Skip to main content Accessibility
The Intelligence Report is the SPLC's award-winning magazine. Subscribe here for a print copy.

Exploring What is Behind the Rare Phenomenon of Jewish Anti-Semites

What is behind the rare-but-recurring phenomenon of Jewish anti-Semites?

For more than three decades, William Potter Gale warned the world that a satanic Jewish conspiracy disguised as communism was corrupting public officials and the courts, undermining the United States and wrecking its divinely inspired Constitution.

Jews, the self-described "reverend" taught, were offspring of the devil, while non-whites were "mud people" and whites were the real Hebrews of the Bible. By the time of his death in 1988, Bill Gale had spent half a lifetime energetically promoting his particularly bloodthirsty brand of anti-Semitism across America.

"Arise and fight!" Gale preached in one infamous sermon broadcast to Kansas farmers in 1982. "If a Jew comes near you, run a sword through him."

But William Potter Gale had a secret. It turns out that Gale, founder of the Jew-hating Posse Comitatus that raged through the Midwest in the 1970s and 1980s, was descended on his father's side from a long line of devout Jews.

In interviews with this author for a book being published this fall, Gale's daughters revealed with some bemusement the Jewish roots of their grandfather and his forebears.

Ironically, like so many other 19th-century Jews from Eastern Europe, Bill Gale's father Charles was fleeing Russian anti-Semitism and seeking economic opportunity when he arrived in the United States in 1894, changing his name from Grabifker in the process.

Four years later, Charles, then 18, lied about his age and place of birth in order to join the U.S. Army — but he was truthful enough to declare on his military enlistment papers that his parents' nationality was "Hebrew."

While Charles Gale eventually abandoned Judaism, married a non-Jew and raised his children as Christians, all of his siblings proudly embraced their religious heritage. Charles' younger sister, a practicing Jew, was often a guest in the Gale family household in Los Angeles when Bill Gale was a teenager.

Despite this and many other reminders of his father's heritage, Bill Gale had adopted Christian Identity theology and become an unrepentant anti-Semite by the mid-1950s.

Although it is in some ways unique, the remarkable case of Bill Gale is not unprecedented. Some of the most zealous anti-Semites on the American white supremacist scene have turned out to have direct family links to the religion and the people they have devoted their lives to hating.

Similarly, a self-described "Aryan" named Leo Felton, convicted this year in a conspiracy to blow up Jewish and black landmarks, turned out to have a black father (see From the Belly of the Beast). And uncounted white supremacists have sneaked across the color line to engage in sex with black women.

Jewish anti-Semitism, however, is a case unto itself.

Power and Powerlessness
Around the world, there is a sad and troubling history of Jewish self-hatred that has played itself out in a variety of ways. To even start to understand this history, it is necessary to understand the basic mythology of anti-Semitism.

As described by Norman Cohn — a leading scholar of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a classic anti-Semitic text — the political myth about Jewish world domination can be summarized as follows:

[T]here exists a secret Jewish government which, through a worldwide network of camouflaged agencies and organizations, controls political parties and governments, the press and public opinion, banks and economic developments ... in pursuance of an age-old plan and with the single aim of achieving Jewish dominion over the entire world.

On a more individual level, Jews are often stereotyped as unethical, dishonest, socially aggressive, conceited, clannish, stingy and obsessed with money.

Historically, these myths have been pervasive — so pervasive that they seep into the consciousness of many Jews as well as non-Jews.

"It is important to remember that western society has a heavy anti-Semitic underpinning, and negative stereotypes about Jews are part of the culture in which everybody grows up, Jews and non-Jews alike," says Sander Gilman, a University of Illinois at Chicago liberal arts professor and the author of Jewish Self-Hatred, a key text on the subject.

This view is echoed by Raphael Ezekiel, a psychologist and the author of The Racist Mind: Portraits of American Neo-Nazis and Klansmen.

"If you live next door to a cement factory, then inevitably cement dust gets into your body," says Ezekiel, who in recent years has worked as a senior research scientist and visiting scholar at the Harvard School of Public Health. "And the same goes for anti-Semitism and other prejudices. Everyone who grows up in a culture gets impacted by those beliefs that are deeply held, including the members of endangered groups."

These observations apply to Bill Gale. But there were other factors, too.

Like many other retired military officers in the early 1950s, Gale was drawn to the extremely conservative, anti-Communist politics of the time, which were often tainted by anti-Semitism and diehard opposition to racial integration. And because his idolized father had abandoned Judaism and lied about his immigrant status, Gale's adoption of anti-Jewish beliefs also may have been driven by a desire to preserve what he felt was his father's shameful secret.

Charles Gale also apparently endured subtle slights from his more financially secure Jewish relatives in Portland, Ore., and young Bill seems to have picked up on these resentments.

The Weak Jew
Co-existing with the myth of Jewish power and aggression is a parallel and yet contradictory stereotype: the Jew as vulnerable and weak. And it is this image of the Jew that most often gives rise to Jewish self-hatred.

"Jews who become genuine anti-Semites do so because of a need to recapture some sense of lost power, and that idea is very much connected to the image of the weak Jew," Gilman says.

When faced with a barrage of anti-Semitic stereotypes the majority of Jews readily choose to discard the images, says Gilman. But some Jews get caught up in false notions of "good Jews vs. bad Jews," while others may internalize the stereotypes or even choose to identify with the aggressor.

It is this latter tendency that best explains the behavior of those Jews who became leading advocates of forcible conversion in medieval times, along with those who join neo-Nazi groups in the modern era. In fact, Gilman cites studies by the famous child psychologist Anna Freud (the daughter of Sigmund Freud), who observed Jewish children in England who had recently escaped from Nazi Germany. She found that during some forms of spontaneous play, many of these children chose to identify as Nazis.

"Identification with the aggressor signals an attempt to recapture a sense of power and indicates a tremendous sense of powerlessness in the psychic life of the Jewish anti-Semite," says Gilman.

He also points to a similar phenomenon that was identified among African Americans by black psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Phipps Clark during the 1940s.

Among other things, the couple's pioneering "doll studies" revealed that black children as young as 5 years old already had developed negative self-images based upon the racially prejudiced values of the larger society. When given a choice between playing with a white doll or a black one, these studies found, the majority of African-American children chose the white doll.

"You cannot assume that there is a single explanation for the all of the individual nuances of self-hatred," says Gilman, "but you can develop a model which explains the movement toward certain end goals. And the principle goal is the achievement of power."

Certainly, this seems to have been the case with Daniel Burros, a tragic figure from Queens, N.Y.

One More Victim
Growing up, Burros' pious devotion to Judaism greatly impressed the elders of Talmud Torah synagogue. But by 1960, Burros had pledged his loyalty to George Lincoln Rockwell, "commander" of the American Nazi Party. A year and a half after moving to Rockwell's headquarters in Arlington, Va., Burros left the party — but not Nazism — and returned to his native New York.

Back in the Empire State, Burros hooked up with a variety of hate groups, earned a conviction for conspiracy to riot, and eventually migrated to the Ku Klux Klan, where he became the New York State organizer for Robert Shelton's United Klans of America (UKA), the most notorious Klan group of the period.

But on Halloween, 1965, Burros got quite a shock: A front-page article in The New York Times exposed his Jewish roots. Burros killed himself that same day.

At the time he died, Burros had been living for about a week in the Reading, Penn., home of Roy Frankhouser, then the 25-year-old grand dragon, or state leader, for the UKA. Frankhouser, who would go on to serve two federal prison sentences, bizarrely eulogized Burros at a Maryland gathering a short time later.

"To the good Jews, we offer our love and respect and understanding," said Frankhouser, praising his fallen compatriot for having separated himself from the "bad" ones.

Burros, of course, had made no such distinction. Throughout his short career as a militant white supremacist, he had favored total extermination of the Jews.

After hundreds of thousands of people read the Times story about Burros' roots, along with the front-page account the next day of his suicide, two editors at the paper teamed up to investigate.

Abe Rosenthal and Arthur Gelb's One More Victim: The Life and Death of a Jewish Nazi traced Burros' self-hatred to the same sources identified by Gilman: a quest for power by one who has come to associate all of his inadequacies and feelings of powerlessness with being Jewish. They wrote:

The record of his short life shows that never since his childhood did he believe himself strong enough, worthy enough, to survive as himself.

Dan Burros searched for the explanation ... and discovered it. ... Everything that was 'Jewish' in him was weakness to him. ... Most men hate something ... within them, but most men do not find the world telling them over and over, 'You are right to hate yourself.'

Dan Burros did ... and the one overwhelming irony of [his] life was that he became an example of the quintessential Jewish victim — the Jew who confesses that the diseased fantasy in the mind of the anti-Semite is truth.

Having confessed, Dan Burros sought to escape punishment. The only way he could do this was to identify himself with the aggressor, the man of strength, and become himself a judge of the Jews. To survive as he wished to survive, he had to destroy his enemy and his enemy was the Jew. ...

The Nazis were the accusers, judges, torturers, and executioners of the Jews. Thirsting for the torment and execution of the Jew in himself, Dan Burros fled to them. They would help him kill the Jews and they would give him the greatest gift, the death of a particular Jew.

Burros' story might have faded from memory, were it not for the efforts of Hollywood writer-director Henry Bean, who this year released "The Believer," an award-winning film based loosely on an updated version of the Burros story.

Swimming Upstream
Besides Dan Burros, there are very few known instances of those of Jewish heritage rising to prominence in the Klan. But one man who has persisted steadily in his efforts to promote the hooded order despite being born Jewish is Jordan Gollub, currently leader of the tiny Royal Confederate Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

In the 1980s, Gollub managed to rise to the post of Mississippi state leader of the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, then led by Virgil Griffin of North Carolina. But in 1989, Griffin uncovered Gollub's background — Gollub had been born to Jewish parents in Philadelphia — and booted him out of the Knights as a result.

To the amusement of many, Gollub angrily qualified Griffin's account, saying that he had actually been ejected because of his religious "background and the fact that I'm against Catholics joining the Klan." Catholics, he argued, have a primary loyalty to the pope, rather than the United States. "We can't have an organization with 100% Americans with Catholics," Gollub told the Jackson (Miss.) Daily News.

Things haven't gone too well for Gollub since then.

Gollub has spent the last years trying to get a new Klan group going, with most of his efforts ending in disappointment. This summer, he announced plans to march in three Mississippi cities with a phalanx of his Royal Confederate Knights. In the event, he actually showed up in only two of those cities, accompanied by just three followers.

Afterward, said he would lead the Klan in three Alabama marches this December. When he learned that one of those marches would conflict with a Christmas parade, he said he was willing to reschedule.

Is That Wolfgang or Andy?
Andrew Britt Greenbaum was a bright, high-achieving high school student living in the predominantly Jewish suburb of Westwood, outside Boston, when he ran for class president on an explicitly racist platform and launched a tiny anti-Semitic hate group on the Internet that he called the Knights of Freedom.

Within days of graduating high school in 1996, the one-time chess whiz of his parents' neighborhood legally changed his name to hide his partly Jewish heritage. If the appellation Davis Wolfgang Hawke left any doubts as to his politics, the SS suits he liked to dress up in did not. His Wofford College dormitory room in South Carolina was draped with National Socialist flags, and he sold swastika armbands.

The architect of the "Ministry of Racial Unity" was not shy.

"We must all carry with us in our hearts this knowledge, that the dreams of Adolf Hitler have not faded away, but are just as alive today as they were years ago! The German army was defeated on the battlefield, but the ideals of Adolf Hitler live on in the hearts and souls of those who now carry the torch of the Aryan peoples," Hawke told supporters who called him "the chosen one."

Hawke's Net-based group, renamed the American Nationalist Party in its last moments of life, eventually claimed more than 100 adherents. But it collapsed in along with his make-believe ethnicity after the Intelligence Report described his Jewish heritage.

His one last bid for attention disintegrated into ignominy when, after promising a march of thousands of neo-Nazis in Washington, D.C., just four people showed up — not including the wannabe führer of Wofford College.

"He's a chicken," his mother, Peggy Greenbaum, told a reporter.

Greenbaum, who was labeled a "race traitor" by her son, told the Intelligence Report at the time that she had had no idea of her son's neo-Nazism. Weeping, she recalled how her nerdy boy had been taunted as a "k---" at school and was even beaten by classmates jealous of his good grades.

"I just don't know where it came from," she said of the 20-year-old who earlier bragged to the Report that he intended to become the "absolute, supreme dictator" of the United States.

"He seems to be so full of hate and so power-hungry. ... I just don't want him to hurt anyone."

Like other young people drawn to hate groups, Hawke was impressed by the power of Nazi martial regalia and its message of violence. The rest of what drove him to reject his parents and recommend their extermination may never be known.

Today, Gale and Burros are dead, Gollub is trying against all odds to rehabilitate himself in the world of the Klan, and Hawke has vanished without a trace from the public arena. But the story of hypocritical hate did not begin with Bill Gale, and it surely will not end with Gollub or Hawke.

For an entire millennium — from the 8th to the 18th century — Jewish converts to Christianity were among the leading advocates of forcibly converting their former brethren and of burning the Talmud, the text of rabbinical commentaries on Jewish law. In the early 20th century, there were numerous converted Jews who also made careers out of attacking their former co-religionists.

As long as there is religious and ethnic hatred in this world, there will be members of oppressed groups who turn on themselves.