A South Carolina college student who leads a neo-Nazi group denies his Jewish ancestry.
Peering at a computer screen where swastikas flicker alongside images of SS death's-head insignias, Davis Wolfgang Hawke pounds his keyboard to martial beat.
A stereo in this college student's dorm room is blasting German military anthems, and a poster of Adolf Hitler overlooks the scene. Nazi literature is strewn on the desk, World War II books are stuffed into the bookcase, and a collection of military knives lies nearby.
Peggy and Hyman Greenbaum's boy is hard at work.
Hawke, a 20-year-old student at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., didn't always have such an Aryan-sounding name. Before he created his "Ministry of Racial Unity," before he built his own modern-day SS ("Security Service") to ferret out race traitors and Jewish agents — before, in fact, he left his mom's house in the wealthy suburbs of Boston to go away to school — this wannabe fuhrer was named Andy Greenbaum.
But once he settled on his goal of becoming "absolute, supreme dictator" of the United States, Greenbaum decided that had to change. The kid who had started his national socialist Knights of Freedom (KOF) while still in high school strolled into a Massachussetts courthouse a few days after graduation and had his name altered to better suit his career plans.
After moving into his dorm, Hawke cooked up yet another nom de guerre to use on his Web site and in conversation with his subordinates: Bo Decker.
No one knows just what sent Greenbaum/Hawke/Decker down the road of Nazism. No one can explain why a good student with high sat scores, a kid who managed to get into elite Wofford, spends his time dressed up in SS suits, selling swastika armbands. All he offers by way of explanation are such statements as this: "The Jews ... are trying to kill us, and therefore we hate them. It's just that simple."
Be that as it may, Hawke has been having problems.
After the Southern Poverty Law Center exposed his name change — "a skeleton in my closet that I would rather keep buried" — Hawke told anyone who would listen he was actually the product of an affair his mother had had with a pure-blooded Aryan, a Germanic man named Dekker (a charge his mother denies).
He said that Hyman Greenbaum, listed on his birth certificate as his father, is merely an adoptive stepfather who is one-quarter Jewish (making his mother, who says Hawke is Hyman's biological son, "a race traitor").
But, as Tom Metzger of the neo-Nazi White Aryan Resistance group in California explained to a reporter recently, "If [Hawke] is a Jew, he will have no stature left. People he is involved with will have nothing to do with him."
Until recently, Hawke appeared to be something of a comer on the white supremacist scene. He is engaging, intelligent and charismatic — so much so that his group is largely a cult of personality, with some followers referring to him as "the chosen one" and his website endlessly touting "The Leader."
He has proved to be an astute organizer, getting $5 a month from his members and plowing the money back into producing slick, and in some cases full-color, booklets and other literature. And he seems to be successful at selling everything from swastika armbands to imitation SS uniforms.
In addition, Hawke claims that he is about to inherit some $700,000 — money he says he intends to use to build up his group further. Until recently, he said he was in the process of creating a "world headquarters" compound on the Montana-Wyoming border.
Still, Hawke might not have amounted to much more than a kid with a small band of admirers if it weren't for the World Wide Web. The Web allowed him to create a real group — one that was more than a mere cyberspace fantasy.
When he started KOF in August 1996 in the affluent, largely Jewish suburb of Westwood, Mass., it was a tiny band of rebellious chums, never growing beyond 20 members. For the first two years, Hawke told the Intelligence Report, "We didn't really gain any members because we didn't have an outlet.
"We didn't have any real propaganda techniques, we didn't have any way of reaching the public with our ideas. But then we started the Web site [last fall], and that basically catapulted us."
After meeting with a writer for the Report and promising to set up interviews with his subordinates, Hawke E-mailed several of them to "make sure to EXAGGERATE all KOF activities/membership numbers to the greatest extent possible. ... There is no need to answer actual questions about KOF activities truthfully — feel free to make your response a work of fiction and present the best possible front to the media at all times."
To reporters, Hawke now claims more than 1,000 members. In reality, he has between 100 and 150. But that is still a substantial number for an openly Nazi American group, a gang largely comprised of bad-boy high school and college students.
In many ways, Hawke appears to be a joke. He seems to see himself as some sort of villain out of a Batman comic, an evil genius destined to rule the world. He speaks of his exploits in wildly exaggerated terms, even as he mocks grown-up leaders in the white supremacist movement like Metzger and neo-Nazi National Alliance chief William Pierce.
He seems fixated on disgust for the parents who raised him and their world.
Despite grandiose claims including a threatened march this summer on Washington, D.C., the Knights of Freedom have not been much seen in places other than cyberspace — at least not since the days when Andrew Britt Greenbaum caused a hubbub by running for high school class president on an explicitly racist platform.
Hawke did call for his members to march in the streets after the KOF got some press in February, but they haven't.
Still, despite assurances on his Web site (KOF.net) that he is not advocating violence, the fuhrer of Wofford College can sound a pretty militant note.
"The goal of our party is for me to come to power in this country as absolute, supreme dictator, ruler," he told the Report. "I've considered armed rebellion. But that is out of the question at the moment. ... [W]e don't have enough members. ... There's never gonna be any KOF standoff at some stupid compound. ...
"[But] if I had 25,000 members, I would honestly probably be in power today. I have plans for that."
In a separate interview with the Report, Hawke's "Security Service" head, a vacuum cleaner salesman who says his name is Matthew McKenna, warned darkly that "if someone comes to my door threatening me, I won't hesitate to put a few bullets in his head."
McKenna, who lives with his mother in New Jersey, is a typical follower. Hawke "has my full and utter loyalty," he says. "We know he is the chosen one. Just thinking about him," this "minister of recruitment" reveals, "puts a smile on my face."
The Leader, McKenna concludes, "is our last chance."
McKenna's last chance majors in German and history, has accumulated a 3.8 grade point average and thinks his high school teachers were "radical left-wing liberals." He is a former chess champion who believes Jews are descended from Satan, Buddhism and Islam are "subversive cults," and women should be prohibited from working outside the home.
He is a kid without on-campus friends who says that in any relationship, he must be the superior. Hawke dresses in black, sieg-heils convincingly and signs his missives "Heil Hitler!"
Now, he is also something of a pariah.
After an article about his neo-Nazi activities appeared in the Spartanburg, S.C., Herald-Journal, some 300 Wofford students — a third of the student body — attended a candlelight vigil to denounce hate.
"The institution," college dean Dan Maultsby told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "has the obligation to speak out forcefully."
A short time later, Hawke moved off campus.
But even with all that has happened — the revelation of his given birth name, the attacks of both anti-racists and racists (including one neo-Nazi ideologue who mocked his "hobbyist Nazism") — Hawke still appears to live in his very own fantasy world.
"The Jewish media," he declares, "now perceives us as a serious threat to their world power structure." Recently, after an interview with Newsweek magazine — part of the media he says is controlled by sinister, power-hungry Jews — Hawke told his followers that his picture might well appear on the cover.
In fact there was no picture at all, and The Leader had to be contented with a page 23 mention, in an article on someone else.