Synopses & Reviews
A riveting account of a skinhead killing and a chilling look at the world in which it happened
On November 12, 1988, a group of Portland, Oregon, skinheads known as East Side White Pride met for an evening of beer and racist banter. Later that night, they encountered three Ethiopians; a street fight broke out and Kenneth Mieske brutally beat Mulugeta Seraw with a bat. In the early-morning hours, Seraw died.
Drawing on more than ten years of original research, award-winning journalist Elinor Langer takes the Seraw case as the occasion for a thorough investigation of the Nazi-inspired racist movement in the United States. She vividly reconstructs the world of the skinheads, both in Portland and nationally: their origins in the punk scene, their basement shrines to Nazi power, their moments of glory on Oprah and Geraldo. She delves into the long-standing radical groups with which the skinheads became allied, tracking the progress of such powerful figures as white Aryan resistance leader Tom Metzger through the stations of the far right, from the Birch Society to Christian Identity to David Duke's Klan. In gripping detail, she follows ambitious civil-rights lawyer Morris Dees's efforts to prove Metzger responsible for the Portland killing-a sensational campaign to curb the growth of neo-Nazism.
Compelling, disturbing, and important, A Hundred Little Hitlers is both an epic account of racism and justice, and a close examination of social forces that loom ever more dangerously today.
"Was it a racially motivated crime, or was it a street fight? You might be surprised what side Elinor Langer, a terrifically unabashed liberal and the author of the biography Josephine Herbst, comes down on. In this probing, transfixing book, the result of a tireless decade-and-a-half of research, Langer explores the Nazi-aligned skinhead movement in Portland and the culture that created it." Adrienne Miller, Esquire
(read the entire Esquire review
"An extraordinary book, written with passion, grace, and wisdom. The murder at its center is a reflection not just of racism in the United States, but of something much more widespread. Langer has taken one act of violence, looked at it carefully and courageously, and illuminated a whole moral universe." Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold's Ghost
"Langer offers a riveting story of the murder and events leading up to it, including a surprisingly moving account of the troubled life of Ken Mieske, who wielded the fatal baseball bat, and an important short history of the skinhead movement in this country." Publishers Weekly
"The reader will better understand the disaffection that leads to such one-sided thinking and the gap between truth and justice in the American legal system." Frank Caso
"Elinor Langer is one of our most eloquent and astute social critics. Telling this troubling story of murder and racism in an American town, she compels us to think beyond that, to wonder about the future of justice in our country."
--Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States
"Haunting...a book that looks deep below the surface to reveal confounding information from many sides...a riveting work that avoids easy answers in its examination of the forces of hate, the aftermath of violence, and the imposition of justice."
--John Marshall, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"Utterly well-written, utterly fascinating...an absolutely top-drawer exploration of racist politics and its strange players, who remain legion."
--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"There are works of journalism so intelligent, scrupulous, thorough, and deep that they outlive their occasions and instantly rise to the level of classics. Elinor Langer's A Hundred Little Hitlers is [in] this very rare company. This is not the investigation of a murder: it is an investigation of a society."
--Todd Gitlin, author of Media Unlimited
Includes bibliographical references (p. -381) and index.
About the Author
Author of the acclaimed biography Josephine Herbst
, Elinor Langer
has written for The New York Review of Books
, The New York Times
, and The Nation
, among other publications. A Hundred Little Hitlers
was chosen as a finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Award for work-in-progress. Langer lives in Portland, Oregon.