Cover image for A hundred little Hitlers : the death of a Black man, the trial of a white racist, and the rise of the neo-Nazi movement in America
A hundred little Hitlers : the death of a Black man, the trial of a white racist, and the rise of the neo-Nazi movement in America
Langer, Elinor, 1939-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Metropolitan Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
xiii, 398 pages ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E184.A1 L2575 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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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.

Author Notes

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.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This book focuses on the 1988 murder of an Ethiopian man, Mulugeta Seraw, by three skinheads in Portland, Oregon. Langer, author of Josephine Herbst (1983), is herself a native of Portland, and she recounts the case from interviews with the killers, all of whom pled guilty and avoided trial. (The book's title is taken from a program, begun by a white supremacist in California, to recruit young people into the cause of racial hate.) The author elevates the story from merely the recounting of a crime by offering portraits of the victim and the skinheads and their friends and imparting details of the skinhead movement in Portland. Although the killers avoided trial, California hate-monger Tom Metzger and his son, John, did stand trial in Portland for conspiracy, charged with inciting the murder through propaganda and an agent (whom Langer also profiles). 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 Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

The event that launches Langer's problematic narrative is brutal and shocking: In November 1988, an Ethiopian immigrant was beaten and bludgeoned to death by three skinheads in Portland, Ore. 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. But the dramatic climax, the murder, comes in the first part of the book. In moving on to recount the resulting (and admittedly strange) civil lawsuit brought by Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center against Tom Metzger, founder of White Aryan Resistance, the narrative loses momentum as Langer backtracks to relate the not entirely relevant life histories of Dees and Metzger. More substantively, Langer fails in her attempt to impeach both the police and the justice system for constructing false versions of events. First, as Langer acknowledges, there was conflicting testimony about the events of that November night, and the police's belief that it was a racially motivated murder remains as plausible as Langer's that it was just a street brawl that got out of control. Nor does her critique of Dees's wily lawyering indict the entire legal system (she tries to show that Dees's deft maneuverings through the ins and outs of othe legal system were unfair), though it does argue for the need to appoint lawyers for defendants in civil cases who cannot otherwise find legal representation; Metzger clearly could not defend himself against the SPLC's skilled attorneys. And Langer, biographer of Josephine Herbst and a Nation contributor, seems oddly willing to give brownie points to Metzger, who advocates violent race war, for being a good husband and father. (Sept. 2) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Langer (Josephine Herbst) presents a detailed account of the 1988 murder of Ethiopian immigrant Mulugeta Scraw in Portland, OR. Three young skinheads with ties to the white racist moment were eventually arrested and sentenced for the crime. This case also led to a civil suit filed by Morris Dees's Southern Poverty Law Center against California racist Tom Metzger and his White Aryan Resistance (WAR) organization. Metzger was found to be partly responsible for encouraging the skinheads to kill Scraw, and the $12.5 million judgment severely hampered WAR's efforts to spread racist messages. The book's strongest feature is its portrayal of the young men and women drawn into the racist segment of the skinhead movement. Many were attracted by the violence, while others found that the racist message added meaning to lives hurt by drugs and broken homes. Langer uses interviews, trial transcripts, police records, newspaper accounts, and other sources to give us a detailed picture of this dark story. Langer's valuable and chilling view into the modern American racist movement is recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/03.]-Stephen L. Hupp, West Virginia Univ. Lib., Parkersburg (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



From A Hundred Little Hitlers : The home to which Kenneth Mieske returned the night of the killing is a low-ceilinged, pine-veneered basement he shares with Julie Belec in her mother and stepfather's house in a blue-collar area of southwest Portland. A collection of anti-black and antisemitic posters, leaflets, and fliers nearly covers one wall. Some, like the drawing of a microwave with the slogan "Jew Dwarfs! There is an oven in YOUR future," are standard issue in Ken and Julie's circle, but others reflect more of an individual search. On a table by the bed are a few well-thumbed books about their favorite Nazis-Mengele, his and Speer, hers. There is a swastika made of gum wrappers. Gory posters for Ken's own band, Machine, and the well-framed group photographs of East Side White Pride confirm that Ken and Julie are not outsiders to this world, children plastering their bedrooms with posters of stars they will never meet: they are members of it, they are in it, it is their world. Excerpted from A Hundred Little Hitlers: The Death of a Black Man, the Trial of a White Racist, and the Rise of the Neo-Nazi Movement in America by Elinor Langer All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.