The American Nazi Party in Arlington
Federal expansion during the New Deal, World War Two, and the Cold War led to a population boom in Arlington County as predominately white and well-educated individuals and families from around the country poured into the area for federal employment. But this demographic was not the only group attracted to Arlington at this time. In the late-1950s Arlington also became home to a group of white nationalists who came together to form Arlington’s American Nazi Party.
The American Nazi Party was founded in Arlington, Virginia in 1958. It was the brain-child of George Lincoln Rockwell. Born in Bloomington, Illinois in 1918, Rockwell studied philosophy for a short time at Brown University before dropping out to study art at the Pratt Institute of Art in Brooklyn. During World War Two and the Korean War Rockwell served as a Navy pilot. While in the service Rockwell honed his skills as a charismatic leader and became enthralled with white supremacy. Inspired by Hitler, Rockwell blended German fascism with American racism to form the ideological underpinnings of the American Nazi Party.
Several factors drew Rockwell to Arlington specifically to create his hate group. He saw “New Deal liberals” as a great threat to America. Sneering at them as “race mixers,” Rockwell saw Arlington’s large population of federal workers as a stain on the nation and the “white power” he hoped to encourage. Arlington was chosen because of its proximity to Washington and the national policies shaped there. Rockwell was also drawn to Arlington specifically because some residents supported his cause. The organization had approximately fifty members and local supporters provided direct and indirect support through donation of properties and food.
Many of the organization’s fifty plus members lived together in a property on Wilson Boulevard, nick-named “Hatemobger Hill.” The late-Victorian home served as a barracks like facility for the group. Some Arlingtonians took the tactic of ignoring the Nazis so as not to give them more credit. “Most Arlingtonians disregard them,” noted county resident Jean Mostrom. Though some, like Mostrom, dismissed the group as fringe, others formed the Citizens Concerned organization to drive them from the area using zoning and planning laws. But unfortunately, the Nazis did not break the community or county laws at their facilites, choosing to own properties in communities segregated as whites-only neighborhoods.
From their base in Arlington, group activities sometimes focused on national events by engaging in counter-protests and intimidation campaign for Civil Rights activities. For example, the American Nazi Party followed the route of the Freedom Riders throughout the South in 1965. Sometimes national events of the Civil Rights Movement came to Arlington. In June of 1960 leaders from the Non-Violent Action Group (NAG) singled out Arlington lunch counters for sit-ins in protest of segregated accommodations. In this photo, NAG activist Dion Diamond sits calmly at the Cherrydale Drug Fair lunch counter as Rockwell, supported by a crowd of white males, attacks him with racist remarks.
With national, state, and local aims, much of the group’s work stayed local in Arlington. Members held white-pride events and picketed local Jewish-owned businesses. In 1960 they picketed Mario’s Pizza after the owner, Jewish American Howard Levine, refused to serve the group. They were also actively involved in county government and school board affairs. They frequently attended school board meetings throughout the 1950s dressed in Nazi uniforms to intimidate board members during debates about school integration.