This article will survey the transnational dynamics of the World Union of National Socialists (wuns), from its foundation in 1962 to the present day. It will examine a wide range of materials generated by the organisation, including its foundational document, the Cotswolds Declaration, as well as membership application details, wuns bulletins, related magazines such as Stormtrooper, and its intellectual journals, National Socialist World and The National Socialist. By analysing material from affiliated organisations, it will also consider how the network was able to foster contrasting relationships with sympathetic groups in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Europe, allowing other leading neo-Nazis, such as Colin Jordan, to develop a wider role internationally. The author argues that the neo-Nazi network reached its height in the mid to late 1960s, and also highlights how, in more recent times, the wuns has taken on a new role as an evocative ‘story’ in neo-Nazi history. This process of ‘accumulative extremism’, inventing a new tradition within the neo-Nazi movement, is important to recognise, as it helps us understand the self-mythologizing nature of neo-Nazi and wider neo-fascist cultures. Therefore, despite failing in its ambitions of creating a Nazi-inspired new global order, the lasting significance of the wuns has been its ability to inspire newer transnational aspirations among neo-Nazis and neo-fascists.
In an era where neo-Nazi movements are uniting activists across the Atlantic, understanding the history of transnational extremism is becoming ever more relevant. This article focuses on the flows of ideas and activism generated by the World Union of National Socialists (wuns), a neo-Nazi transnational network created in 1962. Its leading figures hoped to develop National Socialist ideology anew by uniting affiliated, national movements. At the time of writing, its name lives on, online. The American National Socialist Movement hosts a webpage,1 and a dedicated website,2 for the wuns, claiming to have re-launched the network in 2006. The Daily Stormer’s website also reproduces materials related to the wuns, as do other neo-Nazi web spaces. This is a far cry from plans developed by the wuns’s founders, George Lincoln Rockwell and Colin Jordan. By the 2000s the network was supposed to have brought about a global revolution, an ambition that clearly failed. This article will survey the origins of the wuns and explore in particular its 1960s heyday. It will also plot resurgences of the wuns in later years, concluding that although the wuns failed in its stated goals, it did cultivate a lasting legacy that remains important to contemporary neo-Nazism.
1 Some Key Terms
This article re-appraises the wuns by examining magazines, documents and other source material related to the network.3 Before doing so, it is important to set out parameters for some key terms. Firstly, as the network spanned existing national borders, this raises the issues of ‘transnationalism’, a phenomenon that has interested many historians in recent times. Chris Bayly,4 Matthew Evangelista,5 and Patricia Clavin are a few among many who have explored transnationalism. What emerges from these reflections is that there is neither a clear definition nor a single approach for developing analysis of the phenomenon. Rather, transnationalism serves as an evocative term clustering together various methods and approaches, from the study of transnational individuals,6 to exploring a wide variety of organisations that have developed networks crossing borders. In sum, studying transnationalism involves tracking ‘people, ideas, products, processes and patterns that operate over, across, though, beyond, above, under or in-between polities and societies’.7 Clavin also sees transnational communities as interconnected ‘honeycombs’, phenomena comprised of interrelated units of activity, which individually may come and go over time. The on-going vibrancy of their activity can be assessed through an ability for cognate groups to replicate activism over time. Successful transnational communities contain ‘hollowed out spaces where institutions, individuals and ideas wither away to be replaced by new organisations, groups and innovations’.8
In recent years, specialist literature focused on the extreme right has likewise seen historians reappraising extreme nationalisms by considering transnationalism. This was given a fillip at the end of the 1990s as Roger Griffin’s International Fascism stressed interwar fascisms were more than simply nationally-focused movements.9 More recently, Constantin Iordachi, among others, has developed transnational analysis focused on Central and Eastern European fascisms,10 while Elizabeth Harvey and Aristotle Kallis have explored transnational dimensions to fascisms during the Second World War.11 After the watershed of 1945, studying transnationalism in what became much more marginalised fascist activity has become a growing area for historians. Andrea Mammone has examined relationships between French and Italian neo-fascisms,12 while my co-edited volume A Special Relationship of Hate collected essays exploring American and primarily British extreme right transnationalism.13 Matteo Albanese and Pablo del Hierro have examined the relationship between Spanish and Italian organisations from the 1920s to the 1960s;14 and Anton Shekhovtsov has plotted historical and contemporary transnational linkages between the Russia and the European extreme right.15 Adding to conceptual debates, Martin Durham and Margaret Power stress that a focus on transnationalism allows for reconsideration of ways extreme right activists have constructed their ‘imagined communities’ by evoking a sense of transnationalism. They suggest numerous incarnations of fascism have combined radical projects of national and racial renewal with visions for revolutionary change that cut across existing national boundaries.16
Considering transnational qualities of extremist groups raises questions regarding the parameters for terms such as ‘neo-Nazi’ and ‘fascism’. This article adopts Griffin’s definition of fascism as palingenetic populist ultra-nationalism.17 However, it suggests that the final component of this oft-cited definition can mislead, and Griffin’s approach does not preclude the transnational within fascism. Griffin’s model has influenced many historians who, from the 1990s onwards, and drawing on others such as George L. Mosse,18 have become concerned with understanding fascist cultures. Griffin’s approach sees these as milieus driven by what their protagonists consider to be ‘positive’ visions for the regeneration, and purification, through the construction of an alternate modernity specifically presented as an escape from one deemed to have become profoundly decadent.19 Griffin’s ideal typical description for generic fascisms also allows for the heuristic categorisation of more specific manifestations of the ideology, such as neo-Nazism, as ‘genuses’ of the overarching ‘species’. Neo-Nazism can be seen as a type of fascism that, on the one hand, identifies strongly with Nazi heritage, using this to create idealised visions of a new modernity, while on the other recalibrates Nazi themes to new situations after 1945. Seen in this light, the wuns was clearly both a fascist, and more specifically neo-Nazi, transnational network.
While interwar fascism could develop mainstream political movements, postwar fascisms are most commonly found on the fringes of society. We should be careful not to dismiss marginal activism as ‘failing’, an all too easy critical assessment of the limitations of neo-Nazism. The barriers to fascism succeeding became much higher after the defeat of the Nazi regime, and fascisms of all varieties became more marginalised. This requires deeper reconsideration of the ways postwar fascisms transformed into sub-cultures where tenacious protagonists, people often fizzing with revolutionary ambitions, found they had next to no agency to enact their wild visions for societal change.
To help explore these marginal contexts, Colin Campbell’s term ‘cultic milieu’ is useful for characterising such taboo counter-hegemonic cultures. Jeffrey Kaplan and Heléne Lööw suggest this term is helpful for exploring the sub-cultures of neo-Nazism. As they highlight, Campbell’s concept focuses attention on several important characteristics, including the ways such marginalized cultures generate a sense of inner mission, and allow their believers to think they have access to a revealed or higher set of truths that mainstream society does not understand. They offer adherents a sense of ‘seekership’, a powerful belief in a higher order of some description that can take on quasi-religious qualities. Campbell’s approach stresses the importance of studying the ways the cultic milieu is constructed by many discrete groups, and refreshed over time, calling for researchers to pay attention to phenomena such as the formation of specialist literatures featuring discourses combining ongoing events with ideas on how to realize the overarching mission.20
This leads to a final theme, ‘accumulative extremism’, a term I have set out in more depth elsewhere.21 In contrast to the similar term ‘cumulative extremism’,22 I suggest accumulative extremism is useful for identifying the ways cultures such as those fostered by neo-Nazi movements develop, over several generations, evocative stories that build into a lasting mythology. Affective accounts of the past allow for the growth of new, ‘invented’ senses of ‘tradition’ among activists, emotively link past and present, legitimizing extremist activities.23 For a movement steeped in mythic understandings of its past, neo-Nazism’s accumulative extremism is important to consider. It allows for identification of ways networks such as the wuns both set its own foundations in a mythology drawn from the Nazi era, and how it established a mythology of extremist activism inspirational to subsequent generations of activists.
2 Formation of the wuns
The narrative of the wuns has been told most completely by Frederick J. Simonelli.24 The idea of creating a network of Nazi groups came in 1959, when American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell tried to launch a group called the World Union of Free Enterprise National Socialists (wuffens), a precursor to the wuns. By 1961, Rockwell was in contact with other leading neo-Nazis with transnational aspirations, including Germany’s Bruno Ludtke, France’s Savitri Devi and Britain’s Colin Jordan. July 1962 saw Rockwell travel to Britain, illegally. In early August he attended a camp arranged by another small-scale transnational network linked to Jordan, the Northern European Ring, in a remote location near the village Guiting Power in the Cotswolds, Gloucestershire. The neo-Nazi camp was widely reported in the British press, and quickly descended into farce as anti-fascists and others demonstrated outside. British, American and other neo-Nazi leaders discussed the configuration of the wuns, later set out in a document called the Cotswolds Agreements. Rockwell then went on the run, eventually giving himself up to the authorities, attracting more press notoriety.
He is the symbol of a tremendous reaction, the distant consequences of which are yet unthinkable. In the background, as in the huge German gatherings of the Great Days, hung an enormous Swastika flag, lighted from the ground by torches. A row of young fighters holding torches, and the music of the Horst Wessel Song, had greeted the American Leader – founder and head of the National Socialist Movement in the usa – as he had walked into the camp. And there were Germans present: ‘old fighters’ of the first generation, and sixteen year-old boys. It was the atmosphere – the enthusiasm, the faith, the fanaticism – of the Days of the First Struggle (before 1933): the ‘old’ one, who knew, said so.25
Such lyrical recollections show how the movement played with mythology steeped in accumulative extremism that drew on the Nazi era. Activists could tell each other redolent, emotive stories connecting the wuns with a previous generation’s Alter Kämpfer. Rockwell too described how true believers felt a profound, emotional connection with the spirit of Hitler himself.26 The flow of ideas, activist and practices in the transnational cultic milieu here is striking: wuns founders were reformulating an ideology, National Socialism, originally created in Germany; the network itself was led by an American, Rockwell; and was founded at a clandestine camp in Britain, with a range of nationalities in attendance.
Jordan was initially designated the International Leader of the wuns, with Rockwell as its Deputy Leader. However, by the end of 1962, Jordan was in prison for running a paramilitary organisation, Spearhead.27 Rockwell became the International Leader thereafter, and continued as such until his murder in 1967. After his release in 1963, Jordan took on the role of leading the wuns’s ‘Eastern Hemisphere’, as the network developed in the 1960s.
The Cotswold Agreements offered a general statement of intent for the new network. Its immediate aim was to create ‘a monolithic, combat-efficient, international political apparatus to combat and utterly destroy the international Jewish Communist and Zionist apparatus to treason and subversion’. It explained that the national was supposed to sit alongside the transnational, but would not replace it: national identity would be combined with international solidarity, based on racial superiority and overt identification with National Socialist racial principles. The long-term goal was to divide the world into territories specifically for white people, and others for those who were not white. It stressed a need to work with leaders of other ‘races’ to create a ‘total and absolute geographical separation of the races’, which would lead to ‘an eventual world order based on race’. Affiliated groups or individuals had to ‘acknowledge the spiritual leadership of Adolf Hitler’. Affiliated groups, later formally labelled ‘Sections’, were required to submit bi-weekly ‘Action Reports’ to the wuns leadership, which would form the basis of bulletins. Highlighting the importance of national identities, only one national organisation per country was allowed to affiliate with the wuns.
The Cotswold Agreements stressed activities needed to ‘remain scrupulously within the laws of their respective national and international law’. Yet the next point contradicted this, stating that, in both ‘Jew Communist Countries’ as well as others ambiguously described as countries ‘under pressure from the Jews’, wuns affiliated organisations could break the law. The document even suggested that Britain could be interpreted as a country that fell into the latter category, as it had barred many international delegates who wanted to attend the 1962 summer camp. The Cotswold Agreements effectively gave wuns affiliates licence to break the law, so long as members could convince themselves that Jewish interests were restricting their activities. Through the paranoid lens of neo-Nazi conspiracism, such influence could be seen in actions taken by many states.28
The wuns generated further material setting out its mission. Steeped in the wuns’s sense of seekership, a document called ‘Programme of the World Union of National Socialists’ summarised its aims through seven points that comprised what was described as the ‘rock of our faith’. Its rubric evoked a cultic dynamic, presenting Marxism as a manifestation of Jewish control, describing it as ‘a RELIGION which is supplanting the failing powers of the older, genuine religions’, one that was on the cusp of a ‘rapid and inevitable triumph over the entire planet’. The wuns proposed ‘an OPPOSITE doctrine, a doctrine of selflessness and idealism based on SCIENTIFIC truth’, which needed to be ‘advanced and held with the same religious fanaticism as Marxism’. This ideal would be able to achieve the ‘heroic task’ of overturning ‘years of Jewish brainwashing’, creating a ‘unified world organisation’, to prevent ‘the White Man’ from sinking ‘in a brown chaos of degradation, slavery and eventual death’. Seven points expanded on this existential quest for white redemption. One stressed the mission needed to reject materialism and, like old religions, fight for a higher cause. Another explained the need to think of the racial community as ‘an organism’, asserting true freedom came when this living entity could function as a whole, an ideal that was prevented by ‘the parasitic Jews and their Marxism’. Another stressed that life was defined by struggle, a claim, unsurprisingly, demonstrated by the laws of evolution. A final point evoked once more the idea of neo-Nazism as cultic, claiming ‘Adolf Hitler was the gift of inscrutable providence to a world’, and that his sprit had kindled a movement ‘like the early Christians’ that would ‘bring the world a new birth of radiant idealism’.29 The trope of Hitler as a symbol of redemption became commonplace in wuns related literature produced in many countries.
Membership of wuns was achieved primarily through membership of an affiliated national Section. For those living in countries without an affiliated organisation, ‘Associate Membership’ was available. The application form for Associate Membership was also revealing. It requested basic information, such as a photograph, name, address, age, level of education and sex, as well as language skills, religious affiliation, height and weight, hair and eye colour, and even a short description of the applicant’s physical health. Highlighting concern with racial identity, it asked ‘to the best of your knowledge, have you had any non-Aryan ancestors?’, and requested details of military service, notably any specialist military training. Applicants also had to stipulate their nationality and country of birth. Finally, applicants had to sign an agreement stating they put ‘responsibilities and duties to the wuns above my responsibilities and duties to any other person, organisation, or religious or political entity whatsoever’. Joining was supposed to be a life-changing commitment.30 Similarly, the standard letter from Matt Koehl to potential Associate Members emphasised recruits ‘must be dedicated to the survival and advancement of the White Race and Western Culture, unconditionally committed to the spiritual leadership of Adolf Hitler, and ready to act (as distinct from just talking) in any capacity for the good of the cause’. This letter added that, though activists should try to remain above the law, in countries ‘where it becomes a crime, per se, to be a National Socialist . . . our movement will have no choice but to go underground to survive, and find other means of expressing itself’.31
In 1966, the wuns achieved a long-stated aim of launching an ideological journal, National Socialist World. Issued from its international headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, there were six editions, the last published in 1968. Edited by William Pierce, future leader of the American neo-Nazi group the National Alliance, its first editorial described the publication’s aim to reformulate National Socialism, acting ‘as a beacon and a buoy for those of our race whose intellectual and spiritual leadership we must attract and utilize if we are to survive’.32 The first edition included a lengthy essay by Devi, as well as shorter pieces on the philosophical dimension of National Socialism by Jordan, and an essay on propaganda by Rockwell. Subsequent editions included letters from readers that could be critical of previous discussions. For example, volume two included a lengthy contribution from Ludtke, criticising aspects of Rockwell’s arguments on propaganda in his contribution to the first edition, though Ludtke was also in general complementary towards the ambitions of National Socialist World.33 This second edition also featured a call for donations: for $100, one could become a ‘Friend’, and receive editions for ten years; for $1,000 one could become a ‘Benefactor’; and for $10,000 one could even become a ‘Patron of National Socialist World’, gaining a lifetime subscription. Such donations were needed to help pay for editorial staff and printing facilities, the notice stressed.34 The journal’s failure to become a longstanding publication suggests substantial donations were not forthcoming.
Later editions of National Socialist World featured essays from figures within the growing international movement, alongside articles offering commentary and translations of texts related to the Nazi party itself. Typifying this mix, in the final edition, Rockwell’s successor, Matt Koehl, contributed an article titled ‘Some Guidelines for the Development of the National Socialist Movement’. This essay sought to balance what were presented as the ‘universal truths’ of National Socialist ideology with changed circumstances of the 1960s era. Another feature in this final edition was an essay called ‘From Kaiserhof to Reich Chancellery’, consisting of extracts from Joseph Goebbels’ diary documenting Hitler’s rise to power in 1932 and 1933. The editorial to the final edition also brandished its revolutionary principles: ‘the conflict seems inevitable, for before our struggle is over each and every criminal comprising the present System will have a pretty good idea what fate awaits him at our hands . . . a triumphant National Socialism will mean not only a permanent end to their whole way of life, but an end to life itself for many of them.35
A cultic dimension was also evoked in these pages. The previous edition featured a hagiographic essay, ‘George Lincoln Rockwell: A National Socialist Life’. This essay by Pierce reflected on the death of Rockwell following his murder by a disgruntled former member of the American Nazi Party, John Palter, in 1967. Pierce’s biographical profile was interspersed with quotes from letters and other material to create an intimate portrait of the wuns’s recently deceased leader. Its heroising tenor styled Rockwell as a man of providence, a great inspiration to the movement: ‘when one has been privileged to witness the manifestation of greatness, it may be exceedingly difficult to describe adequately in words those manifestations and thereby paint a true picture of a unique and great personality.’ It added that his true ‘greatness will be reflected in the fruition of his life’s work in the years to come’.36 Heroisation of Rockwell as a higher type of man was crucial to the wuns and its lasting memory. The movement had a martyr, and Rockwell became a potent reference point in the accumulative extremism developed by new generations of neo-Nazis remembering the wuns.
3 Developing the Network 1962–1972
Simonelli has already discussed the most significant places where the wuns developed its activism. This included in South America, and even places such as Japan. However, it was most active in North America, Australasia and Europe. In all these places, neo-Nazi ideals were publicly discredited, and taboo. The following survey of these key locations for the wuns shows that, although it failed in its own ambitions, it promoted a transnational cultic milieu steeped in neo-Nazi ideals that clearly helped inspire marginal activists. It allowed them to imagine their confrontations with police and protestors, their political stunts and even periods in prison were set within a global movement of National Socialist opposition.
3.1 North America
The American Nazi Party explained its aims for the network in a wuns ‘American Programme’. Defending racial segregation, it proposed offering black families in America a grant of $10,000 to help build a new industrial nation in Africa, adding black people who remained would become ‘rigidly segregated non-citizens’. Jewish people deemed to have engaged in Marxist plots would be executed, and a ‘National Treason Tribunal’ would ‘try, and publically hang, in front of the Capitol’ all ‘non-Jews’ who aided the supposed conspiracy. Moreover, a ‘National Eugenics Committee’ would engage in positive and negative eugenics, including sterilisation, to secure ‘the reproduction of our best human stock’. Alongside revolution at home, it gave more detail on the transnational vision. It would promote national revolutions across the globe, creating a series of new National Socialist governments, and replacing the ‘Marxist United Nations’ with an ‘organic Union of Free Enterprise National Socialist States’ that would bring ‘real peace’ to the world. Typically vague on details, this document was suffused in a fantasy of total global reordering, alongside racist prejudices and anti-Semitic conspiratorial paranoia.37
The journal of the American Nazi Party, The Stormtrooper, featured regular updates in a special international wuns section. International Sections recounted stories from many international affiliates. For example, they commented on activities of Jordan, as he developed notoriety within Britain during the 1960s, and unsurprisingly fulsomely supported him when he was sent to in prison in 1967.38 Martyr figures from one country became cause célèbres in another, especially for American readers. Moreover, though stopping short of financing activity abroad, the American Nazi Party sent printed material including Stormtrooper to affiliated members and organisations, which groups could sell to gain much needed funds. Rockwell himself limited his direct activism to America, as restrictions on his movement meant that his trip to Britain in 1962 was an exception; his leadership of the wuns was not one of globetrotting to meet with other groups directly.
Rockwell’s charismatic leadership was central to the American Nazi Party and the wuns. After his death in 1967, leadership of both was taken over by Koehl. Yet by the early 1970s his energies were not directed towards the wuns network in the same way, and the National Socialist White People’s Party (as the American Nazi Party was renamed in 1967, shortly before Rockwell’s death) also declined. Meanwhile, others, such as Pierce, formed new organisations.
The wuns also played a role in connecting activism in Canada and America. Until 1965, Canada’s affiliated organisation was the Canadian Nazi Party, run by André Bellefeuille. By 1965 this group had fallen into internal conflict,39 and a bulletin from 1965 praised another group, the National Socialist Party of Canada, publishing a bilingual magazine called Resistance. Also, John Beattie was complemented for garnering publicity through demonstrations in Toronto, where ‘Jews who rioted . . . attacked many non-Nazi spectators including clergymen’. The bulletin urged the groups to unite and affiliate with the wuns.40 Simonelli notes that, though initially wary, Rockwell boasted to Jordan that Beattie was a ‘magnificent young leader’ capable of ‘making history in Canada’.41
In October 1966 Macleans magazine published an article by John Garrity, a private investigator who went undercover in Beattie’s party. According to Garrity, to help him become more established Rockwell sent Beattie a list of 279 people in Ontario who had contacted the American Nazi Party. Garrity added that Beattie, alongside other leaders, got a vital sense of camaraderie from the wuns. Sharing stories was crucial, as Garrity stated: ‘that . . . is the tactic of the tiny Nazi groups in a dozen countries. They send one another newspaper clippings, and congratulate one another by mail’.42 The following year, another wuns bulletin explained Rockwell and Beattie met at the American Canadian border at Niagara Falls, holding an hour long conference ‘inside the anp camper vehicle in no-man’s land’ to discuss closer ties.43 1967 saw Beattie’s activism discussed in European wuns literature. One bulletin reported positively on his acquittal on a charge of racial hatred, following a speech to around two thousand people in Allen Gardens, Toronto the previous June.44
Another wuns bulletin noted a change of name for what was now the Canadian National Socialist Party, adding positively that all ‘Sections of wuns now bear the designation, “National Socialist” in their official names’.45 A later bulletin explained that Beattie had disseminated literature in London, Ontario, and appointed a new Chairman, Martin K. Weiche, hailed as ‘a former Luftwaffe officer’.46 However, by the end of the year, a period that saw Beattie himself imprisoned, it was noted that Weiche ‘had been expelled for gross incompetence and inactivity’.47 Beattie’s activism continued to be idealised in wuns material in 1968. One bulletin praised him for disrupting at an event in Oakville, Ontario featuring ‘the showing of slides glorifying the Soviet Union’, and advertising an upcoming speech that had previously been banned by local authorities, titled ‘The Death Rattle of Western Civilisation’.48 The speech went ahead, and another bulletin praised a gathering of three hundred people, where 125 police were required ‘to protect 75 Jewish agitators from the wrath of National Socialist sympathisers’.49 Later in 1968, it was reported that Beattie had decided to focus on Toronto, and would hold weekly public meetings at a hall, as soon as a venue could be acquired.50 It also announced he would be ‘operating a telephone recorded message service in Toronto’, and a contact number was included in the bulletin.51
As the wuns recalibrated following Rockwell’s death, 1969 saw the first North American Congress of the World Union of National Socialists, presided by Koehl, an event repeated in subsequent years. Here, Beattie gave an update on the progress of the Canadian National Socialist Party,52 while a joint statement by both the Canadian and American Nazis paid homage to the leadership of Rockwell, pledging to be the ‘sole bearer of the Movement in North America’, and to unite all activity on the continent ‘under the banner of the World Union of National Socialists’.53 The following year, the ‘merger’ between Beattie’s Canadian National Socialist Party and Koehl’s National Socialist White People’s Party was announced. By this time, Beattie was disillusioned with such activism. His party was really being absorbed into Koehl’s, as explained in a wuns bulletin that stated ‘former cnsp supporters are invited to become Official Supporters of the nswpp by submitting completed application forms’. A new party name was announced for the amalgamated group, the National Socialist Party of North America. Despite briefly moderating, Beattie himself went on to have a longer career developing rebellious politics, which included promoting the British People’s League and the United Anglo-Saxon Liberation Front.54
Did Canada’s wuns affiliated party outgrow the wuns in a lasting way? In this case, the answer is no. The picture is one of a small, Canadian neo-Nazi movement developing some level of transnationalism through the wuns, before eventually being subsumed with its American sister organisation. Australia, however, offers a contrasting picture.
3.2 Australia and New Zealand
Rockwell believed Australia would provide fertile soil for wuns activity, and here a number of Neo-Nazism groups had developed by the 1960s.55 In June 1964, wuns material commented on these developments; a European bulletin reported that the leader of the Australian National Socialist Party, Arthur C. Smith, had been jailed following a police raid, leading to fragmentation of that groupuscule. The report also noted wuns affiliation had been withdrawn, due to infighting. Until a stable group emerged, individual Australians were told to become Associate Members.
According to wuns bulletins at least, by 1966 Smith’s Australian National Socialist Party was reinstated as Australia’s wuns Section. It was praised for developing a new publication, The Brown Shirt, and disseminating a striking poster with the banner ‘The Nazis are Back’.56 The following year, the Australian National Socialist Party was commended in another wuns bulletin, after activists had apparently covered over three hundred protestors with red dye, using a fire hose, at a ‘pro-Viet Cong “peace” demonstration in Sydney’. Posters with swastikas were also distributed, the piece concluded approvingly.57 By 1968, one wuns bulletin noted there were two competing groups in Australia, neither of which were affiliated: Smith’s Australian National Socialist Party and the National Socialist Party of Australia, headed up by Edward Robert Cawthron and Frank Molnar. As David Harcourt notes, the former was based in Sydney and was more radical, while the latter was based in Canberra.58 The former was praised for its ‘well edited review called the Australian National Socialist Journal’, yet the report concluded that neither group could affiliate unless they were clearly faithful to ‘the teachings of Adolf Hitler and the principles of the World Union’.59 According to bulletins, Smith later resigned his leadership of the Australian National Socialist Party and his successor, Eric Wenberg, allowed the merger of the two groups. This was reported positively in 1968 when a bulletin praised the National Socialist Party of Australia.60 By 1969, the National Socialist Party of Australia was complemented both for its journal, and for developing an uptake of recruitment in Canberra in particular.61 By the end of the decade it was commended in wuns bulletins as ‘the fastest-growing National Socialist group’ outside North America. It added Australia’s combination of an ‘abandonment of its previous “White Australia” policy’, alongside mounting opposition to anti-war protestors, offered Australian Nazis fertile territory.62
There were even efforts to develop an exchange system, allowing Australians to learn from American activists. At the beginning of 1968, one bulletin noted an Australian activist, Eric R. Wenberg, who had been ‘attached to the national headquarters’ of the National Socialist White People’s Party ‘under a special exchange program’, had been deported from America. He had tried to enter Canada illegally, to meet with Beattie in Toronto. Refused entry on suspicion he would engage in ‘subversive activities’, Wenberg initially remained in America. However he lunged at John Palter, Rockwell’s murderer, in a courtroom on 28 August 1967, yelling ‘you filthy assassin’. Thereafter, the report concluded, he was deported to Australia, gaining much press attention on his return.63
Turning to material created by the National Socialist Party of Australia, there was a respectful but distant tone towards the wuns. One newsletter dated September/October 1968 did not identify its wuns affiliation, but talked positively of the role of the network, stating it was central to ‘maintaining cordial relationships with all oversees National Socialist organizations’, adding a ‘National Socialist victory in Australia would be more difficult in isolation than with the simultaneous or near simultaneous victory of our fellow National Socialists in the US or other countries’.64 Despite the wuns falling into relative decline by the 1970s, American neo-Nazi cultures had a lasting impact on the style and nature of Australian neo-Nazi literature, at least until the demise of the National Socialist Party of Australia. Edited by Michael J. McCormick, a new magazine for the National Socialist Party of Australia was launched, heavily modeled on the American Nazi Party’s magazine. Also called Stormtrooper, its size and page format, its use of cartoons to express racist ideas, its short pithy articles and reproduction of press clippings all evoked the feel of its American namesake. From the first edition, it featured an ‘International Progress’ section, echoing Rockwell’s earlier Stormtrooper. The first edition even featured reports on Koehl and Jordan. The third edition of Stormtrooper reprinted Jordan’s essay that that first appeared in National Socialist World, ‘National Socialism: A Philosophical Appraisal’.65 Later editions also featured reporting of the Fourth National Congress of the World Union of National Socialists, marking the wuns’s tenth year. Here, the magazine reproduced Koehl’s praise of Rockwell as ‘the first and greatest hero of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist Movement’.66
New Zealand also received some, albeit brief, discussion in wuns bulletins. In 1965, one noted though there was no formal Section, individuals could become Associate Members.67 In 1967, there seemed little progress and a wuns bulletin noted that ‘New Zealand National Socialists are currently in the process of laying the foundation for the movement in their country’.68 A report from 1970 decried New Zealand’s government for offering welfare provisions to the Maori population. Such ‘humanitarianism’ was, apparently, a ‘programme of deliberate miscegenation, with the ultimate aim of mixing the Maori and European racial groups’.69 Despite such attention, New Zealand’s leading neo-Nazi, Colin King-Ansell, did not seem to want to join the wuns.
This was not for want of trying. Harcourt highlights that King-Ansell was in direct communication with Rockwell before his death in 1967.70 In May 1970 King-Ansell was interviewed by Salient, the newspaper for Victoria University. He disagreed with the level of control Americans exerted over the wuns. ‘The World Union’s policy, the Cotswold Agreement, is too binding’, he stated, adding ‘I don’t want to bind New Zealand down to any other country’.71 He continued, although he respected Australian National Socialists, he did not get on with their leaders either. Nevertheless, the early 1970s editions of Stormtrooper from the National Socialist Party of Australia did report on progress among New Zealand’s neo-Nazis; one praised King-Ansell for his publication The Observer.72 Later editions reported on further developments, such as King-Ansell standing for election in December 1972.73
Although Australian and New Zealand neo-Nazis were not fulsome members of wuns, they did develop a transnational relationships both with each other and with the wuns network. The wuns acted as a vehicle for Australian neo-Nazis to discover, and then echo, the presentational style of the American Nazi Party. They did take ideas from one ‘honeycomb’ of transnational activism, and retooled them for their own ends. Though clearly admiring their US counterparts, they were also more distant from the wuns, praising it from afar. For his part, King-Ansell sought to assert his own independence from both the Australians, and the wuns more generally. Nevertheless he recognised a sense of shared aims and aspirations.
While Canada and Australian show sustained transnational activity of note in the 1960s and early 1970s, Europe generated the most Sections of the wuns. These links helped to foster a lasting connection between British and American activists in particular, an influence that, like the Australian case, grew beyond the wuns itself.
Neo-Nazis in Europe faced significant challenges. In Eastern Bloc countries, there was practically no possibility to develop related activism. However, wuns bulletins noted that a Hungarist movement was based in Australia, and in the mid 1960s sold a magazine called Hungarista Mozgalom.74 A subsequent Hungarian National Socialist Bulletin called Perseverance, again published in Australia, sometimes reprinted articles related to the wuns. For example, one from 1969 reproduced Pierce’s hagiography of Rockwell from National Socialist World.75 A later edition, from 1980, highlighted Koehl’s on-going promotion of the wuns though the National Socialist White People’s Party, noting it aimed to create a ‘worldwide New Order for the White race’ through the wuns.76 Again, the transnational elements at play here are interesting to break down. An Australian-based publication reprinted material that identified as Hungarian, which in turn praised an American-based group that recalibrated an ideology originating in Germany, National Socialism.
The central organisation of the wuns in Europe was Britain’s National Socialist Movement, led by Jordan. His neo-Nazi groupuscule remained the British Section of the wuns until he rebranded it as the British Movement in 1968. Jordan was another figure beset by internal party divisions and state suppression. As a founding member of the wuns, both Jordan and his right hand man, John Tyndall, were included in the list of formal roles in the Cotswold Declarations. Tyndall was initially its Deputy International Secretary. Like many neo-Nazi groupuscules, the National Socialist Movement split in 1964, after Tyndall became frustrated at Jordan’s remote leadership, and negative press reporting regarding his stormy marriage to Françoise Dior. After trying, and failing, to expel Jordan as leader of the National Socialist Movement, Tyndall set up a rival organisation, the Greater Britain Movement. He tried to court Rockwell’s acceptance as the British representative of the wuns. However, for Rockwell the bond with Jordan was stronger; in 1965 he issued a formal denunciation of Tyndall’s new organisation, described specifically as an ‘anti-wuns body’.77 Here we see another interesting transnational interaction: the wuns allowed an American activist to influence a key a dispute between two rival British neo-Nazi leaders.
Criticism of Tyndall in wuns material became scathing. One bulletin explained he had been expelled for ‘disloyalty and mismanagement culminating in the theft of money and equipment’, as well as creating a rival group devoted ‘to the most vicious, lying defamation and systematic sabotage against the British Section’.78 Meanwhile, Jordan used his group’s resources to promote the wuns, such as selling American Nazi Party materials in the National Socialist Movement’s headquarters, a shop in Notting Hill, London. However, when Jordan was sent to prison for a second time in 1967, his tiny National Socialist Movement withered. When he was released, his new organisation, the British Movement, outwardly rejected a Nazi identity, in part due to more restrictive legislation around racist politics that had developed by this time. Jordan set out on a new quest for political legitimacy, which meant his British Movement was incompatible with the wuns. Jordan transferred British affiliation to a short-lived outfit called the National Socialist Group, and supported wuns informally. The National Socialist Group was a poor successor, and quickly declined – largely due to internal incompetency.79
Irish neo-Nazis also engaged with the wuns. By 1965 it was reported that two potential affiliate groups were active. A wuns bulletin noted a group called Nationalist Union had renamed itself National Social Union of Ireland, and ran a student group called the National Social Union. The report added that A. L. Price led the Irish National Socialist Movement. As was typical in circumstances of rival groups, the bulletin urged unity between these neo-Nazis, which could then lead to their formal affiliation.80 By 1966, a European bulletin announced that the National Socialist Union of Ireland and the Irish National Socialist Movement had combined to form the National Socialist Federation, led by Price. Its new publication, National Socialist News, would appear soon, and the report praised the group for developing a Free Hess Committee and distributing ‘Support Rhodesia’ leaflets at University College Dublin. Another activist, Bernhard Horgan, was linked to the Federation’s student section, and it was noted that he published an article, ‘Modern Nazism’, in the Quarryman, the magazine of University College, Cork.81 In 1967, a youth section of the group, now described as the National Socialist Federation of Eire, was announced, led by Cyril Kavanagh.82 Horgan and Pierce’s activism was commented on again in 1968. Their Federation, now called a ‘relatively small National Socialist group at University College, Cork’, had been able to publish more material in the college magazine. The following year, in a piece praising Ireland as the only English-language speaking country not to fight Germany in the Second World War, two new groups were discussed, the Irish National Socialist Party and the National Movement, suggesting more disruption in the development of the network in Ireland.83
Turning to some of the literature from Ireland’s neo-Nazi groupuscules, by the early 1970s, as with Australia, there was evidence of the lasting legacy of Rockwell and the wuns. For example, an early edition of The Irish Worker, the magazine of a group called the National Socialist Irish Workers Party, included an essay by Rockwell, ‘In Hoc Signo Vinces’.84 On 25 August 1972, a subsequent edition highlighted the party had marked the fifth anniversary of the death of Rockwell, idealising him as someone of great significance ‘without whom, we would never have built up a worldwide N.S. Movement’. It added ‘HE DIED FOR THE WHITE MAN . . . IN A WORLD OF DECADENCE HE DARED TO BE DIFFERENT’, striking a typically hagiographic tone.85 The neo-Nazi cultic milieu developed by Rockwell again stretched across borders and beyond his own grave. Similarly, Phoenix, another publication from the National Socialist Irish Workers Party, but co-produced by the National Socialist Party United Kingdom, discussed Koehl’s leadership in 1974. This explained positively his role in the wuns, and reprinted his essay ‘The Jews have Finally Done It’.86 This issue of Phoenix was dedicated to the eighty-fifth birthday of Adolf Hitler, and the front page was marked by the headline ‘He Lives!’, again developing a cultic celebration of the Fuehrer and his impact.
Elsewhere in Europe, a more common pattern was to see some sustained networking activity diminish after the departure of Jordan and Rockwell, though the national dynamics varied greatly from country to country. Germany held a special place in Neo-Nazi mythology, for obvious reasons. Here, activism was far more clandestine than in Britain and Ireland, and was led by another wuns founder, Ludtke – a man who Rockwell respected due to his earlier activity in the Hitler Youth and Wehrmacht, connecting the wuns directly with the Nazi era. The level of Ludtke’s activities, and connections with other clandestine neo-Nazi activity, remains unclear, yet he disseminated wuns material on an on-going basis. Sometimes, this led to Ludtke being prosecuted by the German authorities, which was inevitably claimed as an example of state suppression. In May 1963, one bulletin explained Ludtke was arrested and held for four months because ‘his association with wuns and certain writings of his upholding National Socialism constitute crimes against the “democratic” constitution.’87 This bulletin also noted the activities of several other German activists, Eckhard Bragard, Ehrhard Reinhardt and Dietrich Schuler. While police detained the first pair for distributing Nazi-inspired literature, Schuler, a significant neo-Nazi publiciser, was described as an innocent schoolteacher given a seven-month jail sentence for possessing a booklet espousing National Socialist ideals. The edition also reported positively that a number of swastikas had been painted in Bamburg, gaining international press attention.88
Ludtke’s journeys through German courts were reported on throughout the 1960s period. For example, in 1967 it was noted that the previous year he had been granted an appeal for a conviction as the court had not fully determined ‘whether wuns, the American Nazi Party . . . and the nsm in Britain actually are “illegal organizations”’.89 Such reports drew out the role of the wuns in supporting supressed activism in Germany. Another commentary on Ludtke in 1967 claimed that the reason why the German prosecutors did not want to pursue the issue of whether the wuns was an illegal organisation was because this could lead to Rockwell appearing as a witness at the trial.90
While reporting on Ludtke declined after Rockwell’s death, commentaries on German activity continued. In 1968, one report boasted of how a ‘National Socialist action team’ attacked a crowd of left-wing students in Stuttgart.91 Another commented on the death of Fritz Bauer, a leading figure in the Auschwitz trials of the 1960s that were described as ‘fraudulent’. It added ‘Suspicion that National Socialism may have had a hand . . . led authorities to order a complete investigation, including an autopsy’.92 Finally, another article explained that, in what was called ‘the Western Zone of Occupied Germany’, a new group, the Union of German National Socialists had been created, based in Hamburg and led by Wolf-Dieter Eckert. A postal address was also given.93 By the early 1970s, reports on Germany dwindled to issues of interest, not affiliated activism. One report focused on issues such as criticism of Willie Brandt,94 another noted the death of German activist Erhart Reinhardt,95 while others reported on the continued imprisonment of Rudolf Hess, again styling him as a martyr for the neo-Nazi cause.96
The French and Belgian Sections of the wuns offer a contrasting story. By the end of the 1960s wuns-affiliated activism in both countries had disappeared, despite some promising signs earlier in the decade. France saw a number of figures, including Devi in 1962, and then from 1964 Yves Jeanne, develop leadership of the France’s Section. Jeanne was a one-time member of the Parti Populaire Français, and active in the Waffen-SS. Simonelli adds that Jeanne tried, and failed, to usurp Jordan’s European leadership role in Europe in 1964.97 By this time, Rockwell had allowed the ambitious Jeanne to head up not merely France’s wuns Section, but what was called the West Europe Federation, connecting France, Luxembourg, French-speaking Switzerland and Belgium. Others competed for leadership too, such as Jean-Claude Monnet’s Organisation des Vikings de France.98 Following his arrest in July 1964, Jeanne was forced to issue a statement dissolving this short-lived and unusual, transnational block within the wuns. A European bulletin stressed ‘Le “Parti National-Socialiste Belge” est indépendant de la “Fédération Ouest-Européenne (F.O.E.) de la W.U.N.S.”; il relève directement du Quartier Général Européen de la wuns à Londres’.99 Such a climb-down, conceding the superiority of both Belgium’s National Socialists, and Jordan’s higher authority, seemed to mark the end of Jeanne’s active role. A subsequent bulletin noted that, following Jeanne’s long suspension of activity, 1966 would see him disband the French Section of the wuns, meaning that French National Socialists could apply to become Associate Members, adding ‘and they are cordially invited to do so’.100 Thereafter, France lacked an affiliated group. The few mentions of French activism related to neo-Nazism after this time included a notice on the death of Holocaust denier Paul Rassinier on 28 July 1967. He was praised for his ‘exposure of the lies concerning the internment centers in National Socialist Germany’,101 but this was not commenting on affiliated activism, merely noting a development of interest in France.
Belgium’s Section also fell into decline by the end of the 1960s. This Section was one described by Simonelli as group Rockwell deemed to be a success shortly after creating the wuns. It was initially run by Jean-Robert Debbaudt, a volunteer for the Waffen-SS, and someone who had fostered links with Léon Degrelle and the European Social Movement in the 1950s. However, Debbaudt felt his role compromised by the mid-1960s, and resigned. Rockwell was subsequently advised by Ludtke to cultivate Degrelle to run the Belgian Section. However, Rockwell chose instead Rudiger Van Sande, leader of the Belgian National Socialist Union. A 1965 bulletin noted that after his elevation to this role, Van Sande’s house was raided by the police while he was on holiday, and he lost his job as a consequence. It encouraged members in the international movement to offer what backing they could.102
Such support soon dwindled, and by 1966 Rockwell dismissed Van Sande, a development reported in a wuns bulletin as a temporary change due to undisclosed ‘pressing personal circumstances’. He was replaced with the leader of the Flemish division, the Vlaams Nationaal-Socialistiche Unie, Eduard Verlinden.103 A bulletin from 1966 noted, approvingly, that at a meeting of the World Jewish Congress in Brussels activists had painted the slogan ‘Free Europe from the Jews’, alongside a swastika, gaining press coverage.104 The next edition promoted the journal edited by ‘J.-R. Debbaudt’, L’Europe Reele, and reported Verlinden’s marriage, but thereafter Belgian activism seems to have been ignored by internal wuns literature.105 The Belgian case shows internal disputes between competing figures leading to the failure of the wuns to develop into a lasting, relevant organisation.
Other European groups developed even more limited engagement. In 1965, a bulletin noted that a Spanish organisation was emerging, but that correspondence should be sent to the European H.Q.106 Simonelli highlights that wuns-related activity here was led by a German veteran who took up residence in Spain, Friedrich Kuhfuss, alongside a Spanish activist, Antonio Madrano. The Netherlands also garnered a few mentions in the wuns’s material. One notice stressed that the wuns had ‘been advised that National Socialist activity is outlawed in Holland, and that accordingly all mail going to that country should not bear any conspicuous markings’.107 However, there was no affiliated group here. After the launch of National Socialist World, a European bulletin reported that the Italian magazine La Legione had praised the publication, and in return the bulletin gave instructions on how to subscribe to this cognate, Italian periodical.108 A year later, another report noted that a case of Italians being prosecuted for having ‘posted Swastikas’ had been dismissed, adding the judge deemed that the law banning the glorification of Fascism could not be applied to such Nazi imagery. The case was discussed as one opening the way for further Nazi activism in Italy.109 In 1970, the Italian Social Movement, which was not affiliated to the wuns, was discussed positively; one report stated its growth among students was particularly encouraging.110 Nevertheless, the general picture is that each of these countries were primarily places of interests to the wuns rather than locations able to develop affiliated groups.
Finally, Scandinavia also saw some level of success in developing wuns activism. The Danish National Socialist Workers Party, led by Sven Salicath, was sometimes reported on and described as the ‘Danish section of the wuns’.111 A notice from 1967 praised Salicath for addressing a crowd of students, and gave a postal address for his group.112 However, often there was merely distant interest in the American-dominated network from the Danish movement. More sustained commentary was given to the Nordic Reich Party in wuns material, an organisation based in Sweden. Led by Göran Oredsson, it does not appear to have become a formal Section of the wuns; Oredsson’s anti-Americanism meant he resisted the notion of a global Nazi movement having its headquarters outside Europe. His relationship with Rockwell was one of admiration and respect though: a wuns report from 1967 commended the group’s magazine Nordisk Kamp for its memorial issue following Rockwell’s death, and described it ambiguously as the ‘wuns affiliate in Sweden’.113 Finally, Iceland saw a nascent National Socialist movement, Rikisflokkurinn, develop links. One wuns bulletin noted that the group’s activities had led to ‘the departure of a South African negro who tried to settle there and start an anti-South African movement’, hoped the group world formally affiliate, and gave their address.114
European impact, then, was a mixed picture. Within the Eastern Bloc, there was no real activism of note, aside from émigré Hungarians based in Australia. Britain, France and Belgium all developed more sustained links, and for periods in each country there was on-going transnational activity. However, infighting and disagreements help to explain why direct affiliation was not long lasting. Germany failed to develop on-going links with the wuns beyond the 1960s; here greater constraints on overtly neo-Nazi activism, a key stipulation of wuns activity, was particularly restrictive. Activists in Scandinavian countries seemed to show some interest, but were wary of American dominance. It is also worth stressing that competing networks, such as New European Order, were at the same time developing their own forms of transnational fascism, so the wuns faced competition from competitors that could appear more authentically European.115
4 Accumulative Extremism and the Memory of the wuns
What emerges from this survey of wuns materials and national activism is that the height of the wuns was in the mid to late 1960s. Thereafter, as an active, international network, it declined. However, the wuns started to develop a new of relevance from the 1970s: it became an evocative story for inspiring activism linking the Nazi past to the present day.
Memorialisation of the heyday of the wuns was something that featured as early as the twenty-second edition of the wuns Bulletin, which was dated both ‘July – Sept 1972’ and ‘YF-83’, the latter signifying the year since the birth of Hitler to evoke the movement’s cultic nature. It included an editorial claiming ‘the Movement is making significant strides in many Aryan lands around the globe’, and highlighted the edition marked both the tenth anniversary of the founding of the wuns and the fifth anniversary of Rockwell’s death.116 As the decade progressed, Koehl did not seem to lose all interest in developing the wuns as an on-going concern. Events continued, including his visit to a wuns conference in Aarhus, Denmark in 1975, where he met likeminded activists, such as founder of the group German Citizens’ Initiative, Manfred Roeder.117
At the end of the 1970s it was decided to formally re-launch the movement. In considering its role as a genuine transnational network, it is important to highlight the language within which Koehl framed this development. He presented the re-launch of the wuns as part of an effort to reinvent his own national organisation, what he called his Two Year Plan for the National Socialist White People’s Party. Developing the wuns anew was seen as part of this reinvention; the aim of this Two Year Plan was described as improving appreciation of the revolutionary principles of National Socialism within the party. Many supporters in the previous years, Koehl felt, had been drawn to National Socialist groups not because they were ‘true, pure National Socialists’, but merely because they wanted to engage in race-hatred. Rekindling the wuns would allow American activists to rediscover their ‘Aryan soul’. To facilitate this, the Two Year Plan would draw on the remnants of the wuns network, but was primarily directed to ‘the special requirements of its North American affiliate’.118 The new role of the wuns was less about developing a dynamic transnational network, and more about fostering a transnational imagination recalling the wuns’s past in a way that might help inspire American neo-Nazism.
This was stated clearly in the first edition of a new journal edited by Martin Kerr, The National Socialist. Like the previous National Socialist World, it aimed to foster a deeper understanding of the revolutionary aspirations of National Socialism. Figures who founded the wuns contributed to The National Socialist, including: Koehl himself; Ludtke, who wrote an article on Nietzsche;119 and Jordan, who contributed a piece promoting the pseudo-scientific race theory of Hans F. K. Günther.120 Also, a letter of support from Devi was published.121 Like earlier wuns material, this journal was a place for the exchange of ideas at a transnational level. The publication also featured adverts for international fascist journals, such as Jordan’s Gothic Ripples, the Spanish National Socialist publication Cedade, created by the group of the same name, and Thies Christophersen’s Die Bauernschaft.
The relaunch was not without success in fostering new linkages. The anti-fascist magazine Searchlight reported in 1981 that European activism had been given a fillip with the appointment of a new European Leader for the wuns: Povl Heinrich Riis-Knudsen from the Danish National Socialist Movement.122 Searchlight also identified the British Section leader as Michael Coles.123 Riis-Knudsen’s wider activism was long lasting, though soon he seems to have been disillusioned with the wuns. His relationship with Koehl deteriorated after the National Socialist White People’s Party was converted more fully into a Nazi-inspired religious cult, New Order, in 1983. Riis-Knudsen told Martin Lee, witheringly, that ‘What struck me as I moved around these circles is that normal people were few and far between’.124 Clearly, the relationship between Koehl and Riis-Knudsen was not the collegial one that had developed between Rockwell and Jordan. The formation of the New Order by Koehl did place the same stress on the wuns, and became ever more inward looking. For example, while a letter to members titled ‘FRESH START’ talked about the need to create a new ‘ideological, political and spiritual SS’, it failed to explain how the wuns would fit into the North American focus on the New Order.125
The rapport that these comrades once enjoyed with the Leader has been extended to Commander Koehl and to the World Union and NEW ORDER. In other words, a living link connecting past and present has been established here, which confirms the fact that we are indeed the Movement of Adolf Hitler. Now, the wonderful implication of this is that all those who become affiliated with our Movement can themselves become part of this living link.126
Underscoring the idea of Nazism passing through the generations from Hitler’s regime, to the wuns and on to then present day, photos were reproduced alongside the article. These included some from the Nazi era, as well as another featuring Matt Koehl alongside Hans Ziegler, at a wuns conference in Denmark in 1975. Ziegler had been a senior figure close to Alfred Rosenberg in the Nazi regime, and had remained active in neo-Nazi circles after 1945.
Koehl maintained interest in the wuns until his death in 2014. The group’s more recent webpages include reports on the wuns. For example, one New Order webpage notes that a Dutch figure, Florentine Rost van Tonningen, wife of a leading interwar National Socialist leader, Meinoud Rost van Tonningen, was a supporter of the wuns. Her obituary from 2013 highlighted that she ‘provided the venue for several conferences of the World Union of National Socialists, including the one in 1992, where the wuns Convention was adopted, formalizing changes to the reorganized wuns structure’.127 New Order’s online materials continued to use the name of the wuns into the later 2000s, maintaining Koehl was its leader. For example, on 21 September 2011, an article describing the wuns as an ‘ngo’ announced proudly that the wuns formally recognised the State of Palestine.128 In 2013, to mark the 68th anniversary of Hitler’s death, Koehl – described as the ‘wuns president’ – declared that marking this novel annual holiday would allow for a new level of personal fulfilment. Again evoking the cultic, he argued that, via ‘the confession that Adolf Hitler has been resurrected in their hearts, they can now make the most powerful symbolic statement – giving witness to the world that he does indeed live and that his Cause has never died!’129 Even in death Koehl continued to be steeped in the potent story of the wuns. One year after his passing, a memorial service was held in Port Hurron, Michigan. Material advertising this event reproduced on Stormfront bore the symbol of the wuns, a swastika with a globe at its centre.130
Q: What would be the greatest fear of all who hate National Socialism?
A: All NS groups Worldwide coming together under the banner of National Socialism, united, as [sic] one massive Worldwide Bulwark against International jewry!132
It added that affiliated groups agreed with the Cotswold Declarations. It reproduced this document on its webpage, described on Stormfront as a central part of the ‘Historical effort’ of the wuns.
More recently, the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer has reproduced the text of the Cotswold Agreements,133 alongside other articles on key wuns protagonists, such as Rockwell and Jordan. For a new generation, the legacy of the wuns, and its vision of fostering a dynamic network of neo-Nazis around the globe, has on-going appeal. In this light, it is notable that the US neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen recently found value in the idea of James Mason, who was himself steeped in a heroisation of Rockwell. This again highlights an on-going relevance in the neo-Nazism of the 1960s period among a new generations of activists.
We should not try to answer questions related to the ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of the wuns through its ability to achieve its fantastical ambitions. It clearly failed, but was never likely to succeed. Rather, we should assess its significance by asking different questions that allow us to explore what these fantasies of transnational camaraderie, based on neo-Nazi ideals, helped to actually motivate people to do. What did the wuns accomplish while its protagonists were fantasising about their revolution?
Returning to Clavin’s theme of transnational networks being able to establish new ‘honeycombs’, the wuns was able to generate some degree of genuine transnational exchange, and lasting activity, no longer dependant on its originators, though with some major limitations. Australia and Ireland were good cases where it developed a lasting impact, while more generally the relationship between Rockwell and Jordan was crucial to creating an on-going set of exchanges between British and American neo-Nazis. In Britain, Rockwell and Jordan are often fondly remembered in subsequent neo-Nazi networks and groups, such as Blood & Honour and Combat 18. The wuns certainly helped ‘export’ a charismatic American figure admired by international audiences who drew on his ‘inspiration’ in enduring ways. Others, such as Jordan, also developed an international profile through the network. Some styles and practices were also copied. In the 1970s, the National Socialist Party of Australia echoed American Nazi Party aesthetics, drawing on the links developed between Australian and American neo-Nazis by the wuns. It is important not to exaggerate the role of the wuns in such instances though; neo-Nazi cultures were often pre-existing, the wuns only helped to shape them.
Secondly, referring back to Power and Durham, it did create a vision of transnationalism that was compatible with neo-Nazi ideas of national regeneration. However, again there were limitations. From its earliest form, the network set out a vision of the transnational that neo-Nazis in different national contexts could relate to, though this was more credible for some. wuns materials suggested the national and the transnational would work alongside each other, to create a new, racially-focused international order of nations. In the case of Canada, neo-Nazis such as Beattie found this vision appealing, though his group was eventually absorbed into the National Socialist White People’s Party. Figures such as Jordan in Britain could also happily work with the American-led vision, but later rejected the wuns when the need for national respectability outweighed the benefits of affiliating with an openly neo-Nazi network. For others, the inability to share in the transnational vision was a problem. New Zealand’s King-Ansell found the wuns too American-focused, and so chose not to affiliate. In Scandinavia, there was hostility towards engagement with an American dominated organisation. Europeans also had other transnational fascist networks to engage with. The wuns often failed to move beyond a perception of American dominance, and was often unable to develop a truly credible, transnational vision – even in its 1960s heyday. As the decades progressed, Koehl was certainly keen to retain his leadership of the wuns but did less and less to develop meaningful international linkages.
Despite limitations, it was able to connect marginalised groups in national contexts to a wider, transnational sphere in ways that enabled them to develop shared a neo-Nazi cultic milieu. The wuns played an important role in originating and sustaining a shared set of tropes for clandestine neo-Nazism, steeped in a sense of mission, seekership and revelry in the taboo. Many wuns-related publications surveyed in this article, while on the one hand rather crude, were seen by activists as rich, complex spaces where ideas and praxis developed in multiple national circumstances were brought together. Such neo-Nazi spaces were locations where evocative stories of activism were shared in genuinely transnational forms of exchange. The sense that neo-Nazi culture was proscribed and transgressive, yet set within a ‘higher’ calling to do the work of Hitler and Rockwell, can be seen in a number of national groups that engaged with the wuns.
Finally, as a consequence the wuns contributed to a lasting culture with on-going relevance. Its accumulative extremism has helped the process of ‘inventing’ and establishing a new sense of a neo-Nazi ‘tradition’, by generating evocative stories about prior extremism, and creating new cultural reference points to link the Nazi era with more recent activism. The wuns does have a lasting legacy within neo-Nazi cultures, bridging gaps between generations. There have been clear efforts to reclaim the wuns and re-launch it, demonstrating its reputation as an evocative story for later generations. Whether in the form of the International Union of National Socialists, or Schoep’s re-launched version of the wuns from 2006, there is a durable quality to its ideals and narrative, one that lives on in many online spheres, such as Stormfront discussion threads.
To end on a speculative note, we live in an era when the wider extreme right is developing new, more decentralised and networked forms of activism across borders. This fragmented movement is also looking to use the past in new and innovative ways. Coming generations are likely to continue to find something fresh within the memories developed by the wuns and it is likely to continue to play an affective role connecting new generations of neo-Nazis with the originators of National Socialism.
http://www.nsm88.org/commandersdesk/world_union_of_national_socialists.html, accessed September 18, 2018.
http://nationalsocialist.neta, accessed February 27, 2019.
Archival material for this essay was taken primarily from the Searchlight Archive collection at the University of Northampton (https://www.northampton.ac.uk/about-us/services-and-facilities/the-searchlight-archives/). This major collection contains a range of material that relate to the wuns itself, especially its various bulletins, as well as extensive material on the American Nazi Party and groups linked to the wuns such as Colin Jordan’s nsm. I am also grateful to Dr Evan Smith for sharing some of his own materials with me for this paper.
Chris Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World 1780–1914: Global Connections and Comparisons (Oxford: Blackwell 2004); see also the useful discussion C.A. Bayly et al., ‘ahr Conversation: On Transnational History,’ The American Historical Review 111, no.5 (2006): 1441–1464, https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr.111.5.1441.
Matthew Evangelista, Unarmed Forces: The Transnational Movement to End the Cold War (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999).
Paul Jackson, ‘James Strachey Barnes and the Fascist Revolution: Catholicism, Anti-Semitism and the International New Order,’ in Modernism, Christianity, and Apocalypse, ed. Erik Tonning, Matthew Feldman and David Addyman (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 187–205.
Akira Iriye, Pierre-Yves Saunier, ed., The Palgrave Dictionary of Transnational History: From the mid-nineteenth century to the present day (Basingstoke, Palgrave, 2009), xviii.
Roger Griffin, ed., International Fascism: Theories, Causes and the New Consensus (London: Bloomsbury, 1998).
Constantin Iordachi, ‘Introduction: Fascism in Interwar East Central and Southeastern Europe: Toward a New Transnational Research Agenda,’ East Central Europe 37, no. 2–3 (2010): 161–213.
Elizabeth Harvey, ‘International Networks and Cross-Border Cooperation: National Socialist Women and the Vision of a ‘New Order’ in Europe,’ Politics, Religion & Ideology 13, no. 2 (2012): 141–158; Aristotle Kallis, Genocide and Fascism: The Eliminationist Drive in Fascist Europe (London: Routledge, 2008).
Andrea Mammone, Transnational Neofascism in France and Italy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).
Paul Jackson and Anton Shekhovtsov, ed., The Post-War Anglo-American Far Right: A Special Relationship of Hate (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2014).
Matteo Albanese and Pablo del Hierro, Transnational Fascism in the Twentieth Century: Spain, Italy and the Global Neo-Fascist Network (London: Bloomsbury, 2016).
Martin Durham and Margaret Power, ‘Introduction,’ in New Perspectives on the Transnational Right, ed. Martin Durham and Margaret Power (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2010).
George L. Mosse, The Fascist Revolution: Towards a General Theory of Fascism (New York, Howard Fertig, 1999).
Roger Griffin, Modernism and Fascism: The Sense of a Beginning under Mussolini and Hitler (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2007).
Jeffrey Kaplan and Heléne Lööw, The Cultic Milieu: Oppositional Subcultures in an Age of Globalization (Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press, 2002).
Paul Jackson, ‘Accumulative Extremism: The Post-War Tradition of Anglo-American Neo-Nazi Activism,’ in The Post-War Anglo-American Far Right, ed. Paul Jackson and Anton Shekhovtsov (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 2–37.
Roger Eatwell, ‘Community Cohesion and Cumulative Extremism in Contemporary Britain,’ The Political Quarterly 77, no. 2 (2006): 204–216.
Eric Hobsbawm, Terence O. Ranger, ed., The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).
Frederick J. Simonelli, American Fuehrer: George Lincoln Rockwell and the American Nazi Party (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1999), especially chapter 8. Here, Simonelli also discusses how the movement linked to activism in Argentina and Chile, as well as in more limited ways in South Africa and Japan.
Savitri Devi, ‘After the Deluge – We!’ available at https://www.savitridevi.org/deluge.html, accessed September 18, 2018.
George Lincoln Rockwell, ‘Commander’s International Report: England!’ The Stormtrooper, no. 3, November 1962, 6–10, 20–31.
For more details on this history, see Paul Jackson, Colin Jordan and Britain’s Neo-Nazi Movement: Hitler’s Echo (London: Bloomsbury, 2017), chapter 4.
A leaflet setting out the text of the Cotswold Agreements is in the University of Northampton’s Searchlight Archive, SCH/01/Res/INT/01.
Frederick Simonelli, ‘World Union of National Socialists and Nazi Revival,’ in Nation and Race: The Developing Euro-American Racist Subculture, ed. Jeffrey Kaplan, Tore Bjørgo (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998), 45.
John Garrity and Alan Edmonds, ‘My Sixteen months as a Nazi,’ Macleans, 1 October 1966, 9–11 and 38–43.
For a longer exploration of Beattie’s career, see Stanley Barrett, Is God a Racist? The Right Wing in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987), chapter 3.
Peter Henderson, ‘Frank Browne and the Neo-Nazis,’ Labour History, no. 89 (2005): 73–86, doi: 10.2307/27516076.
David Harcourt, Everyone Wants to be Fuehrer: National Socialism in Australia and New Zealand (Cremorne: Angus and Robertson, 1972), 28.
Colin Jordan, ‘National Socialist: A Philosophical Appraisal,’ The Stormtrooper Magazine, no. 3 (n.d., ca. early 1970s), 8–10.
William Pierce, ‘George Lincoln Rockwell: A National Socialist Life,’ Perseverance 9, no. 3 (November 1969), 10–11.
Daniel Jones and Paul Jackson, ‘The National Socialist Group: A Case Study in the Groupuscular Right,’ in ‘Tomorrow Belongs to Us’: The British Far Right Since 1967, ed. Nigel Copsey and Matthew Worley (Abingdon: Routledge, 2018), 27–47.
Jean-Yves Camus and Nicholas Lebourg, Far Right Politics in Europe (Cambridge MA: Belknap Press, 2017), 99.
‘In Memoriam. Manfred Roeder: A Confession,’ theneworder.org, August 2014, accessed March 24, 2016, http://www.theneworder.org/news/2014/08/manfred-roeder-a-confession/.
Bruno Ludtke, ‘Nietzsche and National Socialism (Part I),’ The National Socialist, no. 1 (1980), 11–17.
Martin Lee, The Beast Reawakens: The Chilling Story of the Rise of the Neo-Nazi Movement (London: Little Brown, 1997), 66.
Matt Koehl, ‘Florentine Rost van Tonningen: A Tribute,’ theneworder.org, March 2013, accessed March 24, 2016, http://www.theneworder.org/news/2013/03/florentine-rost-van-tonningen-a-tribute/.
‘International National Socialist body recognizes ‘State of Palestine”,’ theneworder.org, September 2011, accessed March 24, 2016, http://www.theneworder.org/news/2011/09/international-national-socialist-body-recognizes-state-of-palestine/.
‘Hitler ‘Resurrection’ to be celebrated,’ theneworder.org, May 2013, accessed March 24, 2016, http://www.theneworder.org/news/2013/05/hitler-‘resurrection’-to-be-celebrated/.
‘Matt Koehl Has Died’ discussion section, stormfront.org, accessed September 18, 2018, https://www.stormfront.org/forum/t1068305-13/.
‘National Socialist Worldwide Unity,’ stormfront.org, October 19, 2006, accessed September 18, 2018, https://www.stormfront.org/forum/t334774/.
‘The Cotswold Agreement,’ dailystormer.name, April 22, 2015, accessed February 27, 2019, https://dailystormer.name/the-cotswold-agreement/.