A long-overdue excavation of the book that Hitler called his “bible,” and the man who wrote it
By Adam Serwer | The Atlantic | April 2019
Robert bowers wanted everyone to know why he did it.
“I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered,” he posted on the social-media network Gab shortly before allegedly entering the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27 and gunning down 11 worshippers. He “wanted all Jews to die,” he declared while he was being treated for his wounds. Invoking the specter of white Americans facing “genocide,” he singled out HIAS, a Jewish American refugee-support group, and accused it of bringing “invaders in that kill our people.” Then–Attorney General Jeff Sessions, announcing that Bowers would face federal charges, was unequivocal in his condemnation: “These alleged crimes are incomprehensibly evil and utterly repugnant to the values of this nation.”
The pogrom in Pittsburgh, occurring just days before the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, seemed fundamentally un-American to many. Sessions’s denunciation spoke to the reality that most Jews have found a welcome home in the United States. His message also echoed what has become an insistent refrain in the Donald Trump era. Americans want to believe that the surge in white-supremacist violence and recruitment—the march in Charlottesville, Virginia, where neo-Nazis chanted “Jews will not replace us”; the hate crimes whose perpetrators invoke the president’s name as a battle cry—has no roots in U.S. soil, that it is racist zealotry with a foreign pedigree and marginal allure.The president’s rhetoric about “shithole countries” invites dismissal as crude talk, but behind it lie ideas whose power should not be underestimated.
Warnings from conservative pundits on Fox News about the existential threat facing a country overrun by immigrants meet with a similar response. “Massive demographic changes,” Laura Ingraham has proclaimed, mean that “the America we know and love doesn’t exist anymore” in much of the country: Surely this kind of rhetoric reflects mere ignorance. Or it’s just a symptom of partisan anxiety about what those changes may portend for Republicans’ electoral prospects. As for the views and