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White supremacist and ardent Nazi follower William Dudley Pelley, a New England native of what he calls “uncontaminated English stock,” founds the Silver Shirts, a neo-Nazi organization, in Asheville, North Carolina, the same day that Adolf Hitler ascends to power in Germany. Apparently Pelley funds the organization through the proceeds of a best-selling book, Seven Minutes in Eternity, in which he claimed to have died and gone to “the beyond” for a seven-minute period. Pelley and his followers, including Henry Lamont “Mike” Beach (see 1969), dress themselves in silver shirts emblazoned with a large cursive “L,” blue corduroy knickers, and gold stockings. Pelley considers himself a Republican, though he is not politically active in the usual sense.
Anti-Semitic, Anti-Government - His efforts attract members from pro-Nazi groups, Ku Klux Klan chapters, and others sympathetic to his anti-Semitic views. In August 1933, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) will warn: “The Silver Shirts came into existence the early part of this year. They are enrolling white Protestant Christians as members of a Christian militia, through a plan of State encampments that are reported to extend into various states of the Union, with posts in every community.” According to Silver Shirt documents obtained by the AJC, the group intends to bring about the establishment of a strictly Christian government in the US; accuses President Roosevelt of being a “dictator” and “set[ting] aside the Constitution, which they desire to restore”; intends to “save [the] United States from a state of Sovietism into which… the Jews are leading the country”; accuses Jews of being a “money power” bent on destroying the nation’s economy via their “control” of the Federal Reserve; and says that “a people who constitute only 2.5 per cent of the population [Jews] to be held down to a 2.5 per cent influence in the American government, and we propose to see that it is brought about, race prejudice or no!” The group also advocates a form of direct democracy, in which citizens mail in their votes for or against pending legislation, and proposes the reorganization of America into what it calls a “colossus corporation,” where “[e]very citizen shall be both a common and a preferred stockholder.”
Psychic Messages - Pelley claims to receive psychic messages from “the vastness of cosmos,” including two sets of documents, the “Esoteric Doctrines of the Liberation Enlightenment” and the “Liberation Scripts,” which set forth the “Christ government” he intends to establish. In a Silver Shirt newsletter, Pelley writes: “It is the order of things that those wicked and malignant spirits who have incarnated in certain sections of the Hebrew race trying to bring the downfall of the Christ Peoples, should meet a fearful fate in this closing of the Cycle of Cosmic Event. That contest is on-the-make and Hitler’s job it has been to do the advance work. But Hitler is not going to finish that work. THE FINISH OF IT COMES RIGHT HERE IN AMERICA!” Pelley writes that “the Jew” is possessed of a “nomadic character, making him an internationalist whose ultimate objectives may well mean the destruction and disappearance of the United States.” (American Jewish Committee 8/24/1933; Ian Geldard 2/19/1995; David Neiwert 6/17/2003)
Spike in Membership Will Dwindle - Pelley’s group will enjoy its largest membership of some 15,000 in 1934; four years later, the group will dwindle to around 5,000 members. (The Holocaust Chronicle 2009) Pelley will be convicted of sedition in 1942, and by the time he emerges from prison in 1950, his Silver Shirts will have long since disappeared.
'Christian Fascist' - In the early 1980s, graduate student Karen Hoppes will write extensively about Pelley. She will write of his Christian fundamentalism: “[T]he link with fundamental Christianity establishes the uniqueness of American fascism. The majority of fascist groups justified their existence by their desire to change the United States into a Christian society.… The relationship between the religious identity of these groups and their political demands can be shown by a careful survey of their rhetoric. The Christian fascist does not distinguish between the application of the terms anti-Christ, Jew, and Communist. Neither does he distinguish between Gentile and Christian.” (David Neiwert 6/17/2003)
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