American neo-Nazis reach out to their European counterparts in an attempt to globalize the radical right.
Since World War II, a significant and growing number of American right-wing extremists have worked for or advocated a transnational approach to revolutionary politics.
While these budding internationalists have included Klansmen and many other types of radical rightists, the most important have been neo-Nazis — men who believe in the rehabilitation of some form of German national socialism, but with a far more global scope than that espoused by Adolf Hitler.
Here are brief profiles of three American neo-Nazis who have played important roles abroad. Most of them have been instrumental in forging transnational links among white nationalists, and all have pushed for international solidarity on the global radical right.
The Faux Führer
Gary "Gerhard" Lauck, 47
There aren't many Americans, even among the neo-Nazi set, who cultivate fake German accents and a Hitlerite moustache and hairdo. But Gary "Gerhard" Lauck has done all that and more, even naming his Lincoln, Neb.-based organization after the overseas unit of Hitler's National Socialist German Workers Party.
Lauck spent his early years as a member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist White People's Party (the successor organization to the American Nazi Party) and, later, the Chicago-based National Socialist Party of America (NSPA) led by Frank Collin.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, Lauck also had several run-ins with German authorities during the 1970s: a 1972 arrest for distributing Nazi literature; a 1974 expulsion after giving a speech in Hamburg on "why Hitler is still so popular in the United States," and a 1976 arrest while carrying 20,000 Nazi posters.
The NSPA imploded after two stunning events: the revelation that Frank Collin was the son of Max Cohen, a Jewish concentration camp survivor, and the subsequent discovery, made by Lauck and two colleagues, of photographic evidence that Collin also was a gay child molester.
But Lauck soldiered on, returning full-time to his own group, NSDAP/AO, which he had started in 1974. Officially dedicated to promoting "a worldwide National Socialist-led White Revolution for the restoration of White Power in all White nations," the NSDAP/AO (Lauck used the German-language acronym for his group) specialized in producing propaganda for Germans.
And in fact, during the 1980s and early 1990s, Lauck produced, translated and helped smuggle into Germany huge amounts of German-language propaganda — as many as 8 million pieces a year.
While Lauck, with his Germanic pretensions, may appear as a ridiculous figure in the United States, he in fact became a key player on the German neo-Nazi scene, helping to tie together a variety of factions through his flagship publications, New Order (in English) and NS Kampfruf (in German).
Ingo Hasselbach, an important German neo-Nazi leader who eventually renounced racism, wrote in a book that Lauck "was the publisher and distributor of the bulk of neo-Nazi propaganda pasted up on the walls and windows from Berlin to Sao Paulo, and was also the center of a worldwide umbrella organization with which practically every neo-Nazi had contact."
In 1995, however, it all came crashing down as Lauck was arrested in Denmark on a German warrant for inciting racial hatred. Extradited to Germany, Lauck was tried and sentenced to a maximum four years in prison.
By the time he emerged in March 1999, Internet-based propaganda had supplanted him, rendering the so-called "Farm Belt Führer" unimportant.
Neither Left Nor Right
Tom Metzger, 62
The man who did more than any other to bring European neo-Nazi Skinhead culture to the United States was for many years one of the radical right's most dedicated and best-informed internationalists, a neo-Nazi who prefigured a major trend on the far right in Europe by dismissing old notions of left and right.
Tom Metzger began his political career in a fairly traditional way, joining up with the John Birch Society in California. But, angered by the Birchers' refusal to endorse anti-Semitism, Metzger soon graduated to the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (where he was California leader at a time when David Duke was national leader), eventually going on to form his own Klan group and finally, in 1983, the White Aryan Resistance (WAR) group he still runs today.
From the start, WAR endorsed ideas that were truly revolutionary in the context of the American extreme right, with Metzger later suggesting that "both the left and the right wings [are] Trojan horse enemies of our race."
Metzger adopted a form of the Nazism championed in the 1920s by Otto and Gregor Strasser, brothers who formed a leftish wing of the Nazi Party, emphasizing the "socialist" aspects of national socialism. (In the end, Otto Strasser fled Germany, while his brother was shot by the Gestapo; Hitler ended up allying himself with the big German capitalists who the Strassers hated.)
Metzger's anti-capitalist vision is of an economy managed by the state, an ideology he calls the "Third Force" or "Third Position." He shocked many compatriots by lauding the Soviet Union as a nation of racially pure "white workers" and by criticizing U.S. interventionism in Central America.
At the same time as he pushed these hifalutin ideas, Metzger was also appealing to the first American neo-Nazi Skinheads, describing them as the "shock troops" who would lead a racist revolution. (In fact, it was the involvement of Metzger and his son John Metzger with Skinheads that resulted in a $12.5 million civil judgment against them and their group for their actions that led to the murder of an Ethiopian student in Portland, Ore.)
By the late 1980s, WAR had built up branches in England, France, Hungary, Poland, Sweden and other European countries. But in the 1990s, while saluting "all the Aryan struggles around the world," Metzger began retreating from his global focus to concentrate on North America.
"We cannot," Metzger says in describing his current view of internationalism, "be carpetbaggers to the world!"
Have Music, Will Travel
William Pierce, 67
The American neo-Nazi with the greatest stature on the European radical right is without question William Pierce, an intellectual former college professor who is also the author of one of the great seminal texts of contemporary extremism.
Abandoning his job teaching physics at Oregon State University in 1966, Pierce joined George Lincoln Rockwell's American Nazi Party and started up National Socialist World, a footnoted journal aimed at academics and other serious readers.
Like his mentor, Pierce would always see the struggle in international terms, and in fact his journal was published by Rockwell's international apparatus, the World Union of National Socialists. The first issue gave an indication of Pierce's global tastes, including a piece by Savitri Devi, a French-born national socialist with a strong interest in India, and another by British neo-Nazi leader Colin Jordan.
After Rockwell's assassination in 1967, Pierce stayed on for a time, but wound up starting his own neo-Nazi group, the National Alliance, in 1974.
Unlike Tom Metzger, among others, Pierce was an orthodox Nazi, in the sense that he sought to form an elite cadre to lead the masses to revolution, to exterminate the Jews during a period he described as a "temporary unpleasantness," and to institute an authoritarian state afterward. He was always deeply interested in racist politics in other white-dominated nations and maintained contacts for decades with extremists in Europe and elsewhere.
Ironically, for all his pretensions, Pierce made his name overseas not with some heady ideological tract, but with a badly written pulp fiction novel — The Turner Diaries, a fantasy of racist revolution and slaughter. The novel, which would become the blueprint for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, cemented Pierce's reputation as a man unafraid to tell it like it is, and one who could get away with it.
During the 1990s, Pierce traveled regularly to Europe, speaking to neofascist groups like the British National Party (he was banned from the United Kingdom after a 1997 speech to the BNP) and Germany's National Democratic Party (NPD).
In 1999, he acquired the U.S. white power music label Resistance and the Swedish Nordland label, which also helped to further his influence overseas. Today, Pierce posts on his Web site translations of texts, including The Turner Diaries, in several European languages.
In 1999, Pierce summed up his views to an NPD audience, saying, "It is essential — not just helpful, but necessary — for genuine nationalist groups everywhere to increase their degree of collaboration across national borders... . The National Alliance is really unique in that it ... define[s] nationality in terms of race, not geography."