Prequel Book Summary - Prequel Book explained in key points
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Prequel summary

Rachel Maddow

An American Fight Against Fascism

4 (146 ratings)
16 mins
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    Prequel
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    The German agent

    Meet George Sylvester Viereck, born in Munich, Germany in 1884. Viereck was many things: an acclaimed poet, a novelist, and a journalist capable of landing interviews with names like Henry Ford and Sigmund Freud. A self-styled “bon vivant”, he moved easily in American high society, rubbing shoulders with the great and good. He was also one of America’s most notorious Nazi sympathizers. We’ll come back to that, though. 

    Viereck emigrated to America when he was twelve. He romanticized his family history, falsely claiming to be the product of an affair between his mother, an actress, and the German king, Kaiser Wilhelm I. The Kaiser was in no position to acknowledge his illegitimate son, Viereck admitted, but he still boasted about the royal blood supposedly flowing through his veins. 

    Viereck was 29 when WW1 broke out in 1914. He was widely recognized as an up-and-coming literary talent and had developed a knack for attracting fawning publicity. But that all changed in 1915 – the year he burnt his bridges with the New York literary scene and the American public. 

    The United States hadn’t entered the conflict yet. For most Americans, it was a European affair best left to the Europeans. The war, however, came to the United States. That summer, a German submarine torpedoed a New York-bound British passenger ship, the Lusitania, killing some 1,200 civilians, including 124 Americans. 

    Outraged Americans condemned the maritime massacre, but Viereck, who supported Germany, defended the action. The British admiralty had instructed British ships to ram German submarines operating in the Atlantic. That, he argued, effectively erased the distinction between warships and civilian vessels. Sinking the Lusitania was thus justified – it was, in his words, an effective reminder that Germany “does not bluff”. That put him at odds with most of his compatriots. His fall from grace, however, was only just beginning. 

    A few weeks later, while showing a visiting German official around Manhattan, Viereck left his briefcase on a train. Its contents were a bombshell: top-secret documents outlining Germany’s plans to interfere in American politics and undermine the case for America’s entry into the war on the side of Britain and France. Viereck had effectively been outed as a paid agent of Germany.

    The documents showed that Germany was spending $60 million a week on propaganda and espionage in the United States. When America entered the war in 1917, Viereck’s star finally set. He was publicly shunned and even chased out of his home by a furious mob. His literary reputation never recovered. But he didn’t care: he had found a new calling. 

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    What is Prequel about?

    Prequel (2023) explores a forgotten chapter in modern American history – the attempt by a powerful, Nazi-funded movement to roll back democracy in the United States in the 1930s. The reason we rarely remember this “plot against America” is simple: it failed. But there’s also a good reason to return to this troubling chapter – the citizens who foiled this fascist conspiracy can help us understand how to defeat threats against democracy in our own time. 

    Prequel Review

    Prequel (2021) is a thought-provoking book by Rachel Maddow that dives deep into American politics and offers a fresh perspective on historical events. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Extensive research and in-depth analysis provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of the political landscape, shedding light on complex issues.
    • The book offers riveting narratives and compelling storytelling, keeping readers engrossed in the pages as they uncover the untold stories behind pivotal moments in history.
    • Empathetic and objective in its approach, Prequel presents a fair and balanced account of events, allowing readers to form their own opinions and gain a nuanced perspective.

    Who should read Prequel?

    • History buffs
    • Politicos 
    • Activists fighting to protect democracy 

    About the Author

    Rachel Maddow hosts The Rachel Maddow Show, MSNBC’s Emmy Award-winning Monday night news show. Maddow has authored numerous nonfiction titles covering contemporary American politics, including New York Times bestsellers such as Drift, Blowout, and Bag Man. She studied public policy and political science at Stanford University and Oxford University. 

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