One More Victim is a strange book. It is the biography of a Jewish neo-Nazi, written by those who were accused of instigating his suicide. It is the biography of Daniel Burros, written by New York Times editors A.M. Rosenthal and Arthur Gelb in 1967.
The book begins by describing a scene: One Sunday in October 1965, Daniel Burros, 28 years old, ran into his bedroom in a house in Reading, Pennsylvania, reread the headline of the days New York Times, which he was carrying, ran upstairs, found a revolver, and shot himself twice. In 1965 Burros was King Kleagle of the New York Ku Klux Klan and had a reputation among Nazis and Klansmen for hating Jews more than anyone else.
Burros, we learn, grew up in Queens, in New York City, the son of Jewish immigrants from Russia. Though his father was unobservant, he was bar mitzvahed at Talmud Torah, an Orthodox synagogue. At times he was obsessively religious, and at others obsessively not. He was smart, and took college level courses in high school, then enlisted in the army.
In One More Victim Rosenthal and Gelb explore the path blazed by Burros’ life, that path that led him to become one of the most outspoken antisemites in America. They come to few satisfactory conclusions about what led Burros to antisemitism, but they do find a few themes in his life. One is an intense hatred of weakness, which he delevoped as a teenager and which led him to a fascination with World War II and the Third Reich. The book also contains some speculation about whether Burros was gay, and draws some connections between homosexuality and antisemitism that now seem both questionable and in bad taste.
There are other interesting aspects to the book, though. It documents much of the history of 1960s neo-Nazism, as Burros was connected to most of the major figures in the movement. It recounts a 1961 meeting between George Lincoln Rockwell, Burros’ sometime commander, and Malcolm X. Rockwell apparently felt that the Nation of Islam and the Nazi movement shared the goal of seperation of the races, and saw Muslims as potential allies again Jews. The almost symbiotic relationship between neo-Nazis and the Anti-Defamation League is also interesting: Rockwell would actually contact the ADL before staging a demonstration because their opposition would bring him more publicity than he could attain on his own.
The other truly fascinating aspect of this book brings us back to Burros, who compulsively hinted to his Nazi friends that he was Jewish. He would, for instance, read and write Hebrew around them, then claim that he had learned it to study the enemy. He would take his friends with him when he visited his parents in an Orthodox neighborhood, leaving them a few blocks from his parents’ apartment. This aspect of Burros’ life is actually the basis for the movie The Believer.
Eventually Burros met his downfall. A government agency (the book does not reveal which, but the FBI is likely) became concerned that he would become more violent and dangerous, and indirectly informed the Times that Burros was Jewish, thinking that if this news was published Burros would be ejected from the Klan and lose his influence. The Times put McCandlish Phillips, a respected reporter and writer and, unusually, a fundamentalist Christian, on the case. Phillips met with Burros and, after a polite discussion, asked about his Jewish background. Burros threatened to kill him with a vial of acid. The Times confirmed that Burros was Jewish and published a story stating this, and Burros shot himself. Some blamed the newspaper for Burros’ death, and One More Victim is thus in part an attempt to frame the suicide as the unfortunate but unsurprising end of a confused life and exonerate the newspaper.
One More Victim is long out of print and seems hard to find in public libraries, but can be found in some college and university libraries and through interlibrary loan.