This is the only book I’ve ever read about George Lincoln Rockwell and the American Nazi Party, although I have read other works on the hard right movement. It was a very revealing, but disturbing portrait of a man whose life became a futile, wasted exercise into the downward spiral of self-hatred, which manifested itself in the hatred of all others who were not lily-white, pure-bred Protestant Americans. This hostility found an collective outlet among delusional, self-hating bigots like himself, and Rockwell, who could have been a remarkable American success story if he had continued to follow the route of some of his college and military colleagues, chose to throw away a beautiful wife, adorable children, and even a brilliant naval career to pursue a worthless life by advocating white supremacy. This biography is testimony to what causes hatred within and what drives individuals addicted to causes that will not benefit anyone, including themselves.
Rockwell reminds one of another well-bred White Anglo-Saxon Protestant racist whose delusions of grandeur had a far greater and more malignant impact upon American history: John Wilkes Booth. Like Booth, Rockwell had every advantage with which to succeed in life and chose a blighted path of self-destruction. Both men were tall, handsome, well-educated, and came from socially prominent families, but both became increasingly intolerant of those who were different and their feelings of racial superiority nurtured dangerous detours into megalomania. It should be no surprise that one chose to assassinate a President and that the other was himself assassinated by one of his own stormtroopers.
I gave the book four stars because it is well-written and researched, but would have been obliged to give the biography the maximum if I had read more about Rockwell’s background and his two marriages. The book tells us so much about his latter career as the country’s most infamous right-wing extremist. His charismatic qualities were no doubt the major reason he was so well-received on college campuses across the nation, and he was such a unique individual, one can’t help but wonder if Rockwell could actually have become Governor of Virginia or President of the United States if he had been an establishment-worthy liberal like John Kennedy or Bill Clinton. He had aspirations for greatness, yet he wound up on the ash heap of history. His life story is a lesson for us all, and it needs to be taught.
Here are excerpts from the book:
On June 22, 1960, George Lincoln Rockwell, the leader of the American Nazi Party, flew into New York City to defend his application to speak in Union Square. Waiting for him at the airport was stormtrooper Roger Foss, who had hopped a bus from Washington, D.C., to New York City. They rode the subway to the New York State Supreme Court; there they walked cautiously through dozens of protesters standing outside the building. Nobody recognized Rockwell in a business suit-he looked more like a congressman than a Nazi. The courtroom was in chaos. Six lawyers stood before the bench to oppose Rockwell’s petition to speak; the gallery was filled with angry-looking members of the Jewish community. One by one citizens, attorneys, and pressure group representatives of New York City denounced Rockwell before the bench, claiming that his appearance would jeopardize the health and safety of the community. Then it was Rockwell’s turn to speak.
The courtroom fell silent as he approached Justice Vincent Lupiano. Rockwell paused a few moments for dramatic effect before launching into a masterful soliloquy that utilized both legal citations and humor to disarm his opponents. Around the courtroom the lawyers and public officials stood open-mouthed; no one had expected such an effective performance. Suddenly a bearded rabbi stood up in the back of the courtroom screaming of “Nazi atrocities.” A heavyset Irish policeman yelled at him to “sit down and shut up,” but the rabbi’s hysterics intensified; he changed from broken English to Yiddish, waved his arms in wild gestures, and finally collapsed to the floor in convulsions. Bystanders and police carried the man off, but not before he had stolen the moment from Rockwell, the moment during which the entire courtroom had been hanging on his every word. The timing was perfect. 1 Judge Lupiano called a recess. Rockwell and Foss made their way out to the rotunda, where several television cameras were set up. The Nazis stood back to back, surrounded by an angry mob of 150 people. Rockwell told television reporters that the ANP was “growing every minute” but that his goals had been misrepresented by newspapers. “Contrary to newspaper reports we are not trying to exterminate anybody, but we are trying to eliminate communism. We want to shock the American people into the awareness of the extreme danger of what is going on.”
A reporter asked if he intended to gas Jews; Rockwell replied that he intended to gas traitors, Jews or not. The reporter asked how many Jews that might be; Rockwell said, “Eighty percent.” Immediately, shouts and curses rang through the rotunda. A spectator yelled, “If he’d go outside I’d break his neck for it! You dirty bum you! You call eighty percent of the Jews traitors!” The man lunged at Rockwell, but Foss grabbed his wrists and pushed him back. A television reporter asked, “Mr. Rockwell, how do you react to this kind of treatment?” “I’m used to it,” shouted Rockwell. “They never make such a fuss over communists speaking; it’s only when someone is an anti-communist.”
A bystander half Rockwell’s height wriggled through the mob to stand toe to toe with Rockwell. “Only dogs that spew disease all over the place, dogs like you that have the gall to come in here and do what you do.” Rockwell kept his arms crossed, high on his chest so they would not be trapped at his sides if he had to start swinging his fists. Another spectator yelled, “How much do you get from the communists for fomenting this disorder, you animal?”
The mob surged forward, surrounding Rockwell and Foss, pushing and pulling to get at them. Television cameras tipped over and crashed on the marble floor; reporters were knocked down and trampled under foot; the mob pressed in on Rockwell, shouting “Kill him! Kill him!”
Security guards hustled Rockwell and Foss into an adjoining room to await the riot police. When order was restored the two returned to the courtroom, and the hearing commenced. At its conclusion, they were whisked off to La Guardia Airport under police escort and placed aboard an American Airlines plane bound for Washington. The next day the episode received nationwide coverage in newspapers across the country; Rockwell had succeeded in forcing the media to give him publicity. He could not force them to be impartial, but the “facts” were irrelevant. The important thing was that his name was now synonymous with the American Nazi Party. Newspapers, television, and radio stations found it impossible to avoid mentioning his brash and daring exploits; editors and columnists could not resist the temptation to denounce him to their readers. More important to him personally, Rockwell could now claim leadership of the most infamous political party in America…
One particular event, involving Fred Allen’s wife, made a lasting impression on Lincoln. In the midst of conversation with other guests, Portia Allen used foul-language. The boy was so taken aback by her vulgar tongue–especially from a woman–that he questioned his father about the incident. Doc explained that Mrs. Allen was Jewish. Lincoln asked if Jewishness had anything to do with it; his father replied that Jews were very “sophisticated people” who meant no harm by such language. There was a degree of anti-Semitism and racism expressed in many of the households where Rockwell spent his youth. But it is not a likely uncommon in the middle-class America of that era. Rockwell’s cousins described their family as “Archie Bunker types,” very anti-Semitic, anti-black, anti-Catholic, anti-Italian, but these were feelings they “didn’t talk about outside the family.”
…He ran into problems with sociology. Unlike geography or psychology, where there were fundamental ideas and well-established facts upon which the science was based, he found the principles of sociology elusive. He could not get to the kernel of the discipline. The instructor’s egalitarian beliefs confused him; he was sure that such beliefs could not be facts. The differences between the mental capabilities of individuals as well as the levels of development of societies could not be wholly explained by environmental effects. Were there no inherent differences in the quality of human beings?
…A movement was under way to get General MacArthur the Republican nomination in 1952. Rockwell liked the idea and made telephone calls to see what he could do to help. He read a letter-to-the-editor in the San Diego Union by a woman asking for volunteers to help organize a MacArthur rally. Rockwell called her, and she invited him to her home to discuss the situation. There he told her his idea of renting a hall for the rally. The woman stopped him and with a sad face said, “No, you can’t get a hall so easily, even if you pay. They won’t rent one.” “What do you mean?” Rockwell blurted. “Who won’t rent one?”
The woman glanced quizzically at her husband, took a deep breath, and said, “The Jews.” “The Jews?” Rockwell ejaculated. “What have the Jews got to do with it? What do they care whether you get a hall or not?” “They hate MacArthur,” she replied. She unfolded a copy of the California Jewish Voice and pointed to an article condemning MacArthur. There were others like it. Rockwell sat in disbelief. It was too fantastic. He felt things were somehow being misinterpreted. The woman gave him some materials to take home and read. One of the papers, Common Sense, by Conde McGinley, detailed how Jews instigated the 1917 Russian Revolution.
Noting that the sources listed were the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia and the Overman Report to President Wilson, Rockwell decided to check the “facts” himself. He went to the San Diego Public Library and dug through journals to locate the citations in Common Sense. The citations checked out. It suddenly occurred to him that if the woman was telling the truth about the Russian Revolution being Jewish led, perhaps she was telling the truth about an “international Jewish conspiracy” to destroy the civilization of the gentiles. So it was, that in the basement of the San Diego Public Library, Rockwell awoke from “thirty years of stupid political sleep.” He continued to visit the woman. Under her tutelage, he read more and more literature, until he came to the conclusion that Marxism was the organization of the world’s inferior masses, attempting the overthrow of the elites of the world. He attended a speech by white supremacist Gerald L. K. Smith, director of the Christian Nationalist Crusade and publisher of The Cross and the Flag.
Smith implored his listeners to read the “holy” pages of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf; Rockwell scoured several San Diego bookstores until he found the book. He read it voraciously cover to cover, digesting its themes. He would later tell followers how the book delivered “mental sunshine which bathed all the gray world in the clear light of reason and understanding.”
Rockwell the McCarthyite was now under the tutelage of Adolf Hitler. He came to the realization that National Socialism was the only thing that could save white men from degradation and racial degeneration. Hitler became for him a Christ-like savior and Mein Kampf his new Bible. But he kept these discoveries to himself, telling no one, not even his wife, that he had become a believer in National Socialism. He focused his energies on reading all the extremist literature he could get his hands on. He carefully studied The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, the same anti-Jewish book that Henry Ford Sr. gave away with each car for several years. Rockwell was unconcerned whether or not the Protocols was a forgery. The theme melded perfectly with his developing mind-set.
…Before he shipped out to Iceland, Rockwell visited with his cousin Pete Smyth. Smyth recalled that Rockwell became increasingly agitated as he described the magnitude of the “Jewish conspiracy” in America. Smyth was shocked by Rockwell’s fervor as he went on and on about the wickedness and cleverness of the Jews. During the evening, as the two men got inebriated, Rockwell told his cousin about the need for an American Nazi Party-to rectify the error of fighting on the wrong side in the last war.
…He banished the agony of a broken marriage by redirecting his energies to study and writing. He re-read Mein Kampf a dozen times, annotating and indexing the themes of the book.
…Disturbed by the accounts in the papers, he read requested transcripts of the proceedings in the Congressional Record. He immediately realized that the newspaper accounts and the Record were in contradiction. He concluded that American newspapers were suppressing the “truth” of McCarthy’s statements; the Jewish-controlled media were deliberately slanting the news to make McCarthy look like a “bad guy” to the public. Even the Armed Forces network was against McCarthy: the entire public information network was in a conspiracy to smear him. Why? he asked himself. Who had an interest in lying about McCarthy? He reasoned that anyone who was an effective anticommunist was labeled a hatemonger and a bigot. Since the “Jewish-controlled” media were against McCarthy, the Jews must be communist sympathizers. To Rockwell it made perfect sense: “Communism was Jewish.”
Rockwell surmised that as long as conservatives focused on the economic-materialistic rather than the racial, defending a system rather than a race, they would continue foolishly to pursue spurious and superficial solutions rather than fundamental ones. In essence, he was falling into line with Hitler’s doctrine: “The instinct of preserving the species is the first cause of the formation of human communities. But the State is a folk organism and not an economic organization. A difference that is as great as it remains incomprehensible to the so-called “statesman,” especially of today. They believe therefore, that they can build up the State by economy, whereas in reality it is always the result of the activity of those qualities which lie in line with the will to preserve the species and the race.”
…A mutual friend arranged a meeting between Rockwell and William Buckley, Jr., publisher of the National Review. Rockwell was overwhelmed by the intellectual prowess of Buckley and his staff-which included several Jews. He felt there was “more pulsating brain-power and genius surrounding Buckley than in any place else on earth.” 16 Buckley would not discuss the “Jewish question,” but he did hire Rockwell to promote National Review in colleges and universities. Their business relationship did not last long; Rockwell gave the job a half-hearted effort. Promoting conservatism was not his paramount objective. He wanted to fight Jews.
Rockwell moved his family to Atlanta. There he experienced a series of dreams, each a variation on the same theme. A man would approach him and say, “Someone wants to see you.” The two would walk to a room, where Rockwell would open the door and find Adolf Hitler waiting for him; then he would wake up. Always a skeptic when confronted with the supernatural, Rockwell was shaken by the recurring dreams, omens that became for him a symbolic summons to a path not yet taken.
…When they arrived at Pennsylvania Avenue, police informed Rockwell of the rules for picketing the White House. Rockwell grabbed a “Kike” placard and with little fanfare, stepped off a small curb–the first step in becoming the world’s most notorious anti-Semite since Adolf Hitler. There were no mobs of screaming Jews, no “three hundred niggers” to beat them the snot out of them. Their audience consisted of journalists and Anti-Defamation League photographers. After a peaceful demonstration, Rockwell accompanied the youths to a motel to celebrate their success with a few beers. Rockwell’s criticism of Jews was so far limited to Israel, but there is no doubt as to the true motivations of a man using caustic epithets like “Kike” on protest signs. He hated not only Israel but American Jewry as well. Public criticism of Zionists may or may not be acceptable to American Jewry, but open hatred and condemnation of their heritage, will mark a man for life–Rockwell was marked for life. Crossing over the unmarked line into anti-Semitism is an act from which there is no return. A political career-other than that of an extremist–is no longer possible. Moreover, his family was held accountable and impugned for his actions.
…Rockwell insisted to FBI agents that his own writings were not meant to incite anyone to violence, except when being attacked by Jews. “Literature setting forth the truth was worth more than 10,000 cross burnings or a bombing. Their fight was against the political Jews and not the religious Jews.” He tried to convince the press and the FBI he was not anti-Semitic. “I am anti-Zionist and anti-Communist Jews, and any other form of treason. I’m pro-American republic.”
…In Iceland, Thora’s wealthy father received word of his son-in-law’s activities. Concerned about the well-being of his daughter and grandchildren, he telephoned Arlington and pressured her to return to Iceland. The dashing naval fighter pilot she had fallen in love with was now an open National Socialist.
…Rockwell trudged through the concourse, now totally alone–no family, no job, no money, his home in jeopardy, the ire of the Jewish community raised against him. As the days passed into weeks, Rockwell slipped deeper and deeper into depression. The house that had been alive with playing children was not quiet, cold, and empty. The sight of a doll or baby dress left behind brought him to the verge of sobbing. He spent Thanksgiving and Christmas alone. His fellow conservatives ostracized him. The utility company shut off the electricity and telephone. 16 On December 1, 1958, Rockwell’s naval status was changed to standby reserve: no more weekend flying, no more monthly paychecks. Rockwell’s siblings were shocked by his actions. His sister Priscilla said they were “horrified … we wanted to crawl in a hole and hide … it was a nightmare.” Most affected by his older brother’s notoriety was Robert, a rising young businessman raising a family in New England. Robert offered to help pay for psychiatric treatment for what he believed was Rockwell’s clinical paranoia.
…Nevertheless, he continued to sink deeper into depression and self-pity. In time, however, a strange experience pulled him out of his misery. One morning he received a package from a “fellow traveler,” James K. Warner. Inside he found a carefully folded Nazi flag, eleven feet long. He believed it was a stroke of destiny. He dosed the living room curtains and hung the flag across one entire wall, placed a plaque of Hitler at the center of the flag and three lighted candles on a bookcase in front of it, then stepped to the other side of the room to “worship” at his shrine, his altar to Adolf Hitler. He felt an upsurge in his soul, a religious-like power. Goose bumps covered his body, his hair stood on end, tears filled his eyes. He experienced a sense of being more than himself, communion with something vast and eternal. His purpose in life was now clear; he was filled with a sense of mission, a sense of destiny. He would fight Jews to his final day. He snapped his heels together, raised his arm in salute, and shouted “Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler! HEIL Hitler!”
…Rockwell believed that millions of people were either conscious National Socialists or were “only a synapse away from discovering that they were National Socialists–and never knew it–because they have never been allowed to know what National Socialism is.” 12 To his way of thinking, National Socialism was the very essence of what conservatives desired, but they were afraid to examine the doctrine because of the propaganda campaign directed at it. Instead of examining the ideas of National Socialism as propounded by Hitler in Mein Kampf, they let their minds be fogged by the emotional baggage of “Hollywood Nazism.” The constant images of gas chambers, ovens, and piles of corpses prevented any serious analysis of the doctrine. The media, in his view, never focused attention on the millions of executions by Russian or Chinese communists; in the public mind, only the German Nazi atrocities were remembered. Rockwell realized that the Holocaust had to be refuted or inroads could not be made. Without the Holocaust, Hitler was just another dictator and National Socialism another fascist form of government. Holocaust denial was unheard of in 1959. Only fourteen years had passed since the end of World War II, and the public was still coming to terms with Hitler’s mass murder of European Jewry. Some of the culpable, like Adolf Eichmann, would not be brought to justice until years later. Rockwell needed to refute the facts. The testimony of survivors, the photographs,
and the presence of the actual concentration camp buildings used in the killings were of no concern. If the Holocaust could be even slightly discredited, National Socialism, Hitlerism, might become palatable, maybe even respectable, as an ideology. The massive amount of evidence did not deter Rockwell; it was simply a large stone that needed to be chipped away. Future generations could reduce it to rubble. To establish a Holocaust-was-a-hoax theme, Rockwell fabricated a story for a seedy men’s pulp magazine called Sir! The story, “by a former corporal in the SS as told to Master Sergeant Lew Cor (Roc-wel spelled backwards phonetically) related how the Nazis conducted vivisection on Jewish concentration camp inmates. The article was accepted, and Rockwell received seventy-five dollars in payment. When it was published, the editors used concentration camp photos alongside his story to enhance its appeal. To Rockwell’s way of thinking, since the publisher had used bogus photos for a bogus story, the Holocaust must be a Jewish fabrication. Rockwell was to use the magazine article as proof of a “holocaust hoax” for the rest of his life.
Rockwell…told reporters, “When I was in the advertising game we used nude women. Now I use the swastika and stormtroopers. You use what brings them in.”
…After a few days of attempts at reconciliation, he realized the futility of the situation and borrowed return plane fare from Thora’s father. As he waited to leave Iceland, Thora arrived at the airport to say good-bye. With tears rolling down their faces, they hugged and sobbed for several minutes. Then it was over, and she was gone. He would never see Thora or his children again.
…He realized that Thora, by throwing him out of her life, had given him a “priceless armor of fearlessness,” which he could carry forward into future battles.
…Trooper Dick Braun invited Foss into the building but insisted he wipe his feet on the “Jewish prayer rug” (an ark curtain stolen from a synagogue) in the entryway. This was the ANP method of uncovering Jewish spies.
…Rockwell’s activities were carefully reviewed and analyzed at length. The Jewish community was faced with a political conundrum: how could it advocate suppression of Rockwell without abridging the Bill of Rights? Encouraging the government to suppress civil liberties and persecute a minority viewpoint is a dangerous gamble; one never knows when a pogrom will be instituted. The same constitutional freedoms that protect hate-mongers from suppression protect other minority groups from arbitrary suppression. To arrest Rockwell would give him a platform from which to speak, a “field day” in court. A court battle would bring to defense civil liberties groups and provide him a “hero’s role” in the eyes of his followers and like-minded constituents. A plan of action was devised, and a memorandum was sent to all Jewish organizations: Do nothing to play into Rockwell’s publicity-seeking activities. Do not telephone or harass him – it only feeds his delusion of self-importance. Do not attend his public meetings. Never use physical force against the Nazis.
The memo closed with a plea for restraint against vigilantism: The strength and security of American democracy, and the security of the Jewish community as of all other groups, rests upon the unimpaired integrity of American law. When there is defiance of the law, and disrespect for the law and order, we are among the first to suffer… Jews ought to be the last people in the world to acquiesce in conduct which goes counter to the basic structure of American law under which the safety and freedom of all of us have their most secure protection.
The sympathizer praised Rockwell’s efforts but wanted clarification about the party’s continual use of the phrase “white Christian America” in its literature. Foss told the atheist that the party used the “white Christian America” line to appeal to the Christian segment of society. Most whites were opposed to atheistic communism, and the party wanted to play upon that fear. For some people the appeal of “racial pride” was enough to gain their support, but for others it was not. The “Christian America” theme was an appeal to their Christian pride, but it also helped further the notion that Jews were a different race than whites.
…In late October, Abe Rosenthal, the metropolitan editor of the New York Times, received a tip that Dan Burros, former national secretary of the ANP and king kleagle (chief organizer) of the United Klans of America in the New York City area, was Jewish. Rosenthal assigned reporter McCandlish Phillips, a “born again,” evangelical, fundamentalist Christian, to do a background check on Burros and see if the tip could be substantiated. Phillips discovered that Burros had been a star pupil at a Hebrew school in a Queens synagogue and had had a bar mitzvah at age thirteen. Phillips tried to contact Burros on several occasions, with no success. Finally, in the early morning of October 29, he spotted Burros leaving his Queens apartment and followed him to a barbershop. Phillips confronted the crew-cut Burros when he emerged, and they walked to a nearby luncheonette. After Phillips recited Burros’s Klan and Nazi credentials, he asked, “There’s one thing about you I can’t figure out, it doesn’t fit the picture. Your parents were married in a Jewish wedding ceremony. ”
“You’re not going to print that!” Burros snapped. “I’ll have to retaliate, do you understand? If you publish that, I’ll come and get you and kill you. I don’t care what happens. I’ll be ruined. This is all I’ve got to live for.” They left the restaurant and walked into the street. Phillips turned to Burros: “I’m through asking questions. I just want to talk to you for a few minutes as one human being to another human being.” Burros made no reply. “I’ve been told that you feel trapped in this movement, that you think you can’t get out. But there is an exit for you. I want to quote a verse from the Bible, a verse that has been meaningful for me: ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away. Behold all things are become new.’ ” “You’re trying to con me,” Burros sneered. “I’m not, I mean it,” Phillips answered. Dan Burros walked away, back to his apartment in Queens. Throughout that day Burros telephoned the Times with threats against Phillips. That evening he took a bus to the home of fellow Klansman
and one time ANP sympathizer Roy Frankhouser in Reading, Pennsylvania. The next morning, October 31, Burros left Frankhouser’s house to pick up the Sunday edition of the Times at a newsstand. The bold headline leapt from the page, sending a shock through his body: STATE KLAN LEADER HIDES SECRET OF JEWISH ORIGIN Burros stormed back to Frankhouser’s home seething with rage, kicking furniture throughout the house in an unstoppable rampage. He found Frankhouser’s nickel-plated .32-caliber revolver and yelled, “I’m ruined!” He put the barrel of the pistol to his chest and shouted, “Long live the white race! I’ve got nothing to live for!” He pulled the trigger, put the pistol to his head, and fired another round into his brain. The twenty-eight-year-old Nazi turned Klansman was dead.” 47 Rockwell’s eulogy in the Stormtrooper told how Burros’s life had been “steeped in racist revolutionary causes” like the ANP, the Minutemen, and finally the Klan. With his suicide Burros had “ended his miserably sad life of lies. . .The Burros Episode is but one more indication of the madness of the people known as Jews. . . They are a unique people with a distinct mass affliction of mental disorders… symptoms of paranoia, delusions of grandeur, and delusions of persecution. Dan Burros was the product of this unfortunate Jewish psychosis. It cost him his life.” Privately, Rockwell was stunned and saddened by the death. He admired Burros’s talent at writing propaganda, his ability to condense an idea down to its most elemental meaning in such a way that it was impossible not to understand and remember it. He had been a “brilliant young man and hugely dedicated to the Cause. . . and he worked like a Trojan as a printer.” Koehl remembers that Burros had not looked like a typical Jew and probably had a fair amount of “Aryan blood.” Rockwell
believed that whatever differences they might have had, Burros had been a sincere “righteous Jew” and that something could have been worked out whereby Burros could have continued to serve the National Socialist cause in some capacity and averted the tragedy.” 49 Burros’s exposure was not the result of FBI COINTELPRO action; Bureau files indicate that no action was ever directed against him. According to the Washington Evening Star, a more likely possibility was that his exposure was orchestrated by a Jewish organization.”