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National Socialist Movement

An organization that specializes in theatrical and provocative protests, the National Socialist Movement (NSM) was once one of the largest and most active neo-Nazi groups in the United States.

The group is notable for its violent antisemitic rhetoric, its racist views and its policy allowing members of other racist groups to join NSM while remaining members of other groups. NSM became the largest membership-based neo-Nazi group in this country through the 2000s and into the following decade. The group’s brand and tactics of demonstrating in quasi-Nazi uniforms stalled, and its membership tally subsequently dipped. Since 2015, the group has sought to reinvigorate itself by forming coalitions with other white power groups. NSM arrived at the center of the deadly riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 via that strategy, which devastated the group. NSM’s membership continues to dwindle, and its former leader, Jeff Schoep, remains a defendant in the Sines v. Kessler civil trial, which targets those who planned and promoted the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.

In Their Own Words

“When … you take a German Shepherd and mix him with a Golden Retriever you have a worthless animal that nobody wants and that isn’t worth anything if you’re trying to breed him or sell him. … These degenerates that allow their children to race mix and this sort of thing, they’re destroying the bloodlines of both races.” – NSM leader Jeff Schoep, July 25, 2007, interview

“We simply cannot be concerned and burdened by the yolk [sic] of compassion for the so-called marginalized groups of today, lest we doom our children to be in need of asylum tomorrow. We can see quite clearly by examples in Europe and south Africa how compassion comes in the form of no go zones and machete blades.” – Polly Esther, NSM Magazine, fall/winter 2017

“We were sending people into the military all the time. . . . By the time I left, it was about 50 percent.” – Jeff Schoep, during a panel at the New America Foundation after he claimed to have left the white power movement, Nov. 4, 2019

“The guiding principle of The National Socialist Movement Corporation is fighting for civil rights and self-determination of Whites in America. The Fourteen Words, ‘We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children,’ best exemplifies the mission of our movement.” – “25 Point Plan,” NSM website, updated April 2020

“All non-White immigration must be prevented. We demand that all non-Whites currently residing in America be required to leave the nation forthwith and return to their land of origin: peacefully or by force.” – “25 Points of American National Socialism,” NSM website

“Immigration into the White Homeland shall be limited to members of the White European Race, defined as White Caucasians who are the descendants of indigenous Europeans. . . . Groups who are not Europeans are separate ethnicities and thus shall have their own homelands, separate from ours.” – “25 Point Plan,” NSM website, updated April 2020

“You know what this bullshit translates to? White people got nice shit, white people worked for it, and Black people want it. . . . They have no interest in equality. They want to fucking rule us.” – Burt Colucci on NSM’s podcast, June 2, 2020

Background

The National Socialist Movement has its roots in the original American Nazi Party, which was founded in 1959 by former Navy Cmdr. George Lincoln Rockwell. Seven years after Rockwell was murdered by one of his followers in 1967, two of his chief lieutenants, Robert Brannen and Cliff Herrington, formed the National Socialist American Workers Freedom Movement in St. Paul, Minn. Leadership passed to Jeff Schoep in 1994. He renamed the group the National Socialist Movement.

The NSM was once the largest neo-Nazi organization in the country, according to the SPLC’s annual survey of hate groups. The resurgence of the NSM began in 2004, in the wake of the deaths of the country’s two major neo-Nazi leaders: the National Alliance’s William Pierce, who died in 2002, and the Aryan Nations’ Richard Butler, who died in 2004. Also contributing to the vacuum in neo-Nazi leadership of the nation was the 2004 imprisonment of Matt Hale, the leader of the World Church of the Creator. Hale was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison for soliciting the murder of a federal judge.

The NSM began to overshadow all other American neo-Nazi groups starting in 2004. It was soon larger than the White Revolution and National Vanguard, both of which emerged from the ashes of the National Alliance. NSM members made their presence felt through frequent theatrical street acts in Nazi garb. Unlike other neo-Nazi outfits, the NSM adopted an open-arms recruiting policy that allowed members of other white supremacist groups to participate in NSM actions and join the NSM.

Schoep was only 21 when he took over in 1994. His relatively young age helped him then attract a younger generation of neo-Nazis. In fact, under Schoep’s leadership, the NSM set up a unit specifically focused on recruiting teens called Viking Youth Corps. It also launched a Women’s Division and a Skinhead Division. NSM bolstered its online presence with a revamped website featuring the group’s newsletter, downloadable leaflets for printing and distribution, and field reports from NSM chapters around the country. The group created its own hate-rock music label, NSM88 Records, and in April 2007 purchased the now-popular white supremacist social networking site New Saxon.

NSM’s ideology mirrors that of the original American Nazi Party. The group openly idolizes Adolf Hitler, described in NSM propaganda as “Our Fuhrer, the beloved Holy Father of our age … a visionary in every respect.” NSM says only heterosexual “pure-blood whites” should be allowed U.S. citizenship and that all nonwhites should be deported, regardless of legal status. As Schoep put it: “The Constitution was written by white men alone. Therefore, it was intended for whites alone.”

NSM is probably best known for its carefully staged protests, which were once carried out in full-blown Nazi uniforms and swastika armbands. The best example of the NSM’s provocative rallies came on Dec. 10, 2005, when the group made international news after a planned march through a Black neighborhood in Toledo, Ohio, sparked unrest by residents and counterprotesters. The disturbances cost the city more than $336,000, though NSM members escaped violence and were not liable for any of the destruction. “The Negro beasts proved our point for us,” Schoep said after the rally.        

NSM national and state chapter leaders voted at the group’s national congress in April 2007 to switch to “more militant looking” black battle dress uniforms (BDUs) after their previous uniforms were ridiculed.

The NSM’s militancy appeared to be part of its appeal during in the first decade of the 2000s. In 2009, after the SPLC identified over 40 active-duty military personnel on a social networking site run by NSM, Schoep told Stars and Stripes that roughly half the group’s members had served in the military. 

“We do encourage them to sign up for the military. We can use the training to secure the resistance to our government,” Charles Wilson, an NSM spokesman, told Salon in June 2009.

Over a decade later, Schoep verified these findings at a panel at the New America Foundation, which was held not long after he left the movement.

“The thought of people in the movement is that this is going to break into a civil war, a race war, or something like that, and you want that [military] training. That’s why we were sending people into the military all the time,” Schoep told the audience on Nov. 4, 2019.

“By the time I left, about 50% of the membership had military experience in the past,” he continued.

Under Schoep’s leadership, the NSM also became known for focusing on recruiting children – specifically, 14- to 17-year-olds who Schoep says were taught military skills and how to become a “more effective warrior” in NSM’s Viking Youth Corps.

Despite their focus on recruiting youth, some within NSM leadership have had their fair share of run-ins with the law, particularly when it comes to the sexual abuse of children. In 2004, Indiana authorities posted a photograph of that state’s NSM leader, John Edward Snyder. Snyder, who was convicted of rape in 1999, had been released from prison for rape and other sex charges and banned from having any contact with children in 2003.

In 2012, Las Vegas Metro Police arrested Josh Davenport, NSM’s Nevada state leader, on kidnapping and sexual assault charges against a 13-year-old girl. As the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in August 2012, Davenport was held without bail and faced numerous recommended charges. Among them were four counts of sexual assault against a victim under 14 years of age and four counts of sexual assault with a deadly weapon.

Scandals rock the NSM in the early 2000s

The NSM experienced its share of internal drama during this period as well. In July 2006, co-founder and chairman emeritus Cliff Herrington’s wife was the “High Priestess” of the Joy of Satan Ministry, which shared an address with the Tulsa, Oklahoma, NSM chapter. The exposure of Herrington’s wife’s Satanist connections caused quite a stir. It was particularly controversial among NSM members who were adherents to Christian Identity, a racist and antisemitic theological system popular among certain members of the racist far right. Before the dust settled, both Herringtons were forced out of NSM.

Bill White, the neo-Nazi group’s spokesman, also quit, taking several NSM officials with him. They created a new group, the American National Socialist Workers Party.

In December 2006, “Wild” Bill Hoff, one of the NSM’s oldest and best-known members, died in a car accident. Four months after his death, Hoff’s brother decided to reveal that Hoff, along with other family members, had Black ancestors.

Another embarrassment was in store for the NSM. In late 2006, Schoep and World Knights of the Ku Klux Klan leader Gordon Young announced that he was quitting the Klan to become the NSM’s Maryland leader. But that went south in January 2007, when Young was charged with sexually assaulting a young girl. Though he was acquitted, Young left NSM not long after in late 2010.

Jeff Schoep’s personal life has been the source of other movement criticism as well. In April 2010, John Taylor Bowles, who was the NSM’s 2008 presidential candidate, condemned Schoep because he had married a woman with a mixed-race child.             

Schoep had left his previous girlfriend in Minnesota and moved to Detroit to be with his new partner. In 1998, he was arrested with the previous girlfriend while aiding a burglary. The couple’s children were waiting in the getaway car. Schoep was sentenced to probation.

Despite these embarrassments, NSM remained the largest neo-Nazi group in the United States. By 2009 – the same year that the whistleblowing site Wikileaks published a trove of internal NSM emails – the group had 61 chapters in 35 states.

NSM turns its eye to the southern border

A growing number of the NSM’s efforts and protests, beginning in the mid-to-late 2000s and extending into the 2010s, targeted immigrants.

In April 2006, Hatewatch reported that a prominent anti-immigration leader, Laine Lawless, had encouraged NSM leader Mark Martin – the “SS commander” of the organization’s Western Ohio chapter – to target undocumented workers throughout the United States. In one email, Lawless encouraged NSM to utilize “several tactics” against immigrants, “including robbery and ‘beating up illegals’ as they leave their workplace,” Hatewatch reported.

NSM members, including the now-deceased Jason Toddy Ready – better known as J.T. Ready – patrolled along the U.S.’s southern border as well. On June 19, 2010, Ready, NSM’s Southwest regional leader Jeff Hall and eight others (some of whom were not NSM members) congregated in Arizona’s Vekol Valley. Hall, who was based in
Southern California, described the goal of their operation as to “fight the [Mexican drug] cartels and reclaim the land.” Armed with pistols and high-powered rifles, the group led patrols through the desert and “secured” an abandoned building. They claimed to have apprehended three individuals attempting an illegal border crossing, although this is unconfirmed.

Ready later split with NSM shortly after starting his own border patrol group. He described his new group, the U.S. Border Guard, as “the Minuteman Project on steroids.” However, his new organization – as the June 2010 operation showed –consisted largely of other NSM members and affiliates.

On May 1, 2011, the 10-year-old son of Hall shot and killed his father at their home in Riverside, California. The event occurred hours after NSM members had gathered at Hall’s home for a meeting.

That same day, Hall’s son was arrested for allegedly shooting his neo-Nazi father to death. According to The Associated Press and an L.A. Times story that cited court documents and police reports, the boy apparently had been pushed to the breaking point by his father’s abuse of him and his stepmother. The boy was also frightened that he’d have to choose between them if his father’s behavior led to a divorce.

“He said he was gonna turn off the smoke alarms and burn the whole house down when we were asleep. That really scared me,” Hall’s son told a detective during questioning, referring to an event a few days prior to Hall’s death. Later in the confession, the 10-year-old boy told detectives he had witnessed his father hurl a glass at his stepmother, wounding her.

Hall’s son was convicted of second-degree murder in 2013 and sentenced to 10 years in a juvenile facility. Despite the boy’s developmental disabilities, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review his case in 2016.

Hall’s death, however, was only the first to rock NSM.

In May 2012, the 39-year-old, now-former NSM member J.T. Ready was reported to have shot and himself and four others a murder-suicide. The victims included Ready’s girlfriend, his girlfriend’s daughter and boyfriend, and the daughter’s a 15-month-old child. Investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found ammunition, weaponry, explosives and smoke grenades at Ready’s home. At the time of his death, Ready had been running for sheriff of Pinal County in Arizona. His campaign websites described the county’s residents as “under constant threat of encountering the horrific reality of terrible violence associated with illegal immigration.”

The rise and fall of ‘Pioneer Little Europe’

NSM hit the national news cycle again in August 2013. At the time, Hatewatch and the North Dakota-based The Bismarck Tribute reported that the then-61-year-old neo-Nazi Paul Craig Cobb had concocted a scheme to build up his own white ethnostate in the small town of Leith, North Dakota (pop. 19). Cobb’s specific plan to build a “Pioneer Little Europe” originated from a 2001 proposal offered up by H. Michael Barrett. Barrett’s vision, as Hatewatch noted in an article from Aug. 22, 2013, was “to consolidate white residents in existing cities and towns and create all-white enclaves.”       

Cobb donated or sold land for pennies to the leaders of several white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups, including the NSM. Schoep, for his part, spoke highly of the Leith project, telling The New York Times in an Aug. 30, 2013 article: “I would like to see it prospect and move forward. People should move and get the process going. It gives us a base of support for elections and things like that.”

In September 2013, Schoep and a dozen or so NSM members showed up in Leith. The group planted Nazi flags on Cobb’s property. NSM’s website described the goals of their visit as beginning to “plant the seeds of National Socialism in North Dakota.” Instead, Leith residents and other North Dakotans showed up to counterprotest the NSM in a rally planned by a group called UniteND.

In November 2013, Cobb and 29-year-old white nationalist Kynan Dutton were arrested on four counts of felony terrorizing related to a so-called “safety patrol.” The two men were accused of shouting at and threatening a number of Leith residents. NSM, via Schoep, returned to North Dakota in order to support Cobb and Dutton, according to a report in the Grand Forks Herald.

In February 2014, Cobb pleaded guilty to one count of felony terrorizing and five counts of misdemeanor menacing.

NSM embraced a ‘big tent’ approach in rallies across the country

NSM held a number of rallies in the early-to-mid 2010s. These included a Kansas City rally on Nov. 9, 2013, marking the 75th anniversary of Kristallnact; a rally for NSM’s 40th anniversary in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in April 2014; and a Toledo, Ohio, rally in April 2015, ten years after NSM’s presence in that community caused significant civil unrest. 

Some rallies brought NSM together with other white power groups, such as the Klan. A few of these events – including a rally in November 2014 at a courthouse in Rockwall, Texas – made these interactions seem more incidental. However, others appeared to be a more deliberate attempt at overcoming factionalism. This included a March 2013 rally in Memphis, where some 60 Klansmen marched with NSM members.

As Hatewatch chronicled in October 2015, NSM was one of six white power groups to organize support for the Confederate flag after white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine Black people on June 17, 2015, in a Charleston church. 

On July 18, 2015, NSM headed to South Carolina’s statehouse to protest the decision to remove the Confederate flag from the building’s grounds. NSM was joined by “flaggers” from other white power groups. Among them were the Loyal White Knights of the KKK, who were headquartered in Pelham, North Carolina.

“The time for factionalism in the White Nationalist Movement has ended. Pro-white organizations have agreed to come together, in order to build a united front of white organizations fighting side by side for the same end goal,” Schoep wrote in April 2016. He was referring to NSM’s decision to promote its “White Rights Rally” in Rome, Georgia, alongside John Michael Estes’s pro-Confederate “Rock Stone Mountain” march.

Shortly thereafter, NSM joined a hodgepodge of white nationalist, racist skinhead and Klan groups to form a coalition known as the Aryan Nationalist Alliance (ANA). The ANA’s stated mission was to build a white “ethnostate.” However, it also doubled as a means to draw other white power activists into NSM’s ranks. Schoep originally piloted the coalition, though he received aid from Aryan Strikeforce’s Josh Steever and Steve “Bowers” Natasi, of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, respectively.

ANA’s first major gathering took place in mid-September 2016 in Temple, Georgia, about an hour west of Atlanta. As a local antifascist group noted, while the event was originally billed as a NSM regional meeting, it was later rebranded as an ANA event.

Some within this coalition of racist organizations rebranded itself a mere few months later. By November 2016, the group had renamed itself the Nationalist Front (NF). As journalist Vegas Tenold wrote in his 2018 book, Everything You Love Will Burn: Inside the Rebirth of White Nationalism in America, the decision to rename the group was connected to an effort to shed some of the groups “more troublesome members.” Matthew Heimbach and his neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party had joined the ANA in the early summer of 2016. Among the conditions that Heimbach had set for joining the ANA was, Tenold noted, that it push out those groups who were unwilling to mask their more outlandish odes to Nazi symbolism. Heimbach, like others in the white nationalist movement, saw 2016 as an opportunity to seize whatever mainstream power they could get. Branding was crucial to that effort.

The renaming of the ANA also came on the heels of Schoep’s own efforts to rework the NSM’s image into something more palatable to the outside world.

In late 2016, NSM ditched its longtime swastika logo and replaced it with an othala ruin. As Schoep told The New York Times in a Dec. 10, 2016, article, the rebrand was “an attempt to become more integrated and more mainstream.” Even though the group had gone to some lengths to tone down the perception of the group as a band of “Hollywood Nazis” in years prior, changing its logo from a swastika was a much larger jump than ditching the group’s traditional brownshirts for black BDUs.

The newly renamed Nationalist Front – along with Matthew Heimbach’s Traditionalist Worker Party and NSM – journeyed to Pikeville, Kentucky, for a rally and conference on April 28-29, 2017. Plans fell through to hold the rally at Jenny Wiley State Park, and The Guardian reported that Schoep told a gathering of neo-Nazis and white nationalists on private land the night before the rally in downtown Pikeville that “they were ‘warriors for your people.’”

In late July of 2017, Schoep announced that NSM would join Richard Spencer, Jason Kessler and others at the Aug. 12 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Though Schoep himself was never billed as one of the rally’s speakers, two prominent NF members, namely Heimbach and the League of the South’s Michael Hill, were.

Ongoing legal proceedings related to the Sines v. Kessler lawsuit, which was filed in October 2017, have shed light on NSM’s role in Unite the Right. The NSM, along with the Nationalist Front and a number of individuals connected to those groups, were named as defendants in the case.

NSM and the Nationalist Front were instrumental in fomenting the chaotic, racist violence at Unite the Right, according to court documents that also showed that members of NSM and the Nationalist Front moved through the city shouting racist slurs and charging through protesters. Schoep, Hill, Heimbach and Parrott led a pack of racist protesters to Emancipation Park, shoving counterprotesters with shields and rods along the way. Schoep and other NSM members helped secure the perimeter around the park. But after the mayor of Charlottesville declared the gathering an unlawful assembly, Schoep helped lead NSM members and other Unite the Right participants to a set gathering point at McIntire Park. He was alleged to have attacked counterprotesters along the way.

“I was offered a ride to safety and declined to leave until the women and others were safe, so we just marched back through antifa,” Schoep is quoted as saying in the Sines v. Kessler complaint. “We went right through [antifa] like warriors.”

Schoep later denied that he engaged in any violence, telling Al Jazeera English that “anyone . . . with even half of a brain” would know that “the Antifa violently attacked anyone who was deemed pro-white or pro-American even.”

One Vanguard American member explained NSM’s presence as a necessity. “NSM fought so hard regardless of their optics,” the member is quoted as saying in a case file connected to Sines v. Kessler. “Do we need them at normie events? No. We need them in a fight? Yes.” 

Schoep returned the favor in a tweet posted after the events of Aug. 12. “It was an Honor to stand with U all in C’Ville this weekend. NSM, NF, TWP [Traditionalist Worker Party], LOS [League of the South], ECK [East Coast Knights] . . . and the rest, true warriors!”

In a Guardian article published the next day, he said: “Usually our rallies are peaking between 100, 200 at the most. Seeing this many people was . . . the start of something big, I think.”

’Unite the Right’ causes NSM to go on the decline

On Oct. 28, 2017, NSM and other members of the Nationalist Front held their first major rally after the deadly events of “Unite the Right.” The group’s “white lives matter” rally Shelbyville, Tennessee included around 100 white nationalists and neo-Nazis. Rallygoers reportedly attacked and verbally harassed journalists, counterprotesters and locals. After the rally, Harry Hughes, a member of NSM’s Arizona chapter, told BuzzFeed news that NSM members “finished [the rally] by arranging themselves into a human swastika visible to a helicopter circling overhead and giving the Nazi salute to the pilots.”

But ongoing legal complications, combined with dissolution of Nationalist Front member organization the Traditionalist Worker Party in February 2018, put a stop to whatever “big” thing Schoep predicted would arise from “Unite the Right.” NSM’s annual April rally, which took place in Newnan, Georgia, in 2018, drew some two dozen neo-Nazis and around 100 counterprotesters, according to The New York Times.

In September 2018, Heimbach re-emerged after a brief stint in jail for a probation violation as NSM’s director of community outreach. The former TWP head stood alongside Schoep at an NSM rally in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Nov. 10, 2018. Heimbach’s tenure was, however, brief. By early December, he had been booted out of the NSM. An announcement described Heimbach as a “betrayer, traitor, and [a] Communist.”

According to a Oct. 30, 2019, Washington Post article, Schoep began engaging in talks with Black civil rights advocate James Hart Stern to dissolve the NSM entirely, starting in December 2018. The same Washington Post article noted that Stern suggested such a dissolution would allow Schoep to “shed the financial burden” of Integrity for America’s lawsuit.

Stern met Schoep several years earlier through a shared connection with Edgar Ray Killen, a former Klan leader who helped carry out the 1964 murders of Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney, three civil rights workers who registering Blacks to vote in Mississippi. Stern reportedly met Killen in prison while he was serving time for wire fraud.

Stern began working to convince Schoep to cede control of  NSM to him in 2018. Incorporation papers filed in Michigan by Schoep’s girlfriend, Acacia Dietz, as well as legal documents related to Integrity First for America’s lawsuit, listed Stern as the “President/Director” of NSM, beginning on Jan. 15, 2019. Later that month, Schoep signed a sworn affidavit starting he had agreed to the change in leadership.

Upon realizing that passing the organization to Stern would not neutralize the lawsuit, the Washington Post reported, Schoep tendered his resignation from NSM. Burt Colucci, NSM’s chief of staff, took his place.

In a statement published on NSM’s website, Schoep stated that Stern had seized control of the organization under false pretenses. He further claimed that Stern had “fraudulently manipulated [him] for the purposes of gaining control, and dissolving NSM.”

Colucci, in an effort to halt Stern’s efforts, re-incorporated the NSM in his home state of Florida on May 24, 2019. According to a deposition from Sines v. Kessler, Colucci stated he was “tired of the tug-of-war that was going on up in Michigan,” referring to efforts by Dietz and Schoep to wrest control of the organization from Stern.

After his departure from NSM in spring of 2019, Schoep reemerged on Aug. 12, 2019, to announce he had decided to renounce his lifelong neo-Nazi views. In a statement published on his new personal website, he proclaimed: “I realized many of the principles I had once held so dearly and sacrificed so much for were wrong. . . . It is now my mission to be a positive, peaceful influence of change and understanding for all humanity in these uncertain times.”

Despite these claims, a Mar. 11, 2020, a motion to compel discovery from the Sines v. Kessler case stated that Schoep’s involvement in NSM had not completely ceased. Schoep and his girlfriend, the document observed, “have continued to participate in NSM’s activities, even as Schoep claims to have left the white-supremacist movement.” On Oct. 13, 2019, for instance, Schoep was said to have “warned” current NSM Commander Burt Colucci that one of the callers on his podcast was an informant with the federal government. Schoep’s girlfriend, who claimed to have been out of the movement for a year as of March 2020, was also said to have “‘informally’ remained a member of NSM and manages NSM’s website.”

On June 23, 2020, Integrity First for America announced that a federal court had granted their plaintiff’s motion to compel discovery from Colucci and NSM. Schoep received a similar injunction on May 27, 2020. He was required to turn over his phone for evidence collection, as well as to pay plaintiffs’ fees and expenses.