with American history leading up to World War II know about America First and, possibly, the Silver Shirts. But there is an impression that those groups simply disappeared after Pearl Harbor and that, even during their peak periods, they were fringe groups without much influence and with a small membership. This is a very thorough chronicling of the very large number of Nazi-supported, anti-Semitic organisations that sprouted up in southern California during the 1930s and early 40s. And it demonstrates that those organisations were neither on the fringe nor very small. Leon Lewis and Joe Roos are at the center of Ross's story about the private enterprise to ferret out Nazi spies and their efforts to keep the US out of European affairs. Their work was so successful that, after Pearl Harbor, government agencies (the FBI, Immigration, and the War and State Departments, among others) relied upon the information they had gathered to locate German agents on the west coast. Through agents of their own creation, Lewis and Roos collected data on membership, reports on speeches and rallies, and plans (often quite fantastic) for sabotage and even the assassination of important members of Los Angeles' Jewish community. The work done by these agents was dangerous, as the book points out, as there is a strong suspicion that two of these spies within the Nazi community were killed by the subjects of their investigations. The book also makes clear that anti-Nazi, antifascist, and anti-Semitic investigations always held a lower priority to official investigations (state and federal government and FBI) to the search for communists. Some congressional investigations were even led by office-holders who either supported or may have been members of America First. We also see the jealousies that sprouted among the official agencies when it came to publicity and newspaper coverage of their work. The book is comprehensive and well-written, often with surprising information, such as revealing a German government official in Los Angeles who opposed the Nazi regime and who served as a source for some investigations into Nazi espionage.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Evelyn Switzer

    This is a well researched and powerful book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Saunders

    Steven J. Ross's Hitler in Los Angeles recounts the efforts of Nazi spies and homegrown fascists to establish a foothold in 1930s California - and the efforts of a small network of Jewish activists to foil them. Other books cover bits and pieces of this story but Ross expertly connects them: from the German-American Bund and the Silver Shirts to German diplomats, pro-Nazi millionaires, movie stars and other con men (Victor McLaglen's crazy brother!), by Ross's account they posed a more serious t Steven J. Ross's Hitler in Los Angeles recounts the efforts of Nazi spies and homegrown fascists to establish a foothold in 1930s California - and the efforts of a small network of Jewish activists to foil them. Other books cover bits and pieces of this story but Ross expertly connects them: from the German-American Bund and the Silver Shirts to German diplomats, pro-Nazi millionaires, movie stars and other con men (Victor McLaglen's crazy brother!), by Ross's account they posed a more serious threat to democracy than most people realize. But Ross spends equal time chronicling the heroism of Leon Lewis, a well-connected Jewish attorney who worked to subvert these organizations, whether by public exposure or internal sabotage. What could easily veer towards sensationalism or overwrought speculation (like Charles Higham's American Swastika, which covers a lot of the same ground) becomes a vivid, chillingly convincing window into a forgotten moment in American history.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Darlene

    This reads like a thriller, all the more amazing because it’s based on true events. It’s hard to believe that the Nazi threat wasn’t taken seriously in the 1930s, in fact, Hitler had widespread support and the German government could exercise tremendous influence in Hollywood. A handful of Jewish activists, many of whom were WWI veterans, banded together with other veterans and supporters to expose the Nazi threat. Densely packed with facts and figures, it’s a cautionary tale that’s sadly timele This reads like a thriller, all the more amazing because it’s based on true events. It’s hard to believe that the Nazi threat wasn’t taken seriously in the 1930s, in fact, Hitler had widespread support and the German government could exercise tremendous influence in Hollywood. A handful of Jewish activists, many of whom were WWI veterans, banded together with other veterans and supporters to expose the Nazi threat. Densely packed with facts and figures, it’s a cautionary tale that’s sadly timeless as Nazis again get airtime and exposure for their warped cause.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Roger

    Patriot Anti-Nazis in LA An historical account of the undercover work of anti-nazi patriots in LA to subvert and inform on nazi agents and sympathizers in the Southern California area. Well written, fast-paced, wonderfully narrated, and inspiring.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Cheifetz

    Very interesting story that I did not know. Glad that I read. However, extremely detailed and reads more like a history textbook than a novel.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Elise Libnic

    Reads like a spy thriller and exposes a hidden and dark chapter inn the history of Los Angeles. Highly recommend.

  22. 5 out of 5

    AttackGirl

    Where is my review? I do not agree with the author at all. The words openly show to anyone who knows anything at all about Hitler this is completely made up BS.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I came across Steven Ross' book, "Hitler in Los Angeles". I was pretty sure Hitler never visited Los Angeles, so was curious about the title and subject. While Hitler may not have visited L.S., Ross writes about Hitler's many supporters in America in the late 1930's and early 1940's. Anti-Semitic attitudes weren't rare in the United States during this period, but those attitudes seemed to be increasing among many German-Americans and pro-Nazi groups during I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I came across Steven Ross' book, "Hitler in Los Angeles". I was pretty sure Hitler never visited Los Angeles, so was curious about the title and subject. While Hitler may not have visited L.S., Ross writes about Hitler's many supporters in America in the late 1930's and early 1940's. Anti-Semitic attitudes weren't rare in the United States during this period, but those attitudes seemed to be increasing among many German-Americans and pro-Nazi groups during the period of Hitler's leadership. Anti-communist feelings were also strong at the time, and it didn't help that many people believed that many Jews were also communists or communist sympathizers. People were also looking for new leadership and political change at this time coming out of the Great Depression, so groups working behind the scenes toward the overthrow of Democracy weren't necessarily considered fringe groups. With this as background, Ross looks in some detail at Hitler followers who were plotting against Jews and Communists in California and elsewhere. The German-American Bund was one paramilitary group with tens of thousands of members supportive of Nazi practices. Another group was the Silvershirts, founded by a sometime Hollywood screenwriter, William Pelly. Sounding eerily similar to some political sentiments of today, Pelly pushed an "America First" movement. Television wasn't available at the time, so Pelly didn't complain about the Media, but he did become critical of Hollywood movies. He also labeled movie moguls as rapists and perverts, and blamed them for hiring hiring Jewish actors and writers, complaining that they took good jobs from Gentiles. His Silvershirts, partially funded by German agents, armed themselves, were dedicated to Christian beliefs, keeping America White and Christian, and to political change. Pelly looked at himself as being the "American Fuhrer". With Hitler oppressing Jews in Europe, there was concern that pro-Nazi groups active in the United States would do the same. Jewish leaders ​especially became fearful that some of Hitler's pre-war pogroms against Jews in Germany could lead to violence against Jews in the U.S. Given how ineffective resistance to Nazi persecutions of Jews in Europe appeared to have been, some in the American Jewish community felt the need to stand up to and resist anti-Semitic groups. And that is the main focus of Ross' book. The leader of this Jewish resistance in the U.S. in the late 1930's was Leon Lewis, a Jewish lawyer in Los Angeles. Ross discusses Lewis and the activities of his tiny group, and what steps they took to prevent ​American ​anti-Semitic groups​ ​from adopting and fostering Nazi attitudes in the U.S. Lewis organized an informal spy network to infiltrate American Nazi groups, mostly in California. Lewis and his small group was surprisingly effective in identifying anti-American groups and individuals, and disrupting their activities. If not for Lewis and his group, political extremism and Nazi attitudes in California and the U.S. could have been much worse.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rob Kitchin

    Prior the Second World War the Nazis targeted Los Angeles and Hollywood due to its strong military-industrial complex (especially Navy and aircraft production) and the propaganda power of the movies produced. As well as the German consul vetting movie production across studios with the threat of banning all films from the lucrative German market, they also set up spy networks, encouraged those of German descent to oppose America entering any future European war, and helped organize and fund pro- Prior the Second World War the Nazis targeted Los Angeles and Hollywood due to its strong military-industrial complex (especially Navy and aircraft production) and the propaganda power of the movies produced. As well as the German consul vetting movie production across studios with the threat of banning all films from the lucrative German market, they also set up spy networks, encouraged those of German descent to oppose America entering any future European war, and helped organize and fund pro-Nazi and fascist organizations. Despite the threat posed by a foreign power operating in their territory and fomenting racial hatred, and German re-armament and the treatment of Jews in Germany, US policing and military intelligence paid little attention. Many members of the police had fascist leanings and were anti-Semitic, the FBI were chronically under-staffed, military intelligence outwards facing, and all three were more concerned with communism. Instead it was left to the Jewish community and their allies to monitor and tackle the growth of openly pro-Nazi/pro-German and fascist groups. Steven Ross details the work of Leon Lewis and Joseph Roos, a lawyer and a journalist, who set up their own spy organization and network in Los Angeles, funded by the heads of the Jewish owned movie studios. Lewis and Roos recruited a number of spies – thirteen of which feature in the book – who agreed to join various fascist organizations, work their way up through the ranks, pass on everything they heard and work to spread discord and internal fights between rival factors. It was dangerous work, with the threat of death for any spy discovered, and at least three died in suspicious circumstances. Lewis and Roos passed on what they learned to the police and intelligence services, seeking to prosecute those preaching hate crimes and planning to commit domestic intelligence. Ross provides a fascinating and detailed account of the work of this spy network in penetrating organizations promoting fascism, some of which were also aiding German ambitions, and the extent of anti-Semitism and isolationist views in pre-war America. He does a good job of marshalling all the material and providing a coherent narrative given the number of actors and organizations. While providing plenty of detail, he doesn’t let it swamp the story and keeps the account moving along. I only had two minor gripes. First, the title is a little misleading – Hitler is used as a surrogate for Nazism (he doesn't feature per se) and the focus is both Nazi and fascist groups in Los Angeles, the latter of which might not be pro-Nazi or pro-Germany, but certainly is American first, isolationist, and anti-Semitic and racist. Second, Hollywood and its moguls fall out of the story as it progresses and is certainly never revisited as to its reaction to the various cases and on-going anti-Semitism throughout the war, or how it dealt with fascism post-war. Overall, an absorbing and engaging account that underscores how deep-seated white, Christian, nationalist fascism is in the United States (and how they are aided/funded by other countries – swap Russia for Germany for the present).

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ken McDouall

    Increasingly visible and outspoken, extremist right-wing groups organize openly for white supremacy. Fascism seems to have growing support. KKK supporters and Nazi sympathizers permeate police departments. Extremist views are heard even within mainstream organizations like the California Women's Republican Club, where some call for their enemies to be "hung from lampposts." Plans are made for armed rebellion, the overthrow of the government, and kidnaping and execution of prominent figures. Is t Increasingly visible and outspoken, extremist right-wing groups organize openly for white supremacy. Fascism seems to have growing support. KKK supporters and Nazi sympathizers permeate police departments. Extremist views are heard even within mainstream organizations like the California Women's Republican Club, where some call for their enemies to be "hung from lampposts." Plans are made for armed rebellion, the overthrow of the government, and kidnaping and execution of prominent figures. Is this a description of recent times? Probably, but this was the situation in 1930s America, when anti-Semitism was perfectly respectable and fascist organizations openly proclaimed that democracy's time was up. Ross takes us on a detailed exploration of fascist plots for sabotage and sedition in southern California during this time, and the insanely courageous efforts of a group of spies that thwarted many of these plans. Disruption of the fascist threat didn't come from the FBI--they were too busy chasing communists--but from Leon Lewis, a Jewish lawyer who took it upon himself to organize the resistance to an intended Nazi takeover of the government. Local police departments were no help--they were too infested with white supremacists and KKK supporters. But Lewis's volunteer spies penetrated to the highest levels of groups like the Silver Shirts, split them into bickering factions, fed them false information, and eventually--when the U.S. entered World War II and authorities finally started paying attention to fascist subversion--supplied the names of those who were a threat. The parallels to present times are astounding and pop up on nearly every page. Though at times bogging down in details, Ross generally keeps the story moving ahead with solid writing and startling anecdotes. Credit is due for shedding light on this largely forgotten history.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Umar Lee

    This is an important read for three reasons. The book details how the Nazis feared the influence of Hollywood and used their financial power to curtail films they saw as negative to their image. On multiple ocassions the Hitler regime was successful in stopping films from being made and distributed. There are regimes today (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, India and China to name a few) using similar methods. Nazi Germany also financially supported their American supporters. The book also discusses the pla This is an important read for three reasons. The book details how the Nazis feared the influence of Hollywood and used their financial power to curtail films they saw as negative to their image. On multiple ocassions the Hitler regime was successful in stopping films from being made and distributed. There are regimes today (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, India and China to name a few) using similar methods. Nazi Germany also financially supported their American supporters. The book also discusses the plans of Los Angeles Nazis to commit widespread terrorist attacks on the local Jewish population inspiring similar attacks nationwide. It is important to note that at this time many in LA law enforcement were either indifferent to the Nazi threat or in outright support. With recent reports showing the strength of the far-right in law enforcement and the military this isn't so different than today. The book, most important to me, highlights the actions of heroic American Jews involved in espionage and disruption of LA Nazis while the government was initially indifferent. While these efforts were Jewish-led they couldn't have been successful without the help of German-Americans willing to go undercover. The only reason I won't give this book five stars is I would've liked to have seen a book more national in scope. While it's true the Nazis focused on California for espionage and a future invasion there were similar groups of American-Jews involved in the infiltration of Nazi groups in Chicago, Detroit, St Louis, and other cities.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Harold

    As a resident of Los Angeles, I have never spent much time considering what the political environment in Los Angeles (or any American city) was like during the rise of Hitlerism and through the advent of the Second World War. Wasn’t LA then just like it is now, but without television? Well, no. There were active Hitler support groups, rife with spies, ready to kill the American Jewish propagandists who ran the Hollywood Studios, the actors and fellow travelers who assisted them, and a wide varie As a resident of Los Angeles, I have never spent much time considering what the political environment in Los Angeles (or any American city) was like during the rise of Hitlerism and through the advent of the Second World War. Wasn’t LA then just like it is now, but without television? Well, no. There were active Hitler support groups, rife with spies, ready to kill the American Jewish propagandists who ran the Hollywood Studios, the actors and fellow travelers who assisted them, and a wide variety of politicians and influencers. And on the other was the American government? Well no. A large and successful intelligence operation was run by two civilians, funded by a few prominent members of the Jewish community in Los Angeles (including some of the same Hollywood moguls who were targets). Hoover and the FBI, and the local authorities, were interested in chasing communists, not Nazis. This book is extremely detailed. While the detail bothered me — do I need to really know that much? — without it I would not have believed the threat. What you can’t tell from reading the book is whether, measured against the country as a whole, or even the city of Los Angeles, this was a significant threat — though it is clearly described as such — or whether it was just a pimple, ugly and inflamed but unlikely to be serious. Fortunately, we will never know.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Hal Issen

    A very important book for our time; this is the part of history leading up to WW II I never learned. The most important reason to read this book is to see historical precedent that the USA certainly has the capacity to become a fascist state. Basically, there were large-scale organizations of white nationalists organized in Los Angles, that a foreign fascist government actively added and encouraged to in order to influence USA's foreign policy - sound familiar? Ordinarily I would give this book A very important book for our time; this is the part of history leading up to WW II I never learned. The most important reason to read this book is to see historical precedent that the USA certainly has the capacity to become a fascist state. Basically, there were large-scale organizations of white nationalists organized in Los Angles, that a foreign fascist government actively added and encouraged to in order to influence USA's foreign policy - sound familiar? Ordinarily I would give this book 3 stars; it is meticulously researched, documented and footnoted, however, the writing is not terribly artful and it reads rather like a newspaper account. Warning- Spoilers follow Americans working for foreign agents infiltrated the National Guard, policy departments, and defense manufacturing plants. There were (unauthorized) militia that drilled with weapons weekly to prepare for a Nazi takeover of the USA. There were groups with plans to kidnap and execute prominent Jewish citizens for no reason other than resentment of their success, based on their religion. Some people passively agreed with these Nazi beliefs for America, and some people in power sympathized and used their authority to slow or abort investigations. A handful of people tried to help the investigators in uncovering the traitors among us. They are the unsung heroes.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    I was initially intrigued by this book as I thought it would deal mostly with the German Government's relationship with the American Film Industry. Boy was I wrong! It is an in depth expose' of the German American Bund,Friends of New Germany and the German Government's activity on the West Coast and the men who kept eye on them. It turns out that California was the 2nd largest center for German prewar spying. Initially, it was only through the efforts of Leon Lewis, a Jewish Attorney, that kept I was initially intrigued by this book as I thought it would deal mostly with the German Government's relationship with the American Film Industry. Boy was I wrong! It is an in depth expose' of the German American Bund,Friends of New Germany and the German Government's activity on the West Coast and the men who kept eye on them. It turns out that California was the 2nd largest center for German prewar spying. Initially, it was only through the efforts of Leon Lewis, a Jewish Attorney, that kept the spy organizations under surveillance and thwarted some of their early attempts at sabotage. Lewis's organization was originally set up to help protect the movie moguls from violent plots but morphed into the largest intelligence gathering service. In the 30's it was the communist threat that garnered all the attention and government man power. Fascism was thought to be an ally against communism, so therefore not a threat. Few cared about the German/Italian/Japanese influence and intelligence gathering until the U.S was literally at war. Lewis and his one lieutenant, Joseph Roos were not only sounding the alarm since the early 30s, they were providing top notch intelligence to any of the very few) services that were interested. These two men frightened the facsist movement on the West Coast more than any government agency. It turns out that fear was well founded

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kristi

    This is an extensively researched and well written history of an embarrassing time in American history in the years leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. A team of self-taught volunteers working for and with Jewish leader Leon Lewis were more informed and cared more about gestapo agents, spies, and fifth columnists than the FBI ( notably J. Edgar Hoover who was more interested in tracking Communists ), the state department, and HUAC - House Unamerican Activities Committee. The portions that This is an extensively researched and well written history of an embarrassing time in American history in the years leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. A team of self-taught volunteers working for and with Jewish leader Leon Lewis were more informed and cared more about gestapo agents, spies, and fifth columnists than the FBI ( notably J. Edgar Hoover who was more interested in tracking Communists ), the state department, and HUAC - House Unamerican Activities Committee. The portions that I found the most interesting as a film buff was the plots to assassinate Charlie Chaplin ( the most hated American ), Al Jolson, and the studio heads. The Nazis / fascists were able to prevent films from being made and to censor those that were. It was interesting to learn that much of the German agents and information moved in and out of the loosely protected Los Angeles harbors since New York had more security. I was already aware of the antisemitism of Henry Ford and the Nazi admiration of Charles Lindbergh. I did not know the extent of Nazi activity in the U. S. in the 1930's and after the beginning of the war. I highly recommend this excellent history. Kristi & Abby Tabby

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