Arrest of German Neo-Nazi Reveals Growing Internationalization of 'White Power' Music Scene
The U.S. arrest of Hendrik Möbus, a German neo-Nazi musician, reveals the growing internationalization of the 'white power' music scene and the expanding empire of one of his American hosts.
"Free Hendrik Möbus!"
Those three words appeared as a banner headline last October on radical right-wing web sites around the United States and abroad. Click on the banner, and you learn a little bit more: "Hendrik Möbus of the black metal band Absurd sits in jail with no way to speak to the outside world. He served his sentence for murder, but now his right to free speech makes him an international criminal."
The original banner, along with an invitation to sympathizers to reproduce it on their own web sites, appears on the home page of Resistance Records, a white power music label controlled by William Pierce, the leader of America's premiere neo-Nazi group — the National Alliance.
Pierce's propaganda campaign on behalf of Möbus, 24, along with his raising money to foot the bill for Möbus' legal fees, is virtually unprecedented in Alliance history.
Although many members and allies of the National Alliance have gotten into serious trouble with the law, none of them have enjoyed this kind of heroic treatment by Pierce.
So who is Hendrik Möbus? And why is Pierce so interested?
Hendrik Albert Viktor Möbus was arrested last Aug. 26 outside a restaurant about 20 miles from the Hillsboro, W. Va., headquarters of the Alliance, on an international arrest warrant issued in Germany. Möbus, a German citizen, was wanted for violating the terms of his parole in a 1993 murder by publicly mocking and demeaning his victim and by giving a "sieg heil" salute, both actions illegal under strict German laws. He is also accused of organizing radical groups.
Pierce has framed his advocacy for Möbus as a defense of free speech, pointing out that Möbus' offending comments would have been perfectly legal under U.S. laws.
But Pierce's real interest in Möbus — who stayed as Pierce's guest for 10 weeks until his arrest — appears to be something quite different.
Möbus, a key player on the "national socialist black metal" (NSBM) music scene in Europe, was helping Pierce establish a worldwide empire of "hatecore" music — a racist genre that is producing millions of dollars in profits. More importantly, perhaps, the music is effectively bringing new recruits into the neo-Nazi movement.
Music, Money and Möbus
Whether or not Pierce knew he was harboring an international fugitive — and despite his and his lawyer's denials, it seems clear that Pierce did know — the saga of Hendrik Möbus is an important one.
It reflects the international nature of the white power music scene, the interest of the National Alliance in becoming a world leader in selling its music, and — if reports of a savage beating that Möbus allegedly suffered in Virginia are to be believed — the increasingly violent and criminal nature of the lucrative business of white power music.
Already, in several European countries where such music is illegal, serious violence has been reported in association with control of this highly profitable business. A similar situation may now be developing here.
In Europe, Interpol said in a report released last year that the manufacture, distribution and sale of neo-Nazi music has become a $3.4 million-a-year criminal enterprise.
Increasingly, racist CDs are bootlegged by criminal entrepreneurs, meaning no taxes, band royalties or record company markups are ever deducted — a situation that has lifted profit margins to the high heavens. With CDs costing underground bootleggers about $2 apiece to produce, Interpol said profit margins are better than for selling hashish.
The Möbus case also throws a spotlight on the strange world where neo-Nazism, racist neo-Paganism and strands of Satanism converge — a world peopled by both European and American extremists, many of them musicians. In a variety of ways, this ideological brew is the force driving the NSBM scene today.
On the evening of April 29, 1993, 17-year-old Hendrik Möbus and two other teenagers — all members of the black metal band Absurd — took a 14-year-old boy with whom they had quarreled earlier into the forest near Sondershausen, in the former East Germany.
Earlier, according to a book by two German journalists, Satanskinder("Satan's Children"), Möbus had sent a message, partly in stilted English, to his victim, Sandro Beyer: "The hell come to your home. You will die. Sathan [sic] awaits! Stay away from us you whimp [sic] and poser!"
Using a mutual female friend as bait, Möbus and the others lured Beyer to a cabin owned by Möbus' father. Once inside, one of Möbus' confederates used an electrical cord to begin strangling Beyer. When Beyer tried to scream for help, Möbus began to stab him, Satanskinder recounts.
It was only then, the book says, that the attackers decided they couldn't let Beyer go, despite his pleas and promises to tell no one — after all, they reasoned, Beyer would almost surely report Möbus' knife wound to his stomach.
Beyer was tied to a chair, and Möbus then reportedly held his legs while the two other teenagers finished strangling the boy.
The case produced an uproar in the German press, which carried lurid accounts of the murder and the other exploits of the members of Absurd, allegedly including Satanic "baptism" ceremonies in an abandoned quarry. Black metal, a particularly violent and often fascistic form of "extreme music," was explored in great detail.
The similarities to a case in Norway, where black metal legend Varg Vikernes was also imprisoned for murder and for helping to set off a series of anti-Christian arsons that left some 40 churches burned in the 1990s, were laid out for the public.
For their part, the killers offered little explanation for the murder until long after the trial, beyond the words of one of them: "He had to go."
Murder as a 'Beneficial Act'
Möbus was sentenced to eight years in a juvenile facility, where he managed to produce increasingly harsh and political music, growing into a kind of icon on the German neo-Nazi and NSBM scenes. In a 1997 interview in the book Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground, Möbus expounded on what the book's authors described as his "esoteric racialist mysticism."
"National Socialism is the most perfect synthesis of the Luciferian will-to-power, and neo-heathen principles & symbolism," Möbus told the interviewer for Lords of Chaos.
"If 'Aryan' stands for the noble, the illuminated creative power of the White, then 'Jewish' means just the opposite."
And then he spoke of his victim — "leftist f-----" Sandro Beyer.
"On the 29th of April, 1993, we wanted to clear up the 'Sandro problem' — and we did, albeit rather gruesomely. ... I can say we unconsciously imitated an archaic sacrificial rite: first Sandro was hit with a knife, then strangled, and after that buried in the earth."
Did Möbus have any regrets? "[E]very passing second a human dies, so there's no need to make a big fuss of this one kill."
Möbus made similar remarks elsewhere. "We always had the idea to break the 'taboo' of 'Thou Shalt Not Kill,'" he told the e-zine Mourning the Ancient. "Sandro B. was an utterly irritating guy who became a pain in the ass after a while. He has [sic] spread rumors and bullshit about ourselves, something we couldn't stand any longer. ...
"I say, it simply was a beneficial act for mankind."
In Norway, Another Outrage
An article exploring the international NSBM scene in the Spring 2000 issue of Resistance, the white power music magazine published by Pierce, describes Möbus' increasing politicization while imprisoned.
"In jail," Resistance recounts with evident approval, "Hendrik dealt with Germanic Heathendom, folkish world views and National Socialism [NS]. Slowly but steadily, his world-view progressed into a Nordic creed and a Germanic ethic. Hendrik promoted his beliefs on various occasions ... and was contacted [in jail] by numerous NS-Skinheads."
While still in prison, Möbus was widely compared to Varg Vikernes, who was imprisoned in Norway. A month before the Beyer murder, Vikernes (whose self-given first name means "wolf" in Norwegian), had participated in arson attacks on historic Christian churches, and was sentenced to three months in jail.
Not long after getting out, Vikernes, who performs as the one-man black metal band Burzum, got into a dispute with one Øystein Aarseth, who was widely known as the godfather of the black metal scene in Norway.
Although it's unclear what motivated the assault — a battle over power, a woman or a recording contract — the outcome is well known.
On Aug. 10, 1993, Vikernes murdered his one-time mentor. After Vikernes' arrest, police found a huge arsenal of explosives in his home — explosives that Vikernes would later say he had planned to use to blow up Blitz House, a famous gathering place for anarchists and leftists in Oslo.
"Europe is cursed by the rotten, rip-off, capitalist Jew-culture, a culture based on $ (plague and torment), miscegenation and Jewish world supremacy," Vikernes wrote in explaining his politics. "Burning churches is our duty."
The Killers Connect
Möbus and Vikernes share something more than their hatred of Jews and capitalism — dedication to neo-Paganism (Odinism, in particular) in a form that sees Christianity as a repugnant faith based on Judaism.
To Möbus, Christianity is "Spiritual Black Death," a "praise-the-feeble" religion. His answer to this plague? "You can't get rid of a virus after a certain number of people are contaminated," Möbus declared, "[but] you can get rid of the contaminated people."
Both Möbus and Vikernes were able to play and record music in prison. (Prison rules are generally far more liberal in Europe than in the United States.)
This, coupled with the notoriety each gained through their crimes and their neo-Nazi declarations, made each of them icons on the NSBM scene in Europe — even though, in Vikernes' case, freedom is still many years away. Ultimately, while still in prison, the two men came to communicate with one another.
In his 1997 or 1998 interview with Mourning the Ancient, Möbus said he had been "in touch with Varg for a couple of years now" after first coming into contact with Burzum's music in 1991. "[I]t is amazing to see that we share almost all the same ideas and ideals," Möbus enthused about Vikernes, who he described as a "superior man" and a "supreme personality."
"If there is any way to get him out of jail, then I wouldn't hesitate to participate in such a project," he said.
"HEIL NORDLAND'S FÜHRER, HEIL VARG VIKERNES!"
'The Wave to Appear'
While in prison, Vikernes ran a record company and became the self-proclaimed leader of both the Norwegian Heathen Front and "an international heathen brotherhood he calls Cymophane," according to a new book, Encyclopedia of White Power: A Sourcebook on the Radical Racist Right.
In an interview with an e-zine a few years ago, Vikernes explained that Cymophane — an Anglicization of the Greek for "the wave to appear" — is also the name of his record label.
Today, Cymophane is a firm that sells the music of Vikernes' Burzum — possibly the most popular NSBM group in the world — along with the writings of James Mason, a one-time American Nazi Party member who adulates the convicted murderer Charles Manson as a kind of second Hitler. (Until recently, Mason was also head of the "Vinland," or U.S., branch of the Heathen Front.)
And it is a firm that has turned out to be a key component of Möbus' trip to the United States.
Möbus was paroled in August 1998, after serving five years and four months of his sentence, and immediately entered active extreme right politics.
He became head of the German branch of the Heathen Front. He took over a black metal label, Darker Than Black Records (DTB), and contributed to a compilation by another firm, HATE Records — a label that belongs to the Saxonian branch of Hammerskin Nation, an extremely violent, international Skinhead group.
And, like Vikernes, he spoke of wanting to get his music distributed in the United States.
But trouble was brewing on the horizon.
In July 1999, Möbus was sentenced to eight months in prison for giving the stiff-armed Nazi salute. Shortly after that, his parole was revoked — although he was not captured. Three months later, police raided almost two dozen locations in Germany, including DTB, and charged a number of music labels with distributing Nazi propaganda. DTB shut down after the raid.
And a short time after, Möbus — who was still on the loose — was handed another 18-month term for the remarks he had made mocking and demeaning Beyer in the Lords of Chaos interview.
Coming to America
Following the DTB raid, Möbus "made plans to continue his operations in the United States," according to the British antifascist magazine Searchlight.
While still in Germany, the magazine reported, Möbus worked out a deal to distribute DTB products through Bestial Offerings, a distributor in Texas. And he reportedly came to an arrangement with another Texas firm, Ancestral Research Records.
In December 1999, Möbus flew to Seattle and entered the United States. It appears he entered legally, although he would ultimately overstay his visa (actually a 90-day visa waiver that allowed him temporary entry into the country).
Victor Gerhard, a lawyer for the National Alliance, told The Los Angeles Times that Möbus' air fare was paid for by an American white supremacist — presumably not Pierce — who "sought his expertise in putting together record deals and paid for him to get over." The two men had a falling out, Gerhard said, and Möbus headed east, staying with white power devotees as he went.
The man who paid Möbus' air fare was apparently Nathan Pett, a key player in the white supremacist White Order of Thule (WOT). WOT, with branches in Elk, Wash., where Pett lives, and Richmond, Va., publishes the journal Crossing the Abyss.
For his part, Pett personally edits another journal, Fenris Wolf, "The Revolutionary Voice of the Pagan Liberation League." According to Searchlight, Pett has affiliated Fenris Wolf with the Pagan Front, which is an international organization.
After arriving in Seattle, Möbus went to Elk, Wash., to live with Pett, who also goes by the alias Nate Zorn. But the two apparently argued, and Möbus made his way to Richmond, Va., where another WOT chapter is located.
Of Hammers and Handcuffs
At this point, the story grows murkier.
According to some postings in Internet discussion groups, Möbus was attacked in Richmond, in most accounts by Pett and a friend. Möbus reportedly was handcuffed and methodically beaten with a hammer all over his body.
(The irony of this reported attack is that Möbus' murder victim, Sandro Beyer, was also bound by his tormentors to a chair before he was strangled.)
By the time Möbus was finally freed, he had been very badly injured, according to these accounts.
One October posting on a "national anarchist" discussion group publicly put several hostile questions to Pett, including this one: "In June 2000 did you travel to Richmond VA and with an accomplice, duct tape and cuff H. Möbus and beat him bloody with a hammer?"
Pett's reply was somewhat ambiguous: "[E]ven if we did do such a thing, If [sic] you think I am going to freely discuss with people who are completely irrelevant to me (total strangers actually) such illegal and incriminating activity, OVER THE INTERNET... Than [sic] you are seriously deluded."
Pett has come under attack in other Internet venues as well. Although the underlying reasons for these attacks are unclear, it appears that Pett may have angered other white supremacists in tangling with Möbus. Alex Curtis, the white supremacist editor of the widely read e-zine The Nationalist Observer, has accused Pett of aiding police in a case against another racist activist.
In one posting that drew a furious reply from Pett, Curtis declared that Pett and his group "cannot be trusted and should be shunned as rats and detriments to Aryan honor." A series of other leading white supremacists have pilloried Pett in a similar fashion.
Pett could not be reached for comment.
The Fugitive Arrives
After his ill-starred Richmond visit, Möbus made his way to Pierce's National Alliance headquarters in West Virginia, arriving there in early June and staying for almost three months. Later, Pierce and his lawyer, Victor Gerhard, would insist that they had no idea that Möbus was a fugitive when he appeared on the Alliance's doorstep.
"All I knew was that he didn't want to go back," Pierce told The Los Angeles Times. But that does not appear to be the truth.
Four months before Möbus showed up in West Virginia, Pierce's own white power music magazine, Resistance, described Möbus' plight to readers in great detail, explaining that Möbus faced "5+ years" if caught.
"He is now on the run, wanted by German authorities with an international arrest order," Resistance said in its Spring 2000 issue. The masthead lists Pierce as publisher.
Pierce has also angrily accused the U.S. marshals who arrested Möbus of breaking the young man's arm when they took him in. But it may well be that the injuries that Pierce refers to actually date back to the reported Richmond attack, which supposedly occurred shortly before Möbus arrived in West Virginia.
In any event, Pierce took a sharp interest in Möbus. It is now evident that this interest derived from Möbus' central role in the world of hatecore — a world that Pierce has done his best to get a major piece of in the last two years.
Since last year, William Pierce has had control of America's largest racist music label, Resistance Records, along with its magazine. (In a series of complex transactions that were detailed in the Fall 1999 issue of the Intelligence Report, Pierce paid out about $250,000 for Resistance.)
He also bought a major racist Swedish label, Nordland. As long ago as last fall, Pierce expressed an interest in expanding into NSBM, and last spring's article in Resistance — "Is Black Metal a White Noise?" — seemed to reiterate that desire.
Moreover, Pierce long has been a leader in establishing international relationships among neofascists in Europe and the United States, traveling frequently across the ocean.
So while it remains unclear whether or not Pierce and Möbus were in contact before June, it is no surprise that the aging American and the young German found much to discuss.
And Cymophane Makes Three
"Three months ago, I had a visit from a young German musician who has made a name for himself with resistance music in Europe," Pierce explained in a September radio broadcast.
"I invited him to stay as my guest and help me establish new outlets in Europe for my records. And that's what he did for 10 weeks. He stayed as my guest, and we talked about the role of music in our overall effort."
Pierce didn't say so, but the pair also cut a deal.
On June 30, a few weeks after Möbus came to stay, William Pierce registered Cymophane, LLC, listing himself as organizer and manager, with the West Virginia Secretary of State. The principal office address given was the same as for Pierce's National Alliance headquarters. Meanwhile, the Internet domain for Cymophane.com is now registered to DTB — the music label that Möbus controlled before coming to the United States.
The upshot, then, is this: Möbus clearly seems to have handed Pierce at least a part of Cymophane — meaning that in all likelihood Pierce now controls U.S. rights to both Vikernes' and Möbus' music.
In the end, this acquisition may prove to have been highly important. It apparently brings to Pierce some of the most popular white power bands in the world.
It may lift the profits from his burgeoning music operation — profits that could reach as much as $1 million a year in the near future, an amount that would help make the 1,500-member Alliance rich.
And it substantially broadens Pierce's influence, as ever more young people tune in to the sounds of hate.
In any event, it seems unlikely that Möbus will be in a position to assist Pierce any further. Although authorities initially planned to extradite him to Germany to face criminal charges on his parole violation, they decided to try to deport Möbus instead after he asked for political asylum.
As a result, officials expect Möbus to be sent back to Germany relatively quickly — despite the Pierce "Free Hendrik Möbus!" banners that continue to pop up worldwide.
Regardless, Pierce certainly seems to have taken a liking to his unusual visitor. He has promised to fund Möbus' fight to stay in the United States, and has asked for money from Alliance members and others to back him up — an appeal that already has produced over $9,000.
Denouncing authorities for supposedly roughing Möbus up, Pierce offered his own rather unique view of the convicted German child murderer: "a quiet, skinny, non-violent intellectual."