Story by Marianne Salza
The West End Museum (WEM) welcomed Boston College professor, Charles Gallagher, for a discussion about his book, “Nazis of Copley Square: The Forgotten Story of the Christian Front,” on November 9. In his book, Gallagher explains the lived-experiences of Catholic Boston in the 1930s-1940s, connecting working class people to global events.
“It was a fun book to write,” exclaimed Gallagher. “I’ve read 5,000-10,000 pages of FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] files.”
Gallagher spent ten years completing “Nazis of Copley Square” because he requested three FBI files, and each document took two years to be released.
“Nazis of Copley Square” reveals how American terrorists conspired to overthrow the government in alliance with Adolf Hitler. Gallagher details the evolution of the Christian Front, an anti-Semitic organization most numerous in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, with some 100,000 members along the East Coast.
During his lecture, Gallagher mentioned the affiliation between master German spy, Herbert Scholz, and Francis P. Moran, an Irish Catholic from Dorchester who operated the Christian Front. Their first official meeting of the two was in July 1940 at the German Consulate, located at 39 Chestnut Street, Beacon Hill.
“Allegedly, the first floor of that building was lined with lead, so the FBI listening devises couldn’t hear,” revealed Gallagher.
Scholz was the Diplomatic Consul in Boston (1938-1941), an elite SS (Schutzstaffel) officer, and Hitler’s spy chief in the United States. He attended Leipzig University, in Germany, and received a doctorate degree in Nazi Philosophy.
Scholz recruited Moran — who was fluent in German — for Nazi propaganda and espionage. He provided Moran with direction and funds as he embarked on religious speaking tours along the East Coast, increasing Christian Front membership.”
“Francis Moran’s headquarters for the Christian Front was located on the second floor of the Copley Square Hotel,” Gallagher pointed out. “It was impressive and had one of the most beautiful lobbies in the city. One of the people who lived there was Babe Ruth, when he played for the Red Sox.”
The American intelligence agencies surveilling the Christian Front included FBI Counterintelligence, US Office of Naval Intelligence, US Army Counter Intelligence Corps, Office of Strategic Services, and the Boston Police Department. When Moran moved the Christian Front underground in 1943, not even the FBI could monitor it.
“None of theses agencies, for the duration of the 1930s-1940s were able to figure out if Moran was an agent of Sholz, and a Nazi Spy,” asserted Gallagher.
The FBI eventually snuck an informant into the circle, her codename was T 1, and she worked in the Charlestown Naval Base and was fluent in German. T 1 refused to take the stand against Moran in a trial because she was fearful of her life.
“By 1943, Moran became more deeply anti-Semitic; and approved of the extermination of the Nazis,” Gallagher said and added “once he was under Scholz’s tutelage, he went deeper into Nazi ideology.”
Gallagher’s interest in the subject began when he was an undergraduate student being trained in semi-automatic weaponry to become a police officer in his hometown. He recognized that the young men in a 1939 photograph were Christian Front members, and were holding Springfield 1903 rifles with a .30-06 caliber shell. The action committee took part in military training and target practice before and after Sunday mass.
“The guns shoot a five-round stripper clip,” explained Gallagher, whose nickname was “Officer Friendly.” The bullet is three inches long, and will go through a brick wall. That’s military-grade weaponry.”
These men attempted to overthrow the US government by force in 1940; and were charged with seditious conspiracy by the FBI, but were later exonerated.
“It was wild that a bunch of Catholics tried to overthrow the government and nobody knew about it or cared. The chilling way they cached weapons and made bombs was unbelievable,” said Gallagher. “The Scholz and Moran relationship, in my opinion, was one of the most secret relationships of World War II. Both of them got off free, and retired to quiet, substantial lives after the war; and they did a lot of dirty work in the meantime.”
He teaches American Catholic history, Vatican diplomacy, U.S. diplomatic history, 19th and 20th century American social and religious history, and the history of the Holocaust.