From Publishers Weekly
His father was a popular vaudeville comedian and humor columnist. His mother was a graceful, delicate toe dancer. George Lincoln Rockwell achieved notoriety through an altogether different kind of showmanship, as the founder and leader of the American Nazi Party, who vowed to exterminate Jews, blacks and homosexuals. Although his neofascist crusade, at its height, attracted perhaps a few hundred hardcore followers, the Illinois-born demagogue was no mere powerless gadfly or eccentric crank, as Simonelli, who teaches at Mount St. Mary's College in Los Angeles, demonstrates in his chilling biography. Rockwell's Holocaust denial bequeathed a propaganda tool to racist right-wing extremists who seek to mute the moral lessons of Hitler's crimes. His links to the Christian Identity movement provided a camouflage for a later generation of white supremacists seeking theological justification for their hatreds. Moreover, in the months before he was assassinated in 1967 (possibly as the result of a conspiracy within his own party, as Simonelli reveals), Rockwell attempted to "sanitize" his anti-Semitism and racism for mass consumption. He thereby set an example, according to Simonelli, for David Duke, a Rockwell disciple. Rockwell's psyche remains elusive: the beatings he suffered from the aunt who raised him and the coldness of his domineering father only begin to account for his warped beliefs. Even so, this excellent biography sounds a timely warning against complacency toward contemporary extremists. Photos. (July)
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"This excellent biography sounds a timely warning against complacency toward contemporary extremists." - Publishers Weekly "Strong stuff that needs to see the light of day." - Booklist "Simonelli's book is well worth reading. It provides a sensible antidote to the shrill cries of hateful leaders." -- Leonard Dinnerstein, American Historical Review "Call me sick, but I had to laugh sometimes while I was reading American Fuehrer ... Laugh the way I would at, say, Charlie Chaplin as Adenoid Hynkel in his 1940 Hitler spoof, "The Great Dictator," because you can't believe someone that depraved, that clownish, that peerlessly narcissistic can win over a single person, much less crowds. Rockwell ... was pathetic and probably mentally ill, but he had charisma... Another nutbar, then. Why should we care? Because, Simonelli stresses, in a nation in which Timothy McVeigh and Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris inflict themselves, Rockwell types still cut a swath." - Katharine Whittemore, Salon Magazine "A meticulously researched work invaluable for its bibliography alone." -- Susan Canedy, The Journal of American History "[Rockwell's] place in the resurgence of racism and anti-Semitism is contained in a biography by Frederick J. Simonelli called American Fuehrer. Read it and you'll understand to some extent why a slick racist rabble-rouser like David Duke exists today. You'll know why there are skinheads and why there are churches that preach the ugliest forms of separatism. Rockwell redefined Nazism to fit America... Simonelli has researched the life of hatred's godfather for almost a decade. He knows him well." - Al Martinez, Los Angeles Times "This is a very good book about a very ugly subject." - Arnold Ages, Chicago Jewish Star "If you're interested in how the network of modern hate got its start, American Fuehrer is a must-read." - Roger Matile, Kendall County Record "The book itself is cool and serious, without a hint of sensationalism...Simonelli provides extensive documentation - and his footnotes and bibliography are, in a way, the most astonishing pages in the book... American Fuehrer is an important addition to the literature on the far right." - Scott McLemee, In These Times "Writing about an individual whose historical legacy is radical and religious hatred is an arduous and perhaps thankless task. Simonelli, writing with grace and care, makes clear his rejection of George Lincoln Rockwell's ideas while successfully demonstrating Rockwell's strategies, affiliations, and significance... The subject matter of this book is not pleasant reading, but the book is both timely and important." - Martin Ridge, Journal of Illinois History "American Fuehrer was difficult to research, and Simonelli has done an unusually industrious job of piecing together Rockwell's personal life and painting a compelling human portrait... This first biography of one of the more enigmatic and contemptible figures of our time will be most useful to those interested in exploring the nature of anti-Semites and anti-Semitism and designing strategies to combat it." - Glen Jeansonne, American Jewish History ADVANCE PRAISE "Simonelli has had extraordinary access to an unusual range of sources unexamined or unknown prior to his research, including private archives. This is a splendid piece of original scholarship on a significant topic, written with verve and clarity."-Michael Barkun, author of Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement "Simonelli has mined the rich lode of personal interviews and archives relating to George Lincoln Rockwell and written the definitive treatment of his subject."-Peter Merkl, coeditor of Encounters with the Contemporary Radical Right