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Once worked with John Tyndall in the World Union of National Socialists

Matthias Koehl, who succeeded George Lincoln Rockwell in 1967 as head of the National Socialist White Peoples Party in the USA, died during the night of October 9 and 10.  He was 79 years old at the time. A member of the generation of neo-Nazis to first emerge after World War Two, Koehl’s tenure was marked by constant faction fighting, backstabbing, and rumor-mongering. Although he once held the reins of the World Union of National Socialists, and worked closely with British neo-Nazis of his era such as John Tyndall, Koehl actually never built much of his own organization. 

The authors Jeffrey Kaplan and Leonard Weinberg, in the their book, The Emergence of a Euro-American Radical Right, count Koehl as head of the National Renaissance Party’s “Nazi-uniformed bodyguards” for that party’s leader.  The authors also note that the now-deceased Rick Cooper, once a member of Rockwell’s American Nazi Party, claimed that Koehl was a member of the National States Rights Party, not the National Renaissance Party.

Logistically, he could have done both.  Koehl did join J.B. Stoner’s National States Rights Party in 1958, and then joined Rockwell’s American Nazi Party in 1960.  As a “lieutenant” in the party’s Chicago unit, Koehl participated in Rockwell’s antics at the time.  In 1964 he was promoted to the post of National Secretary.  As Rockwell’s underling, Koehl participated in the founding of the World Union of National Socialists (WUNS), but it was William Pierce—then not a party member—who edited the WUNS periodical, National Socialist World in 1966.  When Rockwell changed the name of the American Nazi Party to the National Socialist White People’s Party on January 1, 1967, Pierce joined the newly named organization as a propagandist.  But at that point, Pierce’s rank in the party was below Koehl’s.

After Rockwell was assassinated by a disgruntled party member on August 25, 1967, Koehl was named the party’s leader by a high-council of 16 leading party members.  But the party lost members, property and key men such as Pierce.  Koehl did maintain his close connection to British members of the World Union of National Socialists, and John Tyndall corresponded with him, as well as Rockwell.  But a proliferation of neo-Nazi sects ensued, and Koehl’s trend line was in a constant search for Zero. 

In 1983, Koehl renamed his grouping “New Order.” Two years later he moved from Arlington to his hometown Milwaukee, and pursued the activities of a Hitlerian religious ministry. The New Order had a short credo statement that included the sentences: “We are the Movement of Adolf Hitler.  We are his heirs.  He has given us a great commission, which it is our duty to discharge.” It periodically circulated scurrilous racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay leaflets with cartoon caricatures, pasted up news articles and the ever present swastikas.  He scowled at the emergence of white power skinheads.  When national socialist ideologue and former Klansmen David Duke ran for office as a Republican in Louisiana, Koehl issued an 8-page newsletter attacking his supposed repudiation of all things Nazi. (Duke is swimming in national socialism now.)  Indeed, Koehl frequently missed opportunities for his sect to grow, and seemed content to live like a neo-Nazi hermit in a sewer patch.

Leonard Zeskind

Author Leonard Zeskind

is founder of IREHR. For almost four decades, he has been a leading authority on white nationalist political and social movements. He is the author of Blood and Politics: The History of White Nationalism from the Margins to the Mainstream, published by Farrar Straus & Giroux in May 2009. [more..]

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