“Nazis. I hate these guys.”
—Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones Jr.
Nazi Party – officially the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP)
The eldest of three children, George Lincoln Rockwell was born six months before the armistice that ended the First World War. Rockwell’s parents, both Vaudeville performers, divorced when he was six. The boy divided his time between New Jersey and Maine.
George Rockwell applied to Harvard at age seventeen but failed to gain acceptance. In 1938 he enrolled at Brown University but with war clouds looming, dropped out to join the Navy. Rockwell trained as a pilot and served aboard four different ships but did not see combat.
Rockwell married his first wife, Judith Aultman, in 1943. George did not care for his in-laws, accusing them of failing to raise his bride up to be sufficiently “docile and compliant.” Not surprisingly, this marriage foundered.
Rockwell left the military at the end of WW2 but was recalled to active duty as a flight instructor during the Korean conflict. In 1951 he read the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as well as Mein Kampf, and his life took a darker turn. He was posted to Iceland as an F8F Bearcat pilot, divorced his first wife, and married Margret Pora Hallgrimsson, the niece of Iceland’s ambassador to the United States. The happy couple honeymooned at Berchtesgaden, the site of Hitler’s mountain retreat in the Bavarian Alps.
George and Margret divorced, and in 1957 Rockwell met Hitler’s ghost in a series of remarkable dreams. The spectral dictator somehow convinced George Lincoln Rockwell to resurrect an Americanized version of the most reviled political movement the planet has ever seen. Rockwell’s World Union of Free Enterprise Socialists morphed into the American Nazi Party that later became the National Socialist White People’s Party.
The depiction of the American Socialist White People’s Party in the classic comedy The Blues Brothers reliably conjures a chuckle. I always thought Henry Gibson’s hilarious rendition of this poor lost soul was a fictionalized caricature. It turns out that art was simply imitating life.
Rockwell ran for President in 1964, receiving a total of 212 votes nationwide. He took the “Hate Bus” from town to town organizing generally poorly attended rallies against Martin Luther King Jr. and similar figures. After a loan default, the bank repossessed his venomously vitriolic Volkswagen.
In the 1960s Rockwell dabbled in record producing. He titled his label, I’m not making this up, “Hatenanny Records.” Their two bands were Odis Cochran and the Three Bigots and The Coon Hunters. I tried to conjure some witty prose with which to ridicule this pursuit, but, frankly, words failed me.
Remarkably, Rockwell found kindred spirits in Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X, both leaders in the 1960’s Black Nationalism movement. While Rockwell and his few followers certainly had little use for black people, they were drawn to the Nation of Islam’s anti-Semitic views.
In 1961 Rockwell referred to Elijah Muhammad as “The Black People’s Hitler.” Apparently, he intended this as a compliment. He was once seen making a $20 donation at a Nation of Islam event.
Rockwell was a Holocaust denier, stating in a 1965 interview that he had “incontrovertible documentary proof that that’s not true.” In the same interview, he reluctantly acknowledged the presence of homosexuals within his small group but stated, “I have been able to rescue them.” In a famous 1966 Playboy interview with Alex Haley, the African-American author of Roots, Rockwell said, “I don’t believe for one minute that any 6 million Jews were exterminated by Hitler. It never happened.”
No Tolerance for Hate
John Patsolos was born in 1938 in New York City to Greek parents. When John was five his father shot and killed his mother. After his father was paroled John and his younger brother George moved back in with dad. That sordid family dynamic is enough to make anybody weird.
After a brief stint in the Marines John Patsolos legally changed his name to John Patler because it sounded more like Hitler. Patler joined the American Nazi Party and served as the editorial cartoonist for the party magazine, Stormtrooper. Patler and Rockwell were just as thick as thieves. Patler’s last known missive to Rockwell read, “I don’t think there are two people on earth who think and feel the same as we do…you are a very important part of my life. I need you as much as you need me. Without you, there is no future.”
Alas, when you get up every day hating people it can be tough to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships. In March of 1967 Patler and Rockwell fell out over issues of party policies and the younger man was expelled. The reported infraction was “Bolshevik leanings,” whatever that actually means. Sadly, forgiveness is not a trait the American Nazi Party actively cultivated.
The Ignominious Downfall of an Unrepentant Racist
On August 25, 1967, George Rockwell stepped out of his tired blue-and-white 1958 Chevrolet in the parking lot of the Econo-wash, a local coin-operated Laundromat. Realizing he had forgotten his bleach he returned to his vehicle. Meanwhile, John Patler crouched on the roof behind his 7.63x25mm Mauser Broomhandle pistol.
Patler fired two rounds in quick succession through the windshield. The first harmlessly creased Rockwell’s shirt. The second struck him squarely in the heart. The unrepentant Nazi now had less than two minutes to live. In his final moments, the dying man rolled out of the passenger side door and fell face-up on the asphalt, Ivory Snow soap flakes splashing dichotomously across the gory scene.
Patler fled, tossing his German pistol into nearby Four Mile Run creek while discarding his trench coat and cap. Police apprehended him at a nearby bus stop. Patler did not himself drive.
Upon hearing of his 49-year-old son’s death, his father, George Lovejoy “Doc” Rockwell, said sadly, “I am not surprised at all. I’ve expected it for quite some time.”
The Mauser Broomhandle
Designed around 1893 at Waffenfabrik Mauser in Oberndorf, Germany, by the three Federle brothers Joseph, Fidel, and Friedrich, the C96 was a First World War icon. Though the gun was never a general issue weapon in the Kaiser’s army, Mauser produced around a million C96 pistols. There were also countless foreign-made copies.
The Germans called the gun the “Kuhfusspistole” or “Cow’s Foot Pistol.” The Chinese called it the “Box Cannon.” Paul Mauser’s term was the “Construktion 96” or C96. The rest of the planet called it the Broomhandle after the pistol grip’s distinctive architecture.
The C96 was recoil-operated with a tilting-lock breech. Most of the originals carried ten rounds internally loaded from the top via strippers. Some variants incorporated removable box magazines of 10 and 20-round capacities.
The Model 712 Schnellfeuer version was selective fire. The rear sight was optimistically adjustable out to 1000 meters. Care must be exercised when running the gun on its shoulder stock lest the hammer gives your thumb a nasty bite.
The bottlenecked 7.63×25 mm cartridge takes up about the same space as a standard 9mm Parabellum round while launching an 86-grain bullet at 1,400 feet per second. This was the world’s fastest commercial handgun cartridge until the 1934 advent of the .357 Magnum. The case dimensions were nearly identical to those of the Combloc 7.62x25mm cartridges used in TT-33 handguns and PPSh submachine guns. German 7.63x25mm rounds could be safely used in the Russian weapons, but Russian 7.62x25mm ammunition was loaded too hot for the C96. The Broomhandle was also chambered for 9mm Parabellum and even .45 ACP.
The Rest of the Story
George Rockwell was a military veteran and had earned the right to burial in a national cemetery. Government officials stipulated that there be no Nazi memorabilia, flags, uniforms, or similar stuff present. Rockwell’s followers naturally ignored the edict so there resulted in a most undignified six-hour standoff between the bereaved Nazis and military police. During this time Rockwell’s waiting hearse was very nearly struck by a passing train.
Frustrated followers eventually had his body cremated. His ashes are now purportedly a modern Nazi shrine. Incineration in a gas-fired oven seems an ironic end considering.
John Patler served about four years of his twenty-year sentence for first-degree murder but was later re-incarcerated for parole violations. Patler is currently 81 years old and still draws the occasional political cartoon.
Researching this project was simply fascinating. Perusing sites like www.americannaziparty.com likely put me on some kind of watch list but was nonetheless an eye-opening exercise. One would think that the entire planet might be unified in its condemnation of Adolf Hitler and his mass-murdering Nazi mignons, but, sadly, this is not the case.
In Rockwell’s day, the American Nazi Party never had more than 100 active members. When he died his estate was worth $257. In the person of George Lincoln Rockwell, we find the sad tale of a man whose undeniable charisma and dark drive inspired true passion in a small handful of zealous followers. His twisted influence persists to this day.