Agents of Betrayal

My book manuscript in progress—Agents of Betrayal: A Comparative History of Fascist and Nazi Spies, 1927-1945—is a transnational history of totalitarian surveillance extending from the creation of the Fascist secret police to the end of World War II. 

I recover the lives, careers, and deaths of now forgotten spies: individuals who, for varying motives and extents, betrayed the communities they belonged to. Spies who infiltrated resistance networks across Europe; spies who had originally been part of those networks and then gave away their comrades; women, comparatively few in number but gaining power through their subversion of gender stereotypes; gay spies intimidated into collaboration and tolerated so long as they informed on fellow homosexuals; Catholic priests, both high-ranking prelates gathering intelligence within the Vatican and low-ranking clerics who spied on their parishioners; and, finally, Jewish spies pressured into betraying their people. They all enforced totalitarian repression, but their personal agendas also had a way of complicating and undermining the regimes they worked for. 

Based on two years of multilingual archival research in Italy, France, Germany, Austria, and the United States, Agents of Betrayal draws on unexplored sources such as Fascist and Nazi police records and postwar court trials of convicted spies. It was supported by several grants and fellowships from institutions such as the Chateaubriand Fellowship Program, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies, the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD).

Current Research

My second book project is currently entitled Making Fun of the Fascists: Humor Against the Leader Cult in Italy, France, and Germany, 1922–1945.

Examining the uses of humor in combatting European authoritarianism before and during the Second World War, it will be the first monograph-length study of humour as a common strategy of resistance in Fascist Italy (1922–1945), Nazi Germany (1933–1945), and Vichy France (1940–1944). 

I will conduct archival research in these three countries looking at records documenting anti-Fascist and anti-Nazi dissent and satire. My tripartite comparison will illuminate the nature of power and the operation of resistance under authoritarianism, expanding the field through transnational analysis in a way that the study of a single country or subregion cannot. This research is at the forefront of examining fascism as a global and still contemporary phenomenon.