Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of History

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, 231 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Richard Hamm

Committee Members

Carl Bon Tempo, Barry C. Trachtenberg, Frankie Y. Bailey, Laura Wittern-Keller


Juvenile delinquency, Jews, Jewish youth, Gangs, Horror comic books, strips, etc, Twentieth century, Jewish way of life

Subject Categories



This project uses a microhistorical approach to explore themes of mid-twentieth-century juvenile delinquency, censorship and post-Holocaust American Jewish identity. At the study's center is the Brooklyn Thrill-Kill Gang--a group of four Jewish boys, ranging in age from fifteen to eighteen years old--who went on a crime spree of assault and murder in the summer of 1954. That the boys came from what contemporaries labeled as "good" homes (i.e. middle class, two-parent households) and were on a path of upward-mobility made their behavior a mystery to most juvenile delinquency theorists of the day, who typically understood delinquent behavior as stemming from poverty, parental abuse and neglect, and lack of opportunity. But for the politicians, parents, and theorists who were uncomfortable with the rise of new forms of mass media, the boys' behavior was easily rationalized as the product of "horror-comics," and their case was used to bolster the already existing calls for censorship of this media. This dissertation, therefore, uses the trial of the Thrill-Kill Gang as a means to explore mid-twentieth century theories of juvenile delinquency and the efforts being made by various groups to combat what was understood as a rising tide of delinquent behavior among youth. It also explores how the New York City Jewish community responded to the case within its own context of pre-existing fears as to whether second-generation Jewish youths were becoming too assimilated and whether Jewish parents were neglecting to provide their children with an adequate education in Jewish traditions and values.

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