Nazis in Arlington: George Rockwell and the ANP

Java Shack (Photo by Mark Jones)
Now a coffee shop, this brick duplex near the Arlington County courthouse was the headquarters of the American Nazi Party for almost 20 years. (Photo source: Mark Jones)

Thanks to Boundary Stones reader, David, for tipping us off to this story!

Today the small brick building at 2507 N. Franklin Rd. in Arlington is the home of the Javashack, a hip coffee shop with specialty brews, free wifi and – as one patron termed it – “left-leaning politics.”

This is quite a departure from the building’s previous life. From 1968-1984, this duplex was the national headquarters of the American Nazi Party. A swastika hung over the doorway (visible from busy Wilson Blvd. half a block away) and khaki-clad “storm troopers” occupied the space, developing anti-Jewish propaganda, proclaiming White Power and periodically clashing with neighbors.

In terms of numbers, the ANP was small – perhaps 30 hard core followers in Arlington (mostly young men with lower middle class backgrounds) and a few hundred others spread out across the country.[1] But the group got a fair amount of press coverage nationally and was certainly well known (if also notorious) locally thanks to its outspoken leader, George Rockwell.

George Rockwell c. 1951 (Photo source: Wikipedia)
George Rockwell in 1951, a few years before he founded the American Nazi Party. (Photo source: Wikipedia)

Rockwell founded the party in Arlington in 1959 on a platform of deporting blacks to Africa, sterilizing Jews and liquidating their property and executing “traitors” including President Eisenhower, President Truman and Chief Justice Earl Warren.[2] ANP members pledged allegiance to Hitler and organized counter-protests at Civil Rights demonstrations around the country. (Perhaps the most publicized was Rockwell’s “Hate Bus” trip in May 1961, when he and five underlings drove a swastika-covered Volkswagon van from Arlington to New Orleans, in response to the Congress of Racial Equality’s "Freedom Rides" bus trips, which had begun a few weeks prior.)

The N. Franklin Rd. location was actually one of several buildings in Arlington used by the ANP over the years. The party had originally setup shop in a bungalow on Williamsburg Blvd. and then used a (since razed) building at 928 Randolph St.[3] for a few years. (The IRS padlocked that property in 1964 when the group failed to pay taxes.) Rockwell also maintained a “storm trooper barracks” in a hilltop farm house at 6150 Wilson Blvd., which he reportedly rented from an elderly sympathizer for $1 per year.[4] Local residents came to call the place “Hatemonger Hill.” It was later demolished and the land was annexed into Upton Hill Regional Park.

Not surprisingly, most Arlingtonians were none-too excited about having fascists in their midst. (Neither was the F.B.I., for that matter, which monitored the group’s activities closely.) In 1961, after two party members were arrested for handcuffing a 13-year-old Jewish boy and interrogating him about his religion, the community formed a “Concerned Citizens,” task force and denounced the Rockwell group.

“The fact that there are people in Arlington who believe and act as Nazis is difficult for us to accept. We cringe at their preaching of hate, and we are determined to prevent them by all legal means for the use of unlawful force on any and all Arlington citizens.”[5]

As it turned out, the crippling blow to the organization would come from within. On August 25, 1967, Rockwell was assassinated by one of his former deputies in the parking lot of the Dominion Hills strip mall on Wilson Blvd. John Patler – who had left the group a few months earlier after a dispute – took a rifle up to the shopping center roof and shot Rockwell through the front windshield of his car, which was parked outside the Econowash laundromat.

Following the assassination, the ANP – which had changed its name to the National Socialist White People’s Party just before Rockwell’s death – scaled back its activities considerably. The group did less public picketing and demonstrating, instead focusing on producing literature, recruiting members and – in 1969 – setting off stink bombs in local movie theaters. (The stink bomb attacks were in protest of the film Slaves, which the group called the latest in “a series of race-mixing spectaculars produced by ‘Hollywood Jews’” on a recorded message left on its headquarters phone answering machine.)[6]

Building ranks proved difficult, however. In 1982, the group announced it would relocate to the Midwest, citing a lack of local support for its mission. According to then leader Martin Kerr, Arlington was filled with government workers and military personnel and “these are not people looking to join revolutionary organizations.”[7] (Or maybe Arlingtonians just aren’t Nazis… just a thought.) The group subsequently moved to New Berlin, Wisconsin in 1984 and took the name “New Order.”[8]

Footnotes

  1. ^ Powell, Lawrence J. “When Hate Came to Town: New Orleans' Jews and George Lincoln Rockwell,” American Jewish History. Volume 85, Issue 4 (1997): pp. 393-419. © 1997. American Jewish Historical Society. http://www.holocaustsurvivors.org/data.show.php?di=record&da=texts&ke=3 accessed December 20, 2012.
  2. ^ “An American Nazi: George Lincoln Rockwell,” New York Times, 8 August 1962, p. 2.
  3. ^ “Nazi Group Plans Office in Arlington,” Washington Post, 13 January 1960, p. A14.
  4. ^ Burchard, Hank, “Racist Leader Could Be Nasty, Charming… Or Pitiful,” Washington Post, 26 Aug 1967: A6.
  5. ^ “Two American Nazis Sentenced for Attack on Boy,” New York Times, 21 July 1961, p. 6.
  6. ^ Boldt, David R., “American Nazi is Held in Movie Stinkbombing,” Washington Post, 31 May 1969, p. A10.
  7. ^ Latimer, Leah Y. “Arlington Nazi Says Party Plans to Shift to Midwest,” Washington Post 25 December 1982, p. B1.
  8. ^ Clark, Charles S. “Death of an Arlington Nazi,” Northern Virginia Magazine, 12 December 2010. http://www.northernvirginiamag.com/entertainment/entertainment-features/2010/12/30/death-of-an-arlington-nazi/ accessed December 20, 2012.