The American Nazi Party (ANP) was first an American political party founded by George Lincoln Rockwell. Its headquarters was in Arlington, Virginia. Rockwell founded the organization as the World Union of Free Enterprise National Socialists (WUFENS), but renamed it the American Nazi Party in 1960. The party was based largely upon the ideals and policies of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party in Germany during the Nazi era, and embraced its uniforms and iconography.
The Rockwell organization broke up shortly after he was assassinated in 1967. Since the late 1960s, there have been a number of small groups that have used the name, "American Nazi Party".
The WUFENS headquarters was located in a residence on Williamsburg Boulevard in Arlington, but was moved as the ANP headquarters to a house at 928 North Randolph Street (now a hotel and office building site). Rockwell and some party members also established a "Stormtrooper Barracks" in an old mansion owned by the widow of Willis Kern in the Dominion Hills section of Arlington at what is now the Upton Hill Regional Park, the tallest hill in the county. After Rockwell's death, the headquarters was moved again to one side of a duplex brick and concrete storefront at 2507 North Franklin Road which featured a swastika prominently mounted above the front door. This site was visible from busy Wilson Boulevard. Today, the Franklin Road address is often misidentified as Rockwell's headquarters when in fact it was the successor organization's last physical address in Arlington (now a coffeehouse).
Under Rockwell, the party embraced Nazi uniforms and iconography.
After several years of living in impoverished conditions, Rockwell began to experience some financial success with paid speaking engagements at universities where he was invited to express his controversial views as exercises in free speech. This inspired him to end the rancorous "Phase One" party tactics and begin "Phase Two", a plan to recast the group as a legitimate political party by toning down the verbal and written attacks against non-whites, replacing the party rallying cry of "Sieg Heil!" with "White Power!", limiting public display of the swastika, and entering candidates in local elections. On January 1, 1967, Rockwell renamed the ANP the National Socialist White People's Party (NSWPP), a move that alienated some hard-line members.
In 1966, it was renamed the National Socialist White People’s Party, a “conscious imitation” of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Rockwell wanted a more “ecumenical” approach and felt that the swastika banner was impeding organizational growth. Matt Koehl, although a purist National Socialist, succeeded Rockwell as the new leader and this ended the American Nazi Party. Rockwell was assassinated by one of his own members. Thereafter, the members engaged in internecine disputes, and they were either expelled by Koehl or they resigned. After the assassination of Rockwell, the party dissipated and ad hoc organizations usurped the American Nazi Party logo. Those included James Burford in Chicago and John Bishop in Iowa.
The years 1966 and 1967 were in many ways the apogee of Rockwell's fame and organization. Famously, he was interviewed by Playboy magazine, an event that stirred controversy within the ranks. At the time Rockwell had about 500 followers.
Before he could fully implement party reforms, Rockwell was assassinated on August 25, 1967 by a disgruntled follower, John Patler, who was part of a splinter group.
An assassination attempt was made on Rockwell on June 28, 1967. As Rockwell returned from shopping, he drove into the long driveway of the "Stormtrooper barracks" located in Arlington's Dominion Hills subdivision and found it blocked by a felled tree and brush. Rockwell assumed that it was another prank by local teens. As a party member cleared the obstruction, two shots were fired at Rockwell from behind one of the swastika-embossed brick driveway pillars. One of the shots ricocheted off the car, right next to his head. Leaping from the car, Rockwell pursued the gunman. On June 30, Rockwell petitioned the Arlington County Circuit Court for a gun permit; no action was ever taken on his request.
On August 25, 1967, while leaving the Econowash laundromat at the Dominion Hills Shopping Center, an assassin, hiding on the roof of the building, fired two bullets into Rockwell's car through the windshield. One missed, the other hit his chest and ruptured his heart. His car slowly rolled backwards to a stop and Rockwell staggered out of the front passenger side door of the car, stood briefly while pointing upward at the strip mall's rooftop where the shots had come from, and then collapsed on the pavement. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Rockwell's assailant was John Patler, a former ANP/NSWPP member whom Rockwell had ejected from the party for allegedly trying to introduce Marxist doctrine into the party's platforms.
Rockwell's deputy commander, Matt Koehl, a staunch Hitlerist, assumed the leadership role after a party council agreed that he should retain command. Koehl continued some of Rockwell’s reforms such as emphasizing the prospect of a future all-white society, and toning down public denigration of non-whites. Koehl retained the swastika-festooned party literature and the pseudo-Nazi uniforms of the party's "Storm Troopers" which were modeled on those worn by the Nazi Party's Sturmabteilung. In 1968, Koehl moved the party to a new headquarters on 2507 North Franklin Road, clearly visible from Arlington's main thoroughfare, Wilson Boulevard. He also established a printing press, a "George Lincoln Rockwell Memorial Book Store", and member living quarters on property nearby.
The party began to experience ideological divisions among its followers as it entered the 1970s. In 1970, member Frank Collin, who was himself secretly the son of a Jewish father, broke away from the group and founded the National Socialist Party of America in Chicago, which became famous for its attempt to march through Skokie, Illinois, home to many Holocaust survivors. This led to the United States Supreme Court case, National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie. Other dissatisfied members of the NSWPP chose to support William Luther Pierce, and formed the National Alliance in 1974.
Further membership erosion occurred as Koehl, drawing heavily upon the teachings of Hitlerian mystic Savitri Devi, began to suggest that National Socialism was more akin to a religious movement than a political one. He espoused the belief that Adolf Hitler was the gift of an inscrutable divine providence sent to rescue the white race from decadence and gradual extinction caused by a declining birth rate and miscegenation. Hitler's death in 1945 was viewed as a type of martyrdom; a voluntary, Christ-like self-sacrifice, that looked forward to a spiritual resurrection of National Socialism at a later date when the Aryan race would need it the most. These esoteric beliefs led to disputes with the World Union of National Socialists, which Rockwell had founded and whose leader, Danish neo-Nazi Povl Riis-Knudsen, had been appointed by Koehl. Undaunted, Koehl continued to recast the party as a new religion in formation. Public rallies were gradually phased out in favor of low-key gatherings in private venues. On Labor Day 1979, in a highly unpopular move for some members, Koehl disbanded the party's paramilitary "Storm Troopers".
The Koehl organization is now known as the New Order and it operates so far from the public spotlight that few of today's neo-Nazis are aware of its existence or know that it is the linear descendant of Rockwell's original ANP.
On November 3, 1979, some members of the NSWPP and a Ku Klux Klan group attacked a Communist Workers' Party protest march in Greensboro, North Carolina. The alliance of neo-Nazis and Klansmen shot and killed five marchers. Forty Klansmen and neo-Nazis were involved in the shootings with sixteen Klansmen and neo-Nazis being arrested. The six strongest cases were brought to trial first, but the two criminal trials resulted in the acquittal of the defendants by all-white juries. However, in a 1985 civil lawsuit, the survivors won a $350,000 judgment against the city, the Klansmen, and the neo-Nazis for violating the civil rights of the demonstrators. The shootings became known as the "Greensboro Massacre".
Since the late 1960s, there have been a number of small groups that have used the name "American Nazi Party".Perhaps the first was led by James Warner and Allen Vincent and it consisted of members of the California branch of the NSWPP. This group announced its existence on January 1, 1968. In 1982 James Burford formed another "American Nazi Party" from dissafected branches of the National Socialist Party of America. This Chicago-based group remained in existence until at least 1994.
A small American Nazi Party operated from Davenport, Iowa led by John Robert Bishop.
The name "American Nazi Party" has also been adopted by a group run by Rocky J. Suhayda, a member of Rockwell's original ANP in 1967. Although Suhayda's ANP states that Rockwell was its founder, there is no direct legal or financial link between it and Rockwell's legacy organization, now a low-key Hitlerian religious group called the New Order. Headquartered in Westland, Michigan, Suhayda's ANP website sells nostalgic reprints of Rockwell's 1960s-era magazine The Stormtrooper. 2008 National Socialist presidential candidate John Taylor Bowles was a member. Suhayda holds semi-private yearly meetings at his home, and a national convention in California. His followers do not wear uniforms, except for the SA, or Security Arm, and they eschew public demonstrations, frequently criticizing the rival organization the National Socialist Movement for "outing" its members with excessive media exposure. Rocky Suhayda was purported to have taken up the cause of the American Nazi Party, even as he attempted to differentiate its politics from the predecessor organization.
Frank Collin, founder of the National Socialist Party of America
David Duke was a member before he went on to join the Ku Klux Klan
William Luther Pierce (founder of the National Alliance)
Kurt Saxon (author of The Poor Man's James Bond)