National Socialist Movement Recruits Young Children

Many hate groups say they mean to save white children. One based in Minneapolis specializes in recruiting them

The National Socialist Movement (NSM) says it's the largest neo-Nazi group in the United States. It claims to have been around the longest. It describes itself as the most elite radical organization there is. And it says it recruits young kids.

On that last point, at least, it's not lying.

Many hate groups in America claim to be creating a better world for white children. Their leaders say they hear from youngsters angry at the way the country is going every day.

Some of them put drawings and essays, supposedly from the hands of their own "racially aware" children, up on their Web sites. Others create violently racist video games for the young. Almost all say they work closely with kids.

But the NSM has the pictures to prove it.

More than almost any other organization on the American radical right, the Minneapolis group headed by 30-year-old Jeffrey Schoep has sought to bring young people — very young people — into the movement.

Photographs circulated by Schoep show that he isn't kidding when he says he's created a special corps for those aged 14 to 17 — although half of them look like they still haven't reached puberty.

Dubbed the Viking Youth Corps (VYC), the NSM youth auxiliary is open to boys and girls of pure European descent who promise that they don't drink, smoke or do drugs, and who are the children of NSM members or have a signed consent form from their parents allowing them to participate.

Viking Youth, Schoep says, will be taught military skills, national socialist theory and practice, the history of the white race and, in general, how to become "a more effective warrior."

Schoep won't detail his efforts with youngsters, but he's quick to make big claims. "There are so many coming to us, we can barely keep up," he asserted in a recent E-mail.

"Really, what other choice is there for young white people?"

Schoep's group is explicitly neo-Nazi. Its adult members dress up in faux Nazi brownshirt outfits, while the children wear T-shirts with neo-Nazi slogans and regularly sieg-heil for their führer's cameras. While the number of adult and juvenile members is not known, NSM last year listed 45 units operating in 29 states.

On its Web site, the group claims to be the largest neo-Nazi group around, although that is far from clear. It also describes itself as being 30 years old, saying that its first leaders, Robert Brannen and Cliff Herrington, were originally "storm troopers" in the American Nazi Party. That organization, founded by the late George Lincoln Rockwell, was the first major fascist group in postwar America.

Schoep may be exaggerating the importance of his group on the radical right. But there's little question that he has increased its scope since taking over at age 20 in 1994. He has made alliances with other hate group leaders and has held numerous neo-Nazi rallies, the most recent in Indianapolis and Raleigh, N.C.

NSM may not, however, be the best place to send your children for summer camp. That became apparent when the Indiana Department of Corrections posted a photograph of that state's NSM leader, John Edward Snyder, 39.

It turns out that Snyder was released recently after about four years in prison — for rape, criminally deviant conduct and criminal confinement. A registered sex offender, Snyder is banned by his probation from having contact with or recruiting children.