Charles R. Gallagher, SJ, an Assistant Professor of History at Boston College, addressed an audience of 100 people, detailing the work of the Christian Front in Boston during World War II. A Catholic anti-Semitic fraternal organization, the group’s propaganda efforts for the Nazis were so successful that British intelligence established its own organization in Boston, the Irish-American Defense Association. Gallagher posed his research question to listeners – Why did the Christian Front get shut down for terrorism in New York in January of 1940, but remain active until 1943 in Boston? Why should we care?
The Boston group’s leader, Francis Moran, held meetings for the thousands of members in Hibernian Hall in Roxbury, regularly showing Nazi propaganda films. At one point, Moran attempted to link the group to the Archdiocese of Boston, but the Cardinal said no. Interestingly, Moran always said that the Christian Front was about war and peace, not Catholicism. While British intelligence was a presence in Boston during the early 1940s, Gallagher noted that the Boston FBI office had no idea this was happening.
The answer to “Why should we care?,” says Gallagher, is that this time in Boston’s history raises questions of democracy and security, which are issues still prevalent today. Gallagher plans to write the book this summer and have it to press by the fall.
The Local & Family History Series runs through May and continues on February 24 with Marta Crilly’s talk “History of the Hub: Resources for Local and Family History at the Boston City Archives.” See the full schedule via www.bpl.org/localhistory.