cover image American Fuehrer: George Lincoln Rockwell and the American Nazi Party

American Fuehrer: George Lincoln Rockwell and the American Nazi Party

Frederick James Simonelli. University of Illinois Press, $35 (206pp) ISBN 978-0-252-02285-2

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)