Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews and Their Spies Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America

Steven J. Ross

Bloomsbury, 2017

Agent: Sandra Dijkstra

The chilling, little-known story of the rise of Nazism in Los Angeles, and the Jewish leaders and spies they recruited who stopped it.

No American city was more important to the Nazis than Los Angeles, home to Hollywood, the greatest propaganda machine in the world. The Nazis plotted to kill the city's Jews and to sabotage the nation's military installations: plans existed for hanging twenty prominent Hollywood figures such as Al Jolson, Charlie Chaplin, and Jack Warner; for driving through Boyle Heights and machine-gunning as many Jews as possible; and for blowing up defense installations and seizing munitions from National Guard armories along the Pacific Coast.

U.S. law enforcement agencies were not paying close attention--preferring to monitor Reds rather than Nazis--and only Leon Lewis and his daring ring of spies stood in the way. From 1933 until the end of World War II, attorney Leon Lewis, the man Nazis would come to call "the most dangerous Jew in Los Angeles," ran a spy operation comprised of military veterans and their wives who infiltrated every Nazi and fascist group in Los Angeles. Often rising to leadership positions, this daring ring of spies uncovered and foiled the Nazi's disturbing plans for death and destruction.

Featuring a large cast of Nazis, undercover agents, and colorful supporting players, Hitler in Los Angeles, by acclaimed historian Steven J. Ross, tells the story of Lewis's daring spy network in a time when hate groups had moved from the margins to the mainstream.


• Finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in History

• Recipient of the 2017 Richard Wall Memorial Award

Los Angeles Times bestseller for 19 weeks

"Hitler in Los Angeles...is part thriller and all chiller, about how close the California Reich came to succeeding."
Los Angeles Times

"[Ross] uncovers the fascinating, complex story of how Nazis infiltrated [Los Angeles] and recruited sympathetic Americans to their cause..."

“A history book that doubles as espionage thriller with a cast of characters that includes movie stars, studio moguls, entertainment lawyers, diplomats and pols, all of them quite real . . . Remarkable . . . Now that anti-Semitic chants recently have been heard in the streets of Charlottesville, Va., Hitler in Los Angeles must be seen as much more than an accomplished work of historical scholarship.”
Jewish Journal

"Ross puts his experience in film history to good use, and he creates lively portraits of the men and women whom Lewis recruited as spies and who succeeded in putting some dangerous Nazis behind bars. A vivid history of homegrown resistance."
Kirkus Reviews

"This rich, academic tome lends an important aspect to the typical look at Hollywood studio acquiescence to Germany, such as Thomas Doherty's Hollywood and Hitler, and provides a counterpoint to Ben Urwand's The Collaboration. Readers interested in a detailed look at this spy operation can have confidence in this well-sourced account."
Library Journal

“Thrilling . . . dramatic.” 
The Daily Express

"Reveal[s] the hitherto untold story of Jewish resistance to Nazi infiltration, not in Berlin or Warsaw but in Los Angeles during the 1930s, a time when Nazism, a distant rumble on the horizon for most Americans, was for tens of thousands of others a siren call to action...Ross has a blockbuster revelation."
The Chronicle of Higher Education

“Ross' story of daring hometown resistance against militant German groups who were plotting America's demise is captivating and intense. His nonfiction revelation of Nazi plans to invade Los Angeles reads like an exciting spy novel. Ross reveals this true story of resistance by American Jews and Gentiles with an exciting, evocative writing style."
New York Journal of Books

"[Hitler in Los Angeles is an] outstanding and compelling book...a major contribution to Jewish history, regional history and American history."

"Nazis, spies, assassination plots, a planned putsch to topple Franklin Roosevelt—these are the ingredients for a World War II movie. But in Steven J. Ross's compelling history, they make for a true-life thriller about an episode that has been almost completely ignored: the attempt by the Nazis to take over America."
Neal Gabler, author of Walt Disney

"With the verve of a spellbinding novelist and the skill of a master historian, Steven Ross has meticulously reconstructed the incredible story of Nazis in America and the effort by Jews to beat them back. The story has every bit the drama of Roth's The Plot Against America or Dick's The Man in the High Castle, except that it actually happened!  The all-important take-away of Hitler in Los Angeles is that good people can and must prevail against bad."
David N. Myers, President/CEO, The Center for Jewish History

"This is a truly brilliant history by a superbly talented historian. More importantly, it's a damn fine read, a true life thriller that's a powerful reminder of how hate, if left to fester, can destroy us all."
Alex Kershaw, author of Avenue of Spies

"Steven J. Ross, one of our foremost authorities on the entwined histories of American Jewry, domestic politics and Hollywood, presents a chilling, meticulously researched portrait of FBI incompetence, local police corruption and official indifference to the threat posed by German agents and home-grown extremists bent on sabotage and political murder in southern California."
Glenn Frankel, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic

"Hitler in Los Angeles left me surprised and even stunned at the extent of the Nazi infiltration of Southern California, and Steven J. Ross captures this little-known chapter of 1930s history with impeccable research and an intriguing narrative. Leon Lewis's story needs to be told, as it will challenge assumptions about the power of citizens to shape world events from their own backyard.”
 —Ted Johnson, senior editor, Variety